Wizards Blog Truth About It.net http://www.truthaboutit.net Washington Wizards Blog, ESPN TrueHoop Network Thu, 26 Apr 2018 13:27:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.10 Wizards Forget to Clutch Their Soul in Game 5 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/wizards-forgot-to-clutch-their-soul-in-game-5.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/wizards-forgot-to-clutch-their-soul-in-game-5.html#respond Thu, 26 Apr 2018 04:37:56 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55540

Damn look at this shift in gear by Wall… pic.twitter.com/cJEmjt9kmX

— Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) April 25, 2018

You couldn’t not be nervous the whole game, whether you were a Wizards or Raptors fan. It was either going to end miserably, or triumphantly but just by the skin of its teeth. And it was only Game 5 in a knotted up series — no fishing involved but just the baiting of the hook.

A relatively 3-point-less Wizards team lost it in the end. They imploded, lost by 10 points, 108-98. There were 17 lead changes and 10 ties in this game, folks.

Late in the third period, already 4-for-12 from distance on the night, they missed 13 straight 3-pointers. Where they really lost it: Washington missed seven straight 3s after the six-minute mark of the fourth quarter. That is, until Bradley Beal made a meaningless, pressure-less 3, his first points of the final period, with the Wizards down 13 points with 16 seconds left.

Ironically, Beal made a 3-pointer to bring the Wizards within 56-57 with 8:39 left in the third quarter. Then the misses, by player, in sequence:

  1. Porter
  2. Morris
  3. Morris
  4. Wall
  5. Oubre
  6. Beal
  7. Oubre
  8. Wall
  9. Beal
  10. Beal
  11. Wall
  12. Oubre
  13. Porter

It was 94-93, Raptors, with 4:05 left. Toronto went on a 14-5 run to end it. It was rolling-on-the-ground, locked arm-and-arm competitive until one opponent rolled off a cliff. While the other got up, dusted off their hands, and walked away shrugging their shoulders thinking, ‘Boy am I lucky it just happened to be me.’

Meaning, it was actually a good — damn near great — game in either direction. Then it wasn’t even close.

But it featured everything.

Early fouls, late whistles, and letting them play.

Trash-talking: mostly from Wall, unfortunately, to Toronto’s bench, including assistant coach/ambassador/rabble-rouser Drake.

It featured Wall being amazing, and yet also a clip with his hands on his hip for an entire possession (tweeted by yours truly), which then unfortunately made its way around the twittersphere painting an inaccurate but certainly should-be-accountable picture of Wall.

Wall finished with 26 points on 21 shots, with 9 assists, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 7 turnovers, at least 3 of which were sleepy-eyed careless. He played a game-high 44 minutes (DeRozan played 39, Lowry 38 and Beal played 36). Beal in no way tried to help to seal the deal in the end, even if he and Wall combined for 46 points, on 41 shot no less. DeRozan and Lowry combined for 49 points on 37 shots. It was just about enough.

[There was just a LeBron James buzzer beater in Game 5 while I was writing this, for what it is worth, which is nearly our lives — sporting fandom lives, for what they are worth.]

But the Wizards-Raptors game featured everything. And it was a pretty, pret-ty good contest that got ruined, win or loss.

It was messy, that game. But with encapsulating back-and-forth action — amongst the stars, and role players (from Delon Wright to Mike Scott to Ty Lawson).

There was decent defense — mixed in with quite good defense (sub-47% shooting for both teams, although much of that could have possibly been the lack of legs by both teams).

There was hero ball, and heroics, up until a point for the Wizards, who generally rode grinding out (and stalling) in the clutch all season. Sheesh! Those aforementioned 3-pointers missed. Did we really watch that?

There was good Kelly Oubre, there was terrible Kelly Oubre. There was fourth quarter Jonas Valanciunas. And there was vintage Gortat-from-Wall action; Marcin scored 10 points with 12 rebounds (5 offensive).

The Wizards crushed Toronto on the glass, by the way — 14-6 offensive and 50-35 overall. But Washington’s 18 team turnovers (to Toronto’s 10) coughed up 14 points. Another prevailing theme in Wizlandia: turnovers and the lack of 3-pointers.

Kyle Lowry just snatching the ball from Otto Porter with the Wizards down just three points with 5:20 left was the silent stinker amongst a party of crop-dusters.

NBA TV’s Jared Greenberg reported during the game that he could read lips. Wall and the sidelined Drake exchanged public, friendly, almost branded banter disguised as trash talk, and Wall apparently told said rapper that the Wizards weren’t coming back [for a Game 7].

So, of course, Greenberg boosted the point to DeRozan during the on-court, post-game interview after the Raptors actually won. DeRozan, who looked like he was gunning for points at whatever cost early on (to the potential chagrin of Raptors fans), finished with 32 points but 5 assists (after Lowry’s 10 assists and topping anyone else on the Wizards not named Wall).

“I hope they’re not,” said DeRozan about Wall proclaiming that the Wizards would not make it back to Canada.

And so the Raptors take a critical 3-2 series lead into Friday’s Game 6 in Washington. Maybe it was better that the Wizards got snuffed out like a cat’s paw on an upside-down roach. Not sure how they pick themselves up emotionally after such a loss and survive otherwise. They’ve got the soul to push this series to 7, just not sure they’re capable.

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Opening Statements: Wizards at Raptors, Game 5 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/opening-statements-wizards-at-raptors-game-5.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/opening-statements-wizards-at-raptors-game-5.html#respond Wed, 25 Apr 2018 13:32:20 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55532

The Toronto Raptors appeared to have control of the series after exorcising their opening-game playoff demons and then following that up with a dominating display in Game 2. Toronto did what they were supposed to do and won their two home games, but the Wizards turned around and followed suit, even if the Game 4 victory took a lot more resolve than they had probably anticipated.

Washington is back in Toronto for a pivotal Game 5. When a series is tied at 2-2, the winner of Game 5 has gone on to win the series 83 percent of the time in seven-game series. The Raptors treated Game 1 like their Game 7, and tonight’s Game 5 is just as important. The Wizards carry a little momentum heading up to Toronto, but will have to overcome a lot of obstacles in order to pull off the upset. The Raptors only lost seven total home games over the course of the season (one of which was to the Wizards, albeit way back in November), while Washington has lost their last six road playoff games. The Wizards have not figured out a way to bring their same intensity on the road in recent playoff memory and will have to inevitably win at least one road game if they want to advance.

The bench for each respective team will certainly play a role in deciding the outcome of Game 5. The Raptors bench wiped the floor with their Wizards counterparts in Game 1, outscoring them 42-21, but since then the table has turned in terms of bench production. Toronto now has the worst bench of the entire playoff field (-15) when it comes to Net Rating, while the Wizards have had the second best bench (+8.2).

Washington’s second unit has been led by forward Mike Scott, who is averaging 12.5 points per game on 69 percent shooting from the field. Scott’s bench-mate Kelly Oubre has been up and down this series, but has helped provide an energetic spark to the team by impacting the game on the defensive end.

Stopping by Truth About It today is Russell Peddle, a maven at numberfire.com specializing in all things analytics (and fantasy hoops). You can find his thoughts on basketball, and poutine, at @rustypedalbike, as well as his work right here.

Teams: Wizards @ Raptors
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Air Canada Centre. Toronto, Ontario
Television: NBS Sports
Radio: WNEW 99.1 FM / WFED 1500 AM
Spread: Raptors favored by 7

1) The Raptors had the best bench unit in the entire NBA during the regular season, which carried over in the first two games. What’s happened since, and how much does this unit miss Fred VanVleet?

Too much time has been spent with five-man combinations that are not quite working.
The Raptors’ second most-used lineup in this series is one where DeMar DeRozan stays on the floor with four bench guys (Delon Wright, C.J. Miles, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl) and it has a minus-52.9 net rating in 14 minutes of action. Compare that with the all-bench unit of those same four bench guys with Fred VanVleet from the regular season (net rating of 17.1 in 340 minutes played) and you have your answer.
If FVV can’t get right, Dwane Casey will just have to continue to tinker and find combinations with better chemistry. That same lineup with Lowry instead of DeRozan has a plus-5.5 net rating in 13 minutes of action, for example, and an all-bench unit with Norman Powell in DeRozan’s place has an 8.4 net rating in eight minutes.

2) Dwane Casey has done a masterful job of recreating the Raptors identity this season and part of that comes from not running so much ISO-ball. Is it a discouraging sign that DeRozan has reverted back to that style—and what can Toronto do to remedy that problem?

The Raptors were fourth in the Association in turnover percentage this season at 12.1 percent, but are dead last of the 16 teams that qualified for the postseason at 15.5 percent. Ball control has always been one of this team’s biggest strengths, so their turnover woes have likely discouraged them from zipping the ball around these last couple games, and that’s getting them away from what worked so well for them this season during their “culture reset.”
That said, overall they’ve still only had 8.3 percent of their possessions coming in isolation over these four games (up only slightly from their 5.9% regular season mark) and only 13.0 percent of DeRozan’s personal possessions have gone that way (right in line with his 13.3% from the regular season), so it’s not as bad overall as people might think.
The Raptors’ old trappings have been under a microscope over these last two games — particularly in an admittedly horrible fourth quarter in Game 4 — because they simply regressed to letting their two All-Stars try to take over in a desperate situations and crunch time, rather than relying on the ball movement and depth that won them 59 games in the first place.
Ultimately, DeRozan and Kyle Lowry need to show more trust in their teammates in Game 5, and those teammates need to earn it by letting open shots fly. Getting back home to Toronto will almost certainly help with that.

3) As someone who covers the NBA from a national scope, do you think the Wizards have gotten a quality return on investment from giving Otto Porter a max contract last summer?

Absolutely. As someone who is enamored with statistics and efficiency, Otto Porter is one of my favorite players. He might not have the star appeal of John Wall or Bradley Beal, but what he brings to the team is of comparable importance.
He doesn’t fill the box score in flashy ways, but a guy with a shooting split of 50.3 percent from the field, 44.1 percent from deep, and 82.8 percent from the line is the ultimate release valve for a team that forces opposing defenses to pay a load of attention to its two All-Stars. And while he might not be the team’s leader in any major box score category, his efficiency has him ranked first on the Wizards in win shares (8.1), win shares per 48 minutes (.161), box plus/minus (3.6), and value over replacement player (3.4).
Even if you don’t care about advanced metrics, his leading the team in basically every efficiency category is a testament to his importance and overall value. He’s worth every penny in my eyes.

]]> http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/opening-statements-wizards-at-raptors-game-5.html/feed 0 The Washington Wizards Play Basketball Like a Degenerate Gambler http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/the-washington-wizards-play-basketball-like-a-degenerate-gambler.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/the-washington-wizards-play-basketball-like-a-degenerate-gambler.html#respond Mon, 23 Apr 2018 22:19:45 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55518

The Washington Wizards play basketball like a degenerate gambler. Regular season games don’t provide enough action. That’s like a $20 office pool. Even the first couple games of a playoff series can’t hold their interest. That’s like a $200 buy-in house game. No, the Wizards can’t feel the rush until they’ve pushed their child’s college fund into the pot.

There is really no other way to explain the Wizards seeming indifference on a night-to-night basis. Marcin Gortat surely does not have a better explanation. Asked by Todd Dybas of The Sports Capitol after Game 4 why the team always seems to play its best when their odds seem the longest, Gortat was at loss for words:

“If I knew, I would tell you. I have no idea. Every day you come in here everybody acts the same way, everybody is getting ready for the same game and, all of a sudden you can go against Orlando or Brooklyn and lose by 30, then next day the best team coming in the league and we are beating the best team. I have no recipe for that. It is what it is.”

Markieff Morris couldn’t tell you either:

“I don’t know. I guess that’s how we live so that’s how it goes.”

The Wizards refuse to do anything the easy way, trailing by at least nine points in the first quarter of all four games in the series against Toronto, requiring them to spend unnecessary energy just to tread water in the first half.

In Game 4, Washington took their self-destructive tendencies to a whole new level. It started in the first half when they dug an 11-point deficit, thanks to 34 percent shooting from the field, 14.3 percent from 3-point range and 53.8 percent from the line. Then, to make things even more difficult, Washington gave up a 3-point shot to Kyle Lowry mere seconds into the third quarter.

It’s like the Wizards were playing one-on-one with their little brother in the backyard and spotted him a 5-0 lead to make things interesting — except the Wizards are not playing their little brother. They are an eighth seed matched up against an opponent that won 16 more regular season games.

Nevertheless, the desperation of a 14-point second-half deficit was enough to get their attention. In just over three and a half minutes Washington tied the game with an electric 18-4 run. But that adrenaline rush quickly wore off and the Wizards failed to capitalize on their momentum. The remainder of the quarter was a back-and-forth affair ending in an 80-80 tie after a Mike Scott buzzer-beater.

The fourth quarter is when the Wizards really showed their degenerate ways. Facing a 3-1 deficit and a potential franchise-altering series loss, you would think the Wizards would start the final period with a sense of urgency.

Wrong. Washington looked more like a guy nursing a drink in the back of the Westgate Las Vegas Super Book, studying the lines in a cloud of cigarette smoke and torn betting slips. Here’s the play-by-play:

  • 11:38 – John Wall dribbles the shot clock out and forces a 20-foot jumper over Jakob Poeltl.
  • 11:30 – Seven-foot, slow-footed Poeltl beats the entire Wizards team down court for an uncontested layup.
  • 11:07 – Mike Scott misses a corner three-pointer.
  • 10:37 – After getting an offensive rebound, the Raptors create an uncontested layup for Lowry.
  • 10:15 – Wall drives baseline and loses the ball out of bounds.
  • 10:03 – Wall turns his back to Lowry on a pick and roll, giving him a direct line to an uncontested layup.
  • 10:01 – Scott Brooks exasperated time-out.
  • 9:44 – Bradley Beal makes a lazy pass that is intercepted by Delon Wright for a fast break layup.

Two minutes and twenty seconds into the most important quarter in the entire season, and the Wizards cough up an eight-point deficit with the casual indifference of a guy dropping $50 on a hand of black jack as he passes through the casino floor on the way to dinner.

For any other team, this would be a problem. Not for these Wizards, though. This is exactly where Washington needed to be, with their backs against the wall. The Wizards stared Teddy KGB in the eyes, paused for a second in faux contemplation of their next move, then pushed all their chips into the middle of the table. Washington ended the game on a 26-10 run, beginning with six points from Beal and – after Beal fouled out with 4:58 remaining – four baskets that were either scored or assisted by John Wall.

Game 4 ended on a high note, with Wall dropping his signature, “This is my city,” and the crowd celebrating on their way out to F Street. But there’s one universal truth in gambling: No matter how high you get, there’s always a bad beat on the horizon. The Wizards saw this first-hand last season when they won two straight home games against the Boston Celtics in convincing fashion, only to get destroyed in the pivotal Game 5.

The only way Washington can avoid the same fate this year is if they approach Game 5 with the same intensity as the final eight minutes of Game 4. If the last few seasons of Wizards basketball are any indication, that does not seem like a good bet.

But who knows? If you keep playing the same number on the roulette board, it’s bound to hit eventually.


 

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Wizards Show the Resolve of a Contender in Game 4 Comeback Win http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/wizards-show-the-resolve-of-a-contender-in-game-4-comeback-win.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/wizards-show-the-resolve-of-a-contender-in-game-4-comeback-win.html#respond Mon, 23 Apr 2018 07:55:16 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55507

If “Bully-Ball” was the best way to describe Washington’s Game 3 win, then the Game 4 victory was a testament to their skill. Washington pulled out a much needed win, 106-98, because of its great execution in the third quarter to get back in the game and the resolve of John Wall to close it out after Bradley Beal fouled out with five minutes left in the fourth quarter.

The Wizards were able to score 40 points in the third, matching their point total for the entire first half, by showcasing the adept skill level that makes this team one of the more dangerous eight seeds in recent memory. Otto Porter was the catalyst for the third quarter run, opening up the frame with eight quick points, including two 3-pointers, to get the Wizards back in the game after facing a 14-point deficit early in the period. Wall, who set up Porter on a few of those shots, made some poignant comments after the game about Otto’s aggressiveness:

“OP is just being OP. He’s really quiet, laid back. We just try to tell OP that we run a lot of plays, ‘floppy’ and all those types of plays for Brad [Beal], but if you have the opportunity to come open, be open and be ready to shoot. I think he seen one or two go in early and he came out aggressive and making shots for us. That’s the key to our team. A lot of teams try to double team and get the ball out of me and Brad’s hands, and to have a guy like that that is spotted up on the opposite side of the court, that can definitely shoot the ball and make plays for himself, that’s a great bonus for us.”

A ‘floppy’ play is a common set run by NBA teams in which a known shooter comes off a pin-down screen on the weak-side of the floor and is expected to be ready to shoot. Otto Porter was ready to fire away in the second half when his number was called on a few of those sets because Toronto has made a concerted effort all series to load up on the strong side again Wall and Beal. Porter has not been as aggressive as many members of Wizards faithful would like, but in Game 4 he showed the confidence and skillset that got him paid “max” money last summer. In the third quarter, Porter shot 4-for-4 from the field and scored 10 of his 12 points after only scoring 29 points in games 1 thru 3 combined.

Otto’s positive contribution wasn’t just limited to what he did on the offensive end, he was a key contributor to slowing down DeMar DeRozan in the second half. Porter was able to use his length and above average foot speed to keep up with DeRozan and make sure that all of his shots are highly contested. The biggest key for Porter defending DeRozan was staying down on his myriad of pump fakes and not fouling. DeRozan shot 18 free throws against the Wizards for the game, including an astronomical 12 free throws in the first quarter alone. If Otto can continue to play at this level, his poise and experience will give him a big advantage over his small forward counterpart, rookie OG Anunoby.

Will the Real “Playoff P” Please Standup?

Porter may have jump-started the comeback in the third quarter, but Beal was the steady rock throughout the night that buoyed the Wizards’ offense when it looked like the ship may be sinking. Big Panda finished with 31 points and more than half of his points came from finding his 3-point stroke. Beal hit five of his seven 3-point attempts and was able to space the floor in a way that allowed John Wall and Marcin Gortat to run their two-man game to perfection. Coming into this season, Beal had made it a trend of increasing his points per game average from the regular season to the post-season in each of his three years of playoff basketball. This year, however, Brad had seen his points per game average drop from 22.5 ppg in the regular season to just 18 ppg in the playoffs. Once Beal saw Otto get it going in the beginning of the third quarter, he decided to join the party and added 12 points of his own on 3-for-4 shooting from the field, including 3-for-3 from beyond the arc.

Beal was only shooting 35 percent from 3 over the first three games of this series, but his five 3-point makes were key to allowing the Wizards to erase a double-digit halftime deficit. Beal is a match-up problem for the Raptors because they have elected not to have DeRozan guard him for a lot of possessions, which allows Beal to take advantage of lesser experienced players such as Anunoby or Delon Wright. Brad was shaping up to have the picture perfect night up until he fouled out in the fourth quarter while the outcome was still very much in doubt.

Brad’s sixth personal foul was questionable at best, but he picked up two careless fouls before that critical play, which made him susceptible to fouling out in the first place. The fourth foul was an extremely emotional play for Beal as he fouled a rebounder on a play where he had no legitimate shot at the ball. That foul was out of frustration because Beal had missed a wide open 3 that would have given the Wizards a three-point lead. While emotions led him to commit the foul, those same emotions also fueled his scoring spree. When asked about how he felt after fouling out and having to watch the team finish the game without him, Brad took the post-game media scrum through his gamut of emotions:

“When they initially called me for my sixth I was beyond emotional, beyond mad, frustrated. Pretty much any synonym you could add on that list. I honestly thought they were going to kick me out of the game I was so mad, but I was happy they didn’t do that. I just gathered my emotions, gathered my thoughts and told my team we were going to win, regardless. I knew if we still had John [Wall] in the game I loved our chances. He did a great job of leading the guys and icing the game with a nice jumper in the corner and getting stops. So, that was definitely a maturity level that I hit, and a face of adversity that I had to overcome, just gather myself and be a leader, being vocal and keeping everyone encouraged in the game.”

And oh boy did Brad keep his teammates encouraged throughout the end of the fourth quarter. Our good friends at NBC Sports Washington decided it would be a good idea to track Beal’s reactions during the final period as his teammates pulled away … and Playoff Panda delivered the goods:

This is the kind of excitement and support that makes people outside of D.C. wonder why it is that the narrative out of Washington’s camp is that these guys don’t like each other. Well, winning cures all and this may have been a completely different story if the Wizards had lost. They didn’t lose because they finally showed the type of resolve that was expected of them all season when they anointed themselves Eastern Conference contenders over the summer. Now that they have erased a two-game deficit and built some momentum heading into Game 5, maybe — just maybe — this team will prove to be better than their end of season mediocrity showed.


 

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All-Stars Carried the Load, Role Players Brought the Energy http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/all-stars-carried-the-load-role-players-brought-the-energy.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/all-stars-carried-the-load-role-players-brought-the-energy.html#respond Sat, 21 Apr 2018 19:10:25 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55495 Washington faced their biggest task of 2018 when they stepped on the court against the Toronto Raptors Friday evening. The Wizards could have potentially been down 3-0 in their first round series, which would have been a virtual death sentence, as no team has ever come back from facing a 3-0 deficit in an NBA playoff series. The Wizards were able to keep hope alive in the series by channeling the focus of their two All-Stars and the dark energy of their key role guys.

John Wall and Bradley Beal put the team on their backs, scoring 28 points apiece and out dueling the All-Star back court of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Beal got himself going early by scoring 21 of his 28 points before halftime and playing with an aggressiveness that resembled the guy who took control of the team in Wall’s 41 game absence. Scott Brooks took responsibility for Beal’s subpar performance after Game 2 because he knew he needed to get him more shots within the offense. When Brooks was asked about what got Brad going in this game, he mentioned how important it was for Beal himself to be aggressive: “Brad came out and was looking to go towards the basket and not just letting them hold him and going along with it. He didn’t want to dance with his opponent, he wanted to get away from them. That was a critical part of his success.”

Part of the inspiration for Beal’s play came from a meeting with Scott Brooks and John Wall. Beal gave a little insight as to some of the things that Brooks said to inspire his play: “The biggest thing was making sure that we both were aggressive at all times, making sure that we were holding teammates accountable, leading the charge on both ends of the floor and bringing it because we have a tough assignment. This is a tough team that we are playing, a team that scores the ball in a variety of ways, they have two All-Stars, two really good bigs who can play really well, one of the best benches in the league, so each and every guy, we all gotta step up and play our part, but we know it starts with us, too. We make sure that we are clicking on the same page and that we are aggressive from the start and keep it up for 48 [minutes].”

John Wall was equally as aggressive as Beal but just in a different manner. While Beal scored 12 of his 28 points from behind the arc, Wall did most of his damage attacking the rim and working his patented elbow jumper in. When Wall wasn’t looking or his own shot, he was making sure to spoon-feed his teammates to the tune of 14 assists. One particular player that Wall made a concerted effort of getting involved was his “perceived teammate arch-nemesis” Marcin Gortat. Wall explained what worked so well with Gortat: “Marc [Marcin] sets the tone for getting me and Brad open through a lot of screens and rolling for us. He’s the back line of our defense and protecting the basket… He’s a key to our team. He has to be there for us, to block shots, rebound, and set screens. He gets me and Brad to be aggressive coming off pick-and-rolls and [which allows us to] get our teammates involved. Tonight he got it going and made some easy shots. I always try to find him and tell him to be ready to look for my passes because a lot of teams collapse on me.”

The Raptors certainly paid a lot of attention to Wall and Beal on their defensive coverage’s and that left Gortat open on countless rolls to the basket and allowed him to finish with 16 points on 8-10 shooting. When Gortat is getting the rock on the offensive end, he tends to be more engaged on defense.  He outplayed Jonas Valunciunas, who in first two games of the series had gotten the best of his fellow European big man.

The Return of Death Row DC

Markieff Morris walked into Capital One Arena rocking a Death Row DC shirt which served as a form of foreshadowing. Keef only finished with seven points and one rebound, but as one of the emotional leaders of the team, he got his teammates fired up by playing a brand of basketball that could be best described as “Bully Ball.” Three minutes into the game, Keef was involved in a shoving match with the Raptors rookie OG Anuoby after a foul from the latter.

In a league full of fake tough guys and players who are much more likely to yell “hold me back” rather than fight, Keef Morris is a throwback player in the sense that he is about that life. When Kelly Oubre was asked about what set the tone in the game, he was quick to credit Keef’s dark energy: “Keef [Markieff Morris]. Him coming out there and pretty much being fired up. I think OG [Anunoby] did not know the scouting report because he did not know that Keef is one of the people you do not mess with in this world. It is what it is. He will learn.

Keef’s style of play clearly inspired Kelly, as he came into the game and completely changed the tide of momentum with his play in the first quarter. Scott Brooks always laments the fact that he is not too concerned with Kelly knocking down shots, but rather how he is defending. Oubre came in the game with a winning sequence of a drawn charge, a dunk on a fast break, and then a block at the rim. When Oubre is engaged on defense, it gives the Wizards the ability to switch many positions on the defensive end. John Wall spoke about Oubre’s impact on the game and how he has always considered him to be the teams x-factor: “He’s not really worried about how many shots he’s getting, he’s just worried about locking up and taking away their best player. Just making it tough for them, doing the little things, making the hustle plays. It’s key for our team. I think tonight he did that and when he does that he’s a big key to our team. Like I always say, he’s an X-factor for us.”

Kelly and Markieff brought the toughness the Wizards needed from their ancillary players, while Mike Scott just continued to drop buckets. Scott finished the game with 12 points on a perfect 4-4 shooting and he also put forth maximum effort on the defensive end as a small-ball center and power forward in certain lineups. Scott’s 12 points was a big part of the reason why the Wizards bench was able to outscore the Raptors bench. His production is also the perfect supplement for Otto Porter who still seems to be suffering from a lingering from a calf injury suffered right before the playoffs began.

If the Wizards are to come back Sunday and tie the series they will need a maximum effort from their role players and the star power of Beal and Wall. That proven formula worked perfectly for them in Game 3, and it falls in line with “everybody eats” mantra that worked so well earlier in the season. The team knows the style of play that works for them, the only question is can they channel the dark side for three more games.

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Wizards/Raptors Game 3: Remember Wall and Beal? http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/wizardsraptors-game-3-remember-wall-and-beal.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/wizardsraptors-game-3-remember-wall-and-beal.html#respond Sat, 21 Apr 2018 14:38:12 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55491

The morning of Game 3 of the Wizards/Raptors series, a series that Toronto led 2-0 (at the time), ESPN had a feature on the front of their website with the faces of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.  ESPN’s Rachel Nichols sat down with the Raptors backcourt to discuss their friendship and their desires of bringing a championship to Canada.

John Wall and Bradley Beal also got the Rachel Nichols treatment, except that interview was not featured during the playoff run when the Wizards were up 2-0, it ran back in November at the start of the season.  At that time, the Wizards were still considered Eastern Conference Finals contenders, and the sky was seemingly the limit.

Since then, Wall missed significant time with a knee injury, Beal assumed the leadership role in his absence, and towards the end of the season they intermittently reunited and limped to the playoff finish line, with Wall sitting almost every other game.  Any discussion of the Eastern Conference Finals was replaced by skepticism regarding whether their eighth-seeded team would even make it out of the first round against the top-seeded Raptors.

The first two games of the series did nothing do slow down the freight train of mediocrity the Wizards were on at the end of the regular season.  But in between games two and three, Beal, Wall and their head coach Scott Brooks had a meeting.  Coach Brooks told Wall that Beal (and Otto Porter) needed more shots, and then Brooks assumed responsibility for Beal not getting enough shot attempts in Game 2(he had just 11).  When Beal was asked about that meeting during this morning’s shoot around he said, ““I guess he figured I wasn’t shooting the ball enough and I guess he thought that was his fault. I don’t know. He’s probably the biggest confidence giver .”

Perhaps Coach Brooks should strongly consider meeting with Beal and Wall during all of the Wizards’ off days, because the Wizards won Game 3, 122-103, mostly due to the  dual 28-point performances of their All-Star backcourt.

Wall had 28 points, 14 assists, six rebounds, four steals and a block, and Beal had 28 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals.  More importantly, they outscored the Raptors backcourt of Lowry and DeRozan by 14 points.  And like Miles Davis and John Coltrane in a quartet in their prime, they didn’t turn the blinders on and hog the spotlight without being leery of who else was on their team. Instead, they shared it perfectly like selfless teammates.  They were efficient on offenses, active on defenses, and they brought that fiery passion that eluded them and the Wizards as a whole in the first two games.

The first quarter clearly belonged to Beal, as he went 5-for-7 and scored 12 points.  His outside shot was on and he took full advantage, but when the Raptors gave him even a sliver of an opening to the basket, he took advantage of that as well, and got to the line three times.  Coach Brooks was fully aware of the tone Beal was setting with his offensive aggressiveness, because he played him the entire first quarter–but the Wizards still only lead by one point.

Still feeling it in the second quarter, Beal scored nine points on 3-for-4 shooting. Despite that output, the second quarter clearly belonged to his backcourt teammate.

Wall took the approach that Beal had in the first quarter, and decided to be demonstrative with his offense; he did it with his scoring, his assists, and he peppered in some defense as well.

He spent the first five minutes of the quarter on the bench, but re-entered the game at the 8:33 mark and flat out took over. At the time, the Wizards led by just two points, 38-36. Markieff Morris took a 14-footer to put the Wizards up 40-36, and then Wall scored or assisted on the Wizards next 29 points of the quarter.

Wall got to the foul line, he took pull-up jumpers off the fast break, he found Gortat on pick-and-rolls, and he found Beal coming off screens.  On defense, both he and Beal harassed Lowry and DeRozan into turnovers (the Raptors had seven in the quarter), and that activity on both ends of the floor pushed the Wizards lead from two to eight points.  Beal and Wall scored 22 of the Wizards 39 second quarter points on 8-for-10 shooting.

Beal and Wall didn’t score quite as much in the third quarter (11 points on 4-10) shooting, but they continued to push the pace, they accumulated real and hockey assists, and the Wizards lead ballooned from eight to as much as 22 points.  And for better or for worse, both Beal and Wall also introduced a bit of physicality to the mix.

 

First Beal committed a silly dead ball foul against Jonas Valanciunas who was playing keep-away with the ball.  Then Serge Ibaka lunged at John Wall after words were shared between the two and double technicals were issued.  The Wizards were leading at the time, and that type of behavior could have easily swung the momentum back to Toronto or better yet, gotten them both kicked out of the game. But Wall and Beal got the crowd into the game, Morris (who had gotten into a fracas earlier in the game), Gortat, and the rest of the teammates rallied behind them, and the Wizards’ lead continued to increase.

Wall and Beal spoke about the incidents after the game:

 

 

Wall and Beal’s output was significantly diminished in the fourth quarter (just five points and two shots were made between the two) but by that point the Wizards were comfortably ahead thanks to the groundwork they laid in the first three quarters of basketball.  The Wizards–Wall and Beal included–have been wildly inconsistent this season, so to assume that this victory translates into yet another victory on Sunday in Game Four would be quite presumptuous.

But at least for one night in Game 3, Wall and Beal turned the attention away from Lowry, DeRozan and the Raptors as a whole, and they returned to the form that had them(and others) having visions of Eastern Conference Finals grandeur.  Beal said it best after the game:

Even after we lost Game 2, everyone was pretty much locked in to what we needed to do, film, taking care of bodies, getting the proper treatments and rest. We came out tonight with an edge about ourselves. We gotta protect our home floor. Toronto did what they were supposed to do. They won on their home floor. We gotta do the same. We just took it a game at a time. It starts with us [John Wall and Bradley Beal]. When we are into the ball, into our guys on the defensive end, everybody else follows. We were able to get stops and get out in transition.

 

 

 

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Game 2 Rapid Reaction: Wiz Go 0-for-2 In The North http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/game-2-rapid-reaction-wiz-go-0-for-2-in-the-north.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/game-2-rapid-reaction-wiz-go-0-for-2-in-the-north.html#respond Wed, 18 Apr 2018 04:26:48 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55478 TAI’s Rashad Mobley reacts to Washington’s 130-119 loss to Toronto in Game 2 of the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

M.V.P.

Yes, John Wall had 29 points and nine assists, and kept the Wizards within striking distance with aggressive second-half play (22 points and six assists). But when Wall and Beal were saddled with foul trouble, it was Lawson, the newbie, who kept the Wizards afloat.

When Wall picked up his second foul with 7:42 left in the first quarter, it seemed like a logical, foregone conclusion that Tomas Satoransky would be the name Coach Scott Brooks would call—Satoransky averaged 10.4 points and 5.8 assists as a starter, and the Wizards averaged 28 assists per game during that span. But it was Lawson, not Satoransky, who got the nod, and despite only being with the team for five days, he put an imprint on the game as both scorer and facilitator.

He dished out eight assists in the first half, and although he now lacks the tremendous foot speed of Wall (Editor’s Note: In the NBA’s 2012-13 GM Survey, Wall and Lawson received equal votes in the fastest-with-the-ball category. They finished fourth, behind Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, and Rajon Rondo), Lawson did his to best to approximate that by constantly pushing the ball. He found Mike Scott open by the 3-point line, he found Mahinmi and Oubre cutting to the basket, and he was one of the main reasons why the Wizards were able to shrink Toronto’s 22-point lead to 14 before Wall and Beal re-entered the game.

Lawson put on his cape and bailed the Wizards out once again in the third quarter, after Bradley Beal picked up his fourth foul with 8:22 left. He hit consecutive 3-pointers in, then buried a big shot in the fourth quarter to cut the Raptors lead to seven. Lawson even dove on the floor for a lose ball to start a John Wall-led fast break.

He finished with 14 points, eight assists in 31 minutes of play–more than every other Wizards player not named Wall. More importantly, Coach Brooks seemed to have more trust in Lawson in the clutch than he does with Otto Porter, Gortat and even the aforementioned Satoransky.

L.V.P.

Marcin Gortat went scoreless in 12 minutes of play. Three of the four shots he missed were from point blank range. Bradley Beal and his sulking body language returned, partly because of foul trouble but mostly because he shot 3-for-11 for just nine points, looking quite sluggish the entire night. Significant contributions from one, or both of them, would have been nice, but they are far from the LVPs on this evening.

That distinction belongs to the defense, which was tepid for the second consecutive game.

Right before the opening tip, Comcast SportsNet’s Chris Miller reported that Scott Brooks put a serious emphasis on defense. Miller mentioned that since the end of Game 1, Brooks has focused on rotations, communication and knowing what every Raptors player was a capable of–especially from the 3-point line. The Wizards responded to Brooks’s call to action by being even more porous on the defensive end in Game 2.

The Raptors led 44-27 after one quarter, shooting 59 percent from the field and a blazing 53 percent from the 3-point line (7-13). For the first half, the Wizards allowed the Raptors to shot an obscene 56 percent from the field, 50 percent from 3, and 90 percent from the free throw line. The defensive rotations were slow, the communication was nil, and to make matters worse Wall and Beal were in foul trouble. Beal’s fouls were especially maddening, since three of his first four fouls were committed while a Raptors player was shooting a 3-point shot.

Brooks complained about the Wizards defense at the end of the regular season, he was moved to speak on it again after Game 1, and now after the Raptors morphed into the Golden State Warriors after Game 2, he will once again have to find the magic elixir to cure the Wizards defensive woes.

That Game Was…Right There for the Taking

As bad as the Wizards played the first 24 minutes of the game, and as inconsistent as they were in the third quarter, they shook off the doldrums midway through the fourth quarter.

Mike Scott hit a 3-pointer, and so did Lawson after yet another tremendous block by Wall. Then after a Raptors turnover, Wall was fouled and hit both free throws which cut the lead to single digits for the first time since the 8:03 mark of the first quarter. Steve Buckhantz’s voice was at a heightened pitch, Wall was jawing with Drake, and it looked like the Wizards were going to overcome their defensive issues and possibly steal the game.

Then C.J. Miles did was he always seems to do: kill the Wizards

The lead jumped up to eight points, then DeMar DeRozan scored eight consecutive points of his own. The Wizards? Stymied.

X-Factor

The Wizards bench scored 63 of  119 points, which was 21 more than the Raptors bench (who, in all fairness, was once again without the healthy services of Fred VanVleet, who played just 2:49 after being repeatedly torched by Ty Lawson). Mike Scott led the way with 20 points, Lawson and Oubre had 14 each, Ian Mahinmi had 12, and Satoransky–arguably the most accomplished of the group–brought up the rear with just three points.

In the second quarter, the bench–led by Lawson–had successfully worked the Raptors lead down to 14 points thanks to hustle on defense and ball movement on the offensive end.

Brooks and his substitution patterns haven’t exactly been consistent, or effective, so who knows what he’ll roll out Friday, especially since he hinted that Mike Scott might start at center in Game 3. But on a night when Marcin Gortat, Markieff Morris, Otto Porter and Beal combined for just 27 points, that unexpected boost from the bench was a welcome surprise.

Game 3 is Friday at the Capital One Arena.

 

 

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Will John Wall Breakout the Jelly Fam in Game 2? http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/will-john-wall-breakout-the-jelly-fam-in-game-2.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/will-john-wall-breakout-the-jelly-fam-in-game-2.html#respond Tue, 17 Apr 2018 10:44:44 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55466

Much was made about the Toronto Raptors snapping their 10-game playoff losing streak in Game 1 on Saturday evening, but another streak was also broken. The Wizards 114-106 loss marked the first time in the John Wall era that the Wizards lost a game one to open the playoffs. Toronto used their superior depth to make a fourth quarter run that would seal the fate for the Wizards.

One of the factors in the Wizards loss, was Toronto’s ability  to contest all of John Wall’s layups at the rim and, which caused him to leave potential points on the floor. In only his sixth game back from his two-month hiatus, the Wizards’ franchise player continues to shake off the rust on his way back to All-Star status. The box score numbers are there, but a deeper dive inside the numbers tells a different story. Wall went 3-13 from inside the restricted area and his missed layups were detrimental to a Wizards team trying to become only the sixth team in the history of the league to pull off an eight versus one upset.

What Happened to John Wall’s Jelly?

The fact that John Wall missed as many layups as he did is surprising given his physical attributes as a player. Since Wall has been in the league he has always excelled at getting to and finishing at the rim. This leaves us with one very important question going forward. What happened to John Wall’s Jelly?

What is Jelly you ask?

Besides being a fruit preserve, the term Jelly in the basketball community is a euphemism for a finger roll finish at the rim. The term jelly was coined by Isaiah Washington and a few of his NYC AAU teammates and is used to describe their flashy and difficult finishes around the basket. Jelly has taken the basketball world by storm and you can’t go into a gym in America, whether it be High School or an NBA arena and not see someone perfecting the jelly. Washington and his crew started what is known as the Jelly Fam and their playground creation made it to the workouts of Lebron James and John Wall last summer as the two Klutch Sports athletes trained in Miami for the upcoming season.

The Jelly has become popular in basketball circles because it’s a perfect saying to describe the degree of difficulty of some of these basketball shots that have popularized other point guards in the NBA such as Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, and Steph Curry. These are the guys at Wall’s position that rival him, both on the court and in the shoe stores.

According to Basketball Reference’s shot finder, John Wall shot 56.3% on layup attempts this season compared to the 55.8% he shot on layups last season . Despite his injury riddled season he was statistically better than he had been in past years at attacking the basket. These numbers are also comparable to the likes of the players I mentioned above.

Irving shoots 56.1%

Lillard shoots 52.6%

Curry shoots 62.6%

Wall has shown the ability to finish around the rim like some of the best point guards in the league, but on Saturday he appeared to doubt his own supernatural abilities. When watching a clip of Wall’s missed layups from game one, the thing that stands out is that mechanically Wall seems to be too caught up on absorbing the contact from the defenders instead of trying to avoid the contact and finish at the rim with his best Jelly.

The reason why Wall is absorbing the contact is because he has let his perceived lack of calls get into his own head and this has caused him to subconsciously not attack like he normally does. The most blatant example of this is Wall’s end of the game sequence two weeks ago against the Cleveland Cavaliers. In the closing seconds of that game, Wall had a clear driving line one-on-one against Jeff Green and instead of attacking the basket and finishing at the rim, he kicked the ball out and caused a subsequent turnover.

After that game, Wall’s post-game comments were interesting in that he lamented the fact that he knew he would not get a call on his drive so he passed the ball. Wall is so caught up on whether he will get a call or not that he is playing as if he is trying to draw fouls instead of trying to make shots. Wall is so adamant about his lack of “superstar” calls he is essentially controlling the narrative among Wizards faithful that he somehow isn’t getting the respect that he deserves when he drives to the basket. What Wall should be doing is taking the responsibility of finishing better at the rim on himself and not worry about whether he’s getting calls or not. Considering how well he excels at layup attempts, he should constantly be trying to punish the Raptors at the rim?

After the game Saturday, Wall commented on how he thought that he was fouled, but even admitted that he could have done himself a favor by finishing on some of the shots: “I felt like I got fouled on some of them [layup attempts], but some of them, I still have to make those. … I got everything I wanted.”

If the Wizards are to upset the Raptors in Game Two, they will need John Wall to be his usual aggressive self and to push the pace and get out in transition on Toronto. Washington was outscored on fast break points by Toronto 16-10 and will need to definitely flip that script. This is a solution that can be remedied if Wall returns to his normal All-Star form and decides not to give a damn who is in front of him en route to the basket.

The Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas is a seven footer but is not known for being a stonewall at the rim as he ranks 55th in Defensive Real Plus Minus (0.77) among centers in the NBA during the regular season. When Valanciunas is not in the game Jakob Poetl is his backup and he ranks 44th among centers at DRPM (0.98). The Raptors did use a few small ball lineups with Serge Ibaka who ranks 28th among power forwards in DRPM (1.10), but the Wizards have tried to scheme Ibaka away from the rim with Markieff Morris successfully running the pick-and-pop game that led to him scoring 22 points.

Despite his woes around the rim, Wall still finished with 23 points and 15 assists. The Wizards were right in the game up until the Raptors pulled away in the fourth and our friends from up North should not expect Wall to go so cold on bunnies around the rim. He has made a habit of performing at his best when the doubters are at full strength and his back appears to be against the wall.  Perhaps in Game 2,  Wall will get back to his normal self and finish at the rim at will– breaking out the Jelly, fam.

 

 

 

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Game 1 Rapid Reaction: It Was Raining 3s and the Wizards Drowned http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/game-1-rapid-reaction-it-was-raining-3s-and-the-wizards-drowned.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/game-1-rapid-reaction-it-was-raining-3s-and-the-wizards-drowned.html#respond Sun, 15 Apr 2018 01:44:11 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55461 Rapid reaction from TAI’s Rashad Mobley to Washington’s 114-106 loss to Toronto in Game 1 of the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs

M.V.P.

There were times when John Wall looked as indecisive as he displayed toward the end of the season. There were other times when his teammates (Kelly Oubre) let him down by not holding their position as he drove the lane.  And then other times when Wall simply did not finish the play at the rim, which could possibly be attributed to rust. But make no mistake about it, until the last 10 minutes of the game, when the Raptors outscored the Wizards 26-15, Wall was the reason Washington had a chance.

He shot just 6-for-20, but he had 23 points, 15 assists, four steals and two blocks. Nine of Wall’s points and 10 of his assists came in the second and third quarters, when the Wizards not-so-coincidentally had their two highest scoring quarters of the game (62 combined points).

Since he prides himself on being the leader of this team, Wall (and Coach Scott Brooks) have to figure out a way to restore Kelly Oubre’s confidence and get Otto Porter more shots (he had nine points on seven attempt). But for the most part, Wall was in the 2017 playoff form, and if he can maintain that, the Wizards will always have a chance.

L.V.P.

Kelly F. Oubre.

Oubre finished the season in a slump (shooting and otherwise) so bad that the normally diplomatic Scott Brooks took time out of several postgame pressers to let the media know that he was not happy with what he was seeing.

Otto Porter was less than 100 percent, Mike Scott was fresh out of concussion protocol, and with the task of stopping the juggernaut Raptors bench ahead of them, the Wizards needed Oubre to snap out of his late-regular season doldrums to help his team out. He fell way short in Game 1.

It wasn’t just that he shot 1-for-4, scoring three points, but he committed three fouls and turned the ball over twice in just 16 minutes of play. It was the overall malaise that seemed to overtake him the entire game. He mishandled rebounds, failed to stay in a spot where Wall could find him for a open 3, and committed unnecessary fouls rather than moving his feet. Oubre (along with Tomas Satoransky) is one of the most talented players off the bench for the Wizards, but he failed to have a positive impact. Conversely, the Raptors were missing their best bench player (Fred VanVleet) and still managed to get stellar performances from CJ Miles (12 points in 20 minutes) and Delon Wright (18 points in 24 minutes). The Wizards are desperate for Oubre to contribute, especially since the team lacks the necessary wing depth.

That Game Was … Lost Due to Lack of Defense.

The Raptors finished the regular season 18th in 3-point shooting percentage (35.8%) and tied for fourth in 3-pointers made per game (11.8). Against the Wizards in Game 1 they shot 53 percent and made 16 from deep, thanks to Washington’s inattention to detail on the defensive end.

Wizards-killer CJ Miles and Delon Wright combined to shoot 7-for-11 from the 3-point line, and most of their shots were wide open. The Wizards would fail to communicate on some possessions, or be slow to close out on others, and the Raptors made them pay.

The most damning example of this came with 6:28 left in the game, with Washington still within four points. Comcast SportsNet’s Chris Miller reported that in the practices leading up to Game 1 of the Wizards-Raptors series, Coach Brooks quizzed each of the Wizards’ defenders on how to stop CJ Miles, and they all responded by saying he had to be run off the 3-point line.

But Miles was wide open the ball came to him with 6:28 left, and despite a late contest by Mike Scott, he nailed the shot to put the Raptors up seven points. The Wizards never got closer than seven points the remainder of the game.

They held the backcourt of Lowry and DeRozan to 28 points on 10-for-26 shooting which should have added up to a victory, but their lack of attention to detail with the bench players led to their demise.

Game 2 is Tuesday night in Toronto.

 

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TAI Roundtable: Wizards vs. Raptors — Round 1 Playoff Series Preview http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/tai-roundtable-wizards-vs-raptors-round-1-playoff-series-preview.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/tai-roundtable-wizards-vs-raptors-round-1-playoff-series-preview.html#respond Sat, 14 Apr 2018 13:31:07 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55445  

It’s been quite a mercurial week for the playoff-bound Wizards. Last Friday they laid an egg, without John Wall, against the Atlanta Hawks. Scott Brooks called his team selfish, but they righted the ship a few days later with an impressive win over the shorthanded Celtics on national TV.

The next night, with playoff positioning still on the line, the Wizards laid another egg and lost to the listless Orlando Magic, which sealed their fate as the last-seeded team in the Eastern Conference. A date with the Toronto Raptors was set.

Adding to the ever-changing theme, Washington’s front-office curiously signed yet another point guard in Ty Lawson — two days before the playoffs. A day later, it was revealed that Jodie Meeks, a bench shooter, would be suspended for 25 games and miss the entire playoffs for violating NBA/NBPA anti-drug policies.

But come tip-off time at 5:30 pm ET today in Toronto, nothing that happened during the week or even the regular season has meaning anymore. The Wizards can focus on a singular goal: beating the North.

Here at Truth About It (dot net), we also have goals: to bring you the reader varied voices from different perspectives on all things related to the Washington Wizards. Sometimes we’re complimentary, sometimes we start a movement (#FreeSato), sometimes we’re “saving” the coach’s job, and other times, we are flat out angry.

We are Wizards fans who want to see the team win their first title in 40 years, but we are also writers who cover the team, which means that little cynicism devil has a permanent home on our collective shoulders.

If you’d like a traditional Raptors/Wizards preview, go check out Conor Dirks and I over at Raptors Republic. If you’d like to know the pros and cons of the Raptors sweeping the Wizards, check out the ubiquitous Conor Dirks and Adam Rubin wax poetic about that very subject.

For this Wizards/Raptors preview, me and the motley TAI crew Conor Dirks, Adam Rubin, Bryan Frantz, Troy Haliburton and Kyle Weidie answered two questions:

  1. What do you think will happen in this series?
  2. What do you want to happen in this series?

Let’s go:

Conor Dirks — @ConorDDirks

#1) I think that the Wizards will probably lose in six games. Those six games will include at least one of each of the following: 1) a blowout loss; 2) a loss in overtime; 3) a blown-fourth-quarter-lead loss; and 4) a 10-point loss after a competitive game. It will also include: 5) a convincing, chest-thumping win; and 6) an Otto Porter breakout win.

#2) I’m of two minds. I want the Wizards to join the Baron Davis Warriors as one of those rare teams to knock off a 1-seed as an 8-seed. And then I want them to beat the Cavs in Cleveland. Also I want the Wizards to get pummeled into submission and serious organizational change. I probably need to get some rest.

Adam Rubin — @LedellsPlace

Full Disclosure: When I started writing this I intended to predict Washington winning in seven games. The news that Otto Porter and Mike Scott are questionable for Game 1 puts a damper on things (not so much the Jodie Meeks bombshell). My thought was if Washington can just win one of the first two games, then Toronto’s playoff demons will rear their ugly. Without Porter and Scott, that task becomes much harder.

I still think Washington can do it, though, and this quote from Kyle Lowry is encouraging: “Our Game 1 is our Game 7 tomorrow.”  Lowry is referring to the fact that Toronto is 0-10 all-time in playoff Game 1’s. The Raptors are putting entirely too much pressure on themselves. Washington, on the other hand, has no burden of expectations at all, thanks to a horrific regular season.

Here’s what the Wizards have going for them:

  1. Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi will actually get to play this series because Toronto uses a few non (or very limited)-three-point shooting big men (Jonas Valanciunas, Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl). This greatly expands the Wizards’s depth and lessens their reliance on Markieff Morris.
  2. Toronto’s greatest strength — its bench — will be slightly mitigated in the playoffs when starters play more minutes. This means not only will the Raptors bench play fewer minutes, but also when they are on the court, they won’t play as many minutes against their opponents’ bench.
  3. The issues that plagued the Wizards in the regular season — lackadaisical play, uninspired defense, poor effort against sub .500 teams — do not apply in the playoffs. Once the bright lights of the post-season shine, every team ratchets up their intensity. Washington has a history of playing up (and down) to its opponents. I don’t expect that to change.
  4. John Wall is on a mission. He only played four games after returning from his most recent knee surgery, but that was enough time to show that his explosion is back. Those back-to-back 28 and 29 point performances against Cleveland and Boston were no accident. Sure, the turnovers are a problem, but Wall is ready to make a statement in the playoffs. Don’t think he’s forgotten all those “everybody eats” comments.
  5. PLAYOFF #FREESATO

Alright, I’ve convinced myself. Washington in seven.

No. 2) What do you want to happen in this series?

I want the Wizards to win, obviously. But more than that, I want them to play at a level that shows this core has a future. That the seven-game series against Boston was not their peak. I want the Wizards to move the ball and play solid help defense and execute down the stretch. I want them to do more than just eke out a series win. I want them to do something that allows us all to erase the 2017-18 regular season from our memory and believe once again that Washington is headed in the right direction.

Bryan Frantz — @BFrantz202

#1) I guess this isn’t the worst-case scenario for the Wizards, but it’s hard to get too excited about anything related to this team. The Wizards, for the, what, third year in a row (?) were supposed to take “the next step.” Despite some marginal individual improvement, this team remains the same team it’s been for years. Meanwhile, the Raptors have improved significantly (thanks to a GM who has unearthed gems in Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and others — shoutout Ernie Grunfeld, Ramon Sessions, and Ty Lawson!) and look ready to move on to bigger and better things.

#2) Washington will likely make this competitive, especially if John Wall has the physical stamina to endure the series, but an upset seems unlikely. I’m predicting Toronto wins this series in five games, though an inspired Wall could drag it to six or seven. In my dream world, the Wizards get swept and fire Ernie Grunfeld, then enjoy a busy offseason that sees them move on from Marcin Gortat and invest in young, high-upside wings. But I doubt very much that will happen.

Troy Haliburton — @TroyHalibur

#1) The Wizards will ultimately continue their streak of winning in the first round. The thing that gives me so much confidence is not the sweep from 2015, but the fact that in four games with Toronto this season the two teams were separated by a total of five points. They split the season series 2-2, and John Wall did not play a second of the four games. Wall, arguably the best player in this series (he certainly was in 2015), will have a major impact with his ability to control the pace of the game. The Wizards will come into Game 1 not showing any fear against a team they know they can dominate in a matchup of stars.

Toronto finished with an amazing point differential of plus-7.8, which was second best in the NBA behind the Rockets. Part of the reason why the Raptors had so much success this season was the play it bench unit. They led the league in point differential, outscoring opponents benches by 10.4 points per game. For Washington to win the series, they will need Tomas Satoransky to show just how much he has improved this season as a playmaker.

#2) I want the Wizards to win because I honestly believe this core group is too fragile mentally to have another unsuccessful playoff run on their resume.

Rashad Mobley — @rashad20

As much as I want to believe that the version of the Wizards we saw toward the end of the regular season will give way to a meaner, more focused team who crushes the dreams of the Raptors three years after Paul Pierce helped them do it, I just don’t see it happening.

I think Wall will continue to be indecisive, Beal’s fatigue will start to show even more, and the “supporting” cast will not be able to keep the team afloat. Conversely, I think DeRozan will continue to play like a man possessed, and Lowry will strike that balance between being deferential and taking over in crunch time. I see the Raptors winning in five or six games.

But that’s not what I want…

What I want to happen is for the Wizards to win in five games to extend Toronto’s playoff misery.  Then, I’d like to see the Cavaliers defeat the Pacers in seven games, which would setup yet another classic Wizards-Cavs series, and I’d want Washington to win that, too.

But none of that is possible, unless they first defeat the fragile Toronto Raptors.

Kyle Weidie — @truth_about_it

#1) The Wizards in six games, because I’m a last-minute optimist — all the while bitching and moaning along the way. But I’m not so sure Washington takes this series on its own merits, necessarily. They will need Bradley Beal to carry the first round, f0r sure. But I more so get the feeling that the Raptors will just do something to blow it.

Bare with me for a second. My Mississippi State Bulldogs trounced the Louisville Cardinals on their home floor — the KFC Yum! Center — in the N.I.T. quarterfinals about three weeks ago. They were up 25-12 by early second quarter, and then 49-29 midway through the third quarter, never looking back and leading by as much as 27 points.

What struck me was Louisville’s crowd. The 22,000-seat arena wasn’t half full according to box score, but those who were there were loud. The whole game. In a blowout. At one point the Cardinals cut their deficit to 18 points in the fourth quarter, and the crowd cheered as if the comeback were complete and their team had just tied the game. It was truly amazing, even watching over television.

Of course, the Bulldogs went on to get blown-out by Penn State in the N.I.T. semi-final — in front of my very own eyes at Madison Square Garden. You can imagine the fun of sitting near the Penn State band as the Nittany Lions went on a 24-0 run between the first and second quarters.

Back to the Wizards, and Raptors. Even if the Raptors do finally win a Game 1, the psyche of Toronto fans, who are incredibly awesome fans, is nonetheless, fragile. Players, too, probably. If Beal and Wall can muster enough punch in any game on Toronto’s home court, it might just be enough to do the damage, bench units be damned.

#2) Sure, I want the Wizards to win. And I’ll admit, I’m a person who hates losing more than I love winning. But that kind of changes in the playoffs — or at least in those moments of anticipation before the playoffs start.

But in another way, I’m numb to the slog of this season, numb to the slog that team management is seemingly dragging potential through. Sometimes the forest needs to be burned in order to replenish the nutrients. Think I’m just afraid the Wizards will do something like advance to the second round, making everyone praise the front office since the media will focus on an 8-seed beating a 1-seed when the reality is that this could be the most evenly-matched 1-8 series of all time … only then to have the Wizards lose to Cleveland in the same old way with the same old blemishes. What are we to do?

We are to basketball. Let’s get Wizard.


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Point/Counterpoint: Would it be Good or Bad if the Raptors Swept the Wizards? http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/pointcounterpoint-would-it-be-good-or-bad-if-the-raptors-swept-the-wizards.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/pointcounterpoint-would-it-be-good-or-bad-if-the-raptors-swept-the-wizards.html#respond Fri, 13 Apr 2018 16:52:20 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55437

The Washington Wizards are in the playoffs for the second straight year. For most NBA fan bases, this would qualify as good news. However, the Washington Wizards are not most teams. Immediately after the Wizards’ season-ending loss to the Orlando Magic, which set up a first round matchup against the Toronto Raptors, several fans expressed a variant of the same thought:

This raises two questions: 1) How did we get to the point where a life-long fan openly pines for a swift playoff loss? And, more importantly, 2) is Conor right?

To settle these questions, TAI’s Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks) and Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace) engage in a lively debate about the Raptors series, what it means to be a fan and the future of the franchise.

Adam Rubin: Conor, explain your tweet.

Conor Dirks: I think that people assume I want the Raptors to sweep the Wizards because it will prompt the Wizards to replace their team president. While that’d be nice, it’s equally the case that I want the Raptors to sweep the Wizards so that a correction can occur. On a macro level, the Wizards believe that they are better than they are. On a micro level, let’s say each game, the Wizards believe that they are better than they are, that there’s a switch they can flip and become the team that swept the Raptors in 2015 (but not the team that lost in the next round). On an even more micro level, let’s say each quarter of basketball, the Wizards believe that they have plenty of time to demonstrate that they’re superior than their opponent, or that their superiority will carry them to the final bell. On an ultra-micro level, each possession, the Wizards think their talent can carry them to points. None of it is true.

All that said, I put that tweet out into the wild so that it could exist before my playoff-cognitive-self takes over, and roots for the Wizards to win every game through the filter of immediate glory attainable. In other words, I’ll want them to win, but it would be better if they didn’t. Did I explain it, or did I just sound like an asshole?

AR: I understand your basic point that the Wizards suffer from a collective delusion of grandeur that manifests itself in big and small ways. This is holding the team back from reaching its full potential and needs to change. However, your plan to rebuild the Wizards psyche by forcing them to endure a humiliating sweep, Clockwork Orange-style, butts up against a very strongly held principle of mine, forged through decades of being a Bullets fan: Never Take The Playoffs For Granted.

I, like you, have been a Bullets fan my whole life. You know when I first saw the Bullets/Wizards in a playoff game? I was a freshman in college. You know when I first saw the Bullets/Wizards win a playoff game? Eight years after that. My childhood/teenage/adult years consisted of 16 straight seasons with a total of one playoff appearance and zero wins.    

So, I look at the playoffs as a precious commodity to be cherished and preserved. I don’t care what the odds say, or what can theoretically be accomplished by punting a post-season trip. A playoff appearance is just too valuable to waste. Also—and this may go a long way toward explaining our differing levels of interest in watching this particular Wizards roster in the playoffs—I kind of do think this team has a switch they will turn on come Saturday.

CD: Man, I hope you’re right. There’s some limited data to suggest the Wizards are better than their record. They were a winning team before the All-Star break, at least. And they have their best player back—at the end of it all, he’s looking mostly good, save the turnovers.

I hear you on not taking the playoffs for granted. Like the Little Mermaid, I want more. I would like the Wizards to win a title. But I’m not one of those championship-or-nothing guys, and I’m more than happy to watch a team develop into a title contender. What’s frustrating is the inertia. Consider the 2007-08 Atlanta Hawks, who made their way into the 8th seed after 8 seasons of missing the playoffs. And they’ve made the playoffs every year since other than this season. Most of the time, they placed 4th or 5th. There’s another 8th sprinkled in there, and a 6th. AND also a 1st. Point is…that’s cruel. None of those Hawks teams were serious contenders aside from the 1st place team in 2014-15 that beat the Wizards in the second round after Washington swept Toronto. And even that team got rolled by LeBron in the Eastern Conference Finals.

I’m not advocating for the Wizards to go Full Process. They have a legitimate star (Wall), an evolving star (Beal), and an underrated stud in Otto Porter. This isn’t the Jrue Holiday Sixers team. But they need better decision-making from upstairs, and the players need a kick in the ass. Do you think a good playoff run could accomplish the same objective as some good old fashioned negative reinforcement?

AR: Ah, now you are asking the important question. Would getting swept by the Raptors even lead to any significant changes? If you told me a sweep would result in Ernie’s termination and a set of fresh eyes evaluating the roster and finally building an appropriate team around Wall (read: loads and loads of 3-point shooting guards and wings plus an athletic big man—think Capela not Vesely), then sure, I’d have to think about it.

But I don’t think Ernie is judged based on on-court performance. If so, he wouldn’t still be here. It’s more of a business decision and as long as Ted’s Wizards, Caps and Valor are playing in late-April—even as the 8-seed—Ernie is safe. Only a season-ticket holder mutiny that affects the bottom line, and not just Ted’s Twitter mentions, could oust Ernie after a playoff season.

The Atlanta Hawks comparison is apt and a bit scary. No one wants to look back at the John Wall era as a decade of 40-win 4/5 playoff matchups. I think we both want the same thing—for the Wizards to take that next step as a perennial threat to win the East—but I feel a sweep at the hands of the Raptors would be much more likely to nudge this team toward an implosion than catapult them up the 2018-19 standings.

Ironically, these very Raptors present the best argument in your favor. Toronto averaged 51 wins over a four-year stretch but they were swept by the Wizards in 2015, lost convincing to the Cavs in 2016 then were swept again by the Cavs in 2017. Despite that regular season success, which dwarfs anything Washington has accomplished in the last 40 years, their general manager Masai Uliri announced that the Raptors need a “culture change.”

The front office and coach took a hard look at the team and instituted a major overhaul of the their outdated style of play. The result was a faster-paced team with a deep bench that was top-5 in both offensive and defensive efficiency this season. And they accomplished that turnaround without a coaching change or roster overhaul.

That sounds like the type of kick-in-the-ass you envision for the Wizards if they get swept in the first round. There’s only one problem: Ernie Grunfeld is not making that same proclamation Ujiri did if the Raptors win 4-0. If there wasn’t a call to arms after missing the playoffs in 2016 or sleepwalking through this year or even going back to the low-40-win Gilbert Arenas years, then there won’t be one now. If Washington ever pulled off a four-year run like the Raptors did, which included two 50-win seasons and an Eastern Conference Finals trip, Ted and Ernie would be celebrating, not demanding an organizational overhaul and a “culture change”.

That, in a nutshell (a big nutshell), is why I think the fun and excitement of a playoff run—even a six or seven game one—far outweighs the small likelihood that a sweep will bring about lasting, institutional changes for this franchise.    

CD: You bring up an interesting point regarding culture potential. In the NBA, culture is a complicated thing. It can come from the team executives, like Masai Ujiri in Toronto, and trickle down to the coach and the players. But I think we both know that Ernie Grunfeld is not Masai Ujiri in either culture, character, or the ability to conjure forward-looking proclamations that ignite the fanbase. Grunfeld’s id is the introductory veteran addition press release, which you have chronicled elsewhere on our website.

Culture can come from coaches, but I get the sense that Scott Brooks views his role as being there to help the players excel in their own skin, rather than impose his own personality on the team.

And so we reach the players. Culture can, and often does, bubble up from the bottom. After all, the players are the public face of the Association, and the defining feature of any team. Do the Wizards have a culture that can benefit from a first-round victory and another second-round thumping? Will they take the right lesson from that? Alternatively, do the Wizards have a culture that can benefit from a beatdown in the first round, or will it unravel the team’s psyche and force a series of moves that could ultimately put them in a worse position?

I don’t know that I’d describe Washington’s culture as good. Or stable. Or even defined. That lack of definition could make the team receptive to a culture shift, which I’d argue has to come from the replacement of the team’s de facto visionary, Grunfeld. The lack of definition could also make the team vulnerable to deterioration and infighting, which you’ve seen on display a few times this year, most notably when Marcin Gortat subtweeted Wall and Wall retaliated by going after his teammate on national television during a series of promotions for Kumho Tires. What a world.

These are tough questions. As we get closer to Saturday, I’m ready to see what happens. My resentment is already melting into excitement for the playoffs. But I remain steadfastly curious about the potential ramifications of a Toronto sweep, and how it might spur this team to better things. In other words, my mind is telling me “no,” but my body…my body…is telling me “yes.”

AR: If you are asking me whether the players would react well to a first round sweep, then the answer is a resounding “no.”  Whatever kick in the ass this team needs to get them over the hump is going to have to come from ownership and the front office. Scott Brooks is who he is—a player’s coach who is two parts enabler and one part disappointed dad. Since we both seem to agree that a sweep won’t spur Ernie to make major changes, the only way a 4-0 loss would help is if it led to Ernie’s dismissal. But as I said above, I don’t think that’s happening. So, there seems like very little upside in a sweep.

I’ll close with this thought. Conversations like ours about the direction and leadership of the franchise are necessary at a macro level. The Wizards won’t succeed unless they take a good honest look at themselves in the mirror—that goes for the owner all the way down to 15th man on the bench (correction: 14th man, because ya got to maintain that roster flexibility). The points you are making are good ones.

But that’s a conversation for another time. This is the playoffs. This is the entire reason we sat through those miserable 82 games. This is what John Wall and Bradley Beal live for. This is their opportunity to re-write the narrative. You don’t get that many shots at the playoffs. You need to take advantage of all of them.

 

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Scott Brooks Is Not Getting Fired http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/scott-brooks-is-not-getting-fired.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/scott-brooks-is-not-getting-fired.html#respond Thu, 12 Apr 2018 21:57:41 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55419

Everything fell right for the Wizards – and then they lost to the Magic, when Orlando was actively trying to give them the game in the second half. Amazing. Raptors will play Wizards in round one.

— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) April 12, 2018

There is really no way around it, the Wizards loss to the Orlando Magic last night was a master class in the art of lethargy.

The Magic, who didn’t even let the ink dry on the final stat sheet before they fired Coach Frank Vogel, finished with a record of 25-57, and have effectively been out of the playoff race since before All-Star break. To make matters worse, they outscored the Wizards 25-17 in the fourth quarter with players named Rodney Purvis, Khem Birch, Jamel Artis, and Mario Hezonja.

With the exception of rookie Devin Robinson, who saw his first action of the entire season last night, the Wizards rolled out the same lineup that at one point put together 10 wins to just 3 lossds without John Wall. Yet in the fourth quarter of a game that could have pushed them up to the sixth seed to face the upstart Philadelphia 76ers, they could only manage 17 points, 20 percent shooting and nine personal fouls.

For some perspective, those same 76ers, who are without arguably their best player in Joel Embiid, were going to have home court advantage whether they finished with the third or fourth seed. Still, when they took the court against the Milwaukee Bucks, they jumped out to a 46-point first quarter, and ended up winning by 35 points. No starter played more than 25 minutes, Markelle Fultz messed around and got a triple-double, and Coach Brett Brown continued to push the correct buttons to motivate his team.

It could be argued that the Bucks, who were without Giannis Antetokounmpo, had no motivation, since a win coupled with a Cleveland win, would mean a Bucks/Cavs first-round matchup. Still, the Sixers were motivated to play and removed any doubt. The Wizards lacked that motivation.

Coach Brooks, on the other hand, was getting slammed on Twitter for his inability to motivate his team in such an “important” game, and there was a groundswell of “Fire Coach Brooks” sentiment on Twitter, which is still going on as this article is being typed.

That sentiment is semi-understandable in lieu of not just the Magic game but the way the Wizards limped down the stretch with a 5-7 record with Wall in and out of the lineup. Coach Brooks uttered the word “unacceptable” more than once, Bradley Beal avoided the post-game locker room twice, and both Otto Porter and Tomas Satoransky were clueless about what was wrong and how it could be fixed.

But Brooks will not be fired–not now anyway. And here’s why:

The Chase, The Contract, The Expectatioins

Just two years ago around this time, Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld along with team Vice President Tommy Sheppard flew out to California to visit with Scott Brooks. That was on Wednesday, April 20, 2016. By Thursday, Brooks had already agreed in principle to a seven-year deal worth $35 million. At the time, that made put Brooks the sixth-highest paid coach, and tied with Dallas Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle as the highest-paid coach without a front office title.

Although Grunfeld’s statements whenever the Wizards make any type of coaching or personnel move resemble form letters and not statements actually uttered by a real person, he did say this about Brooks during the introductory press conference:

“Scott was our top candidate and we moved quickly on an agreement to make him our head coach,” Grunfeld said. “His presence, the core players we have returning and our cap flexibility this summer have us all looking forward to the possibilities of what our team can accomplish.”

Cynics and lifelong Wizards fans would say that Owner Ted Leonsis and Grunfeld signed Brooks to grease the skids of then-free agent Kevin Durant’s arrival to DC.  But Leonsis and Grunfeld presumably conducted a thorough amount of research before ultimately making their choice and trusting Brooks with guiding franchise players Wall and Beal. After all, committing to that amount of money for that length of time, demonstrates a certain amount of trust with the (only) person they considered for the job.

In his first season, the Wizards won 49 games and fell just one win short of the Eastern Conference Finals with a loss to the Boston Celtics. The culprit there was the Wizards’ thin bench, not coaching. That’s on Grunfeld.

During this, his second, season, Brooks has had to battle injuries to Markieff Morris, Otto Porter, and most importantly a little someone we like to call John F. Wall. During the 26-game stretch that Wall missed, thanks to the emergence of Satoransky and ascent to All-Star status of Beal, the Wizards went a respectable 14-12. More importantly, they held on to a playoff bid. Barely.

All complaints about how badly the Wizards played down the stretch are 100 percent justified. But that same coach kept them in the hunt, and that deserves as much praise as the slump deserved criticism. As Marlo from “The Wire” would say, “You want it to be one way, but it’s the other way.”

Barring a devastating four-game sweep at the hands of the Toronto Raptors–which isn’t totally out of the realm of possibility–Leonsis and Grunfeld aren’t about to throw in the towel on someone who is still owed $21 of the agreed-upon $35 million. There’s nothing in the Leonsis/Grunfeld track record which suggests that drastic of a move is nigh. It is also worth noting that Leonsis evaded the luxury tax until this season (when he had to max-out Wall, Beal and Porter), so it is highly unlikely that he’d bookend a season of that added expense with paying off the coach who he coveted just two years ago.

The Upset Factor

The Wizards split the season series with the Raptors 2-2, all four games played without the services of Wall. Although the core of each team is different, the backcourt of Wall and Beal was around during the 2015 playoffs when the Wizards defeated Lowry and DeRozan and the rest of the Raptors. Yes the Raptors will have an ax to grind, but the Wizards will not be scared, which means the air is ripe for an upset.

In that series, the fifth seeded Wizards–buoyed by veteran Paul Pierce and coached by Randy Wittman (who was on a hotter seat than Coach Brooks is now)– surprised everyone and defeated the fourth-seeded Raptors despite not having home court advantage.

It’s true, the Raptors can’t seem to solve the LeBron riddle and Coach Dwane Casey seems to go in and out of trouble, but that doesn’t diminish how well they’ve played this season. The Wizards upsetting the Raptors would be even taller this time around because the top-seeded Raptors have a stronger bench, a much-improved DeRozan and consistency on both ends of the floor.

What if Indiana upsets Cleveland, and the Wizards win that round two matchup? Or what if yet another Wizards/Cavs matchup emerges in the second round, the Wizards push LeBron to seven games or win it? And while we’re thinking crazy, what if the Wizards find themselves in the Eastern Conference Finals (or beyond)? Will anyone still remember the end of the Wizards’ season, let alone game 82 against the Magic?

LeBron is still the King (just look at his shoes) and he’s been leading teams (first Miami, then Cleveland) to the NBA Finals for seven consecutive years. But top to bottom (where the Wizards are) the Eastern Conference is as up for grabs as it has ever been during LeBron’s reign. The Wizards may have stumbled into the postseason party, but they are there, and they have a chance to go far, which would only cement Scott Brooks’s status as the Wizards head coach.

The Dreaded Reset Button

There has been plenty of slander thrown in Ernie Grunfeld’s direction over the last several years and some of it is justified. If Grunfeld convinced Leonsis that Brooks had to go after this season–a conclusion that we’ll hypothesize would only happen if the Raptors beat the Wizards in four or five games–it would have to be viewed as a failure by both men.

Grunfeld would have fired his second coach in three years, and he would have had to replace his fourth coach during his 15-year tenure (counting interim coach Ed Tapscott). There would be nothing to show for it except premature second-round exits and little else of substance. And in his eyes, Brooks may not be Brad Stevens or Gregg Popovich, but he’s still an upgrade and more proven than Jeff Hornacek, Monty Williams and the other assistant coaches currently vying for a head coaching slot.

Leonsis would bear the burden of those same failures, but he’d also have to hear and read criticism about his reluctance to part with a GM/President who has not given him desired results. And while fans and some writers would happily deal with those types of problems, to an owner, that sounds like starting over. To loosely quote Yoda, starting over leads to fan angst, fan angst leads to lowered ticket sales, and low season ticket sales leads to the Dark side (just ask Orlando).

Rather than endure that level of upheaval, it would be much easier for Leonsis and Grunfeld to stay the course, praise the job Brooks did this season with a shorthanded roster, attribute Satoransky’s success to the stewardship and nurturing ways of the entire coaching staff, and lean on the core and promise of  Wall, Beal and Porter. They could even throw in a trade or a signing of a player who could possibly have an impact—like the signing of Ty Lawson today.

The stay-the-course method would possibly anger fans after a premature playoff exit. But come the start of the 2018-19 season, Leonsis and Grunfeld would be willing to bet that the support would indeed return.

 

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It is possible that Coach Brooks could still get fired at season’s end it is highly unlikely. Given the track record of this current Wizards administration and the sliver of success Brooks has had in two of the five years he’s scheduled to be here, it’s likely we’re all in for more Brooks, more platitudes and, depending on what happens in Jurassic Park, more fan frustration.

 

…….unless the Raptors sweep the Wizards of course

 

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Wizards Defeat the Celtics: The Glass Is Half Full Once Again http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/wizards-defeat-the-celtics-the-glass-is-half-full-once-again.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/wizards-defeat-the-celtics-the-glass-is-half-full-once-again.html#respond Wed, 11 Apr 2018 17:40:57 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55411

The @WashWizards’ offense was clicking and they down the Celtics at home!#DCFamily pic.twitter.com/6SXTzLTtb3

— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) April 11, 2018

“…We wanted to get a win. We wanted to feel good about ourselves going into the last couple days of the season.” —Scott Brooks

The Washington Wizards’ 113-101 win over the Boston Celtics wasn’t a win that finalized their seeding in the upcoming playoffs. And even against a depleted team that seemed to run out of energy after the first quarter, the Wiz still exhibited some of the same problematic issues that had plagued the team during its recent four-game losing streak.

But given that Wall probably won’t play tonight against the Orlando Magic due to his scheduled rest on the second night of back-to-back games, and Otto Porter (calf) is also likely to sit out the season finale as a precautionary measure, this served as a final dress rehearsal for Coach Brooks. His team responded—for the most part.

Jaylen Brown was a one-man show in the first quarter with 21 points, 15 of which came from the 3-point line. Yes, he hit some insanely tough shots with the hands of Marcin Gortat, Bradley Beal, Porter and Wall in his face, but there were also substandard defensive rotations mixed in there as well, which gave Brown open looks sans resistance. Brown’s hot shooting combined with six turnovers from the Wizards (two apiece from Wall and Porter) gave Boston confidence and a 30-22 first quarter lead.

The first glimpse of what the late-season Wizards are capable of came in the second quarter, when they chipped away at Boston’s lead. Over the first five minutes of the quarter, the bench allowed the lead to get up to ten points, but then they worked it down to four points thanks to a return to the “everyone eats” mentality. All five players (Porter, Tomas Satoransky, Mike Scott, Ian Mahinmi, and Kelly Oubre) scored, hustled, assisted and grabbed rebounds, and, most importantly, they prevented the Celtics from turning the game into a blowout.

At the 7:05 mark of the second quarter, the Wizards trailed 39-33. Then Wall re-entered the game (along with Beal) and he immediately went to work. Wall temporarily put aside his facilitator hat and he decided to wear the assertive one: He scored 10 points via drives, 3-point shots, jumpers, and the free-throw line, and there wasn’t a damn thing Terry Rozier, Shane Larkin or Jaylen Brown could do about it.

By halftime, the deficit was just two points, 54-52.

If there were any doubts that Wall could ramp up his level play before the playoffs, this was the sample size that proved it.

Wall did have three turnovers during that span, which came as a result of him driving, getting stuck, and then throwing an ill-advised, telegraphed pass—much like he did at the end of the loss to Cleveland Cavaliers last week.

Coach Brooks addressed that minor flaw after the game:

“I think sometimes he’s looking for his teammates and sometimes he’s looking for them late and that’s when he’s getting those late, late passes in transition. Once he gets his rhythm down, those are layup opportunities or single passes, as I call them.”

The Wizards finally put everything together in the third quarter, where they outscored the Celtics 27-18.  Oubre, who started the third quarter for the injured Porter, struggled on offense with no points, but redeemed himself defensively by limiting Jaylen Brown to just one shot and one point. The Wizards collectively held the Celtics to just 18 percent shooting (including 1-8 from the 3-point line).

Wall continued to be aggressive offensively with eight points on four shots, but this time he also peppered in assists (the Wizards had nine overall in the quarter). Morris had eight points, Beal hit a wide-open 3-pointer and even Gorat got in on the fun with four points of his own.

The Wizards led 79-72 after three quarters.

Satoransky began the fourth with an assist, and a steal, that led to three Bradley Beal free throws which pushed the lead to double figures 78 seconds into the period, and the Wizards’ lead did not dip into single digits thereafter. Gone was the selfish play Coach Brooks bellyached about during the four-game losing streak, and in its place was a sharing brand of basketball—and everyone seemed to correct the flaws in their game at the expense of the Celtics.

Mike Scott, for example, found his fleeting shooting touch (3-4), and Oubre, who had already played a stellar defensive game, broke out of a 9-for-31 shooting slump in the month of April to shoot 3-for-4 in the final quarter (3-3 from the 3-point line)and 4-for-8 overall.

But the night clearly belonged to John Wall. His seven turnovers were less than ideal, but the 29 pints, 12 assists, three steals, and three blocks in just 36 minutes did more than enough to offset that. He also became the third-youngest player behind Isiah Thomas (from the Pistons) and Magic Johnson to reach 5,000 assists. Not a bad night. Not bad company, either.

The Wizards will not know who they will start their 2017-2018 playoff charge against, nor where, until the end of tonight’s action. They could play the depleted Celtics, the East-leading Raptors, the charging Sixers, or the incumbent Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers.  They won’t have home court advantage, and they figure to be underdogs against each of those team except the Celtics—although the C’s have arguably the best coach in the NBA, Brad Stevens, so nothing is a given.

But what Coach Brooks, John Wall and the rest of the Wizards gang do know is that they have the ability–when they are healthy, willing to share the ball and engage on defense—to beat every team in the Eastern Conference.

That’s gotta feel good. And for now, that means the glass is half full.

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Another Day, Another Wizards Struggle http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/another-day-another-wizards-struggle.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/another-day-another-wizards-struggle.html#respond Sat, 07 Apr 2018 12:42:09 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55399

Just left a VERY tense #Wizards locker room — in which Otto Porter Jr. and Tomas Satoransky were the only starters who stuck around long enough to talk.

Both guys responded with variations of “I don’t know” when asked for their diagnosis of what’s wrong with this team now

— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) April 7, 2018

On the surface, Washington’s 103-97 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the 79th game of an 82-game season is really not that big of a deal.

The Wizards are still in the playoffs, they will most likely play Toronto (the top-seeded team in the East but currently with a fragile psyche) or the Boston Celtics (the second seed but with fragile bones as evidenced by the absences of Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, Daniel Theis and maybe Marcus Smart). Now that John Wall is back and looking quick and spry as ever — minus the last minute turnovers against the Cavaliers—there is no reason to suspect the Wizards won’t ratchet up the intensity and make yet another deep run in the Eastern Conference playoffs, right? Right.

Unfortunately, the postgame atmosphere during Scott Brooks’s presser and in the locker room afterward reeked of a team that is angry, frustrated and clueless about finding the solution to their spotty play.

Coach Brooks has been frustrated with his team’s inability to defend for the past several weeks, and Friday night was no different. During a three-minute span in the second quarter, Hawks forwards John Collins and Taurean Prince drove right down the middle of the lane for easy baskets. And after each, Brooks quickly popped up off the bench and angrily signaled timeout to the refs. Said Brooks after the game, “Defensively, we made the same mistakes. [We] get beat backdoor, we get beat offensive rebounds. We don’t help the helper. When you don’t do that, you hope that they miss, and you’re playing with fire.”

But against the lowly Hawks, it wasn’t simply the lack of defense that drew the ire of Coach Brooks, it was also the lack of passing. The Wizards have been hovering around 30 assists per game without John Wall on the floor, which more than made up for any defensive deficiencies. But last night, the Wizards had just 18 assists, and Marcin Gortat, center, led all Wizards with four. Yes, four.

Coach Brooks is much too democratic to name the names of the players who were most guilty of not sharing the ball, but given that Bradley Beal took 24 shots to score his 32 points — many of which came via one-on-one plays — it didn’t take a Law & Order episode to crack this particular case.

“Selfish basketball is no fun to coach, it’s no fun to play with and it’s no fun to watch. We’re a selfish basketball team right now. If we’re not going to share the basketball, you can’t just say ‘John’s not here’ and all of a sudden we’re going to be one-on-one players. John’s not here, John’s here, it doesn’t matter. We still got to play the right way.”

In Beal’s defense, whenever the Wizards made a run in the second half, he was the one taking and making the big shots, and he shot 50 percent from the field. But those shots did not come via a Satoransky pass or an Otto Porter hockey assist. They came from in-and-out dribbles and herky, jerky, whirling dervish type moves. Beal escaped from the locker room before the media arrived, so he was spared the arduous task of having to answer for his team’s second loss in two nights. Gortat escaped as well, as did Wall, who didn’t play because of scheduled rest.

It is also worth mentioning that Markieff Morris was ejected less than eight minutes into the game after forcefully voicing his objection to a foul called against him. He did this on a night when Wall (rest) and Mahinmi (concussion protocol) were not available, and his ejection left the Wizards even more shorthanded. “He got frustrated he didn’t get the call. There are a handful of calls every game you don’t get. Not just him, everybody. You watch NBA games, a lot of guys don’t get the calls,” Brooks said after the game. “You can’t get frustrated enough to get thrown out of a game, especially when we’re shorthanded. We talked after; he apologized. He feels bad but we can’t put ourselves in that position. He knows that. He’s been in this league long enough and we cannot continue to put ourselves in those positions.”

Porter was on his way out of the locker room and had to be coaxed back to speak the media by the team’s PR staff.  But once he started talking, it was crystal clear he did not have an explanation for the struggles of his playoff team. And the answers he did give were filled with platitudes and the type of solutions that would be fitting for early in the season, not a week shy of the playoffs:

Satoransky willingly spoke after the game, and he sounded like a jilted lover who was no longer getting the attention he had become so accustomed to at the beginning of the relationship.

“What’s concerning is how we’ve played the last three or four games last week and how we’ve changed from how we played before. Those are numbers are numbers, right, but the way we play, no one is happy about it, obviously. We are supposed to be playing great for the playoffs, improving in all things and now we are just struggling all over the floor. We have to really change it quickly … We are not aggressive like we used to be – without weak side help, without communication, lot of lack of communication for the whole game. It’s a little bit the same on offense. We don’t cut, we don’t pass, we are lacking some aggressiveness, the same like on defense. It was on both ends, obviously, so a very bad image.”

The Wizards have two games left in their mercurial season. First, a potential first round playoff matchup against the Boston Celtics Tuesday, when they will have the services of John Wall. Then, a season-ending game against the Orlando Magic the next night when Wall will rest. Ideally, the Wizards will win both games handily, average 30 or more assists, and play 1990s Detroit Pistons-like defense versus both teams. This would please Coach Brooks, restore the team’s confidence in their ability to make a playoff run, and maybe even strike a little fear in the remainder of the Eastern Conference.

But what if this recent stretch of putrid play is foreshadowing the premature demise of this year’s Wizards? What if the recent struggles ensconcing this team are the norm, not the exception, and both the assist numbers and defensive effort stay low? Would that put Brooks and Grunfeld (ok Grunfeld is a made man never mind ) on the hot seat, or would that prompt Wizards Owner Ted Leonsis to make another drastic personnel move?

It feels a tad melodramatic to ask these types of questions after a loss to the measly Atlanta Hawks.  But given the Wizards’s frustration — from the coach to the star players — it really isn’t that farfetched.

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2017-2018, Washington Wizards…

 

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Fourth Quarter Collapse Leaves The Wizards Limping to the Finish Line http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/fourth-quarter-collapse-leaves-the-wizards-limping-to-the-finish-line.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/fourth-quarter-collapse-leaves-the-wizards-limping-to-the-finish-line.html#respond Fri, 06 Apr 2018 16:38:24 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55385

The Washington Wizards put their fanbase through the full gamut emotions with their 119-115 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers last night.

The game began with the Cavaliers working over the Wizards in the first quarter because, once again, Scott Brooks started with a flawed defensive scheme. He decided to double-team LeBron James at the beginning of the game, which is a perplexing strategy with the Marcin Gortat on the floor.

Gortat has the foot speed of a man running in quicksand and his lack of reaction time allowed the Cavaliers–specifically Kevin Love–to get as many open 3s as their hearts desired. Love buried three 3-pointers in the first quarter as Gortat failed to come remotely close on closing out on his man. Part of that is his aforementioned lack of quickness, but a larger part of that falls at the feet of Scott Brooks who panicked and decided to double-team LeBron after not doubling at all in a 57-point performance from the King earlier this season.

When Gortat was removed, Ian Mahinmi helped the team competently defend the Cavaliers offense in the second quarter. He provided rim protection which enabled the Wizards to fly around the perimeter and defend the 3-point line. Ian finished the game with a plus/minus of plus-6, but only played 11 minutes, none of which came in the second half which is also another knock on Scott Brooks’ coaching job last night. Brooks elected to not play his backup center in the fourth quarter of a game in which they led by 17 points. The lack of rim-protection exposed them to one of the greatest rim-attackers of all-time in LeBron James.

A Comeback That Defies All Logic

What the Cavaliers were able to do to the Wizards in the last six minutes defies all logic and reasoning of how basketball games are supposed to end. With a 16-point lead and less than six minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the Wizards should have been able to wrap that game up and get their starters some rest before the back-to-back matchup with the Atlanta Hawks tonight. Instead, the team fought for their lives until the final buzzer and in the process had one of the biggest meltdowns of the season.

Scott Brooks elected to finish the game with Markieff Morris and Mike Scott as his center and power forward combination, and this duo has not had much of any success on the season. The combo of Keef and Scott have a net rating of minus-13.7 in 141 minutes played this season. It’s perplexing that Brooks would allow one of the best finishers in the history of the NBA to attack the rim at will because of non-existent rim protection.

Even more perplexing is Brooks’ inability to draw up plays in the final two minutes of games, especially for Otto Porter. The Wizards late-game offense consists of John Wall and Bradley Beal isolations which has yielded very little positive results in end of games situations. It’s not as if the Wizards do not know that Wall and Beal have not had as much success in the clutch this season. TAI’s Bryan Frantz penned an article earlier in the year highlighting the All-Star duo’s struggles late in games, in which Wall famously replied:

Well, the season is nearly over and the Wizards are still doing the same things, expecting different results. The frustrating thing about their late-game situations is that it is completely different from how they play the rest of the game. Washington has adopted the motto “Everybody Eats” as an ode to how much they pass the ball and get everyone involved, but consistently run isolation plays at the end of games. (The team’s so-called prevent offense seems to kick in around the eight-minute mark of games in which they lead.) Beal and Wall take 2.8 and 2.4 shots respectively, per game in clutch situations. Those shot attempts result in 31 and 34% shooting from the field, which is not good enough in close games. The Wizards third “max” player is receiving less than half of those attempts in clutch situation (0.9 FGA’s) while shooting considerably better at 43%.

John Wall made a few terrible decisions in the waning moments of last nights game and when asked about why he didn’t take a layup attempt over Jeff Green and instead decided to pass the ball at the last second, which resulted in a turnover, Wall responded by saying he didn’t shoot the layup because he knew he wouldn’t get the call.

This answer is almost as egregious as the play itself. John Wall, an All-Star, cannot let his assumption of whether he’ll get a call determine whether he’ll attack. Wall’s decision to pass the ball in that situation was a poor one, and this is becoming a common theme in his return to the team. In the three games that Wall has been back, he is averaging six turnovers per game, and is still working to regain the chemistry with his teammates. Washington came into this season wanting the respect of a contending team, but all they have done is provide more of the same inconsistency that has plagued this franchise for the last 40 years.

Not much has changed and the season will be over before we know it, buddies.

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Porous Defense Allows the Rockets to Pour on the Points http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/porous-defense-allows-the-rockets-to-pour-on-the-scoreboard.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/porous-defense-allows-the-rockets-to-pour-on-the-scoreboard.html#respond Wed, 04 Apr 2018 03:54:38 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55373

I feel ya, bruh. pic.twitter.com/kB12IZsovf

— Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) April 4, 2018

Another day, another embarrassing Wizards loss.

Washington is “back dooring” their way into the playoffs, and that might even be considered generous. This team is climbing through the basement storm door because they haven’t a clue where they left their keys to victory. Having lost six of their last eight games and 11 of the last 17, the Wizards are on the verge of starting the playoffs in less than two weeks as a team in complete disarray and, quite honestly, they have the look of a team that has run out of gas.

John Wall missing more than two months of the season put a lot of undue pressure on Wizards role players, who stepped up in order to win enough games on the front-end of Wall’s absence to ensure that the playoff berth was clinched. But now Kelly Oubre has looked like a shell of the guy who blossomed during the first half of the season, shooting an abysmal 28 percent from 3-point range since the All-Star break, including going 1-for-6 tonight beyond the arc. Tomas Satoransky, too, has been hit by the slow-acting ill-effects of added responsibility. Sato shot the ball incredibly in the month of February when John went down, shooting 60 percent from the floor and 55 percent from 3. In the month of March, Sato’s shooting percentages decreased to 49 percent from the field and 47 percent from 3. Those are still good numbers, but it is clear that Tomas is slowing down as the season progresses. An even more concerning aspect of Tomas’ game is that he will have to spend time getting re-acclimated to coming off of the bench and feeding Kelly Oubre and Mike Scott as the primary scorers on the second unit. Satoransky will still play a significant role on this team in the postseason and the sooner Brooks properly staggers Wall and Beal’s minutes by allowing them both opportunities to play with Sato, the better.

Wall and Sato could be a lethal combo because of Sato’s ability to move without the basketball and John’s innate ability to find open cutters. It will be imperative that Wall get back into a groove and puts players like Satoransky and Oubre in the best possible positions to succeed, something that he’s had much success at in years past.

In Wall’s first game back he dished out 14 assists to just three turnovers. In his second game since returning, Wall had 10 assists but eight turnovers and did not look like the franchise point guard that the team will be relying heavily on to make a deep playoff run. Granted, Wall was matched up with arguably the best defensive point guard in the NBA in Chris Paul, but it is still unlike him to look so untidy when running the offense. What this game proved is that Wall still has a ways to go in getting back to full strength for the postseason—there’s just not a lot of time.

Where Was the Defense?

The Wizards struggled to get into a rhythm on the offensive end, but that is not where this game was lost. Washington allowed Houston to score 120 points with very little resistance, giving them virtually no chance of competing in this ball-game. The Rockets started out the game attacking the rim with pick-and-rolls and were able to carve up the Wizards to the tune of 48 points inside the paint. The Wizards are now 14-27 when being outscored in the paint.

There was once again a fundamental problem with the Wizards scheme, something that has happened far too many times this season under Scott Brooks’s watch. In the past the Wizards have used their big men for hard shows on hedges but assigned the big men to get back to the rim, not trap ball-handlers such as Harden and Paul at the top of the court. Sometimes in those situations, the scheme backfires if the opposing big prefers to pick-and-pop instead of roll to the basket, like we saw in the Nuggets game against Jokic.

One of the main culprits against Houston, and all the paint points they scored, was Marcin Gortat, who continues to struggle mightily against more athletic big men. Gortat finished the game with four points and just one rebound in 14 minutes of game action. Gortat’s biggest problem was the fact that he is entirely too slow to be able to successfully trap James Harden or Chris Paul at the top of the key when they run their pick-and-rolls with Nene and Clint Capela. As Gortat’s feet are stuck in cement, Harden was able to dribble right around him and either shoot a step-back 3 or pass the ball off for an easy layup or dunk to the roll man.

The other Wizards defenders were clearly not helping out enough with quality rotations, but the idea of having Gortat defend the most dynamic backcourt that far away from the basket is baffling. Give Brooks enough credit to have realized that having Gortat on the floor was not going to work this game and only playing him 14 minutes, but the damage had already been done as the Rockets outscored the Wizards 18-0 on points in the paint in the first quarter. Brooks elected to go small rather than give Ian Mahinmi a shot at the same flawed scheme. Mahinmi only logged 4 minutes, but still somehow out rebounded Gortat two to one. Ian has looked better and at least healthy over the second half of the season, but it is very clear that Scott Brooks does not trust his backup center to do what the team is paying him $16 million dollars a year to do.

With Gortat and Mahinmi on the bench, Markieff Morris played the majority of the minutes at center and finished with a game-worst plus/minus of minus-21 in 27 minutes of game action. Note: By the time Morris was getting big minutes at center, the Rockets were in a groove from behind the 3-point line and would go on to make 16 3-pointers.

The Rockets are one of the more advanced teams in the NBA when it comes to using analytics, on Tuesday night provided a blueprint of how to win ball games by following the three tenets of analytical basketball:

  1. 3-Pointers
  2. Points in the paint
  3. Getting to the throw line

Since we’re tallying up, the Rockets scored 48 points on 3-pointers on top of 48 points inside the paint and added an additional 18 points from the charity stripe, for a grand total of 114 points. This means that over 48 minutes, the Rockets only scored SIX total points on so-called inefficient basketball plays.

If the Wizards are going to defend like that, it’s not going to matter who they play in the first round of the playoffs, this season will be over before the month of May. Scott Brooks has to go back to the drawing board and figure out a better defensive scheme for this team heading into the postseason and the players have to help him out by actually giving a damn.

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Hot Take: These Wizards Losses Don’t Matter http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/hot-take-these-wizards-losses-dont-matter.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/hot-take-these-wizards-losses-dont-matter.html#respond Mon, 02 Apr 2018 11:01:39 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55352

The Washington Wizards lost to a Chicago Bulls team that didn’t even want to win. And I don’t care.

The Wizards didn’t play with any sense of urgency. I still don’t care.

Scott Brooks called the effort “unacceptable.” Again, don’t care.

Conventional wisdom says you want to play your best basketball entering the playoffs. Nope. Don’t care. (This isn’t about tanking for the No. 7 seed, either.)

The 2017-18 Washington Wizards season has been anything but conventional. The Wizards entered the season with grand thoughts of competing for a top seed in the East. Instead, their first half of the season became famous for losing to sub-.500 teams. Then came John Wall’s injury, the “everybody eats” stretch of winning basketball, the inevitable let down, then Wall’s triumphant return.

Now, the Wizards embark on two weeks of basketball purgatory where it’s unclear on a night-to-night basis whether a win is in Washington’s best interests. As Tomas Satoransky acknowledged after the team’s ugly loss to the New York Knicks last week, it already looked like the team was just waiting for Wall to come back and change everything. Wall will likely miss two of the final five games since the season ends with consecutive back-to-back sets.

Add all that up and it’s a recipe for some uninspired basketball. Sure, the Wizards are professionals, and they should be able to approach all 82 games with the same passion and energy. But they are also human beings. They know deep down, that an Easter loss to the Bulls does not really matter—and it might just help them avoid the Cavaliers in the first round. According to Candace Buckner of The Washington Post, when Bradley Beal was asked if the Wizards were too relaxed against the Bulls, he answered, “I hope not. That can’t be our mindset.” But then he added a quote that makes you think the Wizards are not fully engaged right now:

“Now it’s all about matchups and who you want to play in the first round from now on. We could either be playing somebody we want to play or playing a tough one in the first [round].”

But here’s the thing: The Wizards team that will start the playoffs in two weeks will bear no resemblance to any of the iterations that have suited up throughout the regular season. Washington will be deeper and more skilled than they have been in years. Sure, they still are not as deep as they should be, thanks to questionable roster construction, but they have eight trustworthy rotation players, whereas last post-season they had five which arguably led to their playoff demise against Boston.

John Wall’s injury, while unfortunate, forced Scott Brooks to recognize that Tomas Satoransky is a valuable contributor, worthy of 20+ minutes every night. What Tomas accomplished without Wall is impressive, but it’s what he can do in reserve and alongside Wall that is most exciting.

Washington fans no longer have to hold their breath when John Wall goes to the bench. Last season, Washington’s starters could not sit for two minutes without watching their hard-fought leads disappear. Now, Satoransky, Kelly Oubre and Mike Scott give Scott Brooks three viable players to mix in with the starters in a tightened playoff rotation.

It’s easy to say that if the Wizards play as they did in Chicago during their embarrassing 113-94 loss, then they will lose in the first round. That is undeniably true. But the Wizards team that is limping toward the regular season finish line is not the same team that will suit up for the playoffs in two weeks. And once the playoffs start, any issues with effort, energy and motivation should disappear.

Washington’s core of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat have a three-year history of raising their games in the playoffs, beginning with a dominant win over the Chicago Bulls in 2014. Otto Porter joined them in 2015 for their decisive sweep of the Toronto Raptors. In both cases, Washington’s regular seasons were littered with head-scratching losses and rudderless stretches. As a result, they began both series on the road against heavily favored opponents. Didn’t matter. Neither series was even close. Against Atlanta in Game 6 last season, Wall showed the power of having the best player on the court in a playoff series.

Washington also has not been intimidated by No. 1 seeds, winning the opening game on the road in the second round against Indiana (2014), Atlanta (2015) and playing Boston tough in Games 1 and 2.

This is all to say that come tipoff in Game 1 of the first round, the Easter Sunday loss to the Bulls—and all those other disappointing losses to sub-.500 teams—will be long forgotten, just like all those ugly losses when the team was struggling to break .500 in 2014 and 2015 did not matter against the Bulls and Raptors.

This does not mean the regular season is meaningless. For the Wizards to become true contenders, they need to eclipse 50 wins and play consistently for 82 games. But if the question is whether they can make a run in the playoffs and get to the conference finals this season, then the answer is yes.

We have not seen this team at full strength. Satoransky’s emergence, which qualifies as adding a trusted rotation player out of thin air, came with Wall on the sidelines. Save for the win against Charlotte in Wall’s return, Washington has not played a single game all season with 48 minutes of strong point guard play.

The Wizards have enough talent (and health) to beat every non-LeBron-led team in the East. Given the team’s regular season performance, it’s understandable why many doubt their postseason chances. However, they don’t call the playoffs the “real” season for nothing. Everyone starts 0-0. And when the bright lights are on, Washington will have their best team yet.

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John Wall Is Officially Back, In Case You Missed It http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/03/john-wall-is-officially-back-in-case-you-missed-it.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/03/john-wall-is-officially-back-in-case-you-missed-it.html#respond Sun, 01 Apr 2018 02:06:08 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55345

No. 2 from the University of Kentucky 🔥🔥🔥@JohnWall is back and we’re ready to go from D.C. #WizHornets #DCFamily pic.twitter.com/FAX4BGkp7V

— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) March 31, 2018

When Tiger Woods began the latest incarnation of his return from injury, golf enthusiasts, writers and commentators carefully eyed his every move on the golf course. A grimace or the grab of a body part would mean that he wasn’t ready, but a pain-free round or two, a score below par and an extended appearance on any given leaderboard would signify that Tiger was one step closer to officially being back. And while Tiger has yet to win a tournament, let alone a major, he’s flirted with victory a couple times and he nailed this impossibly long putt just let folks know that he was indeed back.

Prior to Scott Brooks announcing that John Wall would return Saturday against the Charlotte Hornets, there was a lack of clear-cut evidence that he was truly back and healthy. Brooks waxed poetic about how hard Wall was practicing, how good he looked and how the coaching staff was putting him through a series of rigorous tests.

Right before the game against the Spurs on Wednesday, Wall could be seen shooting, dunking, running and cutting, and it certainly appeared as if his return was imminent. But no definitive game or date was given for his return—until yesterday.

Wall ran out of the tunnel approximately 90 minutes before the game wearing a red hoodie and headphones. He engaged in two elaborate handshakes with Kelly Oubre (first) and Bradley Beal, and then he proceeded to go through a series of shooting, running and cutting drills. He signed a few autographs, and then he ran back in the tunnel. Wall looked like a man ready to return and lead his team, but he had yet to take the court and prove it against real, live competition.

After the Capital One Arena serenaded him with cheers and a standing ovation during pregame introductions, Wall finally hit the court. His first shot was a 3-pointer that gave the Wizards a 5-0 lead. His first assist came two minutes later when he threw one of his patented pocket passes with precision to a rolling Marcin Gortat, who dunked it with ease.

By the end of the first half, Wall’s shooting touch was understandably non-existent (he was 4-for-9) but he had six assists, no turnovers, and everyone was eating—but none of that mattered. The Wizards found themselves trailing 51-50, despite the fact that Kemba Walker had gone scoreless.

If this were earlier in the season, there would be room to praise Wall and not really worry about the lack of team success in the first half, but the Wizards are fighting for a favorable playoff seed with just seven games left in the season. The amount of space available for error is little to none, and Wall not being totally back is understandable, but it hurts.

Coach Brooks was asked after the game what he said at halftime to motivate the team, and his answer was right up John Wall’s alley: more speed, more pace.

“I just said we have to play faster on offense. We were a little too slow in that second quarter and a lot to do with it was our defense early in that second quarter. We gave them a lot of easy looks and we were taking everything out of the basket and putting them on the free throw line and we couldn’t get there all night.”

(Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)

The first two minutes of the third quarter, Wall not only proved that he was a good listener, but also that he has some takeover in him—or as Vince Vaughn’s character said in the movie Swingers, he was money and ready to party.

First Wall trotted up the court and found Otto Porter wide-open under the basket. Porter missed the shot, but an overzealous Dwight Howard blocked the shot on the way down, and it counted as two points.  And just like that, the Wizards were up one.

After missed pull-up jumper by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Wall ran up the court slightly faster than he had during the previous break, took one dribble in the paint, and then fired a hard one-hand cross court pass to a wide-open Bradley Beal, who nailed the 3-point shot. The lead was now four.

The Hornets missed yet again, and this time Wall caught the outlet pass at half court, and passed it forward to Gortat, who treated the ball like a hot potato and immediately found Beal open yet again. Beal hit the 3-point shot, Wall got the hockey assist, and the Wizards were now up seven.

Prior to the Hornets/Wizards game, Coach Steve Clifford credited his team’s dominance over the Wizards this season to good, timely shooting. That accurate shooting touch eluded the Hornets in this third quarter, and after Nicolas Batum missed yet another shot—their fifth consecutive miss in the first 90 seconds of the third quarter—Wall took yet another outlet pass from Porter was on the run again. This time he kept the ball and took a pull-up jumper that missed. But Gortat tapped the rebound to half court, where Wall picked it up, faked a drive and then threw another one-hand pass to a wide-open Beal (again) for his third 3 in less than two minutes.

The crowd went wild, an exasperated Steve Clifford called timeout, the Wizards players high-fived en route to the bench, up 61-51. The Hornets reduced the lead to six points a few minutes later, but for the majority of the second half, they were down double digits and they never recover from that two minutes run that Wall led.

Wall’s shot wasn’t yet clicking, but he increased the pace, he used his speed to get where he wanted to go on the floor, and once he got there, he was finding open teammates and allowing them to eat uninterrupted. And unlike in the first half, when his positive plays were not translating to team success, the Wizards went from down one to up 11, thanks to Wall’s wizardry. In other words, it took about 45 minutes, but John Wall is officially back.

But for good measure, in case of doubters, Wall decided to break out his signature move—that change-of-direction dribble—at the expense of rookie Malik Monk, and the end result was a three-point play:

The Wizards won 107-93, but it’s just one game—one game against an ineffective Hornets team that did not get an A+ effort from All-Star Kemba Walker (3-of-9 and just seven points). As for the D.C.’s leading All-Star, Coach Brooks says Wall will not play tomorrow nor will he play any back-to-backs before the playoffs begin, which means the Wizards could still be consistently inconsistent until the playoffs begin. But at least now Brooks, his staff, and the players on the floor now know that their point guard is healthy, effective and able to get them easy shots and victories.

Now they can properly prepare for a deep playoff run and begin the process of resembling the team that fell just short of the Eastern Conference Finals last year.

 

 

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Making Sense of the Eastern Conference Playoff Standings http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/03/making-sense-of-the-eastern-conference-playoff-standings.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/03/making-sense-of-the-eastern-conference-playoff-standings.html#respond Sat, 31 Mar 2018 12:05:08 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55328

If you are a Washington Wizards fan, you have probably stared at the Eastern Conference standings for so long it makes your head hurt. Seemingly every night the seeds change, and with them Washington’s playoff fortunes rise and fall. The final post-season match-ups may not be known until the last day of the regular season, but some clarity has emerged over the last few as the cluster of teams at seeds 3-5 (Cleveland, Philadelphia and Indiana) have separated themselves from the teams vying for seeds 6-8 (Washington, Miami and Milwaukee). Let’s sort through what it all means for the Wizards.

1. None of This Matters Without a Healthy Wall

Before we examine Washington’s playoff possibilities, it should be noted that the Wizards are not going anywhere if they continue to play as they have the last two weeks. John Wall is scheduled to return on Saturday against the Charlotte Hornets, but he will likely only play in four of Washington’s final seven games. That’s because the Wizards play three back-to-back sets in their last seven games. Scott Brooks and the medical staff probably will not push Wall to play consecutive games so close to the start of the playoffs.

There’s optimism that Wall will pick up right where he left off when he was fully healthy, but there are no guarantees. If Wall isn’t right, then Washington will lose in the first round. It’s that simple. But what’s the point of dwelling on the negative. There’s plenty of time in the off-season for that.

2. First Round Home Court is Long Gone

It should be obvious by now that any hope of starting the playoffs at Capital One Arena is dead. Interestingly, as I explain below, the possibility of home court in the second round is not as crazy as it sounds.

3. Washington Will Be the #6, #7, or #8 Seed

Washington (41-34) currently leads both Miami (41-35) and Milwaukee (41-35) by a ½ game. Here are the teams’ remaining schedules:

Washington has the toughest remaining schedule and Miami has the easiest, especially when you consider that Toronto will likely rest its stars in the last game of the season. Miami also currently has the tie-breaker over Washington, which is based on division record (Heat are 9-5 and the Wizards are 7-6). Washington would have the tie-breaker over Milwaukee, based on conference record. In the event of a three-way tie, Miami would almost certainly win the tie-breaker.

Here’s what each spot brings:

#6 –  This is potentially the worst seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs because, if the season ended today, the No. 6 seed would play the No. 3 seed Cleveland Cavaliers. It is certainly possible that either Philadelphia or Indiana will grab the No. 3 seed by season’s end, but the fact remains: the only way the Wizards can guarantee they avoid the Cavs in the first round is to drop to No. 7 or No. 8.

#7 – The No. 7 seed will play the Boston Celtics, likely without Kyrie Irving. Boston has played very well despite being short-handed, but their hustling, defensive-minded style of play is more effective in the regular season than it is in the playoffs, when every team hustles and plays inspired defense. Boston’s offensive struggles will be more pronounced when the game slows down, and Wall and Beal should have a pronounced back-court advantage with Kyrie and Marcus Smart out.

#8 – The No. 8 seed will play the Toronto Raptors. While Toronto has been the most consistent team in the East all season and their bench has been superb, they are far from an intimidating opponent. Washington split the season series and has the personnel to slow down the Raptors back-court, as they did in their 2015 first round sweep.

4. The Race for Third Seed is Very Important

Washington really has only one goal when it comes to playoff seeding: avoid Cleveland in the first round. For that reason, every Wizards fan should be rooting for the Sixers and Pacers for the remainder of the season. If either of those two teams passes the Cavs for the No. 3 seed, then it will eliminate any possibility of Washington playing Cleveland in the first round.

Cleveland (46-30) has a 1/2 game lead over Philadelphia (45-30) and a one game lead over Indiana (45-31). Here are the remaining schedules for each team:

Philadelphia has the easiest schedule by far and was projected to overtake Cleveland before Embiid’s injury. However, the Sixers are only 4-8 without Embiid this season and Cleveland would have the tie-breaker if they end with identical records. Indiana has the tie-breaker over Cleveland but they have an excruciating schedule with their next two games on the road against Western conference teams fighting for their playoff lives, followed by back-to-back games against the Warriors and Raptors.

5. Injuries Have Seriously Changed the Playoff Landscape

Two recent injuries have the potential to play a huge role in Washington’s playoff run: Kyrie Irving’s knee and Joel Embiid’s eye.

Kyrie had surgery on his ailing left knee on March 24 and is out three-to-six weeks. The playoffs start 21 days after his surgery, which means there is a very good chance he misses the entire first round. Given how Washington has played of late, and the fact that Boston keeps plugging away short-handed, the Celtics would probably still be favored in a rematch. However, there’s no denying that the Wizards would be catching a huge break if they fall all the way to No. 7 and get to face a hobbled opponent in the first round.

Joel Embiid suffered an orbital fracture and a concussion on March 28. Embiid will require surgery and his timetable to return is estimated at two-to-four weeks. That means Embiid will likely miss some, if not all, of the first round. Embiid’s injury is a double-edged sword. The Sixers are obviously much worse without Embiid and Washington would be favored in a series against Philadelphia if he misses at least a few playoff games.

However, Embiid’s injury also makes it much harder for the Sixers to catch Cleveland. For those who subscribe to the “anyone but Cleveland” mantra, Embiid’s injury was bad news.

6. Best Case Scenario

With the Wizards losing nine of their last 14 games, the mood in Chinatown has been understandably grim. However, somewhat counter-intuitively, there are several scenarios where the Wizards could actually have their most advantageous path to the Conference Finals in the last 35 years.

Scenario 1: Washington stays at No. 6 and the Joel Embiid-less Sixers land at No. 3.  Even if Embiid does return for the playoffs, the Sixers are inexperienced and prone to bouts of turnovers. I’m not saying the Wizards would be favored, but with a healthy John Wall, that match-up is a toss-up at worst.

In addition, in this scenario, Miami or Milwaukee would play Boston. With Kyrie on the shelf, either team could pull off an upset. If that happened, Washington would actually have home court advantage in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Scenario 2: Washington stays at No. 6 and Indiana lands at No. 3. Indiana keeps chugging along as the surprise team in the East, but they are not a terribly worrisome match-up for Washington. The Wizards won the season series two games to one and the Pacers lack the one piece of Kryptonite that the other three potential first round opponents have: a mobile center.

Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi struggle mightily against stretch 5s and Boston (Al Horford), Cleveland (Kevin Love) and Philadelphia (Joel Embiid) have three of the best. Myles Turner was supposed to develop into that type of player but he has been wildly inconsistent in his third season, with averages of only 28.7 minutes, 13.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. He is still an elite shot blocker and his three-point shooting (37.1%) is very good for a big man, but he does not put it together on a nightly basis.

Again, in this scenario, Washington has a shot at home court advantage in the second round against Miami or Milwaukee.

Scenario 3: Washington falls to No. 7 against Boston and either Indiana or Philadelphia move up to No. 3. With the Pacers or Sixers at No. 3, Washington would avoid Cleveland until the Conference Finals. A series win against Boston would be far from guaranteed, but this path of facing a Kyrie-less Celtics team followed by an inexperienced Pacers or Sixers team would be incredibly fortuitous, all things considered.

7. Worst Case Scenario

You already know.

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Wizards Out of Tune in Motown—Wall Returning to Harmonize? http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/03/wizards-out-of-tune-in-motown-wall-returning-to-harmonize.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/03/wizards-out-of-tune-in-motown-wall-returning-to-harmonize.html#respond Fri, 30 Mar 2018 23:58:17 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55317 The Wizards lost to the Pistons in Detroit Thursday night, but nobody would blame you if you didn’t watch, or even realize a game had been played. The alleged Detroit audience of 18,268 did their best Washington crowd impression by only making respectable noise when a food-based promotion was on the line late in the game. And frankly, who can blame them?

The game was close throughout but perpetually boring and ugly, with each team’s most exciting player—John Wall for the Wizards, and Blake Griffin, who was a late scratch, for the Pistons—sitting. The two teams combined to miss 41 3-pointers and turn the ball over 33 times, and Andre Drummond was the only player to top 15 points. The final margin of 103-92 was practically settled with several minutes still on the clock; the only points scored after the 2:08 mark were three free throws by Drummond.

Though Detroit is technically still in the hunt for the postseason, ESPN gives them just a 0.6 percent chance of making the playoffs, even after beating one of the few other remaining teams in their path. Five spots in the East have already been claimed, and the Wizards, currently slotted in as the 6-seed, are a win away from clinching a spot.

It would take an absolute miracle for the Pistons to make it past the regular season: Detroit needs to win its final seven games (surprisingly possible given the team’s remaining schedule), which would give them a 10-game win streak to end the season, and also have one of Washington, Miami, or Milwaukee completely fall apart.

Fans diligently showed up, but there were hardly any illusions of interest or passion.

For the Wizards, similarly little was riding on this game. Sure, a win would’ve clinched a spot in the playoffs, but they’ve got seven more chances to get that. Much is still in the air as far as seeding goes, but given the injury situations of the Celtics (Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart) and now the Sixers (Joel Embiid), it’s hard to say winning is objectively a good thing for this team right now. A brilliant finish by Washington paired with embarrassing collapses by Indiana, Philadelphia, and Cleveland could have launched the Wizards to the 3-seed, but there was never much hope for that.

The Wizards are all but guaranteed to be either the sixth, seventh, or eighth seed in the playoffs, but given the close-knit nature of the 3-5 seeds, it’s a useless exercise to gauge what seed the Wizards should hope for.

The best-case scenario for Thursday night’s game was an injury-free contest in which role players carried the team while Bradley Beal and Otto Porter rested. Instead, Beal (knee) and Porter (ankle) each suffered minor injuries—the former returned to the game, the latter did not—and Beal played 36 minutes, committing six turnovers and finishing with a team-worst minus-17. The Wizards shot below 42 percent from the field and missed 26 of 32 shots from 3-point range, and Drummond rattled off a cool 24-23 game.

All 10 Wizards who played put at least four points on the board, and five scored in double figures. Marcin Gortat (5-for-7) and Tomas Satoransky (4-for-8) were the only two Washington players to hoist at least five shots and sink at least half of them. Meanwhile, the other three starters combined to shoot 13-for-39 from the field and 3-for-17 from beyond the arc.

Beal had a pair of nice turnaround jumpers in the first half, and Kelly Oubre provided an aggressively wavy dunk in transition, but other than that, the highlights mostly consisted of Satoransky being typically efficient in moving the ball around.

On John Wall’s Injury and Imminent Return

John Wall dressed for the game and was active for the first time since January 25, but he didn’t take the court. He could play as soon as Saturday, and it’s certainly ideal that he’s on track to get a few games to shake the rust off before the postseason.

Here are some things we’ve learned about the Wizards while John Wall has been out:

  1. Tomas Satoransky is capable as a starting point guard and excellent as a backup point guard.
    • Sato was a healthy DNP nine times over the first two months of the season. In the first 17 games Wall missed this season, including the first six games of his current lengthy absence, Satoransky never once played more than 31 minutes. He has reached that mark 16 of the 21 games since.
    • Even when the Wizards brought back Ramon Sessions—who has played well at times but remains a not good choice; please bring in a young wing with untapped potential who might develop into a cheap, viable option moving forward and stop bringing in tired retreads—Sato has been the glue keeping Washington together. Beal has carried the scoring load, Porter has continued doing the Otto Porter (enough of everything to be more than a role player but not enough of anything to be a verifiable star), and Markieff Morris has enjoyed a revival, etc. But without Satoransky’s relentlessly selfless play each night, the Wizards could be on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.
    • Remember when Tim Frazier was a thing? He’s topped 20 minutes just three times since mid-December.
  2. Bradley Beal has developed as a playmaker.
    • Prior to Wall’s injury, 52.1 percent of Beal’s jump shots were assisted (.497 eFG%). Since Wall went down, just 45.3 percent of his jumpers have been assisted, and his eFG% has increased to .503. That’s not to say Beal shoots better when Wall is gone, but rather that Beal has developed an off-the-dribble game.
    • To that point: 22.1 percent of Beal’s shots since Wall’s injury have been of the catch-and-shoot variety, whereas that designation was applied to 26.1 percent of his shots prior to Wall’s late-January injury. And looking closer: Catch-and-shoot 3-pointers represented 23.3 percent of all of Beal’s field-goal attempts before Wall went down; since then, that number is down to 19.0 percent.
    • Pull-up 3-pointers, meanwhile, have increased from 12.6 percent frequency (.248 FG%) to 17.4 percent (.351 FG%). Scott Brooks and Co. should feel much more comfortable now going to Beal to help break a full-court press in crunch time if the defense is hounding Wall. Two reliable ball-handlers who can make a play in the open court—and that doesn’t include Satoransky—is a potential game-changer for a team that has relied on just one for years now.
    • On the other end of that spectrum is Beal’s ability to get a decent shot at the end of a possession. Pre-January 25, 40.7 percent of the 2012 draft pick’s shots came on three or more dribbles. Since Wall’s injury, 51 percent have come on three or more dribbles.
    • Beal’s field-goal attempts have actually decreased (from 18.8 to 17.3 per game) since Wall went down. They jumped in Wall’s initial absence (17.5 in January to 18.3 in February), but the drop in March (16.6) was largely due to The Rise Of Sato (3.2 shots per game in January, 7.8 per game in February) and the addition of Ramon Sessions—two players who operate with the ball in their hands and limit Beal’s ability to create for himself early in the shot clock. Sato’s emergence is a major boost for this team, but Sessions hogging nearly six shots a night does nothing to help Beal improve his own game. If Beal must play big minutes (36.3 per game), he should at least be working on something that will pay dividends down the road, not standing by as Sessions bounces off defenders.
  3. Otto Porter is, and always will be, Otto Porter.
    • Porter, on the other hand, has never been tasked with ball-handling responsibilities and shouldn’t have seen much of a hit when Sessions and Sato took Wall’s spot. His shot attempts have increased from 11 to 12.7 per game, but you’re talking about 16.3 shots per game going down with a knee injury. The max-contract wing should be picking up more than two of those.
    • Porter’s shot selection also hasn’t changed all that much. He’s creating slightly more for himself (44.9 percent of his shots prior through January 25 came on one or more dribbles, compared to 47.7 percent after) and he’s not getting as many open 3s (21.4 percent of all his shots were “wide open” 3-pointers; that number is down to 13.4 percent since the injury to Wall), but otherwise he’s playing more or less the same game he always has.
    • You’d think maybe Porter would drive more with Wall out, right? Well, he has, but it’s not
      a substantial increase. Before Wall’s absence, Porter averaged a mere 2.0 drives per game, sixth on the team behind Wall, Beal, Oubre, Satoransky, and Frazier. With Wall out, that number has increased to 3.4 per game, fifth on the team (he beat out Frazier!). On a per-minute basis, Porter is still, by far, the least-willing driver among Wizards perimeter players (Mike Scott doesn’t count). That’s not really Porter’s game, sure, but even Klay Thompson—who once scored 60 points on just 11 total dribbles—averages 3.5 drives per game, and he’s at best the third option on his team.

Where does Scott Brooks fit into all this?

There are several angles to this. Brooks thrives at getting a lot out of young players, which means he likely runs a good practice. Satoransky and Oubre are both considerably better players than they were a year ago, and Brooks deserves some credit for Beal’s growth over the past two seasons.

He also deserves credit for turning the backup point guard role over to Satoransky, but he deserves far more blame for his initial reluctance to do so. Satoransky has been the best non-Wall point guard option all season, but it wasn’t until Jan. 30 that he finally became the clear favorite over Tim Frazier in the coach’s eyes.

Brooks also shares some of the blame for not getting Porter more involved, either by designing plays for him or by metaphorically punching him in the face. But Porter also needs to get himself more involved. Bruh, you’re making $25 million. Insert yourself into the game every so often.

How much credit does Brooks deserve for turning this collection of misfit reserves into a capable bench? Probably more than he’s gotten, but again, he deserves some blame for not pining for change. The Wizards using just one of their two allotted two-way contracts is a baffling move, and bringing Ramon Sessions in as a band-aid instead of performing the necessary surgery that might pay off down the road is still a terrible option. (In fairness, perhaps he’s fought Ernie Grunfeld relentlessly and we’ve just not heard anything of it.)

Brooks has been creative with his lineups at times, and his tendency to use Oubre and Porter together is a good one. It’s not his fault 3-point specialist Jodie Meeks is shooting .335 on shots from 3-point range with no defender within at least four feet of him. If you lose your best playmaker to injury for more than half the season, and you still manage to get your supposed best shooter more than two open 3s per game (161 attempts in 71 games), you’re doing alright with what you’ve got.

Sure, more small-ball lineups would be nice, and there were plenty of times where you’d rather have seen Jason Smith instead of Ian Mahinmi, but credit Brooks for bringing Mahinmi back from the graveyard and turning him into a somewhat capable backup center.

Brooks isn’t a perfect coach, and you’d like to see a little more forward thinking out of him. But when the team owner and GM have shown little-to-no interest in forward thinking over the years, and his predecessor was gosh darn Randy Wittman, Brooks isn’t so bad.

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