In Monday’s preview to the Utah Jazz game, I hinted at a season-long trend that has made it difficult for the Wizards to compete, and that trend fiercely reared its head in each game of their recently-ended five-game road trip.
After getting blown out by the Portland Trailblazers – the first game on that road trip – we prescribed better effort, a reduction in turnovers, and competing well in the rebounding battle as salves for what ailed the Wizards. In each subsequent game against the Clippers, the Nuggets, the Warriors, and the Jazz, the Wizards did an admirable job of competing for the whole game, taking care of the ball, and on the boards; the Wizards either slightly won the battle on the boards or tied, and averaged a respectable 13 turnovers in those 4 games.
Still, that trend persisted and largely contributed to their defeats of 8 (in double-overtime against the Clippers), 20, and 10 points, and was even evident in their triumph in overtime against the Jazz. What is this trend? An Ineptitude in shooting and defending 3-pointers.
Washington allowed 20, 21, 26, 27, and 24 three-point attempts, respectively, in those last five games, each tally easily over the league average of 18 3P attempts per game. Washington themselves took 9, 10, 11, and 16, before taking 26 in their win in Utah. One might be inclined to reason that the percentages matter more so than the attempts. But with such a glaring disparity in attempts, the Wizards, already a poor shooting team, are handicapping themselves in a way that is nearly irrecoverable. In each game, though the percentages varied and were none too impressive collectively, their opponent made an average of 4 threes more than they did.
The Wizards surrender too many shots – many of them wide open – from behind the 3-point arc, and they pay for it dearly, even when they have competed well in other phases of the game that normally plague them, such as turnovers, rebounds, and free-throws. In a post tomorrow, we will look deeper into this trend, some of its causes, and how they can correct some of their issues guarding and taking 3-pointers.
In the meantime, looking at tonight’s match-up against the visiting Miami Heat, the continuance of this trend would prove to be especially damning. The Miami Heat, primarily due to all of the attention their superstars LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh draw individually, take one of the highest amount of unguarded catch-and-shoot opportunities in the league (4th-most according to the Miami Herald, with only the San Antonio Spurs attempting significantly more).
Back at home, I expect the Wizards to compete well as they have in their last four games (though it should be noted that the first game back home after a road trip is said to be among the hardest, essentially another road game, as the players are not yet used to being back in their own beds, comfort- and time-zones). Our familiar refrain of low turnovers, battling on the boards, and competing for the full 48 minutes still applies. But the one area that especially bears watching is the two teams’ shooting and guarding the 3-point line.