There are those days when LeBron James seems like he can be somewhat contained. Days when he isn’t hitting jumpers and can’t get in the lane with ease. I swear I’ve seen those nights from him and can verify they do actually occur. Unfortunately for Wizards fans, those days rarely happen against Washington. James and Miami were flawless out of the gate and easily put away the Wizards, 103-93 in a game that was much more out of reach than the score indicates. Wizard players continued to treat defense as optional, giving up over 60 points in the first half, allowing the Heat to shoot 53% for the game, and watching Miami assist 32 of its 37 field goals. For a team who made it’s living last year on defending the paint and rotating correctly, the Wizards were a train wreck in both departments. They often allowed cutters to stroll their way to the basket and invited Miami’s shooters to engage in a game of H-O-R-S-E from each region of the 3-point line. Not to be outdone by the Heat role players, the Big Three benefited the most of all from the laziness, combining for 69 points and shaking off any questions that trailed them after back-to-back losses to the 76ers and Nets. In this sense, the Wizards are a generous team, not wanting any others to go through the three game losing streaks that have become this team’s staple over the last 5 years.
Three games into a season that was described with as many promising adjectives as possible, the Wizards appear in minor disarray. The 103 points they allowed tonight was actually the lowest of the year and they score points in bunches only because of the number of possessions they have. The stars of the team are either inconsistent or injured and there is a clear lack of communication between players and coach. John Wall is a max player who can’t produce more than two quarters of good basketball per game and Bradley Beal has not shown the confidence and ease with which he played during the preseason. There are 79 more games to go and not any reason to push the panic button but some of the tendencies this team is showing are not foreign or surprising, and probably won’t change much through the course of the year. With a brutal 5 game stretch coming up including games against the Thunder, Nets, and Spurs, this team better get their act together soon or it will find itself in between a rock and a hard place; also known as the 13th or 14th pick in next year’s draft. See below for additional observations from tonight’s game:
- Randy Wittman does not have this team playing hard for 48 minutes. That much is clear after watching numerous 30 point quarters by the Pistons, Sixers, and Heat. I’ve maintained since his hiring that he’s an inadequate coach for this team and is always playing checkers instead of chess. He’s been dealt a bad hand over the last three years with injuries and roster transition, but he doesn’t hold the lowest winning percentage in NBA history without a reason. Some are suggesting a potential panic firing but his body of work suggests that this move could have made sense some time ago.
- Wall simply didn’t have it tonight, notching only 11 points on 4/12 shooting and maintaining of a +/- of -12 during his 39 minutes of play. It doesn’t help that it’s clear the Wizards can’t compete against upper echelon teams without an offensive explosion from Wall and his game isn’t tailored to provide that night in and night out. It’s possible he was still feeling the effects of back spasms from Friday’s game and could have attributed to his lack of explosiveness. A game like this, which would have required a small miracle to come away victorious, might have been better served to provide Wall rest before Wednesday’s rematch vs. Philadelphia.
- Marcin Gortat has been a solid contributor since he arrived in town shortly before the season opener. As his role on both sides of the floor increases, Gortat will be able to make nights like tonight more consistent. He notched 15 points and 11 rebounds, 5 of which were on the offensive glass. In addition, with a more consistent mid-range jump shot than the departed Emeka Okafor, Gortat should be able to share the floor with Nene without totally demolishing the offensive flow. And lest we forget, Gortat has expanded his range to beyond the arc. Or at least when the clock is about to hit triple zeroes.
- After shooting 28% in the first two games, Bradley Beal worked his way back on track for the year. He led the team with 19 points and knocked down four triples. However, he remained tentative when driving to the basket and passed out of potential layups on multiple occasions. He also was physically dominated by Dwyane Wade all night and couldn’t hold his own on the defensive end. But Beal doesn’t have a legitimate backup, and may find himself on the wrong end of matchups like these more often throughout the year. 41 minutes played in a game that was a blow out for most of the second half is a wrong recipe for success.
Washington will be back at it on Wednesday night against the Sixers at the City of Brotherly Love.