After the Wizards got off to a very surprising start at home against the Warriors, leading by 8 after the first quarter, the referees made a few questionable calls and the game got to be a little closer in the best interest of all 15 fans that weren’t watching the NFC Wild Card matchup between the Packers and 49ers. With their help, Golden State made 12 trips to the free throw line in the 2nd quarter and ultimately tied up the game at 58 at the break. Washington, however, not to be out done by the refs in their own building, was determined to take it from there. They turned a deadlocked ball game into an absolute massacre, falling for the 7th time in their last 8 games at the Verizon Center 112-96. After losing what appeared to be a very winnable game Wednesday against Dallas, the Wizards have now been blown out in consecutive games following the laughter against Toronto on Friday. Washington now stands three games below the elusive .500 mark and it’ll be another week at best before John Wall may finally experience a winning record in the NBA.
The Wizards playoff aspirations may not be in question, even with a losing streak like this becoming more common than desired. The Eastern Conference is just THAT bad. But one thing is certain in this truly forgettable start to 2014 – the team is seriously flawed on multiple levels and every layer of the organization is culpable for at least a portion. The front office has constructed a team that has so little depth at every position that Garrett Temple is now the backup point guard, Jan Vesely has to play real minutes when a starter gets into foul trouble, and Otto Porter has barely shown glimpses of being a rotation player after being the third overall pick in last year’s draft. The usage of the players, a responsibility left up to the coaching staff has been potentially even worse. A team blessed with the fastest point guard in the league likes to slow it down and feed the ball into their offensively average big men. Bench players struggle to understand their roles in the offense because their minutes are so consistently yanked around, and the overall intensity and motivation needed from the coach seems to be lost on his players. None of these observations have to do specifically to tonight’s game, yet they all tie in to why the Wizards are now 1-11 against teams above .500. See below for game notes from the 150 minutes we all wish we could have back:
•There wasn’t much good news tonight, but Wall’s development as a player continues to impress. He played Curry even on both ends tonight, often using his physical advantage to get to his spots on the court or attract enough of the defense’s attention to find the open man. Curry struggled from the field (5/17), with Wall’s stepped up his effort and that contributed to Washington’s early lead. Wall continued his march towards next month’s All-Star Game against one of the league’s best.
•Unfortunately that’s all I have in the positives section, as the minuses from tonight are far more extensive. Andrew Bogut and David Lee took Nene and Marcin Gortat to task the whole game, marking yet another pair of big men who have thoroughly outplayed the Wizards’ expensive yet unproductive front line. Bogut/Lee combined for 36 points, 22 rebounds, 8 assists, and 4 blocks and helped turn around that initial deficit.
•Bradley Beal didn’t deserve to share the same floor as Klay Thompson, as the 2nd year guard was badly overwhelmed by his taller, more accurate counterpart. Thompson totaled 26 points and went 6/8 from deep while Beal sputtered to a 4/15 finish with just 9 points after coming out of the gate 4/6. The problems with Beal seem to run deeper than just a few game slump as he hasn’t really been in a rhythm since returning from the stress injury in his right leg. Beal has to work too hard to get an open shot and when he does it’s largely a deep 2-pointer (say it with me: the most inefficient shot in the game!!). His improved preseason handle has not been on display and he’s definitely not paid much interest to the defensive side of the ball.
•My earlier ribbing aside (I started writing halfway through the meltdown in the 3rd quarter), Jan Vesely might have played one of his best games of the season. He totaled 8 points and 6 rebounds and was extremely active on defense with multiple blocks and deflections. Once upon a time, when Vesely was just about to embark on a promising rookie season, this was the vision the Wizards had. Fast forward three years and that performance is not an expectation but rather just an anomaly. So be sure to enjoy it when it does happen.
•The Wizards are far too reliant as a team on the 3-ball as it often disrupts offense in both the fastbreak and the half court when players simply sprint to a spot behind the arc and hope John Wall places the ball there. Washington needs to attack the basket, as all three marksmen (Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster) have the ability and athleticism to get to the cup. At least doing so every so often will keep the defense off balance and not automatically shade towards those famous skip passes. In addition, nights like this where they only shoot 30% from deep will not hinder the entire offensive strategy.