Washington Wizards: Defensive struggles vs Mavericks are part of growing pains

Washington Wizards Thomas Bryant Luka Doncic (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Washington Wizards Thomas Bryant Luka Doncic (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

After a tough loss in Dallas last night for the Washington Wizards, it is clear that in a year focused on development, defense will need to be a high priority.

Good news! Basketball is back! Bad News! The Washington Wizards lost their season opener in competitive 108-100 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

It wasn’t an immediate disaster, but by the third quarter the Wizards found themselves in a huge hole. They were down by 23 points. In past years, they would have let the opposition run up the score, effectively giving up as Dallas’ lead ballooned. However in a new era of Wizards basketball focused on hard work and development, the young squad showed some fight. At one point went on a 20-6 run and made it a close game in the fourth quarter. Eventually the final buzzer sounded and they lost by eight.

Led by Bradley Beal, Rui Hachimura, Thomas Bryant and some solid bench play, the Wizards definitely had some positive takeaways from this game.

However, one key factor that that left a lot to be desired was the overall play on the defensive end. It seemed like outside of a chippy five minute stretch at the end of the game by Bradley Beal, the Wizards had zero answers for how to stop the Mavericks offense.

Now, this is not to say that the effort wasn’t there, its more of the idea that this young team still has a lot to work on defensively. The energy seemed to be there most of the night. They were trying, they just weren’t coming up with may stops.

One key area that seemed to stick last night specifically was how the Wizards approached guarding Mavericks star Luka Doncic who finished with 34 points on 12-19 shooting from the field.

Never an easy assignment, Doncic is a long, versatile player who has always thrived with the ball in his hands. Plus, he’s also a good three-point shooter. During the game last night the Wizards constantly got caught in no mans land when trying to guard him.

During a couple of possessions with the starters in, Isaac Bonga would get screened which resulted in Thomas Bryant switching onto Doncic. Instead of getting up on him, Bryant gave Doncic some space which resulted in a few open looks and easy step back opportunities. In situations like that, Bryant has to do a better job of getting a hand in Doncic’s face. Although he is not expected to stay with Doncic step for step, he still needs to close out when shots go up.

Once Doncic hits a few open jumpers and gets going he’s hard to stop. That’s exactly what happened last night.

Unlike Bryant, Isaac Bonga took notice of Doncic’s shooting and did a better job of closing out on him. However, with a more aggressive closeout, Doncic was able to beat Bonga off the dribble. With little help defense to cause problems for Doncic in the lane, he was able to get a few easy lay ups.

Outside of that, rookie Rui Hachimura got caught napping on the backside which lead to a few easy baskets. Moe Wagner got caught on an island a few times with Jalen Brunson which was…less than ideal.

All around, this wasn’t a great showing. But this is only game one! This season is all about development and using these types of games as building blocks. With a young team that’s still getting to know each other, nights like this will happen.

Tommy Sheppard has preached development over wins all offseason and after one game, this is an easy baseline to use going forward. Defensively, this team will struggle this year, but hopefully games like last night can be good learning opportunities. Now, they have a good idea of what to work on moving forward.

Next. Wizards positional breakdowsn from loss to 108-100 the Dallas Mavericks. dark

Although the defense was not great, the team showed a lot of fight and a lot of resilience battling back in Dallas. Guys like Wagner, Davis Bertans and Chris Chiozza showed some fire on both ends of the floor. That was key in the Wizards comeback. Although they may not win a whole lot of games, if they continue to learn from their mistakes and play hard, this will definitely be an interesting year of Wizards basketball.

Sheppard said before the season began that his vision for the team was to have “hard working, high character players that leave it all out on the floor.” It looks like the Wizards have that. Now, it’s time to tighten the screws.