The Wizards are in Philly tonight to take on a Sixers team they faced just a few days ago at the Verizon Center. The outcome wasn’t a favorable one for the Wizards, who lost their home opener after surrendering 74 points in the paint and a double-digit first half lead.
The debacle that became of the Wizards’ defense triggered Randy Wittman’s post-game fury, which subsequently led to a $20,000 fine for dropping the F-bomb.
Tonight’s storyline features a Wizards team scrambling to rejuvenate and resurface themselves after an 0-3 start. With Emeka Okafor gone, Nene hurt, and Marcin Gortat still adapting to his new habitat, the Wizards front court has looked downright awful. Though it hasn’t been the case at all through the first three games, defense has been a strength the Wizards have prided themselves in even as a struggling team in recent years. Poor rim protection, slow rotations, and the inability to defend the pick and roll round out the majority of Washington’s issues. Lazy perimeter defense has been a factor as well, due mostly to the trust the guards have in the front court to protect the rim after the ball handler dribbles past them. But that sort of protection has been invisible, an area where Okafor’s absence is most felt.
SOLUTION: With Nene set to return to action, he’s got to find a way to help down low amidst his limited floor time. The hope for this is obviously a reach at this point considering the unexpectedness of Nene’s lower body health. Gortat has shown some flashes on offense and on the boards, but he must learn to be a better lane clogger if the Wizards want a shot at their first win. Several times this season, we have noticed Gortat rotating way too late on defense, either leading to easy buckets or drawn fouls. The perimeter D must cover more ground and fend off ball handlers long enough to allow the guys down low to anticipate and rotate in time to contest any penetration into the lane. The majority of the 74 points in the paint did not come from post plays, but second chance points and penetration in the lane.
[divide]The Wizards struggled to rebound the ball late in the game against Philly. Thaddeous Young, who did the most damage for the Sixers in the paint during that stretch, finished with 29 points against the Wizards, most of them coming off dumpoffs and putbacks. The Sixers also benefitted from Spencer Hawes’ shooting range, who knocked down three 3-pointers to go with his game high 14 rebounds.
SOLUTION: How about some basketball 101 and BOXING OUT? As mentioned above, one true testament to the Wizards’ woeful paint protection was the second chance opportunities they surrendered via poor rebounding technique. At times during the late stretch of the game, the Wizards looked like their feet were anchored to the floor when the ball came off the rim, displaying very little pursuit and aggression. While Gortat has been effective on the glass, along with Trevor Ariza, the Wizards need more contribution to minimize Philly’s second chance opportunities. Word on the streets is that Jan Vesely is yearning to prove himself and tonight may not be a bad time for Wittman to grant him that chance.
[divide]Shooting has been a sore point for the Wizards as well and it starts with the back court. Bradley Beal is taking too many bad shots and John Wall has been taking too many shots, period. Beal, who looked sharp in the preseason with new found confidence and poise, has shown none of that thus far. He’s lacking patience and forcing contested jumpers. When he’s coming off of a screen, he’s apprehensive on whether to pass the ball, drive into the lane, or take the jumper.
SOLUTION: Beal needs to fall back to his playing style of last season. We obviously expect stud-like performances from Brad this season and fortunately, this is just a 3-game critique. Beal broke out for 16 points in the 3rd quarter against the Heat which I’m hopeful can be used as his spark to turn things around from here on out. In the past, Beal has shown his ability to maneuver through space and find a good shot, and the assertiveness to pursue the rim so at this early phase of the season I think it’s fair to say he’ll get better.