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Film study: Before praising Brandon Jennings too much for offense, defense is problematic

Film study: Before praising Brandon Jennings too much for offense, defense is problematic

Brandon Jennings led the bench with 10 points.

He made 4 of 5 shots, and had a key assist, helping the Wizards come back in Game 2 late in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's win over the Atlanta Hawks.

But pump the breaks with the praise.

He only helped undo a deficit that he had a major hand in creating in the first place because of his porous one-on-one defense that has been a recurring theme.

The obsession with points and offensive statistics in general -- see the NBA MVP race which has become hijacked by it -- ignores how the Wizards got behind.

Jennings made three consecutive shots, all jumpers, in a 2:07 span to start the fourthh quarter. The score went from an 80-76 deficit to 84-all following Jennings' assist to Jason Smith at the rim. John Wall and Bradley Beal closed the 109-101 victory for a 2-0 series lead.

Jennings' defense, however, has to change. He's not old and slow. He doesn't have any apparent physical limiations. There is no shame in getting beaten 1 vs. 1 in the NBA. It happens. But Jennings is getting beat on the first move before his help defense is in position to clean up the miess. The Hawks haven't shot the ball well but even the worst shooters can make layups:

Frontline foul trouble

Instead of moving his feet laterally to stay in front of Tim Hardaway, who has shot 7 of 28 in two games of the series, Jennings allows him by with red carpet treatment to the rim. This isn't on the rim protection. This is on the guard's lack of containment. To make matters worse, Jennings has to know who is on the court and the situation. Aside from Hardaway not being able to buy buckets from the outside, Markieff Morris gets put in a bind and ends up fouling Hardaway going downhill. It's his fifth foul. He'd started the fourth quarter after being on the bench most of the game and went right back to it.

Non-shooters get layups (and a rhythm)

Despite going under on the screen and Smith hedging to slow the ball, Jennings still gets beat to the rim by Schroder. He'd given him the cushion to take the shot and still gets blown by. Schroder had missed 2 of 3 shots to start the game -- all jumpers. Easy buckets can get a player like Schroder into a rhythm and then all of his other shots start falling. He started on a down note but Jennings' defense let him off the canvas. First and foremost, Schroder wasns to get to the rim. Not take jumpers.

Straight-line drives allowed

Before the defense even gets set, Kent Bazemore -- a lefty -- goes straight at Jennings and gets to the basket. Smith was correctly concerned with his man, Mike Dunleavy, running to spot at the arc (Smith was guarding Ersan Ilyaova but in transition defense you match up with the closest man). Smith's containment help could've been better as he made a reach, too, but he wasn't prepared for how quickly it developed. Bazemore's ballhandling can be suspect and he loves to go left. At least force him to change direction to his weaker side where he's more prone to mistakes and less likely to finish.

Turning corners allowed

Jennings has Schroder pinned on the sideline which should serve as an extra defender. There's only one thing he can do here to be successful. But Jennings is on his heels which allows the real estate to the rim rather than dictating to the ballhandler where he's permitted. Smith is out of position to help as he's tracking three-point shooting big Mike Muscala off a split . By the time he tries to slide down, it's too late. 

Solution

Beal defends Schroder late in the fourth quarter exactly the way you're supposed to each and every time. He shoots an airball. That simple. Beal has been consistent defensively all season because he doesn't go for the home-run plays. Give Schroder enough space to take away the drive, move your feet but keep your hands in your own pockets. 

Each time the Hawks were able to erase early deficits to get back into games with the Wizards in this series, they went at Jennings. Being targeted should motivate him to do better, but in later rounds of the playoffs vs. better teams these moments will ultimately cost the Wizards a close game or two and ultimately a series.

Talking about it or addressing it then will be too late. Of course, making shots like he did Wednesday can smooth some of that over but he can't be an open door on defense and the 27.4% shooter he was in 23 regular-season games in Washington.

MORE WIZARDS: Jennings helps Wizard's 4th quarter turnaround in Game 2

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Wizards vs. Pistons: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards vs. Pistons: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

John Wall, Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards battle Andre Drummond, Avery Bradley and the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch…

WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. DETROIT PISTONS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 7:00 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Wizards HangTime)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Three things to watch...

Smith may not play

The Wizards may be down not one but two power forwards, as Jason Smith sprained his right shoulder in Wednesday night's opener while filling in for Markieff Morris, who is already out rehabbing from sports hernia surgery. Losing Smith will put extra stress on head coach Scott Brooks, who is already trying to form rotations with a bench full of new faces.

If Smith can't go, which seems likely, the Wizards will start Kelly Oubre, Jr. at the three and push Otto Porter to the four. That lineup itself should have no serious drop-off from the one with Smith. But the domino effect will be interesting. Who plays the three in the second unit? Brooks will probably have to go small with three guards, stagger the minutes of his starters to compensate or turn to someone like Tomas Satoransky, Carrick Felix or Chris McCullough for some playing time after all three were DNPs in the opener.

[RELATED: OTTO PORTER ON HANGING WITH J. COLE]

A familiar foe

Wizards fans rejoiced when the Celtics shipped Avery Bradley to the Pistons, knowing he would not be able to guard John Wall and Bradley Beal if the Wizards see Boston again in the playoffs this season. But he's still in the Eastern Conference and because of that will see the Wizards plenty. Bradley is flat-out one of the best defenders in the NBA and one of the only players who can give Wall fits. He's got the size to guard both Wall and Beal and is as tough as they come.

Bradley will provide a strong test for both Wall and Beal, who each appear to have improved this offseason based on the limited action we've seen so far. Wall is in better shape than he was last year and Beal's confidence handling the ball and running sets continues to grow. They are up for any challenge and Bradley certainly presents one.

[RELATED: HOW MAHINMI LOST WEIGHT, WHY HE LOVES D.C.]

Harris and Drummond

The Wizards' frontcourt injuries won't make it any easier to stop what is one of the better big men combos in the Eastern Conference. Tobias Harris is a well-rounded power forward who can stretch the floor with a solid three-point shot. He puts up similar numbers to Morris, but blew up in the Pistons' first game on Wednesday against the Bobcats. Harris dropped 27 points on 11-of-18 shooting, including 4-of-7 from three, to go along with 10 rebounds and three assists. Last year he averaged 18.0 points and 6.7 rebounds in three games against Washington.

Drummond remains one of the best rebounders in basketball. He's a walking double-double, but did have a tough time against the Wizards last season. Washington held him to 8.7 points and 9.7 rebounds, modest for him, and he shot just 40 percent in three matchups. 

[RELATED: KELLY OUBRE CAN SEE WHY DURANT MADE A FAKE TWITTER ACCOUNT]

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Wizards Tipoff podcast, Ep. 46 - Wizards get good injury news; Chris McCullough joins the show

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NBC Sports Washington

Wizards Tipoff podcast, Ep. 46 - Wizards get good injury news; Chris McCullough joins the show

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman personal injury lawyers, Chase Hughes and Chris Miller broke down the season opener, plus some positive news on the injury front with both Jason Smith and Markieff Morris.

Wizards forward Chris McCullough joined the show to discuss fighting for minutes, who he models his game after and why he goes by the nickname 'Briskuno.'

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

[RELATED: 10 QUESTIONS WITH BRADLEY BEAL]