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Film study: What went wrong at end of Wizards' loss to Grizzlies

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Film study: What went wrong at end of Wizards' loss to Grizzlies

After a three-point play from John Wall and two free throws by Marcin Gortat, the Wizards were ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies 96-88 with 3:56 left on Sunday night. It was their largest lead of the game that they would lose in overtime 112-103. So what happened and why?

A lot of things. And the outcome had to do with a lot more than Marc Gasol's three-point shot to force the extra period. Memphis never should've been in that position if the Wizards had taken care of business. This is how what should've been the Wizards' first win of the season turned into their second loss at FedEx Forum:

3:29-3:17: Look at the spacing when Wall is isolated on Andrew Harrison. Otto Porter and Bradley Beal are standing in the same spot and can be defended by one man (Mike Conley). Despite this, as Wall makes his move Vince Carter already is taking his eyes off Markieff Morris who is spotting up for a wide-open, high-percentage three-point look. Carter comes over to contest. Wall backrims the pullup. Memphis has all five defenders at this point at or below the foul line. This all leads to the run out by Carter as he was struck on the head by Wall for a Flagrant 1 foul that changed the tone of the game because it turned into a five-point play -- two made free throws and the ball (Conley made a three).

2:47-2:37: This possession is doomed after the dribble handoff between Wall and Beal. James Ennis disrupts the play by almost getting a strip and 15 seconds have gone off the shot clock. Beal flows into a two-man game with Gortat but ends up taking a contested long two that’s no good. The 7-foot Gasol was on top of the release but this probably is a better sequence if Beal used his hesitation dribble to attack the big man for a closer, possibly uncontested look or used a pocket pass to Morris if he cuts baseline to give him the passing angle. Only three seconds were left on the shot clock on Beal’s release but the Wizards need more calm in attacking the mismatch properly.

2:05-1:55: When Wall decides attack Conley off the screen from Gortat, good idea. It’s 5 vs. 4. The shot is still contested, however, by Gasol, the Wizards’ biggest player (Gortat) isn’t in position to rebound a miss and Beal doesn’t fill the backcourt to prevent Conley’s runout for a layup. He starts walking the moment the shot goes up as Conley sprints. Wall either forgets about Conley is there or thinks he has a safety valve to cover for him. Morris stood in the weakside short corner, again, wide open for a three which was the better shot. Note: It's a small sample size as Morris has only taken five three-pointers, but he has made 60% of them.

1:35-1:28: Conley is trapped as he tries to run the side pick-and-roll with Gasol. It’s unclear what the defensive coverage call was here, but Wall doesn’t use the sideline as an extra defender. They usually prefer to "ice," as in send the ball baseline, in these situations. It appears that the purpose was to not switch, allow Wall to stay on Conley and Gortat to stick with Gasol. They accomplished that part. But that decision allows Conley to get enough separation to get by Wall who is trailing the play and tries to contest. Morris, who is playing the 2/9 position to protect the rim – he’s effectively a zone coverage to load up on Conley with the ball -- makes a half-hearted reach-in. He doesn’t move his feet to take the charge or redirect the ball nor goes for the shot block on the 6-foot guard with his 6-10 frame. The Wizards had 3 vs. 2 and allowed a layup. They failed to keep the ball out of the middle, the most dangerous spot on the floor when a creator (in this case, the best one for Memphis) has the ball.

1:23-1:03: The Wizards stack the screens for Wall with Gortat and Morris then they stack them for Beal to come off the baseline to get the ball. JaMychal Green shows to prevent the catch-and-shoot three, Beal runs to the opposite side and get the ball. Ennis navigates the screens and recovers perfectly. By the time Beal gets the ball, there are only six seconds left on the shot clock and Ennis’ ball pressure forces the pick-and-roll with Gortat higher than preferred. Gasol switches onto Beal two feet beyond the three-point arc and wisely uses the sideline as an extra defender. Beal gives up his dribble. Memphis has 4 vs. 2 – Gasol, Ennis, Conley and Green. Beal and Gortat are stranded on an island on the strong side. The result is yet another turnover. The better read for Beal would've been immediate recognition that play was dead in the water and reversing the ball to Wall to go 1 vs. 1. with Conley at the top. Wall either could've created for himself or drawn the defense for a kick out to where there was more space. Unlike the Wizards in the previous example, the Grizzlies kept the ball out of the middle.

It's about more than the final-play execution, when Wall ran into the teeth of the defense and didn't get a good look. A lot of this is about attention to detail and developing better habits. When the games get tighter -- and the opponent's defense gets tougher and the officials tend to swallow their whistles more often -- the Wizards have to be better decision-makers. That starts with the leaders, Wall and Beal, because how they respond in these situations bleeds into the rest of the roster.  

[RELATED: Brooks trusts Wizards vets to make the right call]

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John Wall goes through full practice for first time since left knee surgery

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John Wall goes through full practice for first time since left knee surgery

John Wall crossed one of the biggest hurdles of his months-long recovery from arthroscopic left knee surgery on Saturday by participating in his first full practice.

That means Wall went through 5-on-5 scrimmages with teammates that included contact. He is free of restrictions.

Now it is only a matter of days before Wall is ready to return to game action.

"John did everything, he did an entire practice which was great," head coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought he did a great job offensively and defensively."


Wall, who last played on Jan. 25 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, has missed the Wizards' last 24 games. He has been absent for 35 of their 72 total games this season.

In the months he has been out, Wall has slowly worked his way to this point. He still has to get a few more practices under his belt before the Wizards can outline a target date for his return.

Wall was aggressive in testing his knee by attacking the basket, according to Brooks. Wall was moving around well and even lost a few pounds during his time off.

"He looks great and that's not easy with time off," Brooks said. "He will be back in no time."


The Wizards have gone 14-10 since Wall went down, an impressive mark especially considering how tough their schedule shook out. Most of those games came against teams with winning records either holding playoff spots or fighting for them.

The shine, though, is wearing off. They have lost two straight games and seven of their last 11. Their offense has stalled in recent defeats and it's become more and more clear they could use Wall's presence.

"He gives us that edge," Wall said. "When you have him on the floor, you get a lot of easy shots. John creates a lot of attention when he drives to the basket... I think [his teammates] have always appreciated it, but when you don't have him around you definitely miss it."

While the Wizards continue to wait for Wall to return to games, just having him in practices helps. Brooks explained how guarding a player of Wall's caliber, a five-time All-Star, raises the intensity level of their scrimmages. If his teammates do not bring their best effort, Wall can very easily expose them.


There is also something intangible about Wall's presence. The media sees it once the doors open at practice. He is talkative and energetic on the court.

Some of his teammates even described him as "loud."

"Sometimes I tell him that he's a little too loud," guard Bradley Beal said. "But that's the energy that we've missed."

"He brings the juice. He brings the energy level up," Brooks said. "You miss his spirit. You miss the way he interacts with guys. He's fiery and competitive. He gets after guys. He cheers guys on. I like that. I like guys that show emotion and passion on the court."

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Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Following their seventh loss in 11 games and another lackluster performance in key areas, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks reverted back to a critique that characterized many defeats months ago. He called into question the effort of his team, more specifically their urgency. How they could overlook the stakes at this point of the season and with so much on the line had escaped him.

Brooks wasn't pleased following Washington's 108-100 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday night. He didn't like their three-point defense, their inability to force turnovers and their lack of zip on offense. But overall, it was the apparent lack of realization that time is running out in the regular season and off-nights cannot be afforded.

"We have to play with more spirit [and] we have to take some pride in our home court," Brooks said. "We’re building our habits going into the playoffs and these are moments where we need to take advantage because it’s playoff implications in every game."


Pride is something Brooks has referenced after the Wizards' worst defeats since he took over. This one didn't qualify, as they only lost by eight points and had opportunities late to write a different ending. But they were playing a team fighting for their own playoff position in the opposite conference and for the most part did not match their intensity.

The Nuggets, to put it plainly, are among the worst defensive teams in basketball. They were missing their leading scorer, Gary Harris. And they tightened their rotation to just eight players.

Yet the Wizards only managed 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers. Aside from their 33-point third quarter, the Wizards' offense was effectively stalled. 

"We can’t have guys that are not going to participate with hard cuts and hard setups and good screens. We need everybody. It’s not one person, it’s all," Brooks said.


The Wizards only forced 10 turnovers on the Nuggets and only three in the first half. That held back their offense in the sense they had few opportunities for fastbreak buckets.

"That’s where we get most of our offense from anyways, getting stops, getting out in transition," forward Otto Porter said.

The Wizards have lost two straight games. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers and Pacers both won on Friday night.

The Wizards are sixth place in the East and just 1 1/2 games out of fourth, but there is a huge difference in those spots. Sixth could mean meeting the Cavs in the first round and they have won three straight since Kevin Love returned from injury.


The Cavaliers could quickly become the most dangerous team in the Eastern Conference. Their record is deceiving due to Love's injury and they still boast LeBron James, the best player on the planet. No one can control a playoff series quite like he can.

An argument could be made the Wizards would be better off moving down than up, as the seventh spot would match them up with the injury-riddled Boston Celtics. The Wizards are just 1 1/2 games ahead of the seventh-seed Miami Heat.

The Wizards, though, would prefer to move up and they still have a chance to get into fourth, which would mean home court advantage.

John Wall will return at some point, likely soon. In the short-term, Brooks would like to some urgency and for his team to get back to the trademark ball movement that allowed them to go 10-3 in their first 13 games when Wall went down.

"We can get it back, but it’s not going to come back. We have to go get it. It’s time to do it; it’s time," Brooks said.

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