The Boston Celtics won't have Al Horford or Jae Crowder for tonight's game with the Wizards, but that's hardly a reason to think this game will be a layup given this team's recent history in games they should win.
The Wizards (1-5) probably should be no worse than 4-2 but have a habit of finding unique ways to give games away. Coach Scott Brooks keeps saying the right things and they sometimes can sound cliche, but he's correct in not assessing all or most of the blame to the second unit. He puts the blame on the starters, too.
"We're going to turn it around. I'm very confident in our group," said Brooks, in his first season. "We have to not have five or six minutes where we have trouble getting stops. We have trouble scoring."
Monday's 114-106 loss to the Houston Rockets was bad enough and featured various mistakes, though it's hardly the only game that's representative of the following:
- First-side shots. That elbow jump shot will be there for John Wall all the time. When he's stepping into it and gets good lift, it's a high-percentage shot. But there are times when, without passing or having others touch the ball in the offense, that becomes Option 1. Wall, however, isn't the one repeatedly taking that look. It's Marcus Thornton off the bench. The second unit isn't the most athletic bunch. They're not going to beat defenders at will off the dribble. But the ball moves faster than anyone on the floor, if you actually move the ball.
- Bradley Beal indecisive with attacking inferior defenders. Sometimes the shot isn't there because the defense is loading up to the ball with it in his hands. In those situations, quick reversals are usually the answer so he can get it back and hit the opponent in a more vulnerable spot or with some of that pressure relieved. But when Beal has Sam Dekker in front of him 18-20 feet from the basket he has to go fast and get to the rim. The same goes for James Harden-types who pose like they're about to defend but turn into matadors.
- Recongize personnel. This goes on both ends. Ryan Anderson should never be left wide open at the arc under any circumstance and his feet should be attacked whenever he's in an iso situation. And screen-and-rolls with Jason Smith won't compromise the defense.
- Figure out the pick-and-roll coverage once and for all. Are the Wizards going to zone up with the big on the pick-and-roll defense and try to force the mid-range shot, or will they resort to the contact show to slow it down? They were supposed to use the latter with James Harden and the confusion on what to do in those situations led to him getting 32 points and 15 assists.
- Ball reversal. Have the best shooter screening more is ideal. Who ran the pick-and-roll most with Harden? Anderson. The forward was 5-for-8 from three. Wall isn't the long-ball threat that Harden is when on the ball, which is why everyone being involved in the offense and touching the ball and being involved in the play is imperative. When the best options are shut down, reverse the action and attack the defense in the seams, make the defense rotate, adjust and make decisions. That's where the better shots are for the second unit.
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