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Coach Wes Unseld Jr. on Wizards’ defensive problems: ‘It’s not something schematic’

Wes Unseld Jr. in Washington Wizards v Los Angeles Lakers

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 11: Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. of the Washington Wizards in the third fourth quarter at Arena on March 11, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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Subpar defensively throughout the season, the Wizards have really had the bottom fall out in March.

Washington has allowed 123 points per 100 possessions this month. For perspective, the NBA-worst Rockets have a 116 defensive rating for the season.

The Wizards surrendered 50 points to LeBron James on Friday then 44 points to Josh Hart on Saturday.

Washington coach Wes Unseld Jr. after the Portland loss, via Ava Wallace of The Washington Post:

“It’s not something schematic, it’s some of the same issues,” he said. “We talked about the one-on-one containment, there’s no scheme for transition defense. You can say okay, well, let’s take care of the ball, we can do that better. But when the shot goes up, there’s no scheme to say, ‘You have to be here, you have to be here, you have to be here,’ it’s an effort, a level of focus, communication that takes care of that.”

The Wizards’ defensive effort and attention to detail hasn’t been good enough.

But coaches rarely blame their players so overtly.

By saying “It’s not something schematic,” Unseld is pinning culpability on things that aren’t his most recognized area of responsibility. That doesn’t always go over well – even if it’s true. Especially from a first-time NBA head coach who hasn’t proven he can succeed on this level. It’s on Unseld to motivate his players, anyway.

Of course, perhaps calling them out publicly will galvanize them. This could be a tactic that helps the team.

But Washington mostly looks like a team that lost its best player to injury and has fallen to outer margins of the postseason race late in the season. Effort and focus usually wane in those situations. What’s mostly left to do is tank for a higher draft pick and try to keep the team’s culture from going completely off the rails.

The latter of which is difficult when the defense is so frustrating.