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Brooks: Wizards' tentative defense late costs them at least 3 wins

Brooks: Wizards' tentative defense late costs them at least 3 wins

NEW YORK -- The discussion that Scott Brooks had with his team before Sunday's practice session, following another late-game collapse, wasn't just about what took place in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

He showed them the evidence of how they were lax against the Memphis Grizzlies in the second game of the season and vs. the Oklahoma City a few days ago. 

They lost all three and easily could be 9-9 instead of 6-12 based off those alone. 

RELATED: MUST-SEE MOMENTS FROM SPURS GAME

"We've shown all three of those clips," Brooks said.

"Memphis, up three. Oklahoma City, up three. San Antonio, up one. The thing I liked about us, we competed and put ourselves in that position. But the thing that we talked about today was we have to be able to lock in before the referee gives the ball to their player. All three times, we weren't ready as we need to be. It's happened three times. ... We have to correct it and get better going forward."

In Memphis, Marc Gasol drained a three-pointer to force overtime. Mike Conley is allowed to get the ball and take his time and Vince Carter, after delivering the inbounds, is the physical one as he screens to create the switch pins down John Wall and Marcin Gortat.

By the time Gortat realizes it's a play call for Gasol to knock down a three he sheds Carter but it's too late. Porter could've bodied up Carter the moment he makes the inbound. Wall could've gotten away from Carter the moment he started to push his way inside the arc since only a three in this situation is a threat.

Gortat could've immediately gone to Gasol since the 7-1 center's first made shot in the first quarter was a three:

In Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook launched a wide-open three to get the game into the extra session.

The initial move is Markieff Morris providing support to Beal when Westbrook makes the catch. Then both get confused on who is responsible for whom. The Thunder need three to tie so there's no need to bite a jab step or any offensive move into the paint. Steven Adams, defended by Morris, is a non-threat.

His only role in this play is to screen so shading towards him isn't prudent. Wall blows up his screen to free Anthony Morrow off the ball. But Beal and Morris appear to hesitate as to who would jump out on Westbrook as he retreats to the arc with the ball. Worst-case scenario, both run at him and he has to give up the ball and the Thunder get an easy deuce. So what? 

In San Antonio, Danny Green got a clean look from three to retake the lead to win in regulation. As usual with the Spurs, the weakside of the floor is where the action that beats you happens. Their best player Kawhi Leonard drives baseline to create an open shot for Patty Mills, but Wall properly closes that down to force another pass.

The moment the ball goes in the paint on Leonard's drive, Morris abandons Green who ends up with what's tantamount to a practice shot. When only four of five players are connected, that's not good enough. 

In all of these examples, the opponent was able to do exactly what they wanted to do and get the quality shot. All three were three-pointers. All three went virutally contested.

"We talked about being physical," Brooks said. "We're reacting after their initial action. There's opportunities. The game allows you to get physical. Touch somebody. We have to be able to do that. We will. We're going to continue to talk about that."

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Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

When asked at his introductory press conference for how he will fit on the Wizards' roster from a basketball perspective, guard Austin Rivers didn't first cite his three-point shooting, his ability to affect games scoring off the bench or his speed to run the floor with John Wall and Bradley Beal. The first thing he point to was his defense.

That may have surprised some people out there as Rivers has long been known for his scoring ability and not so much his skills on the other end. It's not that he can't play defense, it's just that most of the highlights he's produced over the years have been due to his high-flying finishes at the rim and wicked pull-up jumper from three-point range.

Defense, though, is something Rivers takes pride in and he hopes to continue developing as a defender in Washington.

"With how much Brad and John have to do every night, for them to not have to always guard the best guard on the other team, that's something I can come in here and do. Try to bring that competitive spirit and be one of the defenders on the team," Rivers said.

Rivers' defensive ability has produced some controversy among Wizards fans and media members on social media. Some insist he does not bring value on that end of the floor, while some numbers suggest he does have some defensive potential.

Last season, Rivers averaged a career-high 1.2 steals per game. He was tied for fifth on the Clippers in defensive win shares.

However, his 113 defensive rating was his worst since 2013-14. It was an outlier on the Clippers and not in the good way. He also ranked nowhere near the top of the league in deflections or contested three-point shots, two hustle stats that guys like Wall and Beal fair well in.

Rivers points to two attributes that he believes make him a strong perimeter defender. One is his versatility and the other you could call scrappiness.

"On defense [the Wizards] can switch one through three or one through four. I think that gives us a lot of dangerous options," he said.

As for his scrappiness, Rivers says it comes from the early days of his career.

"I had to figure out ways to be effective without [a jumpshot] and that's how I became a defender. I guess everything happens for a reason, right? I'm happy I did have those early career struggles because it made me find a side of me that I didn't do [early on]. Because I promise you I didn't play any defense at Duke," he said.

The last line drew laughter from those gathered at his introductory press conference. Rivers insists that he now takes that end of the floor very seriously. The Wizards certainly hope he can back up his words.

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John Wall offers thoughts on Wizards' biggest offseason additions including Dwight Howard

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John Wall offers thoughts on Wizards' biggest offseason additions including Dwight Howard

At his final media availability of the 2017-18 season, John Wall highlighted specific types of players he wanted to see added to the Wizards roster this summer. Most notably, he pointed to an athletic big and bench scoring.

The Wizards ended up adding those things and more.

They signed Dwight Howard and Jeff Green to free agent deals, traded for Austin Rivers and drafted Troy Brown, Jr. in the first round. Howard is the athletic big and Rivers is the bench scorer Wall coveted.

Whether coincidental or not, Wall got his wish. And he's excited for the possibilities now that the Wizards appear to have shored up some weaknesses.

In his recent interview with Chris Miller on our Wizards Tipoff podcast, Wall offered thoughts on each key addition.

On Howard: "Even though he's older, he's still an athletic big and still has respect in this league. I mean, averaging [16.6 ppg and 12.5 rpg], he's a guy who can score in the low-post and block shots, a guy that gets a lot of rebounds and a guy that can catch lobs and do things that when teams switch against us or we're attacking the paint, if they help for a second then we're throwing lobs. Now, do you get more layups? Probably. Or, you get more wide open threes because guys are going to have to crack down on him. If you don't crack down on him, that's an automatic layup or a lob. I think that benefits us a lot. It's going to help. If you look at [Clint] Capela, DeAndre [Jordan] and those types of guys that are athletic, JaVale [McGee]. Even JaVale at times, being athletic and just getting to the paint. Guys are stepping up and you're throwing lobs to those guys. We have a person that can do that."

On Rivers: "I think it's going to be fun and interesting. Austin is someone who I've always watched since high school. He's a competitive guy. He definitely can score the ball. High volume shooter, once he gets it going, he's going. I think it just gives us that guy that we've never really had off the bench, that can create for himself and can create for his teammates at the two-guard position."

On Green: "Just being able to switch one through four, a guy that can post up if you put smaller guys on him. He can guard every position. He's athletic and can run the floor with us in transition. He does the little things that a lot of people don't notice."

On Brown: "He's very poised for his age. He doesn't try to force anything. The only thing I would tell him is just be more aggressive... and make mistakes. Try to make mistakes and improve your game to get better. It's going to be hard to find minutes and at practice at times with [Kelly Oubre, Jr.] and Otto [Porter, Jr.] and those guys being there."

Listen to Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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