PHILADELPHIA – The first half is where the game got away from the Wizards off the jump in a 109-102 loss to the Sixers.
They were held to 15 points in the first quarter, the fewest scored by an opponent in any stanza all season, and allowed the Sixers to shoot 50 percent, including 4-for-9 on three-pointers.
The result was a 29-15 hole that they played out of the entire game. And even though the Wizards bounced back in the second quarter to trim what had been a 24-point deficit to 11 by halftime, it proved insurmountable.
So what went wrong? Effort. Discipline. You name it. Gerald Henderson (14 points) is a mid-range pull up shooter who drives exclusively to his right. Jahlil Okafor (19 points in 20 minutes) has about two or low-post moves and that's it.
Andrew Nicholson, who had to take Markieff Morris' spot 54 seconds into the game after two quick fouls, had a miserable night. Before the Wizards try to erase this memory with a game vs. the New York Knicks tonight at Verizon Center, let’s do a quick revisit of the first quarter when the game got away.
— 7:42 - 7:34: Watch Marcin Gortat in transition point out Ersan Ilyasova, who is a stretch shooter. Nicholson picks up Richaun Holmes in the post instead to prevent an easy throw-ahead for a layup. Gortat hesitates, probably fearing being beaten off the bounce, and doesn't close out Ilyasova strongly enough to contest the three-ball as Sergio Rodriguez makes the push to find his man stepping into his spot on the arc. Ilyasova's strength is on catch-and shoot and one-dribble pullups, not off multiple bounces.
— 4:54 - 4:45: This is a 2 v. 4 pick-and-roll between Rodriguez and Dario Saric when the play begins. Focus on the clock at 4:47 when Saric makes the catch off his dive to the rim. He receives the bounce pass and is surrounded by five defenders. He should have nowhere to go with this ball. Somehow he gets an uncontested layup. No one thwarted the roll man's dive to the rim with a bump. When coach Scott Brooks complained of "no resistance," this is what he meant.
Note: John Wall, who is playing on a minutes restriction, exits the game here with the Wizards trailing 16-12.
— 4:02 - 3:54: Nicholson drops down too deep on Saric's push as Otto Porter helps force him to pick up his dribble. The ball goes out to the trailer Hollis Thompson, who makes the correct read by reversing the ball to Saric as he pops to the top of the arc. Nicholson is still so deep in the lane he's just above the restricted circle. Nicholson is too late to contest the three that drops in. Like Ilyasova, Saric's strength is catch-and-shoot and via one-dribble pull ups. Make him put it on the floor when he's more prone to mistakes (four turnovers, 26 minutes). Saric doesn't change directions well. When he gets going in one direction, he can be an offensive foul waiting to happen. And his shot accuracy and willingness to shoot shrinks when his space is taken away.
— 3:27 - 3:15: Tomas Satoransky's throw-ahead to Marcus Thornton is stolen by T.J. McConnell who makes a quick read to get the ball to Nik Stauskas. Nicholson, who has support in the lane from Gortat, leaves Ilyasova and follows the ball into the lane a step too deep with Stauskas. He wisely swings the ball out to Ilyasova sinking into the short corner for a three. Nicholson, again, is too late to recover and contest. The shot is good.
— 2:57 - 2:50: Nicholson forces Thompson into a tough shot on the move, but Saric despite being bracketed with Gortat and Satoransky bullies his way for the 1 v. 2 offensive rebound putback.
— 2:11 - 2:05: Robert Covington misses his free throw and gets his own rebound as the Wizards left him unmarked. The burden falls to Kelly Oubre, who just checked in and is the closest to the shooter. Standard operating procedure in this situation is establishing who has the shooter, which clearly did not happen. Thompson fades to the short corner for a wide-open three though Nicholson tries in vain to contest.
This is just a small snapshot of how the game got away on a lot of IQ and hustle plays.
Not superior talent plays.