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Film study: How John Wall's defense can set tone for Wizards' success

Film study: How John Wall's defense can set tone for Wizards' success

The Wizards were intent on putting forth a better defensive effort in Monday's game with the Phoenix Suns, and there was no better example than John Wall's play. 

He was 6-for-24 from the field shooting and had a game-high 15 assists -- one more than Phoenix's entire starting five -- but it's the havoc he wreaked on the defensive end that made the difference in the 106-101 victory. 

It was the ball pressure, blowing up screens, wise decisions of when to double the man with the ball and when not to and just hustle plays. Plus, I've sprinkled in a couple plays how he created offense with not just his speed but decision-making on when to push the issue despite what appeared to be a disadvantage.

Tomorrow, I'll get into Bradley Beal's career-high 42 points and how he had those come to fruition. This is about the tone Wall set to get the Wizards (4-9) on the right path:

-- 6:38-6:28: Wall misses a three short and hustles back to block Devin Booker to prevent the layup. The Suns have produced the most points in transition of any team in the NBA. They were outscored 25-6 on fast breaks because of plays such as this. 

-- 5:38-5:28: Wall hustles back, finds ball, blows up screen-roll action between Alex Len and Eric Beldsoe, moves laterally to beat him to the spots and forces the ball out of the middle which is a staple of every NBA defense. 

-- 5:03-4:55: Fake dribble handoff from Wall to Beal occupies two defenders – Bledsoe and Brandon Knight – who follow where they think the ball is headed. Wall gets a straight line to the basket, drawing Marquese Chriss and Len, and Wall lays it off between them to Marcin Gortat for a layup. DHOs allow the ballhandler going downhill, putting the defense at a disadvantage espeically if Wall is the attacker.

-- 4:06-3:55: Wall’s ball pressure on Bledsoe, using active hands and correctly shading him to the baseline which he uses as an extra defender. Bledsoe takes the bait and drives into the help as Gortat comes off Len to seal the penetration, allowing Wall to block the shot from his blindside. Good individual and team defense. 

-- 3:10-2:54: Wall draws the defense by getting into the paint and then reverses field. Why? Knight had good position but also the lane is crowded. There's no room for a finish or passing lane. Gortat, however, makes an intelligent read to take a step out of the paint which brings his defender (Len) with him. Wall goes into fifth gear off the stop, gets to the rim this time but swings it to Oubre in the short corner. When Wall makes his drive, Beal lifts from the opposite corner to create a passing lane for when Wall gets the offensive rebound. It's an easy, wide-open look for the best three-point shooter on the team.


Second quarter

-- 7:35-7:25: This is 2-for-1. Wall takes an angle under Alan Williams’ screen to cut off any potential of Leandro Barbosa attacking the lane off the catch. Instead, Barbosa takes a long two-point shot that Wall makes an extra effort to contest (despite Williams moving backwards in an attempt to bump Wall, a practice NBA refs allow everywhere but call moving screens in other situations). After the miss, Wall pushes it and makes a simple cross-court pass to Marcus Thornton in rhythm stepping into an open three-point shot.  

-- 1:41-1:30: Wall reads the dribble handoff and is careful to not get sucked into it and out of position. He also gets under screen, closes out Bledsoe and pressures the ball. When the pass gets to Chriss, Wall times his double-team perfectly. Rather than trying for it immediately, which would’ve opened up Bledsoe for the pass back for an open three, Wall waits for the rookie to turn his back to make his move on Markieff Morris. That’s when Wall sells out, diving to the floor for the steal.

-- 1:13-1:03: Wall creates something out of nothing, taking a missed jump shot from Bledsoe, luring the defense to sleep as if he’s going to slow it down, kicks it into overdrive as he gets into the paint. He doesn’t have numbers as Phoenix has four players back, but they’re not prepared. He drives by Bledsoe, into the chest of Len and delivers a wraparound to Morris for the dunk.

Third quarter

7:32-7:20: The Suns are about to run some high horns action and Chriss and Len run up to the high posts to give Booker his option of which screen to take. But Wall anticipates it first, pushes up a step to go over top of the screen. Len misses the long jumper. It's a "little" thing but it shows the IQ is there and these are the sort of results the Wizards can generate across the board with better reads, efforts, second efforts and third efforts.

This is the Wall who was NBA All-Defense two years ago. He missed a lot of shots, but his points will come just because of his activity. When the quarterback is willing to get his hands this dirty, the other four players on the court with him have no choice but to fall in line. 


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Rebounding issues arise again in Wizards' season opening loss to the Miami Heat

Rebounding issues arise again in Wizards' season opening loss to the Miami Heat

Realistically, the Miami Heat had no business even being in position to win on Thursday night in the Wizards' 2018-19 regular season opener.

They shot just 39.2 percent from the field, compared to 46.9 percent for the Wizards, and had 19 turnovers. 

The Heat were on the second night of a back-to-back, having lost a tough one to the Magic the night before. They were missing a host of rotation players, including two of their regular starters.

Yet, the Heat pulled out a victory to stun the Opening Night crowd at Capital One Arena simply because they out-hustled the Wizards. They out-rebounded the Wizards 55-40, including a 22-7 margin in offensive boards. Those 22 offensive rebounds were tied for the most allowed by the Wizards since 2012.

"Rebounding the ball is really why we lost the game," Wizards guard John Wall said. "That's really where they killed us."

Miami's advantage on the glass allowed them to put up a whopping 16 more shots. That led to 27 second chance points compared to just 10 for Washington.

It was the central theme of the game, so naturally it played a role in how it was decided. After Wall forced a miss by Dwyane Wade on a fadeaway attempt in the closing seconds, Heat big man Kelly Olynyk was right there to catch the ball and scoop it in for two.

That score proved to be the go-ahead points as just 0.2 seconds remained on the clock. All night, the Wizards made plays on defense, only to have the Heat save themselves with second looks.

The Wizards had no better explanation postgame other than Miami simply tried harder.

"They out-hustled us," forward Jeff Green said.

"Rebounds come down to whoever wants it the most and tonight they wanted it more than we did," forward Otto Porter Jr. said.

It sounds simple, and perhaps it was indeed that easy to explain. But there were other factors at play, some in their control and some not.

For one, the Wizards were missing their best rebounder, Dwight Howard, who sat out with a strained piriformis muscle. Even at 32, Howard remains one of the best rebounders in basketball and would have made a significant difference. 

It would have been nice to have him, a 280-pound giant in the paint to match up with Hassan Whiteside, one of the most physically imposing centers in the league.

With Howard out of the mix, the Wizards turned to Ian Mahinmi and Jason Smith, but they each stumbled into early foul trouble. Head coach Scott Brooks had no other option than to go small with guys like Green and Markieff Morris at the five-spot.

Brooks wants to employ that strategy more often anyways, but not by necessity. And sure enough, it was Green and Morris on the floor when Olynyk broke loose for the final deciding play.

"The last rebound, we definitely need to put most of the ownership on me and Jeff because we were the biggest guys," Morris said. "I think that might have been the easiest layup of the game right there."

"I was surprised I was open," Olynyk admitted afterwards. "It kinda just popped open and I was kinda just standing right there."

Though many factors were at play, the Wizards' struggles rebounding the ball came down to the simple fundamentals of boxing out their opponent. As they learned last year, it's tough to be consistent when you can't take care of the little things that separate wins and losses. 



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After his buzzer beater, Kelly Olynyk is becoming one of D.C.'s top sports villains

After his buzzer beater, Kelly Olynyk is becoming one of D.C.'s top sports villains

Kelly Olynyk has done it once again to the Washington Wizards. 

The Miami Heat center ripped the heart of the Wizards just when it looked like it was going to be a new chapter for the team.

After leading a team to victory over the Wizards once again, he is starting to become one of the biggest sports villains in Washington D.C.

Olynyk hit a go-ahead layup with 0.2. second left to sink the Wizards in their 2018 season opener. Dwyane Wade had the first chance to win it for the Heat. He missed, but Olynyk was there for the rebound and uncontested layup.

For those that need a reminder this is not the first time Olynyk has torched the Wizards. 

Back in Game 7 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Olynyk, then the Boston Celtics backup center, went off for 26 points, 14 coming in a tense fourth quarter. The loss ended the Wizards chance to get to the Conference Finals that year. If would have been the first time they reach that mark in the John Wall-era of the franchise.

Olynyk was also guilty of getting under the skin of Kelly Oubre Jr. The Wizards forward was sent to the floor following a big screen set by Olynyk. Oubre sprang to his feet and shoved Olynyk, leading to a minor scuffle. Oubre was ejected from the game and suspended for the following game.

With a reputation like that, Olynyk is starting to etch his name down on the wrong side of D.C. sports lore.

Who does Olynyk join among the ranks of most disliked athletes inside the D.M.V.? Here's our list:

Sidney Crosby

To the vast majority of Washington, D.C. sports fans, no one will ever be a bigger villain than Sidney Crosby. His rivalry with Alex Ovechkin is a major part of this, but being on the winning side more often than the Washington Capitals plays just as big a part. Crosby's Pittsburgh Penguins eliminated the Capitals in three different Eastern Conference Semifinal series before Washington finally broke through last season.

Also it's Crosby. His incessant whinning and cockiness are overwhelming. 

Jaroslav Halak

At the time he was just an average goalie for the Montreal Canadiens, but by the end of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Jaroslav Halak was public enemy No. 1 in the nation's capital.

Against a Capitals team that won the Presidents Trophy, Halak stood on his head as the No. 8 seed Canadiens faced elimination with the Caps up 3-1 in the series. He had 37 saves in Game 5, an incredible 53 saves in Game 6, and clinched the series with 41 saves in Game 7. He allowed just three goals in those three games, and sent the Capitals packing earlier than expected.

Had it not been for Halak, the first Washington Capitals championship might have happened well before June 2018.

Jerry Jones

He owns the Dallas Cowboys. Need we say more? 

Jonathan Papelbon

For years Jonathan Papelbon was on the Philadelphia Phillies. That alone would be enough to be on the bad side of D.C. sports fans.

Then he came to Washington, as a member of the Nationals, and tried to choke-out Bryce Harper

An insider job? We think so. 

Albert Haynesworth

Albert Haynesworth drew a seven-year, $100 million contract with the Washington Redskins. He ended up playing less than two seasons. 

He was so bad that NFL.com has listed him as one of the worst free agents signings in league history.

There are two things Albert Haynesworth is remembered for in Washington, D.C.
1: Taking a lot of money from the Redskins
2: This video 

Pete Kozma

Only on this list because some believe that Pete Kozma is the sole reason the Washington Nationals did not win a championship in 2012.

Aside from a three-run home run and then the game-winning runs in Game 5 of the NLDS, there has not been another chapter in the Kozma vs. Washington D.C. rivalry.

The real villain in all of this should be the Nats' pitcher, Drew Storen. He had a two-run lead before coming into the ninth in a winner-take-all Game 5. He gave the Cardinals four runs.


So now that I've gone and despressed your day away, re-living terrible D.C. sports nightmares, just know that Olynyk is squarely on this list and just re-affirmed that with his latest buzzer-beater.