A stat sheet doesn't tell you who is the better or best players on the floor. How the game is played, and recongition given by opponents, say it all. When Stephen Curry isn't trusted to guard fellow point guard Kyrie Irving in the fourth quarter, it tells you what coach Steve Kerr thinks of his guy's defense.
When Irving isn't trusted to defend Mike Conley of the Memphis Grizzlies, also a point guard, and is hidden against the offensively challenged Tony Allen, that tells you what Cavs coach Ty Lue truly thinks of his guy's defense.
When defenses commit 2-3 defenders to John Wall and Bradley Beal, they all know who the two best players are for the Wizards. They still combined for 40 points in a 107-102 win vs. the Milwaukee Bucks, and even though Otto Porter and Markieff Morris combined for 50 points that doesn't change anything.
The worst-case scenario came to fruition for the Bucks: They took away the strong suits for Wall (dribble penetration) and Beal (three-point shooting) but the duo still scored and combined for 21 assists while the role players in Porter and Morris shot 20-for-29 from the field, including 6-for-11 from three-point range, to go with 17 rebounds.
All of it is a product of what the defense was willing to give up. Sometimes the philosphy in a given game, particularly when teams see each other often, is to mix it up. An opponent will see a little bit of everything and not the same coverage time after time.
"I think last night was probably the worst it's been," Beal, who shot just 5-for-14, said of the coverages by Milwaukee. "Every time I caught the ball I had two guys on me. It's different but it's a sign of respect, too."
If the role players being left open are able to make shots, the better players (Wall and Beal) eventually will get theirs. And they did. Beal was able to score 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter. Wall had five points and four assists in the final 12 minutes:
If Morris doesn't bother to set this pindown and just walks to the front of the rim, he still gets the bucket. The Bucks treat him as if he were invisible. They clogged the paint on Wall, took away Beal's open look from three and all that's required is the right read being made by Marcin Gortat and Morris making himself available. Gortat's dive is shorcut by the help and Morris is deeper than all five defenders.
Beal simply catching this ball attracts the eyes of every defender. Morris makes the correct the read as he slips baseline behind Malcolm Brogdon. It's another example of why moving off the ball and not just being stationary can catch the defense on its heels. But it's not movement here for the sake of movement. It's timing and spacing.
Porter is left unattended on this push by Wall. See where the defense is set. They've packed the paint to keep Wall from the rim. John Henson recognizes too late as he sinks too deep on Gortat. If Porter opted to make the extra pass, Gortat had a dive to the basket, too.
The screen roll between Wall and Gortat is stonewalled. Wall can't get into the paint because he's double-teamed. Gortat can't get to the rim because Tony Snell leaves Morris to stop him. But Gortat looks over the top on catch and finds Morris behind the deepest defender for the finish.
The ball is kept from Beal in this floppy set. But while the initial rotations are good from Milwaukee as it kept the ball from going to the weakside, Morris is able to pass out of the double-team. Jabari Parker opts to go for the steal on Gortat -- this is where gambling for steals is a liability that compromises teammates -- over playing position defense. He whiffs, and that opens up the ball reversal to Beal as he's closed out by Snell. The extra pass to his right to Porter results in his fifth three-pointer of the game for a two-possesion lead with 49 seconds left. Henson's close out is too late.