Quick Links

Film study: How Wizards diffused Celtics sparkplug Isaiah Thomas

Film study: How Wizards diffused Celtics sparkplug Isaiah Thomas

The 20-point fourth quarter for Isaiah Thomas never came on Tuesday, unlike the Jan. 11 comeback win for the Boston Celtics over the Wizards. Then, they showed Thomas the same coverages. 

This time, they gave Thomas different looks and were successful in exploiting the 5-foot-9 point guard's weaknesses at both ends.

Thomas had 25 points and 13 assists, which looks great if he's on your fantasy team, but those terms were dictated by Washington. All stat lines aren't created equal. Thomas' impact paled in comparison to Bradley Beal's 31 points and five assists, or John Wall's 27 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in Wednesday's 123-108 domination.

The Wizards (25-20) stuck to coach Scott Brooks' gameplan to near perfection. 

[RELATED: Morris raises level to meet Scott Brooks' demands]

On the defensive end:

Ball pressure. Kelly Oubre wouldn't let Thomas breathe as he splits screens and gets help from Otto Porter to stop the momentum. When Thomas gets the ball back after an awkward pass out to relieve the pressure, Oubre tries to deny the return and harrasses Thomas every step of the way until he settles for deep jumper that wasn't in rhythm. 

Find Thomas in half-court at all times. If it's between closing out him or Marcus Smart on the perimeter, that's an easy decision. Let Smart shoot.

Make Thomas finish over size. Sometimes he'll succeed but many times he won't.

Another example of the same concept. Marcin Gortat has to switch with Oubre, who takes Al Horford. The Wizards pack the paint successfully to prevent dribble penetration and Gortat keeps his 6-11 frame in front and contests the jumper which falls short. 

Find Thomas in transition and either run him off the three-point line or contest at all cost (he shot 1-for-6 from the arc).

Be physical with him on screen, dribble-handoff and dribble-pitch action. Gortat steps out to slow him from turning the corner and Oubre's 7-2 wingspan prevents Thomas from exploding to the rim. Instead, he gets too deep with no where to go among the trees, stumbles and turns it over. 

On the offensive end:

Isolate and make his defense a liability. The moment the second half began, the Wizards went at Thomas with Beal, who at 6-5 is too big, too strong and too athletic. Over a guy his own size, this is a difficult shot for Beal. He has an unobstructed view on this one. He takes the handoff and Gortat twists the screen. Although Horford's containment initally works and Gortat gets the pass back, the spacing is created to allow Beal to isolate. Beal holds his ground for the return pass and Gortat cuts to the weakside of the floor, which forces Horford to either double-team immediately tor follow the big into the paint. Horford leaves. Beal goes to work.

Run him through multiple screens. Thomas isn't physical and is easy to knock off balance with contact. He has to fight through this pindown from Wall then a screen from Gortat and has no chance to recover to Beal. Horford is playing so soft in coverage, he's giving him a mid-range practice shot.

Don't let him hide. Oubre isn't the offensive threat at the level of Beal, but the Wizards made Thomas defend him, too. Oubre is 6-7 and comes off this curl cut for a runner in the lane that misses. But it was a quality look that broke down Boston's defense which allowed Trey Burke to slip in for the putback. 

This looked similar to what the Wizards did in 2015, when they were supremely confident they'd figured out how to deal with troublesome matchups with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Korver in the playoffs. This is just one regular-season game, and certainly Boston will make adjustments when they meet for a final time March 20 at TD Garden to determine the season series.These concepts regarding Thomas, however, still should apply.

[RELATED: Wizards walk the walk vs. Celtics: Is it a rivalry now?]

Quick Links

Wizards 2018-19 end of season grades: Bradley Beal

Wizards 2018-19 end of season grades: Bradley Beal

Now that the dust has settled for the 2018-19 Wizards season, it's time to review the roster and hand out individual grades...

Who: Bradley Beal, shooting guard

2018-19 stats: 36.9 mpg, 25.6 ppg, 5.5 apg, 5.0 rpg, 1.5 spg, 0.7 bpg, 2.7 tov, 47.5 FG%, 35.1 3P% (2.5/7.3), 54.0 eFG%, 80.8 FT% (4.4/5.5), 113 ortg, 114 drtg

Best game: 1/13 vs. Raptors - 43 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds, three steals, two blocks, 6-12 3PT

Grade: A+

Season review: One could argue that nobody deserves a higher grade in the Wizards organization for their 2018-19 season than Bradley Beal, who had by far the best individual year of any player on the team. He had high expectations coming into the season and exceeded them, taking the next step from an All-Star to a legitimate All-NBA candidate.

Beal also continued to represent the organization well in public. He spoke for the team after many difficult losses with poise and maturity. And he brought positive attention to the franchise for his charitable efforts, recently being named as a finalist for the league's community assist award.

Beal's on-court performance was a shining light amid a disastrous season overall for the team. He set career-highs in scoring, rebounds, assists, steals and free throw attempts. He played in all 82 games for the second straight season and never complained despite leading the NBA in minutes.

The most impressive part of Beal's season may be how he responded when John Wall went down due to injury. Wall last played on Dec. 26 and in the next 47 games, Beal averaged 27.2 points, 6.0 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.8 steals. 

Beal's final numbers put him in elite company. He became the first 25-5-5 player in Wizards/Bullets franchise history. He was one of only six players to reach that mark this season, a list that includes Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, James Harden, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry.

Even as the season was winding down and the Wizards were well out of playoff contention, Beal gave an honest and consistent effort. That stood out in a year in which some of his teammates did not play hard and were called out by head coach Scott Brooks and team leaders for doing so. 

Now Beal, of course, had many reasons to keep giving 100 percent. With the numbers he has put up, he could make All-NBA in late May and, if he does, will qualify for a supermax contract. That could mean tens of millions more on his next deal, if he chooses to sign back with the Wizards.

As Beal looks ahead to this summer and next season, another question is how much better he can become. He took a significant step from the All-Star year he had in 2017-18. What if he makes another, similar leap?

Beal upped his scoring average by three points year-over-year. Another jump like that could put him in the MVP conversation, depending on how the Wizards finish in the standings.


Quick Links

Why (and how) your NBA Cares Community Assist Award vote should go to Bradley Beal


Why (and how) your NBA Cares Community Assist Award vote should go to Bradley Beal

Voting has officially begun for the season-long NBA Community Assist Award, and Wizards All-Star guard Bradley Beal is a finalist. 

Chosen by fans and an NBA executive panel, the award honors a player’s strong commitment to positively impacting his community through sustained efforts over the course of the season.

In December, Beal visited Ron Brown College Preparatory High school in D.C. to give away two pairs of shoes to every member of the JV and varsity basketball teams.

It didn't stop there. Beal took his role as a mentor to the next level by checking in with the kids multiple times a month to make sure they are on the right track in both athletics and their academic studies.

Later on in February, Beal invited 10 students from RBHS on a private tour of the National African-American History and Culture Museum.

The seven-year NBA veteran also made a point to donate game tickets to community groups and toys to the Salvation Army during the holiday season. 

Here's some key information about the voting process: 

  1. Voting begins: Wednesday, April 24th at 12:01 p.m.
  2. Voting ends: Sunday, May 5th at 11:59 p.m.
  3. How does voting work? Through the above date range, every tweet posted using both of the hashtags #BradleyBeal and #NBACommunityAssist counts as one vote.
  4. Retweets of tweets using the above hashtags also count as one vote

This all comes following another All-Star season that saw the 25-year-old finish with career-highs in points (25.6), rebounds (5.0), and assists (5.5). He played in all 82 regular-season games. 

The winning player will receive $25,000 to their charity of choice, a donation from the NBA and Kaiser Permanente.