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Film study: Mass confusion leads to Wizards' letdowns on defense

Film study: Mass confusion leads to Wizards' letdowns on defense

With 24 hours to digest what went wrong in the Wizards' loss to the Miami Heat, allowing an offensively inept team to score 114 points, coach Scott Brooks saw enough blame to go around with his 3-9 team.

"Seems like it's not one person," Brooks said after Sunday's practice session. "It's the team. ... We have to start the game and end the game with the same mind-set. That's try to get stops."

It started soon after the opening tip of the first quarter:

-- 11:05-10:54: Dion Waiters has too much time to survey the landscape, dribble himself into a rhythm and pull up for the jumper. On first glance, it looks like good position defense but Bradley Beal doesn't pressure him to make him uncomfortable and he cedes too much ground. That creates the space Waiters needs to rise and bury this jumper. The challenge at this point is immaterial. 

-- 9:07-8:58: Beal ices Waiters on this pick-and-roll, sending the ball baseline with Marcin Gortat’s help. Waiters doesn’t panic but accepts the double to expose the defense. No one bumps down on Hassan Whiteside, the roll man, to eliminate his straight-line dive to the basket. He catches the pass over the top in stride with only John Wall to beat. Easy dunk.  If Gortat is going to come out that high on the ball, he has to deny the pass harder with Beal to prevent the pass over the top. Markieff Morris, who reacts too late, has to follow the ball quicker. He’s on the opposite side of the rim and not in position to contest. The likelihood that Whiteside makes the extra pass in that situation isn’t good. Play him for the shot, and if anticipated sooner could be in position to draw a charge.

-- 4:03-3:59: James Johnson curls around a screen from Goran Dragic to get the inbound, attacks the basket and Gortat has to help off of Whiteside. Where's John Wall? He literally stands stationary as the play develops in the paint and offers no help to the big. Johnson loses the ball on the layup attempt and Whiteside cleans up the putback. Better hustle on his play probably negates the bucket and possibly becomes a steal. The Wizards, however, reamained flat-footed and left Gortat on an island.

-- 1:04-0:58: After Tomas Satoransky knocks down a jumper, Dragic makes the push, sells him on the high pick-and-roll with Johnson, turns down the screen and darts by him into the lane. Andrew Nicholson isn’t over in that space in time and isn’t a shot-blocker so he’s compromised. Easy layup just less than 10 seconds after Satoransky’s made basket. Note: Dragic has a clear path to finish with his right hand. He's so left-hand dominant, he makes the shot more difficult than necessary which speaks to his preference to finish with it even if it means a tougher shot. 

-- 0:31-0:27: Johnson easily blows by Porter and to the rim for an uncontested layup. How? It probably caught Porter by surprise but Nicholson provides no frontline help. He waits too late to leave Willie Reed to stop the penetration.

When the first 12 minutes ended, the Heat were trailing 35-33 but shot 13-for-20 (65%). Now let’s fast forward to the mid-point of the second quarter when it was a layup line for Miami:

-- 8:02-7:55: This layup from Johnson, following their second offensive rebound, is opened up by Kelly Oubre leaving his feet. Nicholson isn’t going to get there in time nor is he a shot-blocker. Plus, Whiteside was his priority so there’s no chance here. If Johnson misses, Whiteside probably cleans it up for the easy putback.

-- 7:25-7:15: Rodney McGruder is allowed to take a three (not the worst thing to happen) but Morris, who began to rotate over, gets stuck in space. Wall makes a run out to the shooter and Morris can now get back to his man (Johnson) but instead just watches the ball hit the rim rather than putting a body on him. That gives Johnson a free run to the rim for the putback. Gortat is working to seal Whiteside from the rim here, and he does a good job of getting inside position. He can’t be expected to stop Johnson running full-speed at the rim, too.

-- 1:58-1:51: Waiters gets Satoransky’s feet crossed up and into the middle of the paint. Gortat has to come over to stop the layup and forces the miss. But guess what? Whiteside is able to slip in behind him for the putback because Porter’s only chance was to foul.

The start of the third quarter put the game way. Waiters lived in the paint as did Dragic. When the layups were taken away, the shooters couldn't miss on the kickouts

-- 9:12-8:53: Jason Smith does well on the contact show for this pick-and-roll between Waiters and Williams. But Waiters gets by Beal, who is too soft on recovery. Rather than pressing him immediately, Beal allows Waiters to play with the dribble one bounce from the elbow. Waiters attacks the middle and turns the corner and now he’s at the rim. That draws help from? Gortat, who has to leave Whiteside but he’s not there in time. Layup good.

-- 6:00-5:48: Smith gets caught in a tough spot. He’s not athletic enough to stop the blow by from Williams and doesn’t have support behind him. Statistically, Williams isn’t a good three-point shooter but he has been on fire all game. Smith gives him too much space and Williams dribbles into his rhythm and drains the long ball without even a contest. Normally, Morris would be in this position and able to be more aggressive but he’s out with a right ankle sprain.

-- 2:50-2:41: Dragic goes left ( his strong hand) and gets Satornasky’s feet crossed up again for a layup. He rejects Whiteside’s screen, which he does often. Gortat stays pinned to Whiteside to keep him boxed out, but Satornasky’s 6-7 frame can’t stop the shot at the rim.

The lead for Miami is double-digits here, and any hope the Wizards had of winning this game was gone. Brooks wasn't trying to be diplomatic about their failures. There were tons of breakdowns -- far more than could be listed here -- that led to the outcome.

[RELATED: Wizards' perimeter defense compromises Gortat at rim]

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Wizards release statement on the passing of John Wall's mother

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Wizards release statement on the passing of John Wall's mother

The Washington Wizards announced the passing of John Wall's mother, Frances Pulley on Friday. 

Wall's mother had been battling cancer before her passing. She was 58. 

In a statement on Twitter, the Wizards said, "Sending thoughts and love for John Wall and his family after the passing of his mother, Frances Pulley. She will forever be a part of our #DCFamily."

Zach Leonsis, the senior vice president of strategic initiatives at Monumental Sports & Entertainment, also released a statement

"Thinking of @JohnWall and his family right now. Keeping you guys in our prayers. So terribly sorry for your loss and know that she will be remembered forever. #DCFamily

Wall's Kentucky coach, John Calipari also expressed his condolences for his former star: 


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Bradley Beal sees a young John Wall in the Grizzlies rookie sensation Ja Morant

Bradley Beal sees a young John Wall in the Grizzlies rookie sensation Ja Morant

WASHINGTON -- It is not often you see a rookie find initial success in the NBA to the degree Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant has, already with borderline All-Star numbers at the age of 20. And oftentimes, opponents are careful throwing out player comparisons for guys his age, wanting to see more before they anoint anyone.

Morant, though, is a different case and questions from media members at Wizards practice this week as the team gets set to face him for the first time naturally led to parallels to great players. On Thursday, Brooks brought up unprompted how much Morant reminds him of Russell Westbrook, his former player in Oklahoma City.

And on Friday, Bradley Beal invoked a teammate of his when breaking down what makes Morant so good.

"He loves to get up and down. He's really fast with the ball. It reminds you of John [Wall] in a lot of ways. He plays with his pace," Beal said.

Through 19 games this season, Morant is averaging 18.7 points, 6.4 assists and 1.3 steals per game. He is shooting 42.2 percent from three on 2.2 attempts.

The threes have been surprising to most, as he shot a relatively modest 36.3 percent his final year in college at Murray State. But also surprising maybe just how lethal he has been at attacking the rim.

Sure, that was a big part of his game in college. But this is the NBA where athletes are much bigger and stronger. And he isn't the biggest guy either, weighing in at 175 pounds according to Basketball-Reference.

But despite lacking in size, he has shown an ability to finish through contact rarely seen from any player.

"I think he has a no-fear type of mentality. So, you have to respect his aggressiveness," Beal said. "He'll get respect from a lot of players in the league, a lot of refs in the league because of his aggressiveness and... with all the posters he has. So, he's an assassin. You gotta respect his game."

Beal likely won't draw the defensive assignment on Morant. That will probably go to Ish Smith and back-up point guard Chris Chiozza, who is with the team while Isaiah Thomas recovers from a left calf injury.

Beal knows it is going to be tough for the whole Wizards team to contain Morant. He said the trick will be trying to stay in front of him, though he knows that is easier said than done.

Really, Morant is such a unique player that the Wizards can only gameplan and prepare so much until they actually experience facing him for the first time.

"He's gonna be a handful," Beal said.