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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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What the Wizards hope to clean up in their final two games of the season

What the Wizards hope to clean up in their final two games of the season

Individual progress and development has taken a front seat over wins and losses for the Wizards in Orlando, as Washington remains winless in the NBA's restart, now at 0-6 and 0-9 overall, if you include the exhibition schedule. So, as they ponder their final two games of the season - against the Celtics and Bucks - what would more would the coaching staff like to see?

Head coach Scott Brooks has been trying to drill in some lessons to his young players and he wants to see some strides in key areas. He held a lengthy film session on Saturday, but did not get what he was hoping for in Sunday's loss to Oklahoma City.

"They’re all teachable moments," Brooks said. "We can’t keep making the same mistakes over and over. I said [at halftime] ‘either you’re not understanding it or I’m not doing a good job of explaining it.’"

As for specifics, Brooks said he wants his team to do a better job of stopping the ball on defense. Opponents are getting into the lane off the dribble far too easily and it is dismantling their defensive gameplan.

He also wants his team to execute better with outside shots. The Wizards are 21st out of the 22 teams in Orlando in three-pointers made (9.0/g), attempts (27.8/g) and percentage (32.3%). Not having Davis Bertans and Bradley Beal has done them no favors in those categories.

RELATED: WIZARDS FALL TO 0-6 IN BUBBLE

And perhaps most noticeable to Brooks has been the team's tendency to be pushed around physically. 

"You’ve gotta make a stand," Brooks said. "I thought [the Thunder's] physicality in the start of the game bothered us and it put us back on our heels. We played timid."

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Brooks highlighted rookie Rui Hachimura as a player who could put up more of a fight. On Sunday, Hachimura matched up at times with Chris Paul, who did a good job preventing him from reaching his favorite spots on the floor.

"You have to catch it deeper and go right through the guy’s chest. He’s going to learn that," Brooks said. "He’s still learning the league and the defenses that are going to be thrown at him."

Ish Smith is the most experienced player in the Wizards' rotation with 10 years of NBA service. He thinks the Wizards collectively are allowing other teams to be the aggressors. He says they need to cut harder on offense and be more assertive initiating contact on defense.

But overall, he thinks the young players on the team are learning that games with higher stakes are played differently.

"It’s such a good time for us because everybody that’s here is trying to get to the playoffs. So, they’re playing at a high, high level," he said. 

"Sometimes, no offense to the regular season and all 82 games, but some games you catch a team on a back-to-back or with injuries and different things. This is a good thing for all of us, to show us the level that you have to play at. The physicality that you have to play with, the level that you have to play at not just to make it to the playoffs but to be a champion."

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5 takeaways from Wizards' loss to Thunder, as they fall to 0-6 in restart

5 takeaways from Wizards' loss to Thunder, as they fall to 0-6 in restart

The Washington Wizards lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder 121-103 on Sunday afternoon in Orlando. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

The losing continues

Disney World is said to be the place 'Where Dreams Come True,' but after nine total games in the restart the Wizards are still dreaming of their first win.

Okay, that was corny. But there are only so many ways to say the same thing over and over. The Wizards are getting what they wanted in terms of player development but have done nothing to dispute the fact they were the worst team in the standings invited to Orlando.

On Sunday against the Thunder, they never once looked like a team capable of the upset. They went down 10-0 early and never recovered, ultimately losing by 18 points.

The more the Wizards lose, the stranger things could get in the standings. They now have to win their final two games to avoid the bizarre situation of having a worse record, but also worse lottery odds, than the Charlotte Hornets. And if they lose their final two, they will also pass the Chicago Bulls in that regard.

We are close to being ensured of total draft lottery chaos. It seems obvious one of the three teams is going to get really unlucky thanks to the NBA's lottery rule change.

No offense

The Wizards were predicted by many to have some trouble offensively in the bubble without Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans and their combined 45.9 points per game. That has gone according to expectations, as their scoring has dropped off a cliff through six games now.

The Wizards entered Sunday's game with a 102.7 offensive rating, which is third-worst among the 22 teams in Orlando and nearly eight points below their season average (110.5). And they struggled yet again, only scoring 103 points against the Thunder. They had only 48 points at halftime.

The Wizards shot just 41.3 percent from the field. They went 9-for-36 (25%) from three in what was just a dreadful day from the perimeter.

It didn't help their cause that Shabazz Napier was out with an ankle injury. He is one of the most gifted scorers and best shooters remaining on the roster. 

It might be tough for the Wizards to reverse this trend before they head home. Their two remaining opponents -- the Celtics and Bucks -- each rank top-four in defensive rating.

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Bonga played well

The biggest bright spot for the Wizards in this game was arguably Isaac Bonga, who came through with a solid game of 14 points and eight rebounds. He had some rough moments defensively guarding some really good players like Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari, but overall he played well and showed flashes of what he could provide the Wizards next season if he sticks around.

Bonga is in an interesting category of the Wizards' roster where it is difficult to project whether he will be a part of the rotation next season, without knowing the makeup of their roster. Other young guys like Rui Hachimura, Thomas Bryant and Troy Brown Jr. are pretty much certain to play key roles, barring something unforeseen. But Bonga is right on the line because he plays a position the Wizards could stand to upgrade in the offseason.

RELATED: HABERSTROH BELIEVES HACHIMURA SHOULD BE NBA ALL-ROOKIE FIRST TEAM

There is value in what he does due to his versatility and length. But the Wizards may also be able to find someone who gives them more at the three-spot. His best role next season is probably as a glue guy for the second unit.

Though his numbers were boosted by garbage time, Jerome Robinson also had himself a day in what was a bounceback performance. He had 19 points and shot 4-for-9 from three.

A model for Schofield

There is no getting around the fact that Admiral Schofield has not had the best showing in the restart. He lost a bunch of weight and came into camp by all accounts in great shape, but it just hasn't translated to the floor.

Schofield continues to look like a player who doesn't have a defined role or a good idea of what his niche will ultimately be. But that's okay, he is still a rookie and was a second round pick. Overnight success was never expected for him.

The role that could lead to long-term success for Schofield may have been on display in this game with Thunder wing Luguentz Dort. He went undrafted last summer, but has quickly become a reliable piece for OKC as a physical defensive disruptor. He is built a bit like Schofield, just a few inches shorter. And he uses his strength and quickness to wreak havoc on players of all positions.

Schofield could bring some of the same attributes to the table, but in watching the two play you can see a big difference in their approach. Dort is relentlessly aggressive, initiating contact all over the place, likely knowing that no one can match his strength. Schofield has that type of force, he just hasn't found a way to use it yet. 

Napier should be careful

Napier's injury was just the latest negative development for him in what has not been a great stay at Disney World. In five games, he's averaging just 10.2 points on 41.9 percent shooting. It is a small sample size, but he just hasn't taken off as one of the team's primary scorers as it seemed he likely would.

Now that he's injured, it would make sense if Napier plays things very safely in the final two games. He is set to hit free agency at the end of the season and, with less money set to go around due to the coronavirus' effect on league finances, he can't afford to hurt his stock any further. He definitely can't risk a serious injury.

The other side of that coin would be that maybe Napier sees an opportunity to finish strong. If he doesn't do that, it will be fair to wonder if he should have opted out of the restart like Bertans did.

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