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Film study: What leads to Wizards' leaky 3-point defense

Film study: What leads to Wizards' leaky 3-point defense

Increasingly, Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat are being put in favorable positions. I wrote, in part, about how they can make opposing defenses pay for their coverages when John Wall and Bradley Beal are on the ball.

But this look at how they can perform better is strictly about defense. Whatever their shortcomings down the stretch in losses to the Houstson Rockets and Dallas Mavericks on the offensive side, they allowed Eric Gordon, Wesley Matthews, Deron Williams, Devin Harris, Harrison Barnes and Seth Curry to shoot out the lights. A lot of the looks were clean or came via late closeouts. These players combined to shoot 22-for-39 from three-point range, or 56.4 percent.

"Houston, in that third quarter, of the seven (threes) we gave up I want to say six of them were mistakes. We have to correct that," coach Scott Brooks said Thursday, before they play the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday. "Dallas was the same way. We knew going into the Dallas game they’re one of the league leaders in running the shot clock down to under six seconds before they get a shot and if you relax they’re going to burn you. That’s what happened. We have to do a better job. We have to stay focused. This game is about focus. It’s not about anything other than just being ready to execute the game plan every minute you’re on the court and we have not done a good job with that in the last game and maybe one quarter in Houston.”

There's ample evidence:

Exhibit A: It's unclear what Beal was thinking here, but he clearly lost track of Harris after running the baseline. He is confused who he's covering (should be Harris) and is keying in on Matthews. Both are lethal but the problem here is Kelly Oubre has Matthews in his sights, though he's not aggressively double-teaming Barnes as he tries to get his shot over the undersized Wall in the paint. Instead of trying to guess what Oubre is doing, Beal has to maintain discipline and stick with his man by trusting Oubre will do his job. Oubre has a 7-2 wingspan and can make the recovery to Matthews to contest if he sucks in too far on Barnes. Given Harris' hot hand, leaving him alone from the short corner is not an option. 

[RELATED: Can Morris and Gortat make opponents pay?]

Exhibit B: Under no circumstances should Curry be allowed to get this shot off. He not only does so, but there's no coverage. Porter tries to prevent the switch on Barnes' screen. Thornton initially goes the wrong direction to try to get over. Porter needed to use a contact show to slow down Curry coming off the screen which would give Thornton time to recover. He gets no contact on Curry to make him turn at a wider angle or throw off his rhythm. The confusion here is so pronounced between the two it's difficult to determine exactly what they were thinking the other was thinking. 

Exhibit C: What Porter was trying to do in Exhibit B, this is what he initially accomplishes as Curry and Barnes repeatedly reset the screen-roll action to force the switch. He stops Barnes' roll and prevents Curry from going back to his left to get the shot. He allows Thornton to recover. When Curry can't get his shot off he reverses field and goes back to the action. Porter doesn't get contact on the show and Curry reverses direction yet again. Thornton is stuck. He runs into Porter this time and it forces the switch. Barnes now has the matchup he wants, backs down the smaller defender and gets the fallaway jumper from his sweet spot. For some players this is a difficult shot. Not for Barnes.

Exhibit D: In order for Beal to be in better help position to get to Curry, he had to be level on the flare screen by Dwight Powell that picks off Wall and prevents a contest. Beal does his best to challenge but with a shooter like Curry that's too much separation. He needed to be up higher, rely on the help behind him and force the ball to Powell who then would have the pressure  of making the shot on the move or the right read. 

Exhibit E: When Porter decides to swtich it's too late. He gets sucked in too deep as Matthews fills the opposite corner with Barnes on this floppy action. Beal appears to be in good position to switch -- Marcin Gortat points out where to go -- but he gets pinned under Salah Mejri's screen.

Exhibit F: Porter simply leaves Barnes, similar to how Beal left Harris uncovered in the first example. All it takes is the extra pass from Matthews, who now is being closed out by two Wizards, for the open three for Barnes. Beal tries to cover for Porter's mistake but it's too late.

Exhibit G: This was from two games ago in Houstson. Oubre immediately switches to take away Gordon's look, but Thornton didn't get the memo. He continues to fight to get back to Gordon and totally forgets about Trevor Ariza, who is left wide open in his sweet spot for the short corner three. 

Exhibit H: Nene is driving and Gortat is in position to contest the 7-footer at the rim. Nene isn't a strong finisher on the move, though he did have it going in this game. There was no reason for Oubre to suck in to take away a possible difficult two-point shot at the expense of leaving Gordon wide open for a three-point shot.

[RELATED: Tough road to All-Star Game for Wizards' backcourt]

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Five observations from Wizards' 117-109 win over the Orlando Magic, including Jeff Green's takeover

Five observations from Wizards' 117-109 win over the Orlando Magic, including Jeff Green's takeover

The Washington Wizards beat the Orlando Magic 117-109 on Monday night. Here are five observations from the game...

Two in a row: The Wizards did something on Monday night they had yet to do this season. They won their second game in a row.

Now 4-9 on the season, the Wizards have some work remaining to regain respectability. But there were some encouraging signs. For instance, they won the rebounding margin for just the second time this season. They also made 13 threes.

This win, however, would have been a lot easier if they could lock down the three-point line. The Magic shot 15-for-30 from three. Perimeter defense continues to be a major blindspot for Washington.

Green dominated: Bradley Beal's comparison of Jeff Green to LeBron James all of a sudden doesn't sound so crazy.

Against the Magic, Green wasn't just good, he put the Wizards on his back and took over the game in the fourth quarter with a series of shots and defensive plays to keep Orlando at bay.

Green, who finished with 18 points in just 21 minutes, erupted for 10 points in the fourth quarter. He hit two threes in the frame and went 4-for-5 for the night. One of them bailed out Austin Rivers to beat the shot clock.

Green also had 19 points against the Heat on Friday. The veteran is playing well beyond expectations for the one-year contract he signed this summer. In the Wizards' past several games, he's given them starter production off the bench. 

Though Mike Scott was very good last season, Green is showing how he can do more because of how he can affect games defensively. It's no wonder why head coach Scott Brooks has relied on him in the fourth quarters of the last three games instead of starters.

Beal woke up late: With under five minutes remaining in the third quarter, Beal was ice cold. He had nine points on 3-for-13 shooting from the field and 0-for-6 from three.

But out of a timeout, Beal woke up and, like a button was pushed, took over the game. He began by sinking a tough layup off the glass. Moments later, he got his first three to fall. 

After that, he fed Dwight Howard for an and-1 on a drive set up by a slick behind-the-back move. And seconds later, he stole an errant pass and finished with a rim-bending slam on the other end.

Beal scored seven points in a stretch of about three minutes and almost singlehandedly erased what was a 10-point deficit to take the lead. He did what we saw him do so often last year. Despite struggling for more than half the game, he never wavered and found a way to get the ball in the rim.

Beal made something of his uneven night to post 21 points, eight rebounds and four assists. He proved once again that opposing teams can only keep him in check for so long.

Wall is heating up: Though John Wall has long been criticized for his outside shot, many forget he set a career-high last season by shooting 37.1 percent from three on 4.1 attempts per game. That wasn't bad at all and it looks like Wall may be finding that stroke once again.

After a slow start out of the gate, Wall has been on fire from three recently. He went 2-for-3 against the Magic and is now 16-for-37 in his last seven games. That's good for 43.2 percent.

Wall may never be a lights-out marksman from long range. But he is becoming more than respectable as a perimeter threat.

Mahinmi played again: It appears that Ian Mahinmi has earned his job back. He was benched for three straight games, but has now played in each of the past two. 

Similar to the win over the Heat on Friday, Mahinmi did his part with a minimal, but noticeable impact on the game. He had a nice weakside block in the first quarter. Jarell Martin drove left and got by his man and Mahinmi helped by stepping across the lane to swat it out of bounds.

That's what they need Mahinmi to do, play defense and not get in the way on offense. When he's not affecting games on the defensive end, his other shortcomings become magnified. Through two games, he's done enough to probably stay in the rotation for the time being.

While Mahinmi is back in the rotation, Otto Porter Jr. appears to be in the relative doghouse. This was the third straight game he has sat out the fourth quarter. Markieff Morris was in the same boat for two games, but got the nod against Orlando.

Some of it is simply Brooks rolling with the hot hand. But Brooks must not like something Porter has been doing lately. The best guess is his defense, as Jonathan Simmons, among others, was getting past Porter with regularity in this one.


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Wizards releasing Chasson Randle opens roster spot, possibilities

Wizards releasing Chasson Randle opens roster spot, possibilities

The Washington Wizards released guard Chasson Randle Monday. The additional space – the Wizards had one vacant roster slot even with Randle – brings up the question of what the team may do next. For now, don’t expect a blockbuster move.

Head coach Scott Brooks briefly addressed the move ahead of Monday’s game against the Orlando Magic.

“He’s a terrific young man, a very good player,” Brooks said of Randle. “Just gives us more flexibility. Who knows what we might do with it. He’s definitely an NBA player.”

Randle, who Washington signed to the active roster on Oct. 30, likely clears waivers, and then would rejoin the Capital City Go-Go, Brooks said. It’s been a back-and-forth scenario for Randle between the Wizards and their G-League squad this season. The 6-foot-2 guard was on the Go-Go roster when Washington’s season tipped off and assigned to the G-League squad at the time of Monday’s release. Randle scored 37 points in the Go-Go’s inaugural game. He did not enter a game for Washington.

The Wizards were forced to add a player by Oct. 30, a date that marked two weeks from the time Washington traded Jodie Meeks to Milwaukee. League rules require a minimum of 14 players on the roster.

That two week timeline applies to the current scenario. For now, the Wizards save a bit on the luxury tax payment by waiving Randle, who was signed to a $1.24 million non-guaranteed contract. Considering he'll likely be back in the building, Randle returning to the Wizards roster is a consideration.

According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, adding Randle cost the Wizards approximately $239,000 in luxury tax payments. Washington saved approximately $8 million by dealing Meeks.

As Brooks acknowledged, the open spots create greater flexibility.  In wake of the Timberwolves trading disgruntled All-Star Jimmy Butler to the 76ers, multiple reports at least tangentially mentioned the Wizards’ as part of the mix.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Washington balked at including Bradley Beal. SI.com’s Chris Mannix reported teams are keeping tabs on the 3-9 Wizards in case role players like Jeff Green, Markieff Morris or Kelly Oubre Jr. become available should the slow start continue.

Randle’s release limits Washington’s backcourt depth, but the top four options are healthy entering its five-game home-stand. In theory two-way contract player Jordan McRae could be recalled from Capital City, but the wing guard is dealing with a groin injury, according to a source. McRae should be available later in the week.