Every time the Wizards appear to plug a hole in their defense, they spring another leak. It's something they have to figure out before tonight's game vs. the Charlotte Hornets at Verizon Center (CSN, CSNmidatlantic.com, NBC Sports Live Extra, 6:30 p.m. ET).
"We got to eliminate plays that have nothing to do with schemes or play sets that San Antonio is running. A guy gets behind us for a layup off a missed shot," said coach Randy Wittman, referencing Wednesday's 114-95 loss to the Spurs. "Those kind of baskets, if we can eliminate those 10, 12, 14 points a game and force them to play, we were really solid when we forced them to play five-on-five."
In the NBA, every team knows their opponents basic sets and play calls and all the options that come from them. That doesn't mean they can be stopped. The Wizards (10-14) held their own in the first half which is why they trailed just 55-52 at halftime.
But they gave up easy buckets on what Wittman called "random basketball." Boris Diaw had layups off broken plays or when the Spurs were played in flow, reading and reacting to the defense. Like the Golden State Warriors, who have the best record, the Spurs are adept at going off-script by finding a crease, attacking a mismatch and throwing out the playbook. Improvisation is a huge part of their success as it is with any championship-caliber team. There's no looking to the sideline to the coaching staff to ask what to do. They just do it.
Otherwise, the Wizards' defense of the Spurs' starting backcourt of Tony Parker and Danny Green was solid. They only shot a combined 8 of 20 for 17 points. The dribble penetration the Wizards had been allowing to break down their defense didn't happen nearly as much. Their lapses came after their good initial defense.
"For the most part kept them out of the lane so that was an improvement," Wittman said. "We just got to keep plugging away at this. Just try to keep our head above water. ...
"You defend (the play set) and there's five seconds on the (shot) clock and all of a sudden it's just a random basketball play. That's an area where we have to get better."
The Hornets (15-10) are trending upward after a miserable 2014-15 season. They started Jeremy Lin with Kemba Walker, essentially two point guards, in a 109-99 overtime win at the Toronto Raptors on Thursday. Such combinations will test the Wizards' resolve to stay disciplined defensively, especially with Otto Porter (left thigh bruise) being questionable to play on top of various other injuries to post players and Bradley Beal (right leg).
"You just hope you can stay above water," Wittman said, "and that injuries aren't long-lasting."