Defense has slipped - The Wizards have been exceptionally streaky since they returned from the All-Star break on Feb. 24. They have played 15 games and hold an 8-7 record in them, yet during that stretch had a five game winning streak and now have lost four of their last five games. That five-game streak was their second-longest of the season, while their four-in-five slump is their worst since Nov. 19.
Since the All-Star break, the Wizards have seen both extremes. But this much is clear: after entering the break winners of 18 of their last 21, they have leveled out to mediocrity in the four weeks since.
As for why that is, defense seems to be the common theme. The Wizards have struggled offensively in their last two games, but they are scoring more since the break (111.3 ppg) than they were before (108.1).
As John Wall explains, it's defensive problems that have made their offensive issues more glaring lately:
"When we're not making shots, we need to play with that same defensive intensity. We need to figure it out and do that," he said "When you're not making shots, you have to defend at a high level and that's what we have problems with sometimes."
Just about every stat will tell you that the Wizards have not been nearly as good defensively after the break than they were before. Here are a few for comparison:
Before All-Star break After All-Star break
9th in def. rating: 105 26th in def. rating: 109.9
12th in opp PPG: 105.3 28th in opp PPG: 112.4
17th in opp FG%: 45.7 28th in opp FG%: 48
10th in opp 3PT%: 35.3 30th in opp 3PT%: 40.3
8th in opp fastbreak pts: 11.7 19th in opp fastbreak pts: 14.1
12th in opp paint pts: 42.5 16th in opp paint pts: 44.7
11th in opp RPG: 42.7 24th in opp RPG: 45.8
(rankings are out of 30 NBA teams)
As you see, there have been some major drops. The Wizards were top 10 in defensive rating, but in their last 15 games are bottom five. They were 12th in points allowed, but since the break are third-worst among all teams.
Guarding the three-point line has been a huge issue. The Wizards were 10th in opponents three-point before the break, but since are dead-last. Opponents are shooting 40.3 percent against them. For a comparison, that's better than Stephen Curry (40%), Ryan Anderson (39.7%) and Kyrie Irving (39.3%) are shooting this season.
That's dreadful and it doesn't bode well for their upcoming road trip against teams like the Cavs, Warriors and Clippers who rank second, third and fourth in three-point percentage, respectively.
Here's how the Wizards stack up individually in defensive rating before and after the All-Star break:
Before All-Star break After All-Star break
Markieff Morris 102.3 Jason Smith 103.3
Bradley Beal 103.5 Ian Mahinmi 104.7
Otto Porter 104.3 Brandon Jennings 108.8
Marcin Gortat 104.5 Kelly Oubre, Jr. 109
John Wall 104.6 Bojan Bogdanovic 109.5
Kelly Oubre, Jr. 105.2 Bradley Beal 109.6
Jason Smith 108 John Wall 110.4
Ian Mahinmi 113 Markieff Morris 111.2
Otto Porter 112
Marcin Gortat 113.7
Defensive rating doesn't tell the whole story of course, but it is noteworthy that just about everyone is worse except Smith and Mahinmi. Collectively, the Wizards have struggled on that end of the floor and it has resulted in losses to lesser teams like the Sixers, Timberwolves, Mavericks and Hornets.
There are numerous reasons why the Wizards have taken a step back defensively and it's probably a confluence of factors. For one, they have had to adjust their lineups with the additions of Bogdanovic and Jennings to the mix. Mahinmi returning from injury has affected the minutes and role of guys like Gortat and Morris. One could also look at the schedule and how difficult the travel and back-to-backs have been. Wall has also been dealing with a sore foot, while Morris has missed games due to illness and has had a sore left thigh, as well. Ask head coach Scott Brooks and he will usually point to focus and commitment.
The Wizards still have time to figure it all out with 12 games left, but eight of those are on the road. And up ahead is their most difficult road swing of the season. The playoffs are getting closer and closer and clearly the Wizards need some work on defense before they begin.
Eastern Conference standings
Stat line of the week: John Wall 3/17 vs. Bulls - 14 points, 20 assists, block, steal, 5-for-6 FT
Quote of the Week
"He said he would come to D.C."
Tweet (or Instagram) of the Week
.@cmillsCSN (!!!) pic.twitter.com/7nlQhN8kK8— NBC Sports Wizards (@NBCSWizards) March 18, 2017
Schedule at a glance
Mon. - 110-102 loss at Celtics
Tue. - OFF
Wed. - 8 p.m. vs. Hawks
Thu. - OFF
Fri. - 7 p.m. vs. Nets
Sat. - 7:30 p.m. at Cavaliers
Sun. - OFF