Wizards

Quick Links

Takeaways from Wizards' win over Pacers behind Morris' season-high

Takeaways from Wizards' win over Pacers behind Morris' season-high

A new home winning streak is underway, after the Wizards had to hold off repeated attempts by the Indiana Pacers to win 112-107 on Friday night at Verizon Center in front of 19,503 fans.

John Wall produced his 33rd double-double (26 points, 14 assists) and Bradley Beal (20 points, four assists) struggled to get free of Paul George to generate offense. But Markieff Morris (season-high 26 points, 10 rebounds, three assists)  exploited his advantage against Lavoy Allen to great success and Marcin Gortat (14 points, 16 rebounds) had his 31st double-double.

Paul George (31 points) led all scorers and was at times unstoppable for Indiana (29-24) which had won seven of eight games coming into Friday. Jeff Teague (13 points, nine assists) and Kevin Seraphin (16 points) contributed with three other players for Indiana in double figures at 10 points (Allen, Myles Turner, Rodney Stuckey).

The Wizards lost 140-135 in overtime on Monday to the Cleveland Cavaliers – they also had ended the Pacers’ seven-game win streak – to snap their 17 consecutive home wins at Verizon.

The Wizards (32-21) are now ahead 2-1 in the season series with Indiana with one more game remaining between them before the All-Star break on Feb. 16.

Indiana cut the deficit to 105-102 in the final minute but it was Wall driving past George, drawing the help, and finding Morris for a three-pointer for a six-point edge with 50.6 seconds left to seal it.

--Teague has hurt the Wizards by getting inside the defense and breaking them down in the paint. He had success doing that early with 11 points and five assists in the first half. He went to the free-throw line four times – more than Wall and Beal combined. He was held in check the rest of the way mostly because the Wizards opted to put size on him during key stretches with the length of Kelly Oubre and Tomas Satoransky. Teague scored just two points in the second half 

-- Pacers coach Nate McMillan went with a big lineup with his second unit, playing Seraphin, a former Wizard, and center while Al Jefferson (six points) was at power forward. That’s when they made their move and pounded the Wizards’ second unit by isolating and using their size to their advantage and getting to their preferred spots to make shots. The Wizards failed to play with pace and move the ball frequently enough to force the plodding bigs to rotate and recover. They erased a seven-point deficit in the first quarter to take a 39-38 lead on Stuckey’s jumper. The Wizards re-inserted four starters and Indiana still continued its run to push the lead to 47-38.

--George defending Beal was a foregone conclusion. In the Pacers’ victory in their first meeting, Beal started 4-for-6 and appeared headed for a big night. He didn’t score in the second and third quarters and shot 3-for-13 after the first 12 minutes. George’s 6-7 frame, reach and ability to recover from screens and trail to take away three-point looks is a valuable asset for Indiana. Beal was 1-for-4 in the first half for seven points but did have three assists. The Wizards had to make them pay for using their best defender, which meant Porter and Morris knocking down open looks or beating 1-on-1 coverage.

--The help was so heavy towards Beal, the Wizards sometimes ran down the shot clock too far trying to get him the ball. That’s how they lost the lead in the third on Lavoy Allen’s shot to put Indiana head 72-70 at 5:39. After a timeout, the Wizards used Beal as a decoy to get Morris an open three and layups for Gortat when he was being fronted in the post (and no weakside help). They went into the fourth up 86-81 as a result.

-- The coverage by Indiana created lanes for that Gortat to get on the boards for tip-ins and tap outs. He converted a miss on a drive by Morris for a 103-98 lead but had an important contest of Teague at the rim in the final minute that allowed the Wizards to get the ball and get out to a three-possession lead with 37 seconds left.

--Porter was in foul trouble, picking up his fifth with 7:42 left in the game. Satoransky, not Oubre, replaced him. Satoransky’s stat line was modest (four points in 13 minutes) but it was his ball pressure and length that was effective. He contested a pull-up jumper from Monta Ellis (eight points) that was off to the right and forced Stuckey into a traveling violation.

--Ian Mahinmi played for the second game in a row but wasn’t as effective in spot duty in the first half. He had a layup on a nifty interior pass from Wall but mishandled it for a turnover. He did body up Jefferson to force a miss at the rim. He’ll be more of an asset defensively before he can provide much lift in terms of bench points. Plus he has to get used to the quick-hit passes from Wall when he draws the defense. Mahinmi did have a rotation in the fourth quarter that produced a turnover. His impact will be modest and sometimes understated.

--Trey Burke (seven points, five assists) was a spark early but fell into overdribbling which is why the second unit had difficulty keeping leads or closing the gap. He was 3-for-6 until the fourth quarter when he missed all three attempts. 

--The Pacers shot 4-for-21 from three-point range, or 19%, a focus of the Wizards' defense since they allowed the Cavs to get loose on the perimeter. Morris ran out to contest a three by George late in the fourth and forced a miss. George was 2-for-6 from deep and C.J. Miles (three points) 1-for-5. They combined to shoot 15-for-17 from long range in a blowout of the Wizards here last season.

[RELATED: VIDEO: Markieff Morris' dunk goes off top of backboard and in]

Quick Links

The case for Davis Bertans to make the NBA's three-point contest

The case for Davis Bertans to make the NBA's three-point contest

Since acquiring Davis Bertans from the Spurs in exchange for the rights to Aaron White, the Wizards have unlocked the sharpshooter's full offensive potential. 

In San Antonio, Bertans was known more as a spot-up, floor-stretching power forward. Now? He's one of the most feared snipers in the NBA with his ability to come off screens, get his shot off quickly and drill threes from just about anywhere on the court. 

Bertans should without a doubt be invited to compete in the NBA's three-point contest at All-Star weekend. Jordan McRae is leading the campaign charge and the Wizards recently started a campaign to get him there as well. 

So as we await word on whether Bertans will be invited or not, let's lay out his claim as one of the most prolific three-point shooters in the league and how he stacks up against everyone else. 

By the numbers

Bertans is shooting 42.4 percent on 8.7 three-point attempts per game, which is absurd efficiency at that volume. 

Of the 14 players that take at least eight threes per game, nobody is shooting at a higher clip than Bertans.

He's also second in the league in three-point makes per game (3.7), trailing only James Harden. For players who make at least three triples per game, Bertans has the third-highest shooting percentage on his looks. 

If that's not enough, Bertans leads the NBA in catch-and-shoot makes from deep this season (3.2). The three-point contest closer resembles catch-and-shoot opportunities rather than shooting threes off the dribble. If Bertans were to compete in such a setting, he'd feel right at home. 

Supreme confidence

Confidence is one of the most crucial traits of a great shooter, and Bertans has no shortage of self-assurance.

He could be 0-for-7 from three and 2-of-10 from the field, but that wouldn't stop Bertans from taking a 30-footer with the game on the line. 

Speaking of 30-footers, Bertans is more than comfortable launching shots from several feet beyond the three-point line. If he ends up shooting in the three-point contest, I wouldn't be surprised if he wanted to move the ball racks back a few feet just for kicks. 

After a game in which he made six threes against the Hornets, Bertans was asked if there was a three he felt was too deep for him to take. His response?

"I haven't found that yet."

The competition

Last year there were 10 participants in the three-point contest at All-Star weekend. With Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant hurt this season, you have arguably the three best snipers in the NBA all sidelined with serious injuries. 

Without those three, I'm not sure there are five shooters in the league better than Bertans, let alone 10. 

As of now, there have been three reported invites to the contest. Luka Doncic (32.7 3P%), Trae Young (37.3) and Duncan Robinson (42.9), though it's not yet clear if those players will accept. 

Bertans is in line for a nice payday this summer based on his play so far this year, but his recognition around the league shouldn't stop there. 

All you need to do is watch a Wizards game when Bertans hits a few threes in a row and look at how the defense reacts to him. They abandon their entire gameplan to run Bertans off the three-point line. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS:

Quick Links

Wizards' three-point defense continues to stand out as a major weakness

Wizards' three-point defense continues to stand out as a major weakness

With the 30th-ranked defense in the NBA, the Wizards have more than one issue on that end of the floor, but lately what has stood out most is a familiar problem.

Three-point defense remains a major weakness for the Wizards, who have had trouble guarding the perimeter going back to last season. It killed them in their overtime loss to the Heat on Wednesday night, as Miami made 17 threes and shot 51.5 percent on their 33 attempts. 

We can focus on Bradley Beal's late-game misses, or the free throw shot disparity. But the biggest reason the Wizards lost to the Heat was their inability to prevent three-point shots.

Even the guys everyone knows can shoot found little resistance. Tyler Herro made 7-of-9 from long range, Duncan Robinson hit 4-of-7 and Kelly Olynyk went 2-for-3.

If your goal is to stop the Heat, who are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the NBA, from making them, you circle those names at the top of the scouting report. The Wizards knew it was coming and still couldn't stop it.

This came two games after the Toronto Raptors made 22 threes against the Wizards, the third-most ever allowed in their franchise history. And on the season, the Wizards currently allow the ninth-highest three-point percentage (36.9) and the sixth-most threes made (12.3) on average.

Last season it was also an issue, as they gave up the fifth-highest three-point percentage (34.1). Much of their personnel is different, yet the same problems persist.

The Wizards may not be able to do much about it this season, barring major changes at the trade deadline. They are only going to be so good at stopping threes with Isaiah Thomas as their starting point guard. Backup Ish Smith, though much more mobile than Thomas, is also at a size disadvantage.

They are simply going to be limited by the way their roster is constructed. In the front office's defense, they had to change a lot last offseason and couldn't fix it all. They made the Wizards younger, more financially flexible and a more efficient offensive team. But they didn't do much to fix the defense and, in fact, it has gotten worse by almost every measure.

Defense will clearly be a major priority going into this summer, if their current pace continues. There will, however, be no easy fix for their three-point defense.

They will need to get a more defensive-minded point guard, assuming Thomas doesn't come back. Maybe John Wall can help their cause when he returns. He is a former All-Defensive selection with the size and length to be a good three-point defender. But he hasn't exactly been consistent in that department throughout his career.

These days, three-point defense is about much more than guards. Teams can roll out lineups with five players who can stretch the floor. The Wizards will need to add big men to their rotation who are nimble enough to man the perimeter.

Perhaps the best way the Wizards can plug some holes in their three-point defense is by their young forwards learning how to be more disruptive. Their two most recent first round picks, Troy Brown Jr. and Rui Hachimura, each have plus wingspans and have flashed solid defensive instincts. The Wizards need them to be able to step out and alter outside shots.

It will be a challenge for general manager Tommy Sheppard and the Wizards front office as they go into this summer trying to take the roster to another level. When healthy, the team has shown they can score. But they don't play defense anywhere close to good enough to be a winning team.

What they have to do is figure out a way to infuse the team with capable defenders without sacrificing much in the way of their offense. They won't be able to cure all of their ills overnight, but they could start on the perimeter.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: