The Washington Wizards lost to the Indiana Pacers 111-100 on Monday afternoon in Disney World. Here are five takeaways from what went down...
We knew the road was going to get tougher for the Wizards after they started out with the Suns and Nets, two of the worst teams the NBA brought to Orlando. And even with Victor Oladipo out for rest and Domantas Sabonis injured, the Indiana Pacers still possess far more experienced talent than the Wizards do.
Washington was able to hang around in the first half, but the Pacers blew the doors open in the third quarter and coasted to victory. T.J Warren had another big game with 34 points and 11 rebounds.
The result of the game, though, is secondary to what the Wizards' young players did, and there were some positives in that regard. Troy Brown Jr. (10 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds) and Thomas Bryant (20 points, 11 rebounds) were solid. So was Jerome Robinson (17 points), who is producing more consistently now than ever before.
Another off-day for Rui
We are starting to see the effects of Rui Hachimura being moved up the scouting report. After he went for just nine points against the Nets on Sunday, he managed only nine points on 4-for-12 shooting against the Pacers. He was harassed by one of the NBA's best defenses and should be able to take some lessons away from the experience.
Hachimura, by the way, got to spend much of the game matching up with Warren, who made waves recently with a 53-point game against the Sixers. It was fascinating to watch because Hachimura and Warren's games are very similar.
Warren, in fact, might be one of the best comparisons to Hachimura in today's game. While many have focused on Kawhi Leonard, that is arguably unfair to Hachimura. Leonard is the best wing defender of his generation and has the chance to be an all-time great. Hachimura isn't known for his defense at all, at least not yet. So, it makes little sense.
Warren, on the other hand, is a gifted scorer who began as a midrange killer and has expanded his range to add a three-point shot, just as Hachimura will hope to do. They also have nearly identical builds. And if Hachimura follows the same track as Warren, who is now a fringe All-Star, that would be just fine.
Losing their first two games in Orlando was enough to convince head coach Scott Brook to shake things up. He pulled Shabazz Napier from the starting lineup for Ish Smith and also turned to Admiral Schofield early and more often. Schofield appeared to take the place of Jerian Grant, who actually played quite well the day before.
As for Schofield, it was good to see him play more, though he didn't play particularly well. He had logged only six minutes so far in the seeding games and was a DNP on Sunday. They need to play him more just to see what he's capable of, as this is their best chance to get film on him in NBA situations. Though he just joined the organization as a second round pick last summer, minutes are going to be much harder to come by next season. He needs to be given an opportunity.
Regarding the point guard spot, it would be nice to see Brown get a real, extended look there by the end of the Wizards' time in Orlando. Point guard is really the only position the Wizards don't have a young guy to let loose. Both Smith and Napier are veterans.
But Brown can play there and given this is becoming entirely about player development, the Wizards should let him play at least one game with 30-plus minutes at the one. Maybe you don't do that against the Thunder or the Celtics where Chris Paul or Kemba Walker could eat him up. But what about against the Pelicans? Let him go toe-to-toe with Lonzo Ball for 35 minutes. Maybe he shows you he can be counted on at point, where he has said he would prefer to play long-term.
Napier stepped up
After getting demoted to the bench, Napier responded well. In fact, Brooks pointed Napier out as a player he wanted to see more from, just as he did with Brown and Bryant the day before. They bounced back accordingly, and so did Napier. Maybe there was a cause-and-effect.
Napier came out blazing with 11 pts in his first nine minutes on 5-for-7 shooting. He ended up with 16 points and four assists.
That was good to see because, remember, Napier is an impending free agent. Everyone focused on Davis Bertans, who decided to opt out, but Napier has a lot riding on this offseason as well. And because of that, he has a lot to gain in Orlando. It would be a shame if he were to fizzle out at this point in the year.
Points in the paint
The Wizards got decimated by the Pacers in the paint where they outscored Washington 62-44. Warren hurt them and so did Myles Turner, who had 17 points, nine rebounds and two blocks.
That, of course, is not a strength area for the Wizards' defense. Bryant and Moe Wagner (5 points, 5 rebounds) aren't exactly known for their rim protection.
And as it all transpired, it sort of made you realize how much the Wizards could use a guy like Turner. If you recall, he was reportedly available not long before the trade deadline. If Indiana starts picking up the phone again, the Wizards would be smart to give it some consideration.
He led the NBA in blocks last season, is only 24 and is on a manageable contract. He would be a great fit alongside John Wall, Bradley Beal and Hachimura. And the Wizards really need a shot-blocker to shore up the defense behind Wall, who is likely to struggle on that end more than he will on offense coming off of his injury.
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