Wizards

Wizards

The Washington Wizards lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder 134-111 on Friday night. Here are five observations from the game...

Trainwreck: On national television, on a night in which Dwight Howard returned, the Wizards showed no improvement from their dispirited and disastrous start to the season.

They couldn't defend, yet again. Sure, the Thunder are a talented team, but the points came far too easy.

Russell Westbrook (23 points, 10-for-16 FG) drove past them leisurely. He didn't have his usual, psychotic aggression because no one challenged him. He coasted past defenders with ease and finished with casual, uncontested layups.

Of all the bad things on display, the Wizards' bench may have stood out above all. Aside from Kelly Oubre Jr., who had 14 points and had some nice moments, their second unit was a complete liability.

Austin Rivers' horrid start to the season continued. He had zero points on 0-for-3 shooting. He, Jeff Green, Ian Mahinmi and Tomas Satoransky combined for six points. The game began to slip away in the second quarter when they got an extended run together. The Thunder dropped 44 points in the frame.

The Wizards have some serious problems. Maybe they can get it going against the Knicks on Sunday, but right now, it's not looking too good for a team that was expected to be among the best in the East.

With their fifth straight loss, the Wizards are now 1-7 on the season. It is their worst eight-game start since 2012-13.

Wall was off: We went through the history of John Wall vs. Russell Westbrook in the lead-up to this game, detailed how Wall has long had trouble against the former MVP. This was one of his worst performances in the matchup.

 

Wall had a frustrating night. After hitting his first shot, a three, he went cold for the span of two quarters. The lack of defensive stops limited fastbreak opportunities for the Wizards and Wall needs them to be at his best.

Wall got it going midway through the third quarter as he seemed to lose patience with the score and his struggles getting to the rim. He became more aggressive and forced the issue. 

But it was too little, too late. Though Wall made something of his night, with 19 points and nine assists, he had seven turnovers and like the rest of the Wizards, left much to be desired on the defensive end. It was a continuation of what has been a bad start to the season overall for Wall.

Hey, Howard was good: Blowouts rarely have silver linings, but this one had a pretty legitimate bright spot. Howard not only returned, he looked like a major difference maker, at least on the offensive end.

Howard came out hot with 13 points in the first quarter. He was running the floor and throwing down dunks off screens and in transition. He showed nice touch on contested shots in the lane with Steven Adams all over him.

Howard ended up with 20 points. It was an impressive return for a guy who missed all of training camp and the preseason, plus the team's first seven regular season games.

But he didn't fix their biggest issues, defense and rebounding. It was unreasonable to expect he would prove the magic elixir, but seemed likely he would at least help some in the Wizards' efforts to defend and rebound. 

Instead, the Thunder scored 134 points, shot 57 percent from the field and 46.9 percent from three, and out-rebounded the Wizards by a margin of 38-to-30. If it wasn't clear already, the Wizards have some deep-rooted issues one player alone can't solve.

Status quo: It is understandable that head coach Scott Brooks wanted to see what he has with Howard, now in the mix with the regulars. But this was yet another game in which we saw little adjustment in the way of lineup changes from the coach. He still played the bench players mostly as a separate unit. 

He still kept guys like Troy Brown Jr. and Jason Smith on the bench until it was time to raise the white flag. And Tomas Satoransky remains an afterthought in the rotation. He played five minutes before Brooks emptied the bench.

At some point, Brooks will have to shake it up. Brown seems worth at least giving a shot with meaningful minutes. They are having issues with effort, rebounding and defense. Those are three of his biggest selling points. Yeah, he can't shoot. But it's not like what they have going right now is working.

Porter banged up: Though he returned to the game, the Wizards have another injury situation to monitor. Otto Porter Jr. tripped and fell in the second half and spent a good deal of time in the locker room for treatment. Porter was diagnosed with a left big toe contusion. 

 

Though they just got Howard and Markieff Morris back, the Wizards can't afford to lose anyone with how badly they are playing. Their defense and rebounding efforts won't get any easier if he misses time.

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