Wizards assistant coach and defensive specialist Mike Longabardi referred to them as "dare shots" on the NBC Sports Washington broadcast. Head coach Scott Brooks said after the game the Wizards were "playing the percentages." Basically, they gave Markelle Fultz and the Magic distance when playing defense, asking them to earn respect for their range. Orlando, to be fair, entered the game shooting 29 percent from three, dead-last in the NBA, and Fultz is a career 20-percent three-point shooter.
But the whole plan backfired. The Wizards instead met an unintended consequence in their 125-121 loss to the Magic on Sunday night. Fultz and his teammates not only made threes early, they kept it up all night, apparently finding a rhythm as a result of taking what the defense was offering.
Fultz, the former No. 1 pick maligned for his so-called broken shot, sank two from the perimeter to tie a career-high. The Magic as a team made 15 threes, tying a season-high, and shot 39.5 percent from long range.
The Wizards went under screens and played off of Magic players they felt were unlikely to beat them with outside shooting, and it cost them. On one hand, it is easy to kick the Wizards while they are down. They didn't properly respect an opponent that, after all, is still an NBA team.
Even guys who supposedly can't shoot can make them if left open. Even non-shooters practice and make threes all the time outside of games. Show up early to any NBA game and watch warm-ups and you can see that for yourself.
But in a sense, the Wizards' reasoning can be understood. Even against a team like the Magic, a team that entered Sunday night averaging only 100.3 points per game (29th in the NBA), they may have to get creative.
That is because the Wizards have been and likely will continue to be a bad defensive team. They currently rank 29th out of 30 teams in defensive rating (114.4) and are dead-last in points allowed (120.1/g.).
Without prototypical defensive personnel, the Wizards will need to think outside the box to get stops. Overloading one way or the other based on percentages may be the answer on a given night.
The problem is that the Wizards didn't do their job in other areas. In addition to giving up too many threes, they didn't shore up things on the backend, either. Even with their manpower shifted closer to the rim, they still couldn't protect it.
The Magic had 42 points in the paint and outrebounded the Wizards 52-38. That included Orlando center Nikola Vucevic pouring in 30 points to go along with 17 boards all by himself.
The early goings of this season have demonstrated how the Wizards have no easy answers on the defensive end. The good news is that they do have a high-powered offense. While their defensive rating ranks second-worst in the league, their offensive rating is the best of any team and they are third in points scored.
Right now, the only way the Wizards can win is if they score a ton of points, as even broken Metro cars make more stops than them.
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