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By the numbers: the areas the Wizards struggle the most on defense

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By the numbers: the areas the Wizards struggle the most on defense

The Washington Wizards are playing a unique brand of basketball. Despite their 3-8 record, they boast the second-highest offensive rating (113.2) in basketball, meaning they score more efficiently per 100 possessions than any other team. Yet, at the same time, they have the 29th-ranked defensive rating (115.2) and are allowing more points than anyone else (120.1/g).

It truly is a special combination. According to Basketball Reference, only one team in NBA history has ever held offensive and defensive ratings aboe 113 for an entire season, the 1981-82 Denver Nuggets. Those Nuggets actually won 46 games and made the playoffs.

So far the Wizards' defense has not been good enough to win, hence the 3-8 record. So, what exactly has been ailing their defense? Quite a bit, of course. You don't sink that low with one or two minor weaknessess.

Here is a look at their biggest problem areas on the defensive end...

Three-pointers

Three-point shooting is important these days, in case you haven't heard, and the Wizards have not been very good at defending the perimeter. The Wizards allow the fourth-highest percentage from three (37.1) and 12.6 made threes per game. This includes shots from true long distance. The Wizards are 29th in opponent shots made from 25 to 29 feet (9.5/g) and in percentage from that range (38.1).

Rebounding

This is a familiar problem for the Wizards, as they had the same issue last year. This time they are 26th in total rebounding, 28th in defensive rebounding and 29th in opponent offensive rebound percentage. That has led to the fourth-most second chance points allowed.

Rebounding just isn't the Wizards' forte at this point. Thomas Bryant leads them with nine boards per game and behind him are Moe Wagner (5.6/g) and Rui Hachimura (5.5). Troy Brown Jr. (5.3) and Bradley Beal (4.7) rebound well for their positions, but all in all it hasn't been enough.

Transition

The rebounding numbers have contributed to some rough moments on the fastbreak. Though it has cooled down a bit, the Wizards are still 15th in the NBA in opponent fastbreak points per game (13.3). Before this past weekend, they were near the bottom of the league in the category and it was enough for several players to point it out independently in interviews with the media.

Point guard

Any time a team struggles as badly as the Wizards have on defense, many are at fault. They aren't guarding the perimeter or protecting the rim. They are also giving up the most field goals made within 15 to 19 feet, so even the midrange is a blindspot for them.

But Isaiah Thomas has certainly stood out and not for good reasons. He is already undersized and now he is in a defensive structure that isn't build to compensate for his shortcomings. Maybe in Boston he could just divert players into traps, but the Wizards do not offer that type of backend security.

Add it all up and the Wizards are allowing 15.4 more points per 100 possessions with Thomas on the court than when he's off of it. 

Fouls

The best defensive teams can defend without fouling and the Wizards are not one of those teams. They are allowing teams to shoot the ninth-most free throws per game (25.8) and as a result, are giving up the sixth-most points at the free throw line (20.7/g).

Wagner is the headliner. He is third in the NBA with 7.5 fouls per 36 minutes. Jordan McRae is not far behind with 6.2 fouls per-36.

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Wizards fall flat in battle with young Grizzlies

Wizards fall flat in battle with young Grizzlies

The Washington Wizards lost to the Memphis Grizzlies 128-111 on Saturday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

1. It was just over a week ago the Wizards had their best win of the season against the Sixers. Saturday night was one of their worst.

They went into Memphis to play an emerging, but struggling team and got their you-know-whats handed to them. The Wizards jumped out to a 13-6 lead in the first, then lost the momentum and never got it back.

By halftime the Wizards were down 15. That deficit grew to 24 in the second half.

The Wizards ended up losing by 17, but it wasn't as close as the score would suggest. It was Washington's seventh loss in eight games.

Maybe it was the three-day layoff. Perhaps they weren't sharp. Whatever the reason, that was a bad one.

2. As this game went on, it became very obvious that Memphis' gameplan was to make sure Davis Bertans didn't beat them. They swarmed the Latvian Laser on the perimeter and guarded him well beyond the three-point line.

Bertans was held to nine points on 2-for-9 shooting and 1-for-6 from three. His one three was a quick release shot from about 27 feet out. Soon after that, the defense was picking him up at halfcourt.

 

This type of treatment was inevitable for Bertans, who has been the biggest surprise of the Wizards' season so far. He has turned into one of the league's best three-point shooters and the second-best scorer on the team. Teams now know it.

3. Rui Hachimura's college teammate stole the show in this one. Brandon Clarke, who played last year with Hachimura at Gonzaga, put on an impressive scoring display highlighted by a series of vicious dunks. He measured a max vertical of 40 1/2 inches and used every inch of it to dunk all over the Wizards.

He had 19 points in the first half, including an alley-oop where his head was level with the rim and a poster dunk on the fastbreak that nearly ended Ian Mahinmi's career.

 

Clarke had 25 points on 11-for-14 shooting with four rebounds. Coming out of the draft, he was considered a good defensive player but too old (he's 23) and too raw offensively without a three-point shot.

So far, he's looking like a major steal at the 21st overall pick. 

4. The Grizzlies might not be good, but they are fun to watch and have a nice young core with Clarke alongside Jaren Jackson Jr. and Morant. Jackson is a unicorn at 6-foot-11 with the ability to drive coast-to-coast and hit threes. Morant is a force of nature, able to play well above the rim despite being 6-foot-3.

Morant nearly pulled off one of the most disrespectful plays in basketball on Bradley Beal. He tried to pull a "Michael Jordan on Ron Mercer" by snatching the ball off the glass with two hands. But he clipped the rim and was called for goaltending. Still, it was impressive because of how high he got in the air.

Memphis has an exciting young team. They might contend for a playoff spot next year with a good offseason. If they were in the East, they could really make some noise.

5. The Wizards were without several key regulars once again. Isaiah Thomas missed his fifth straight game with a left calf strain and Moe Wagner was out with his left ankle sprain after playing in the past four games.

They did get back Garrison Mathews, though. The two-way guard played in his first game since Oct. 25 after sitting out due to a stress reaction in his right leg. It was Mathews' third professional game, but he made his first shot - a corner three. It happened to come in his home state of Tennessee. 

Mathews might actually get some minutes in the next few weeks because he is the second-best shooting guard on the roster with Jordan McRae out due to a finger injury.

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Wizards release statement on the passing of John Wall's mother

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Wizards release statement on the passing of John Wall's mother

The Washington Wizards announced the passing of John Wall's mother, Frances Pulley on Friday. 

Wall's mother had been battling cancer before her passing. She was 58. 

In a statement on Twitter, the Wizards said, "Sending thoughts and love for John Wall and his family after the passing of his mother, Frances Pulley. She will forever be a part of our #DCFamily."

Zach Leonsis, the senior vice president of strategic initiatives at Monumental Sports & Entertainment, also released a statement

"Thinking of @JohnWall and his family right now. Keeping you guys in our prayers. So terribly sorry for your loss and know that she will be remembered forever. #DCFamily

Wall's Kentucky coach, John Calipari also expressed his condolences for his former star: 

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