The Washington Wizards lost to the Indiana Pacers 119-112 on Saturday night. Here are five observations from the game...
1. For the Wizards to make the postseason, a goal they have maintained despite their salary-shedding trades at the deadline, it may end up requiring a modern basketball miracle.
Because they just keep on sliding, unable to stop the bleeding that began before the All-Star break and has persisted afterward. With their loss to the Pacers on Saturday night, the Wizards have dropped nine of their last 12 games.
That leaves them at a season-worst 12 games under .500. They are in a tailspin and have two good teams awaiting them on their upcoming road trip in the Nets and Celtics. The odds it gets worse from here are good.
2. The more the Wizards trip over themselves on defense, the more their offseason priorities are becoming clear. This team needs a major overhaul defensively and should make that their focus in free agency, trades and the draft. Get someone who can protect the rim, guys who can rebound and some guards who can cover lots of ground on the perimeter.
The Wizards have no defensive identity. They lack players who are committed to closing out on three-point shots and who show toughness in traffic. Many of the trades the Wizards made this season were designed to change that, but they haven't done enough.
Not everyone is at fault. Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza still bring it on most possessions, but they can't cover up an overall lack of ability on the defensive end.
It's a problem now and it could be worse next year if the front office doesn't fix it. At some point next season, they will get John Wall back, but he will be returning from Achilles surgery. It might be very difficult for him to stay in front of NBA point guards at first. The Wizards need to build a structure that minimizes the limitations he will likely initially have.
Though it's a different situation, the Pacers could be seen as an example. They have Bojan Bogdanovic, who was a defensive liability in Washington. But on the floor with four good defenders, his shortcomings aren't as noticeable.
They have enough good defenders to play him heavy minutes, yet still rank No. 1 in points allowed and No. 2 in defensive efficiency. The Wizards should flood their roster with defense-first players and try to follow the same model this summer.
3. Speaking of Bogdanovic, the man once again made easy work of his former team. He knocked down outside shots and got by his defenders with surprising ease. The Wizards knew Bogdanovic as a shooter, not a slasher. In this game, he did both and scored 18 points on 8-for-15 from the field.
Bogdanovic has been enjoying a lot of success this season, now as the top scorer on the Pacers, who rank third in the East. Victor Oladipo went out and he stepped up to fill the void as their offensive leader.
The Wizards' decision to let him walk in free agency and re-sign Otto Porter Jr. has been second-guessed and debated. But the fact he is playing this well and they don't have either Porter or Kelly Oubre Jr. to show for it is really something. It wasn't that long ago they had all three.
4. There was a change in the Wizards' starting lineup, as Thomas Bryant was pushed to the bench and Bobby Portis took his place at center. Head coach Scott Brooks explained the move pregame as partly because they want to evaluate their new players, including Portis, and this is just a continuation of his experimenting with the rotation.
Though Portis started hot, Bryant seemed to respond better to the move. He ended up with 23 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, and three blocks.
5. The Wizards were completely dominated at the power forward spot. Both Jeff Green (four points) and Jabari Parker (12 points) struggled, while Thaddeus Young (22 points) and Domantas Sabonis (13 points, 11 rebounds) of the Pacers went off.
Parker had a particularly rough night. He had five turnovers in his first 11 minutes.
Keep in mind these frontcourt problems for the Wizards came in a game Myles Turner didn't play due to injury.
MORE WIZARDS NEWS:
- Good And Bad: Beal's performance shows Wizards' positives and negatives
- Lineup Changes: Bobby Portis takes over as a starter
- Experience More than Body: A Dwight Howard update