Nets at Wizards Final Score: Washington’s bad habits reappear in 115-104 loss to Brooklyn, snapping their 3-game winning streak

Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell combined for 48 points Friday night as the Nets take down the Wizards, 115-104, snapping Washington’s 3-game winning streak. Dwight Howard turned in his best performance in a Wizards’ uniform with 25 points and 17 rebounds but it wouldn’t be enough on a night where Washington’s poor habits reappeared.

When the Wizards play focused and inspiring defense, good things happen. In the first quarter, Washington was able to limit Brooklyn to tough shots, got a bunch of deflections, and turned turnovers into points on the other end. As a result, the Wizards were up 30-26 after the first period.

Things began unraveling in the second quarter but the wheels fell off in the second half. Washington reverted back to playing lazy and lethargic defense and relinquished 13 offensive rebounds to Brooklyn as the Nets used a 16-3 run midway through the third quarter to open this game up.

Washington trailed by as many as 18 points in this one but dug themselves too deep of a hole as they never cut Brooklyn’s lead to single digits after that run.

Washington loses 115-104 and all of the good things that the Wizards did during that 3-game winning streak are now a distant afterthought.

Dwight Howard has his best game as a Wizard

There’s something about the Nets that brings out the best in Dwight Howard. Last year he turned in a 30-30 game against this squad and tonight, he had 25 points to go along with 17 rebounds in just 27 minutes of play. Howard started the game with 11 points and five rebounds in the first quarter and it looked like he would be in for a huge night.

However, foul trouble in the first half limited his minutes and the big man fouled out in the fourth quarter after logging just 27:20 of playing time or he likely would have had an even bigger night.

Many thought (including myself) that Howard was going to be a headache this year. He has been a pleasant surprise this year to what has become a dumpster fire of a start to the season. More often than not, it’s Howard who’s bringing the most effort defensively but more importantly, bringing a positive attitude to a doormat team.

Howard has a player option at the end of this season and at the rate things are going, he’ll likely be in a position to test the free agency waters.

It’s time for a change at the power forward position

Inserting Jeff Green into the starting-five may not be the answer, however, starting Markieff Morris certainly is not. Morris turned in another dud of a game with just four points and two rebounds. Morris had two lazy turnovers (one right after a timeout) and both resulted in Brooklyn points on the other end.

Morris will turn in a 20-point performance once in a blue moon but the lazy performances like we saw tonight are more the norm. Morris looks very slow out there and quite frankly, doesn’t really look interested in playing.

It’s long overdue, however, it’s time for a change at the power forward position.

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The solution to Scott Brooks’ bench lineups

Death, taxes, and all-bench lineups.

Ever since Scott Brooks took over at the helm as the Wizards’ head coach, it’s been clear that he prefers using a long bench, and playing them together to build cohesion. Whether it was sticking with 2016’s historically bad bench, the ‘not terrible but still not good’ reserve unit of 2017, or this year’s up-and-down reserves—he doesn’t deviate much from his pattern of subbing all of the starters to get a breather in the late first quarter and early second quarter.

We’re less than one-fifth of the way through the season, but many of the bench’s problematic issues have flared up, even though this was supposed to be Washington’s deepest team under Brooks’ watch. With streaky players like Jeff GreenAustin Rivers, and Kelly Oubre Jr. coming off the pine, there have been nights where one of them explodes and carries the team for a stretch, but there have been just as many nights where the bench squanders a lead before the starters can down a cup of water.

Brooks has made one tweak to the rotation that fans have been clamoring for years – bringing in Oubre as the first sub at the six-minute mark for Otto Porter and letting Porter start the second and fourth quarters with the reserves.

The Kelly Oubre experience is already in full effect. He has the tools to go off for a big game as he did against Blazers, Warriors, and Kings; but he still makes many of the same mistakes that haunted him during his rookie and sophomore seasons. A lot of that is on Oubre, but the coaching staff needs to take some of the blame here because they haven’t catered to his strengths by playing him alongside four other players with unclear roles.

Plugging him in with the starters off the bench does wonders for both parties. It allows Oubre to be the fourth or fifth option, where he gets less defensive attention and can take more advantage of his biggest strength, his athleticism. All he has to do alongside Wall is run the floor and bring energy. In return, Wall gets another person to run with in transition and someone who can lighten his load on the defensive end.

Otto Porter would also be a beneficiary should Brooks continue to go with this approach. Porter has been in and out of Brooks’ doghouse this season, but giving him the green light with the reserves could be a way for both sides to get what they want. Whether you’re in the ‘Otto isn’t aggressive enough’ group or on the ‘Wizards coaching staff doesn’t run enough plays for Porter’ side of the fence, here’s an opportunity to change both narratives as he’d be the focal point of that unit, not to mention, probably the best player on the floor at that time.

This has the makings of a win-win for both guys as Oubre would be put in a better position to succeed, and Porter could continue to be an outstanding third option while also having a shot to be an alpha for the bench unit.

We’ve seen Brooks coach up close and personal for two years full seasons and some change now and it’s clear that some habits die hard with him. There isn’t really a downside to utilizing this rotation more as this current iteration of the all-bench unit has had a rocky start to the year. And the upside? It might generate more confidence in two of the more up-and-down players on this roster, which would be a huge boost for the team.

Orlando at Washington Final Score: Wizards clamp down late defensively, beat Magic 117-109

John Wall led the way with 25 points and Bradley Beal notched 21 as Washington exacts revenge on Monday night taking down Orlando, 117-109. Jeff Green was outstanding once again with 18 points on 6-7 shooting and Dwight Howard added 17 points against his former team for a Washington squad that’s won consecutive games for the first this season.

In one of the more odd things you’ll ever see, this game was tied at the end of the first quarter (30-30), halftime (55-55), and third quarter (83-83).

Terrance Ross hit rough back-to-back shots to start the fourth quarter and this had all the makings of him getting his jersey retired in the #WizardsKiller hall of fame. Excellent defensive effort coupled with Jeff Green’s stellar play in the fourth quarter (10 points) opened up a comfortable lead for Washington.

With under two minutes remaining, John Wall put this game on ice as he blocked Evan Fournier’s three-point attempt only to get fouled and head down the other way for free-throws.

Washington wins, 117-109 starting this five-game homestand off on the right foot.

John Wall turns in a vintage John Wall game

Wall logged his third double-double of the season with 25 points, 10 assists, and just two turnovers. Wall was able to get out in transition and attacked the hole with many of his points coming in the painted area. He was much more selective with his three-point shooting only taking three attempts (knocked down two) as he bullied the smaller D.J. Augustin.

Most importantly, Wall was engaged on the defensive end, specifically in the second half and it kick-started the Wizards.

Jeff Green turns in another outstanding performance  

Jeff Green was a near perfect 6-7 from the field for 18 points with his lone miss coming on a heave as the shot clock was winding down. Green provided a spark off the bench that Washington has desperately been looking for to start this season.

He was knocking down his threes, was very effective as the roll man with Wall in the pick-and-roll and had many timely buckets evidenced by his 10 points in the fourth quarter.

Jeff Green turned in a classic Jeff Green game only now, he’s in a Wizards uniform. Who would have thought?

Looks like Brooks has found something with the Wall-Beal-Oubre-Morris-Green lineup

For the second straight game, Brooks closed with Wall-Beal-Oubre-Morris-Green on the floor. Otto Porter and Dwight Howard didn’t play a second in the fourth quarter as it looks like Brooks might be onto something with a different iteration of small ball lineup.

This is definitely something to keep an eye out for, especially if you’re Otto Porter.

Wizards at Magic Final Score: Same ol’ sh*t, just a different day. Washington’s comeback attempt falls short in 117-108 loss to Orlando

Same ol’ shit, just a different day.

Washington tries to dig themselves out of a 24-point hole only to come up short on Friday night falling to Orlando, 117-108. Bradley Beal led the team with 27 points and John Wall had a near triple-double with 19 points, 12 assists, and seven rebounds as the House of Guards (do people still call them that?) put up the bulk of their numbers during the second half comeback.

The Wizards came out focused and were executing early on. As a result, they led 18-7 early in the first quarter forcing the Magic to burn a couple of timeouts. That focus and attention to detail spiraled out of control shortly thereafter as Orlando ended the quarter on a 23-7 run to take a 35-28 lead.

Poor play from the bench unit coupled by 14 first-half turnovers and before you knew it, Washington found themselves in a 15-point hole, 63-48 at halftime.

The Wizards didn’t start their comeback until the fourth quarter when Scott Brooks went with a Wall-Beal-Rivers-Oubre-Green lineup. That lineup was energized defensively and it carried over to the offensive end. Washington was able to cut it to 1, 106-105, on the heels of a 17-7 run but baskets from Terrence Ross and Evan Fournier would kill the comeback attempt.

Washington loses 117-108, falls to 2-9 on the season.

Wizards waste a good start

One of the issues with the Wizards, among many, is that they’ve been getting off to slow starts in games. That wasn’t the case tonight as Washington started 8-11 from the field for a quick 18-7 lead.

Dwight Howard, making his return to Orlando was outstanding early on. The Wizards made an effort to get the big man some opportunities to start, getting him some touches close to the rim as he started the game 3-3 from the field.

Bradley Beal and Markieff Morris knocked down open threes and it looked like the law of averages were maybe starting to swing back in Washington’s direction. But starting 8-11 from the field for an early 18-7 lead wasn’t enough as Washington’s lead quickly evaporated by the end of the quarter.

The Wizards locked in for 6 minutes and played very well. The issue is, they zoned out for the next 30. Playing inspired and focused basketball for periods won’t work in the NBA – you have to put it together for 48 minutes. Case in point, Washington’s 2-9 record.

There’s lazy, then there’s Wizards lazy

No need for me to explain, watch the following:

Wizards vs. Mavericks final score: Washington can’t overcome 24-point deficit, falls to Dallas 119-100

Rookie Luka Doncic led Dallas with 23 points on Tuesday evening as the Mavericks took down the Wizards, 119-100. #WizardsKiller Wesley Matthews added 22 points including going 5-of-8 from three-point range for the Mavericks as they broke their six-game losing skid.

John Wall notched his first double-double of the season with 24 points and 10 assists while Otto Porter and Bradley Beal chipped in with 19 points each but outside of that trio, everyone else on Washington was more or less a non-factor this evening.

Washington’s poor defense reared it’s ugly head tonight early on as Dallas scored 35 in the first quarter and the Wizards quickly found themselves in a 35-24 hole. The floodgates opened in the second quarter behind the hot shooting of Wesley Matthews and once again, the Wizards let another team drop 70 on them in a half as they trailed 70-49 at halftime.

Washington wouldn’t go down without a fight though. After outscoring Dallas 29-17 in the third quarter, they found themselves within striking distance. The Wizards were able to cut the Mavericks’ lead to six on two different occasions midway in the fourth period. But one poor defensive rotation here followed by some careless turnovers there allowed Dallas to regain control to make this look more like a blowout than a single-digit game.

Washington is now 2-8 on the season, their second such start in three years. Although, this 2-8 feels a whole lot different than the 2016-2017 2-8 start to the season when Wall was still recovering from knee surgery.

Takeaways

A poor first half defensively is too much to overcome

Don’t get it twisted; Sunday’s defensive effort against the Knicks was an anomaly, not a team looking to turn the corner. Washington turned in yet another poor defensive effort and it all started in the first half as the Mavericks hung 70 on the Wizards by halftime.

Dallas, a team who’s trailed after every first quarter during their six-game losing streak was shown no resistance as they were able to get whatever shots they wanted in the first period. Wes Matthews hit back-to-back three-pointers to start the second quarter and that’s when the onslaught began.

Yet again, the Wizards brought no energy on the defensive end, weren’t communicating as Mavericks players found themselves wide open under the rim on several occasions, and made no effort to get back in transition. Dallas connected on 13 of their 23 three-pointers (56.5 percent) and shot 50 percent from the field in the first half as the whooping was officially on.

It took a ton of energy for Washington to cut the deficit to six midway through the fourth quarter. But at the end of the night, they just didn’t have enough to completely dig themselves out of a 24-point hole.

The Wizards continue to let it fly from 3, they just won’t go in

Otto Porter was a near-perfect 5-of-6 from three-point range tonight. But outside of him, the Wizards combined to go just 6-of-29 (21 percent) from distance. Washington has committed themselves to taking more three-point shots this season, the issue is, they aren’t falling.

Markieff Morris missed all four of his attempts, Kelly Oubre missed all five. John Wall was just 2-of-6 from three-point range and Bradley Beal had another poor outing from distance as he only connected on one of his nine three-point attempts.

John Wall turns in his first double-double of the season

Tonight was long overdue (statistically at least) as John Wall notched his first double-double of the season with 24 points and 10 assists. Wall has been looking to score more this season and as a result, his passing, the bread and butter of his game, has taken a hit.

It took Wall 20 shots to get to 24 points which isn’t going to excite any analytics department, however, it looked like he made more of an effort to get others involved. Washington has a ton of issues that need to get fixed if things are going to turn around and Wall getting his teammates more involved is very high up on that list.

Wizards vs. Thunder final score: Washington gets run off their home floor in 134-111 loss to OKC

The Oklahoma City Thunder were playing a rare third game in four nights whereas the Wizards hadn’t played since Tuesday, but you couldn’t tell as Oklahoma City ran Washington off its own home floor, 134-111 on Friday night.

Dwight Howard, making his Wizards debut provided a jolt of energy for this Washington team to start the game and the crowd fed off of it. After dunking home the first basket of the night, Howard was feeling himself. 18-foot bank shots? Yup. Taking guys off the dribble? You bet, it was all on display for Howard as he knocked down his first 6 shots as a Wizard for 13 first quarter points. But even with Howard’s excellent effort, the Wizards found themselves down 35-30 after a near-perfect first quarter.

Things fell apart for Washington in the second quarter. With all five reserves on the floor to start the quarter, Oklahoma City started the period on a 9-2 run which would open the floodgates. The Thunder came into the game as the worst three-point shooting team in the NBA but would hit 4 of their 8 attempts and went 15-for-22 on field goal attempts to take a 79-50 lead by halftime as the boos rained down in Capital One Arena.

I don’t have to tell you how the second half went, you’ve seen this movie before. Washington showed glimpses of life and was able to cut the deficit to 19, forcing a precautionary and unnecessary timeout from Billy Donavan. After that timeout, the Thunder lead quickly shot back up over 25 and they barely had to break a sweat for the rest of the game.

The Wizards are now 1-7 on the season, with three of their seven losses by over 20 points.

Takeaways

Washington wastes a nearly perfect first quarter

Slow starts have plagued Washington early on in the season. That wasn’t the case tonight as the basket was as wide as the ocean to start this one. A Dwight Howard dunk followed by threes from Wall and Beal got things going for Washington as the Wizards started the night 6-6 from the field to take an early 15-5 lead just four minutes into the game.

We got our first glimpse of Dwight Howard and he did not disappoint early on. After a dunk to get the game started, Howard knocked down an 18-foot bank shot and was feeling super confident as he took Steven Adams off the dribble on two occasions. Howard scored 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the opening period, leading the Wizards in scoring out of the gate.

For as good as Howard and the Wizards were on the offensive end, they were just as poor on the defensive end. Oklahoma City came into this game as the worst three-point shooting team in the league but they went 5-of-7 on three-point attempts in the opening quarter. Howard was not able to fix Washington’s interior woes either as the Thunder had 16 points in the painted area in the opening quarter.

Washington played nearly a perfect first quarter (on offense) but still found themselves trailing 35-30 after one. I know I’m beating a dead horse here, but nothing will change with this team until they decide to play defense. How’s that for #analysis?

Defense? What’s that?

You’re not going to beat anyone in this league giving up 79 points by halftime and 108 through three quarters.

Too many turnovers

The holidays are nearly seven weeks away but Washington was in the giving spirit tonight turning the ball over 18 times this evening. John Wall and Bradley Beal were the main culprits as the duo combined for 12. Oklahoma City turned the 18 mistakes into 26 points on the other end.

Ted has to be feeling the heat

For the first time in probably 6-7 years, boos could be heard throughout most of the evening. Some fans were so fed up that they left the game at halftime and owner Ted Leonsis was sitting courtside watching the latest debacle unfold right in front of him. The team still makes JV mistakes, brings no energy on defense, and the fans are starting to get restless. If getting blown out by 23 on your home floor (and the game wasn’t even that close) isn’t rock bottom for Leonsis and the Wizards, I’m afraid to see what is.

Troy Brown got some playing time

Cool.

Small ball won’t work for the Wizards unless there’s a team-wide focus on rebounding

The NBA is the ultimate copycat league. Once one team does something that works, the other 29 teams quickly scramble to create their iteration of that scheme or strategy for the fear of not adapting and getting left behind. Even though the Warriors took the league by storm a few years ago with a small ball lineup that clearly worked, the Wizards were slow to adjust. Last year, they got their toes wet as they closed games without a true center on the floor. But this season, they’re all in.

Offensively, it’s working. Washington is shooting more threes than ever before (35.5 per game) and are scoring 114.7 points per game—good enough for ninth in the NBA. The Wizards have stumbled out of the starting block with a 1-5 record even though their scoring is up. That’s because they have taken a significant step backwards defensively, particularly when it comes to rebounding.

Prior to the season, on paper, the Wizards checked all the boxes. They’d plug in Kelly Oubre Jr. at the small forward position, shift Otto Porter Jr. to power forward, and play either Markieff Morrisor Jeff Green as the stretch-5. But, the reason the Wizards’ small ball lineups haven’t translated to wins early on is because in order for small ball to work, all five players must bring extra energy defensively especially when it comes to boxing out and securing rebounds in space.

They’re surrendering 15.4 offensive rebounds per game and the Wizards currently rank dead last when it comes to defensive rebounding percentage, allowing their opposition to grab offensive rebounds 35.6 percent of the time. And remember, this is in an era where teams are forfeiting attempts to crash the offensive glass more than ever so they can get back on defense to prevent transition opportunities.

During the 2017-2018 campaign, Washington’s most frequently used small ball lineup consisted of Tomas SatoranskyBradley BealKelly OubreOtto Porter, and Markieff Morris. That lineup had a tremendous defensive net rating in 89 minutes together and had a defensive rebounding percentage of 73.2—which was right around the league average. When John Wall was plugged in for Satoransky, that number dipped to 70.5 percent which wasn’t great, but wasn’t so below-average that it actively hindered the team.

This season is a different story however. That same small ball lineup of Wall-Beal-Oubre-Porter-Morris, isn’t just bad on the defensive glass, they’re in the running for worst defensive small ball lineup in the league bad evidenced by a 61.3 percent defensive rebounding percentage. That means opponents are grabbing nearly two offensive rebounds for every five misses the Wizards force with that lineup.

We got a clear visual of what a poor defensive rebounding team the Wizards were in the season opener, but at the time brushed it off as another #SoWizards loss.

John Wall had a nice contest on Dwyane Wade’s final shot and Porter was dragged down by Josh Richardson so they’re both off the hook here. But watch Jeff Green and Bradley Beal on this play though. The two stand glued to the floor and watch as Kelly Olynyk grabs the offensive board and putback layup for the win. Wade took the final shot with 3 seconds remaining so there’s no need to stay with their man out on the wing as there wouldn’t have been enough time for Miami to gather the offensive rebound and kick it out for a shot.

Markieff Morris picked the wrong time for an inexcusable defensive effort as he not only lost Olynyk on the wing, but then half-heartedly jumped for the rebound with one hand.

We saw the same lethargy this past Friday night in their loss to the Kings. With the Wizards in striking distance and in desperate need of a stop and rebound, they turned in this defensive effort.

Not only did the Wizards surrender a wide-open 3-point attempt, but notice how not one single Washington player boxes out nor jumps for the rebound—with two minutes to play in a four point game, against a rebuilding Kings team.

The Wizards didn’t lose those games on those two plays, but those two plays were a microcosm of the defensive and rebounding efforts that the Wizards have put forth this season. When you’re a struggling team, it’s the little things that compound into big things. If the Wizards can’t fix their defensive rebounding woes, its hard to imagine them winning games and turning this thing around regardless of how many points they put up.