March 25, 2018 | Capital One Arena | Washington, D.C.
It is official. The Washington Wizards have hit a wall without five-time All-Star point guard John Wall as they suffered their third straight loss for just the second time of the season. Against San Antonio, they were short handed and on the road. Against Denver, they did not match the fight of a team fighting for their playoff lives. Against New York, there is simply no excuse for losing.
The Knicks came in as a lottery bound 26-47 team that had nothing to play for and they thoroughly out-played a team that thinks they are an Eastern Conference contender. During a weekend that was supposed to honor Phil Chenier and the 1978 championship team, Washington showed little respect for the achievements based on their on-court performances.
(Photo: Ned Dishman via Getty Images)
Sloppy Offense Becoming A Norm
Rarely during the course of the Scott Brooks era has offense been a consistent reason for struggles. Even without John Wall, Washington was playing well in February as they got creative and moved the ball well to get easy looks at the basket. Now, the scouting report is out on Tomas Satoransky and the Wizards’ new style of play. Bradley Beal is constantly getting blitzed on pick-and-rolls and hounded night in and night out as he is the only player that can consistently create his own shot under control. The first time All-Star was a miserable 5-for-17 from the field and 1-for-6 from three as he seemingly could not buy a bucket despite great looks at the basket at the rim and from the perimeter. Despite 15 points off turnovers and 23 trips to the free throw line, Washington could not crack the 100-point mark as they shot just 42.5 percent (37-for-87) from the field and 31.6 percent (6-for-19) from deep. The Wizards themselves gave away the ball 14 times and have their shots blocked another seven times.
“Some nights the ball is not going to fall your way. I’m going to go back and look at it. From the three-point line, I know all of his threes were good. They probably missed some shots around the basket that were contested, but he’s 1-for-6 from three and Kelly’s [Oubre] six threes, he’s 0-for-6 and he was probably wide open on all of them. Those are just things that are part of the game. You’re going to go through some bad stretches of missing threes. That defense in the second quarter and then the easy shots around the rim – the tip-ins, the lay-ins – we have to convert.”
Pitiful Second Quarter Defense
If anything, the Knicks should be playing to lose to better their position in the NBA draft lottery. They are without their franchise cornerstone in Kristaps Porzingis, but they looked like the team that was fighting for something on Sunday instead of the Wizards. Outside of the second quarter, the road team managed just 61 points, which is expected for a team that lacks great talent. That makes the fact that they dropped 42 in the quarter before halftime so surprising. New York shot 68.2 percent, 15-for-22, from the field, 62.5 percent, 5-for-8, from beyond the arc, and 100 percent, 7-for-7 from the free throw line. 38 of their 42 points came in the paint, from deep, or at the charity stripe. Washington gifted the Knicks eight points off of their five second quarter turnovers. There was next to zero resistance coming from the home team in that second frame.
“We played very bad there, defensively,” Satoransky said about the second quarter. “This team can score  points against us, especially after the first quarter, which looked good defensively. We had a moment where I didn’t recognize ourselves, we had a great practice before that where we seemed like we were playing better there, playing with more effort. This just can’t happen. The second quarter basically gave them the push, gave them the confidence to just battle until the end.”
No More Teaching Moments
Kelly Oubre Jr. is just 22-years old, but in his third year in the NBA, he continues to make rookie mistakes that need to be left in the past. With 47.2 seconds to play, Washington is up one as Otto Porter grabs a rebound. The reasonable thing to do is drain most of the shot clock to get a two-for-one opportunity by attacking with about 33 seconds left in the game. Instead, Oubre opted to take a three-pointer less than five seconds into the shot clock. Granted the look was a good one, he was open, which made Beal have no problem with the attempt, and if it went in no one would be talking about it, but it was not a good percentage play. Oubre was already 0-for-5 from beyond the arc. To make matters worse, Oubre fouled Trey Burke in transition off of the miss, but did not fully wrap him up, although he should not have needed to foul if he could have stood his ground, and the Knicks got an and-1. New York would lead the rest of the way on their way to a victory.
“Yeah, we’ve had a few of those,” Brooks responded with some frustration when asked if Oubre’s foul on Burke is a teaching moment. “It’s time to pick up those moments and internalize them and fill it and do it. We can’t continue to give and-ones. We probably lead the league [with] almost three a game. That situation where you have an extra defender because, I think, it was Lance Thomas in the back court, so we have to communicate. We can’t foul in that situation. We can’t do it.”
Trey Burke With A Successful Revenge Game
During the summer of 2017, the Wizards traded for Burke in the last year of his rookie contract hoping that he could regain some of the magic he showed in college as he led Michigan to the championship game. Burke averaged 5 points and 1.8 assists in 12.3 minutes per game and was eventually out of the rotation post-All-Star break once the team signed Brandon Jennings. In his first game back in D.C. after working his way back to the NBA from the G League, the 6-foot-1 point guard torched Washington. Burke finished with 19 points on 8-for-15 shooting to go along with three assists and three steals. “It feels good. … It means the world,” Burke explained.
“He was on a mission tonight, plain and simple,” Beal evaluated. “We played him like we didn’t know what he was capable of doing and that’s us players. We played against, we’ve played with him, he just, it was kinda a statement game for him. He made it personal.”
Bradley Beal Had A Lot To Say Postgame
He is part of the issue and he would probably admit so, but this is about as upset I have heard Beal talk about in the past two seasons.
On if there is anything wrong with the offense:
“Yeah, we could probably just run our plays harder, pass it a little bit more. We try to do too much at times. Just trying to play a little too much hero ball at times. We just gotta stick with what’s working for us.”
On their sense of urgency:
“We acted like we didn’t give a damn, honestly. We thought that we could just show up and play because they don’t have anything to play for. We just thought it was going to be a cake walk and they just smacked us in the mouth.”
On the second quarter and the Knicks 42 points:
On their mentality:
“It’s us. It’s the locker room. Coach preaches it every single day. Until we do it individually and together collectively, we are going to get our ass kicked in the playoffs. It’s not even, this is not even remotely acceptable how we are playing right now. We are playing like we are going to be done on April 11th or 12th.”
On struggles being similar to previous losses to sub-.500:
“It’s very similar to that. I can sit here and say that we need to change it, but I’m tired of talking about this shit, man. It’s just the same thing over and over. I’m tired of it.”
BONUS: John Wall Timeline Becoming Clearer
On Saturday, Wall completed his first contact and full five-on-five practice with the Wizards for the first time since left knee surgery on January 31. That was the last major hurdle for the point guard to clear as he works his way back before the playoffs. The team has been very cautious with their franchise point guard that is set to begin a four-year, $170 million contract soon, which is understandable. After having a relatively light pre-game workout on Sunday as Wall has done before the past handful of games, he is set to take part in a second practice on Monday. It is unlikely he will play on Tuesday and he may practice on Wednesday and/or Friday should the team hold practice on those days. Players in the locker room seem to be under the impression that Wall could make his return on Saturday at home against the Hornets. Wall will be eight weeks post-surgery this Wednesday and the initial recovery estimate was six-to-eight weeks.
Next Game: Washington will host San Antonio on Tuesday, which will not be a tough matchup to get out of their scoring slump, but who knows, the Wizards are good at surprising people.