October 20, 2018 | Capital One Arena | Washington, D.C.
For the second straight game, the Washington Wizards were outrebounded, this time to the Toronto Raptors. For the second straight game, they picked up technical fouls that were essentially the difference makers. For the second straight game, the all-bench lineup was unimpressive and created bigger deficits. For the second straight game, there were some questionable calls from the officials. For the second straight game, the Wizards lost.
Bradley Beal and John Wall combined for 57 points, but it wasn’t enough to beat the Raptors, who had seven players in double-figures.
“That fourth quarter, just watching it, we were giving up some offensive rebounds again,” Scott Brooks said. “I think they had like six or seven or eight, I don’t even know, I lost count. They were small, and we were small. We got to rebound. I thought we did a lot of good things. If it’s a two-game season, you know what, we had a bad year. But it’s not. We got a lot of basketball left. We’re close, and no athlete, no team, no coach is going to like to talk about close but we are. We got a couple of things here and there that we have to clean up. We’re making some mental mistakes, we have to stay in front of the ball, we can beat back door when the ball goes around us. We got to put more pressure on the basketball and not get so–the ball cannot just get so easily into the key. With all that being said, both games we had a chance to win.”
Otto Porter not doing his part?
The Wizards third max player only played 25 minutes in the second game of the regular season. To our knowledge, he is not dealing with an injury, even though he came up a bit gimpy after a play on Thursday that limited his minutes. Scott Brooks simply did not think that the wing was playing well enough to warrant more minutes. He was the first member of the core substituted out and the last one to return. He had a +13 plus-minus, which was a team-high, but saw minutes yield to Austin Rivers who had a -14 differential in 27 minutes.
“I don’t know,” Brooks initially said when asked about Porter not getting the same number of touches in the second half. “You got to get yourself open. Got to get yourself open.”
“Because we’ve got some really good players,” Brooks dodged the question about Porter only playing 25 minutes. “We got good players. I want guys to play hard. We got to play hard. You don’t need extra minutes to play hard. Got to play hard. Everybody.”
“You got to move, you got to move,” Brooks finally unloaded on his small forward. “You got to set yourself up, you got to run the floor. We got a fast point guard, I don’t know if you guys know that, but he’s fast and if our wings aren’t running, what good is it when you are going to have a one-man break. What makes team run with pace is guys running. I love Otto, I love Otto, you guys know that, but he has to play faster. He has to. He’s physically not going to jump anybody and dunk on anybody, but he has to get himself into position. He’s a big-time player for us, he’s a glue guy, he makes winning basketball plays. He has to do that consistently for us. You can’t do it a half, he has to do it for the entire game. The guy can do it, I’ve seen it. He didn’t do it tonight, but he’ll bounce back.”
Poor officiating and lack of composure
Trying to be unbiased as possible, I do think that the referees made a handful of bad calls that hurt the Wizards. And I’m sure the Raptors feel that a few calls should have gone their way as well. After an offseason of Brooks preaching to his players to do less talking, including to the officials, Washington blew a gasket as a team. Uncharacteristically, Jason Smith was assessed a technical foul after he vehemently disagreed with a call that he was called a defensive foul for. Then the Wizards’ core of Brooks, Wall, and Beal had their frustration build up. Wall thought he had a clean block on a CJ Miles’ three-point attempt. Mahinmi thought he had a clean block at the rim. Beal got blown up by Serge Ibaka and was called for a foul.
Then the floodgates of emotions burst after Wall did not receive free throw attempts on a drive to the basket that ended with him flying out of bounds head first. Beal threw his arms out at an official and was immediately given a technical; he was still fuming about the contact with Ibaka that he took the brunt of. Then Brooks came off the bench and let the official have it. He was assessed one technical and ejected for “approaching the official in an aggressive manner while using foul language, vulgarity,” according to referee James Williams.
For me, it is easy to say that the Wizards need to keep their cool, but the reality is they are playing and competing at a high-level and at times believe they are being cheated or that calls are not being given out consistently. A lot of fouls are being called in these early regular season games, as veteran official Scott Foster foreshadowed, as both the officials and players become acclimated to the new points of emphasis. Wall is a player that always feels he does not get the calls he should as a five-time All-Star caliber individual. After the fact, Beal can admit that the referees have a hard job, but in the heat of the moment, he could not compose himself. In the opener, it was a technical on Wall and Kelly Oubre that could have been the difference in a one-point loss. Against Toronto, it was the road team making two free throws after Beal and Brooks’ technical that turns a two-point deficit with under a minute to play a tie-game. Winning will help ease some of the displeasures Washington has with officials, but that has yet to happen so far in the young 2018-19 season.
“I think it was a combination of a lot of things that I saw and then the frustration built up,” Brooks explained. “But it’s something that I’ve been talking with all our guys that we got to play through whatever we think that’s against us. Just play through it. Quite honestly, I set a poor example. I’m disappointed in myself. I got to be able to be better than that and not worry about a call or a few calls and just focus. They got their job, and I got my job, and the players have their job. I got to do a better job, and that’s something that we’ve been talking about and hopefully, it won’t happen again.”
All-bench lineup has yet to work
A consistent theme with the Wizards is that their starters are solid enough to compete with anybody, but their bench loses leads or allows the deficit to grow. That was the case last season and the ones before that and so far, it is the case this season.
The talent is certainly improved. Tomas Satoransky is better than Trey Burke and Tim Frazier, Austin Rivers is better than Jodie Meeks, and an older Kelly Oubre *should* be better than the younger one. Things get mucked up with Jason Smith playing significant minutes. Ian Mahinmi again got into foul trouble with four infractions in 17 minutes. With Dwight Howard (back and butt) still out, that means Smith gets run as Brooks does not want to go small too much as the team continues to struggle with rebounding. Smith is certainly a liability on the floor as he was attacked by the Raptors and his jump shot is still stuck in the 2016-17 season.
I get that Brooks does not want to get into the habit of playing Wall and Beal 38 or more minutes a game but something is going to have to change. I have pondered with the idea of Porter playing a lot of his minutes with the second unit, while maximizing Oubre’s potential alongside the starting backcourt.
“I don’t think it played as good as it’s going to play,” Brooks reasoned. “Toronto has been together; they have a lot of reps under their belt. They showed tonight. That’s a very good team. I know Kawhi [Leonard] didn’t play but that team is loaded and they’re athletic. Their wings are in attack mode and they play those small guards together. They have a good spirit, they have a fighting spirit that we’re trying to get as we brought this group together. We’re going to have some growing pains. Dwight [Howard] is going to come back and we’re probably going to have some adjustments to make there but no excuse for fighting or battling. We have to make those couple of plays here and there that could have gone our way and both games could have been different.”
Next Game: Washington heads to Portland for the start of a five-game West Coast trip. Although they are already in a 0-2 hole on the season, Brooks and Wall downplayed the idea that having a good road trip is now even more important.