(Photo by Joe Glorioso * Wizards Extreme)
Fresh off of a win against the Chicago Bulls, the Wizards came into the Verizon Center on Monday night looking for some revenge against the Sacramento Kings.
Instead, they found themselves in a predicament they’ve known all too well.
After a somewhat lethargic, yet well played first half (mostly sparked by Emeka Okafor’s dominance on the boards and scoring), the Wizards found themselves playing like the team they were before John Wall came back.
Here are some key mishaps from the Kings loss that deserve some attention:
Turnovers: The Wizards had as many turnovers as they did assists with 20 a piece. The guys on the court were trying to do too much with the ball instead of playing with the same “team” mentality the fans saw on Friday and Saturday nights. Bradley Beal’s wrist was obviously (although he denied it ad nauseam) bothering him, yet he still was taking shots (and airballed at least one as I recall). The movement around the basket was lazy, selfish and detrimental to any kind of tempo they were trying to keep to the game. Nene was the biggest offender of the night having not only six turnovers, but the most crucial one with the Wizards in a position to take the tie it up late in the fourth.
Adjustments: The big thing about what worked for Washington in their game versus Chicago was their halftime adjustments. Wittman mentioned they changed up a lot of things defensively and it showed as they held the Bulls to a pretty low score for the second half. Monday night, however, they either got the adjustments wrong or they shouldn’t have changed anything at all. With Emeka Okafor just short of a double-double going into halftime, it was obvious to everyone in the building he was the guy to go to on either end of the court. While he still had an effect on the second half, Okafor wasn’t determined (or at least didn’t appear as such) to be the center of the team’s offense. Seraphin ended up picking up some of the slack for Emeka, but when it comes down to crunch time in a game like this, the ball should have been in Emeka’s hands in the post, not Nene’s. And if that wasn’t an option, then Nene should have been looking for Okafor instead of looking for anyone else on that court.
Closing Out: This has been the curse of the team the entire 2012-2013 season so far. The Wizards have been able to hang in there just up until the last minute or so. If the NBA counted “Shoulda, coulda, woulda” wins, than the Wizards would probably be sitting with about 30 wins right now. In the last play of the game (Isaiah Thomas’s teardrop bucket), there was obviously some confusion about defensive assignment. Randy Wittman stated in his post-game that Wall was supposed to be guarding Thomas. Both Wall and Wittman said that they thought the only reason that Garrett Temple ended up guarding Thomas is due to a switch off of a pick. After watching the play again, however, it is pretty clear that Temple was set to guard Thomas the whole time and that there was no switch off of a pick. Last night’s lack of closing out was due to either miscommunication or inattention. Either way, it’s inexcusable to not know your assignment on the last play of a game that could end in your team’s loss.
Call it a lapse of judgment. Call it getting too comfortable. Call it whatever you want. But at this point in the season where everyone is healthy (sans Cartier Martin), there’s really no excuses for an ending to a game like the one against Sacramento.
The Wizards are now headed on a pretty trying road trip, although only three games long. They’re going to have to face Philadelphia, sitting one spot out of the playoffs, the Memphis Grizzlies, who are sitting fourth overall in the Western Conference, and the San Antonio Spurs, who are on an eight-game winning streak and have gone 9-1 in their last 10.
Oh yeah, remember the time San Antonio’s bench nearly beat the Miami Heat?
If you’re the Wizards, you’ve got to hope that was just a one game lack of judgment or just getting comfortable for one game. Because if you’re looking to “shut up people’s mouth” (Nene- 1/26/13) or to continue to hold any kind of dream of your team making that coveted eighth spot in the playoffs, it’s going to have to start with a crucial win in Philly. With this game being against a team who have probably got some chips on their shoulder after going 3-7 in their last 10 and suffering a three-point loss to Memphis the other night, it’s going to be no small task.
In order for it to happen, it’s going to involve paying attention to detail, moving the ball around and keeping the turnovers to a minimum. If the Wizards can kick these bad habits against this 76ers squad who have given them trouble in the past, then closing out should be no problem. But if they cannot, then there might be a stretch of some very frustrating games until they get home to really work on it again.