What do we want?!
When do we want it?!
What else is new? Another game, another loss. Another contest that could have been won but the inability to close out quarters mix like oil and vinegar. On Wednesday night, Washington comes off a lack lustered win against the Chicago Bulls to face the Toronto Raptors (12-13). Falling to the now Tampa Bay Raptors (due to COVID) 137-115.
We all know this team can’t defend but last night was pure evidence that the Wizards have absolutely no idea what is happening on defense. Raptors lit Washington up for 19 3-pointers shooting at a 59% clip. Washington could not buy a 3-pointer and shot 12/41 from behind the arc.
Kyle Lowry led the way with 5 3-point field goals made and six other Raptors players hit one from deep. Washington could not close out on drives all game which left open 3’s from any spot on the floor. Norman Powell dropped a silent but deadly 28 points, Siakam added 26 points and Chris Boucher finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds. My fantasy teams are proud of Boucher but that is beside the point.
The Washington starting lineup was Beal, Westbrook, Bertans, Rui, and Alex Len. If Scott brooks thought that this lineup would somehow play some defense then he was terribly wrong. There is no communication on switches and it kills the Washington defense.
In the first quarter, Siakam has the ball on the left elbow of the free-throw line and asks Aaron Baynes for a screen. Rui gets caught in the screen leaving Alex Len on an island by himself and he looks like his Dad left him waiting at the bus stop. Siakam comes around the screen, Len just stands there and Siakam drills the 2-point field goal.
Not once during that sequence did anyone communicate that the screen was coming. How are you going to compete on defense with no communication? Quick answer, you can’t!
Analyst Fred Katz posted a great observation on Twitter regarding Washington’s incapacity to communicate. Beal is guarding VanVleet and Rui Hachimura’s man sets a screen. Vanvleet does not move or pick up his dribble and the Wizards switch. Fred takes advantage of the mismatch and burns Washington.
Toronto averaged 34 points per quarter last night and scored 40 in the first. What is Scott Brooks doing? Why aren’t defensive players like Bonga, Wagner, or Troy Brown Jr getting any run? Raul Neto is clearly not healed fully from the groin injury. He almost air-balled his first 3 pointer and free-throw but he played 27 minutes.
The best part of our offense last night was when Washington was running the scheme through Robin Lopez. Lopez scored 13 points in 19 minutes, secured 5 rebounds, 1 block, and shot 5/7 from the field. Alex Len had a solid outing too but he needs to be more active on defensive switches. His physical stature should make it a nightmare for defenders to shoot over.
The Elephant in the Room
The elephant in the room is Russell Westbrook and Washington’s inability to win with him on the floor. Last night, he started the game off poorly. Westbrook checked himself out of the game early due to the frustration of committing 3 fouls with 4 turnovers. Thank goodness he turned things around in the second half because this game would have gotten ugly quick. In the second half, Westbrook improved from 4 points to 23 points and hit a few clutch threes to bring Washington within striking distance.
Russell’s play improved but fans often ask the question, “What is this dude doing?”. The kick out of open lane layups are so forced and ultimately puts Washington in a terrible spot. The technical foul given to Westbrook was tit for tat but Toronto was able to go on a 7 plus point run. If you want to be frustrated, be frustrated because this level of play is below mediocrity. This is not 2014, stop complaining about calls. Beal has been playing all-star caliber basketball for years and the ref barely blows the whistle for him.
The hope in Russell Westbrook is not completely lost but he needs to pick up the slack. Meaning he needs to play in back to backs, limit unnecessary turnovers, and give Beal an option in order for this turnaround to happen.
Wizards Scoring in Wins vs Losses
-Scoring Offense: 123.0
-Scoring Defense: 114.2
-Scoring Offense: 110.1
-Scoring Defense: 122.5