Here's the good news from the Washington Wizards' 114-106 loss to the Houston Rockets: John Wall balled out. Wall scored 38 points in easily his best game of the year, nearly bringing the Wizards back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter. The bad news: nobody helped him, and the rally eventually fizzled when other players tried to make plays. You had to know Wall's scoring binge was not a winning formula, and it wasn't in the end. Ultimately, a horrendous third quarter, featuring Samuel Dalembert owning the Wizards, ended up being too much to overcome.
More notes on the game.
Nick Young's first two shots were ones I'd like to see him eliminate from his offensive game. On the first possession, he had Chandler Parsons switched onto him and still settled for a 20-foot jumper. On the next possession, he backed Kevin Martin into the post, but instead of drop-stepping for a power layup, he went to the middle and front-rimmed a fadeaway.
- Really, really weak screen-setting by the Wizards' big men early. I know they have to screen for multiple people on the same possession, but that's no excuse for not at least standing still and getting wide.
- Chris Singleton got the assignment to guard Kevin Martin over Nick Young and did a nice job frustrating him early. I will say this, though: Martin's struggled all year and he looks like he's pressing. I'm not sure how much of Martin's struggles were because of Singleton specifically.
- The guards have got to give McGee some post-up opportunities. On one play, Young came off a baseline screen and held it on the wing with McGee in the post, but then drove to the middle to shoot a fadeaway for some reason. On another play, Crawford came off two screens and took a 20-foot contested shot instead of making the quick pass down low. It went in, but with McGee cleaning up so many misses, it would have been good business to get him the ball.
Andray Blatche did good things isolating against Patrick Patterson in the post early on, though it helped that the Rockets didn't double-team him.
- The Wizards being shorthanded caused them to roll out a lineup of Shelvin Mack, Roger Mason, Jordan Crawford, Jan Vesely and Andray Blatche at one point. Sad thing is, unless you just play the starters more, your only choice is to replace one of those guys with Mo Evans or Kevin Seraphin. Not a lot of options there.
- Lack of spacing hurts the Wizards' offense. It's the consequence of having Trevor Booker out there, and it hurt the Wizards on a possession out of a timeout, when Booker and Singleton got stuck right next to each other with the shot clock running down. But there are ways to mask the lack of spacing, and it involves guys actually moving, which happens far too infrequently.
- A couple long jumpers led to the Rockets killing the Wizards on the secondary break to take control of the game. Yet another consequence of shooting long jumpers early in the shot clock. It's amazing how this keeps happening to this team.
- The dilemma of the Rockets' small lineup surfaced late in the second quarter. McGee got caught up trying to chase Patterson out on the floor, and Patterson buried a wide-open jumper. It's tough to ask McGee to guard guys out on the floor and protect the basket. This is normally where Ronny Turiaf has value, but with him injured, the Wizards had to turn to Jan Vesely, which hurts their floor spacing and rebounding. Luckily, Vesely stepped up with solid defense on Scola, helping the Wizards to close the gap.
- The Wizards' fast break to begin the third quarter was textbook. Wall drove to the middle to draw defenders as Singleton ran to the corner. Wall often passes there, so the Rockets' defenders starting going towards the corner. At the last minute, Wall turned and lobbed it to McGee for the slam. It was under control and properly executed, with everyone running their lanes.
- Wasn't wild about the quick hook for Booker. I know he missed a dunk and fumbled a pass, but he played hard, and I'm not wild about punishing good effort.
- The game got too ragged in the third quarter. The Wizards as a team often make things too difficult for themselves, whether it's taking tougher shots than required or forcing plays that aren't there. By contrast, Lowry made easy plays and Scola kept running the break for simple layups. When you don't make simple plays when simple plays are available, you can't make simple plays when simple plays are needed.
- The set the Wizards ran out of the timeout that involved Crawford forcing a horrible shot as the Rockets put three guys on the strong side pretty much says it all.
- The Wizards' bigs should be embarrassed by how Samuel Dalembert dominated them late in this one. He just owned Andray Blatche in the post.
- The Rockets played that entire third quarter with a flow to their offense, with weakside action, quick passes to the wings, bigs sprinting to set screens on time and guards using them as intended. That's a team playing together. The Wizards, meanwhile, don't move with any purpose off the ball, don't swing it to the wing until the play tells them to do so, don't sprint to set their screens and don't use those screens as intended.
JaVale McGee throwing the ball off the backboard to himself on a one-on-zero fast break doesn't explain all those defensive breakdowns, lack of purpose offensively or needless mad dashes to the basket.
- Have to give Crawford credit: he plays hard. He doesn't play smart all of the time, but he works.
- Man, John Wall is fast. Man. Loved seeing him rotating quickly defensively to stop sure shots, whether it was closing out on Chase Budinger, sliding over from the weakside corner to disrupt Lowry's layup attempt or just leaping enough to bother Samuel Dalembert's baseline jumper. He's still too eager going for head fakes, but the fourth quarter showed off how disruptive he could be defensively if he can harness his natural ability.
- Alas, Wall simply had no help. Wall tried to help Evans after Evans lost Martin on a screen, and Lowry hit a dagger three. Wall tried to let Crawford make a play, and he threw a bad bounce pass to Vesely that Vesely fumbled into Blatche's hands and out of bounds. Wall was on the weakside on another possession, and Blatche lost Dalembert on a pick and roll for a layup. Wall often plays as if he has no help when he really does. In the fourth quarter, he really had no help.
On the bright side, Wall really was outstanding, and that's reason enough to be positive. On the down side, his supporting cast let him down, and it's time to start wondering if some moves are needed to fix that supporting cast.