Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE
The Washington Wizards fell, 108-101, to the New York Knicks in their second preseason game.
WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards showed flashes, but ultimately, they couldn't come away with the victory against the New York Knicks, falling, 108-101. The Wizards fell way behind early, went on a shocking 22-0 run to catch up, fell back behind in the third quarter and slowly lost the lead due to a barrage of three-pointers by the Knicks in the fourth quarter. A late charge ultimately proved fruitless.
There were some bright spots. Bradley Beal scored 15 points in 26 minutes off the bench, showing that he belongs playing big minutes. Martell Webster was active off the bench and scored 12 points of his own, while Jordan Crawford, maddening and all, scored 17 points on 13 shots. But there were also plenty of issues. The defense struggled for the second straight game, especially defending the three-point line. Jan Vesely looked lost out there and Trevor Ariza didn't look much better. The point guards all demonstrated why they were available off the scrap heap late in the summer.
Here are my game notes in chronological order. More to come from Amin and I later.
- Not a great start to the game for Trevor Ariza. On the Knicks' first possession, he got flattened by a down screen and surrendered a wide open shot to Carmelo Anthony. On the first Wizards' possession, he passed up an open three to awkwardly drive to the lane, where he released a wild floater. Then, he let Anthony blow by him on the baseline, setting up an open three for Mychal Thompson. Ariza's balance wasn't very good early.
- Jordan Crawford did come out shooting, as expected, but I liked that he shot off the catch on a down screen curling to the elbow. The Wizards will run their two guards off pindowns like that all season. They have to be able to hit those shots.
- Much better job by A.J. Price early in this game offensively. He did a nice job of setting up his opponents on pick and roll, declining the screen one time to draw a foul and nicely setting up Jan Vesely on a pocket bounce pass later on. His defense on Raymond Felton wasn't great, though.
- With all the injured players, the Wizards' offense really stagnates when the initial play breaks down. The Knicks never have to worry about that because Carmelo Anthony can create offense. That's not the case with the Wizards as long as John Wall and Nene are injured. A lineup of Price, Crawford, Ariza, Jan Vesely and Kevin Seraphin just has no ability to properly space the floor.
- Given the above limitations, it's surprising that the Wizards waited so long to give Kevin Seraphin a post touch.
- The Wizards' closeouts were pretty bad in the first quarter. I'm not quite sure how Seraphin and Vesely ended up having to run out at guys like J.R. Smith and Anthony at the three-point line.
- So many poor defensive fundamentals in the first quarter. The Wizards' perimeter defenders did a really bad job at the point of attack, surrendering driving lanes on blow-bys and poor closeouts. Ariza was the biggest culprit. He gave up middle too easily, allowing Anthony to bull into the lane and draw Seraphin's second foul. He's a veteran that should know better.
- Vesely lost Steve Novak twice off screens for open three-pointers, which is a major issue because Vesely is supposed to be the kind of player that can neutralize guys like Novak. Chris Singleton immediately came off the bench to replace him.
- Very few low-post touches for Seraphin in that first quarter. Optimistically: the Wizards were trying out different plays. Pessimistically: they don't know their strengths.
- Jannero Pargo likes to shoot, all the time. He has very poor passing instincts. Guess that's what happens when you look for a point guard off the scrap heap.
- The Wizards' guards have to fight through ball screens better. They were getting flattened too much, making it difficult on the big men when trying to provide help.
- Two guys who played very well in the second quarter: Martell Webster and Chris Singleton. Webster is a very good on-court communicator, breaking up a 2 on 1 fast break situation and helping his point guards realize where to get the ball. Singleton just feels more comfortable as a 4, where he can use his athleticism against slower players.
- Bradley Beal has such solid pick and roll mechanics. What I love about him: when he comes off a pindown and the shot isn't there, he understands that he needs to take one step back to create the proper angle to come off the pick and roll. It's all so fluid. There are no choppy steps involved. It's really great to watch.
- Why was the smaller lineup so much more successful? Because the floor was more spaced, the defenders were quicker in cutting off dribble penetration and there were more players running the wing faster in transition. It's a shame the Wizards don't have a roster set up to do this more often.
- Webster talked a lot in the preseason about feeling so healthy that he could pull off moves he couldn't pull off before. That reverse layup is probably one of them.
- Beal's legs are deceptively strong. He took off from outside the paint on his fast-break three-point play, and he was able to muscle past Chris Copeland on a baseline drive. He's stronger than he looks.
- Two good three-pointers by Cartier Martin. If he can be passable defensively, he should play some backup shooting guard and small forward. I would work harder to find minutes for him.
- Worth noting: Anthony and Chandler did not play in the second quarter. Something to consider while we get excited about the team's play.
- Two really bad plays to start the third quarter: Ariza passing up a wide open three-pointer that threw his teammates off, and Crawford ignoring Seraphin in the post to shake-and-bake for a 19-footer that missed.
- Kurt Thomas was just shoving Vesely out of the way inside.
- The problem with Price is that he's just not very quick. He had open space in transition to make a move and didn't make it because he doesn't posses the ability to get by his defender. He tries his best with a variety of hesitation dribbles, but ultimately, he's a free-throw line-free-throw line player.
- Vesely looks lost out there on both ends. His future is as a power forward, but he seemingly has no concept of space and he's having issues with the physicality of the bigs he has to go up against. It's affecting his confidence too -- he missed a wide-open layup that he put up weakly instead of powering to the lane.
- When Crawford is making straight-line drives to the basket, he can be effective. He gets into trouble when he dances around. Much like a football coach who needs to tell his shifty running back to run north/south, Wittman needs to stress to Crawford that the more he dribbles, the less effective he is.
- For example: Crawford made a nice drive to set up an open three for Price. If he can dribble and step with a purpose, he makes himself more valuable.
- When he dances around and shoots a step-back jumper over Steve Novak with no rebounders around ... that's another story.
- The whole "Vesely at center" thing isn't going to work.
- If the Wizards were really trying to win, leaving Beal and Webster on the bench for so long would have been really problematic. I don't think they were really trying to win as much as they were trying out a bunch of lineups, though.
- Singleton definitely seems more active as a 4. He did a really nice job rotating down to swat a rebound away from Tyson Chandler, then ran the break nicely to draw a foul. He didn't do nearly as much standing in the corner this game as he did last season.
- Will say it again: Beal's ability to keep moving as he comes off a screen and waits for the big man to come over to initiate the pick and roll is special. He throws defenders off-balanced because he acts like a threat to do so many different things, and he also finds ways to create angles that aren't there. Jannero Pargo, by contrast, pauses whenever he has to come off a down screen, which ruins the flow of the play and makes it harder on himself to get separation.
- Pargo just isn't a good point guard. He's ideal on a team with a ball-dominant shooting guard that can let him drift to the weakside and spot up with his proficient jumper. He struggles if he has to create offense because he can't drive and has poor passing instincts.
- It was nice to see the Wizards find Seraphin a couple times for post-ups in the fourth quarter. They didn't do that much this game, though it very well could have been by design.
- Singleton's own activity sometimes works against him. He made a mistake crashing the glass with six and a half minutes left, allowing Steve Novak to leak out for an easy transition three-pointer.
- Also, he messed up a screen-the-screener play out of the ensuing timeout. The moment where he merges activity with court sense is the moment it all comes together.
- I was as surprised as anyone that Prigioni didn't miss from the three-point line. I don't think Wittman is going to lose sleep over that. When you double team, you have to leave someone momentarily open. If Prigioni is that guy, it's not the end of the world. Tighten up those rotations and things should be OK.
- That said, Pargo can't help off him when he's hot just to sort of help on a non-threatening Chandler in the middle.
- Beal was really quick in this game. If you subscribe to the belief that his play is more important than anything else this preseason, then you have to be encouraged despite the final score. He moved really well and couldn't be stopped whenever he wanted to get to the rim.