WASHINGTON -- I mean, I don't even know what to say anymore. When the Washington Wizards raced out to a 15-2 start, it looked like this would finally be the game where things would change. Alas, here we are, about two hours later, commiserating yet another loss. This time, the Wizards went ice cold in the fourth quarter and got crushed on the offensive glass by a hungrier Utah Jazz team that simply wanted a win more than the Wizards did. The 83-76 result looks relatively close, but the fourth quarter was a disaster.
How can you explain what happened in that final frame? It'd be one thing if the Jazz just got hot from deep or scored on every post touch, but that's not what was happening. Instead, they were crashing the glass, wrestling away every 50-50 ball and digging in to lock down the paint defensively. They played like a team that knew it was 1-6 on the road and needed a win. The Wizards played like a team that was 7-0 instead of 0-7. How this happens is completely mystifying.
Also mystifying: Randy Wittman's fourth-quarter rotations. Why did Jan Vesely not get a chance to finish the game after his strong play? Why not give Bradley Beal some more rope instead of going back to A.J. Price? Why dump Martell Webster from the rotation altogether? So many questions.
In any event, here are your game notes.
- I lost all my first-half notes, so these are briefer than usual. Some things I noticed in the first half:
- You can see why Randy Wittman chose to start Jan Vesely. Vesely may lack several offensive skills, but at least he uses whatever open space he gets. Trevor Booker was too content to be stationary, perhaps because he was worried about running the plays. Vesely, however, did a great job staying active and making Derrick Favors move, which forced Favors away from the basket.
- You have to love the play of Trevor Ariza. Sure, he did some Ariza things, but the Wizards needed him to be aggressive to make the Jazz pay for going big. Ariza was far too quick for Paul Millsap and he did some very crafty things to keep Millsap uninvolved offensively. I especially liked the way he crossed over right to left early on and got right by Millsap for a layup. The Jazz know they are vulnerable to aggressive, speedy wing players, and Ariza did well to properly play the part.
- Kevin Seraphin is thinking wayyyyyyy too much out there. He's rushing hook shots when he should be working to get something easier. It's as if he's freaked out that a double-team will come and would rather fling a wild shot to the rim than have to deal with it. Once he understands that he can manipulate a double team with fake passes, moves to set up counter moves and the like, he'll be much more successful. The other issue is that his game suffers when he isn't scoring. He has to play through missed shots.
- It was good to see Bradley Beal get out in transition for a couple easy hoops, but there are still areas where he should be more aggressive. He has to stop letting Gordon Hayward overplay him to the side he wants to go on a pick and roll, and he has to be more aware defensively to prevent Hayward from sneaking away from him on off-ball cuts.
- Chill out with the 15-foot jumpers, Emeka Okafor.
- The Wizards did a really good job of taking away all of Millsap's "random" scores off rebounds and basket cuts. Then again, Millsap did a lot to take himself out of the game when he was playing small forward.
- OK, second half.
- I think it was smart for the Jazz to go back to their old starting lineup, just with Foye instead of Marvin Williams. It negates a lot of Ariza's activity when he's forced to guard a quick perimeter player.
- What great rim protection by Okafor and Vesely on Jefferson and Millsap. Okafor is best when he's just standing up dudes at the rim, and Vesely did well to contest Millsap's layup without fouling.
- A.J. Price is a decent spot-up shooter. It's better for him to do that than run the offense.
- All those easy buckets in transition make me very happy. Considering how difficult it is for this team to score in the halfcourt, running the floor needs to be a major priority. Utah's bigs in particular are very bad at getting back, and the Wizards smartly took advantage of that whenever they could.
- Price took a really bad shot, then half-assed his transition defense responsibilities. Meanwhile, Hayward did the thing he always did and leaked out in transition. When Price tried to run and catch up to Hayward, he decked him and got called for the flagrant foul. Awful, awful sequence.
- It's really amazing how Ariza doesn't stay down on the simplest pump fakes.
- Seraphin could really learn a lot seeing how Jefferson manipulates double teams by reposting, faking passes out and directing his guards to certain spots on the floor to make it more difficult for the Wizards' guards to dig down and half-double.
- Jefferson was simply tremendous in the third quarter. The way he spun out of a double team and got another hoop was something only 3-4 other players in the entire league can do. No shame in giving up that kind of shot.
- Great to see Beal attack going left and get to the rim. Too bad he didn't finish.
- Couple unfortunate plays to start that fourth quarter. Beal's missed layup was followed by Okafor trying to slam back a rebound with one hand rather than two. Then, Booker missed a hook shot off an offensive rebound, and on the other end, Favors got a dunk after two Wizards fumbled a rebound. Really not sure how those things keep happening.
- It's a fickle world: Martin missed a ton of open threes that he usually makes. He didn't do anything differently than he did against Dallas. He just didn't hit shots.
- Booker, like Seraphin, is thinking way too much about everything. He had Jamaal Tinsley on him on a post mismatch, got a great pass from Livingston, then tried passing it out instead of going up for a layup. Not sure why he did that.
- Favors can be such a terror. He killed the Wizards on the glass and erased a Beal shot beautifully off a nice, nice drive.
- I'm really not a fan of the "put a guy in cold in the fourth quarter to get a spark" strategy. I'm especially not a fan of it when that guy is Chris Singleton and he has to go guard Paul Millsap. Millsap craftily forced his way into the mix for a layup off an air-ball, and the last thing the Wizards need is for Millsap to have it going.
- Feel like DeMarre Carrol ripping a rebound away from Ariza sums up the entire fourth quarter.
- Really confused by Wittman's fourth-quarter rotations. Why throw Singleton in there for the first time? Why not bring Vesely back in? Why go to Seraphin when he's been struggling? Why not play Crawford and Beal together instead of having to put A.J. Price back in the game.
- A Price/Crawford/Ariza/Singleton/Seraphin closing lineup just doesn't have enough shooters or floor spacers. Just odd.