Well, that was frustrating. The Washington Wizards looked poised to run away from the Indiana Pacers, taking a 20-point second-quarter lead. Instead, the Pacers came back, pounded Washington on the glass and came away with an 85-83 victory after Paul George hit a go-ahead three-pointer.
If Wednesday's game was an example of all the positives that Nene brings to the table, tonight's fourth quarter showed a lot of the negatives. He's not a leaper, so players can get rebounds on him. He can set good screens, but too often slips them instead of holding his position. There were many reasons the Wizards lost, but his shortcomings played a big role. Roy Hibbert got easy shots on him in the post to keep the Pacers within striking distance, and the Wizards' struggling fourth-quarter offense did the rest.
It's a reminder that, even after the trade, the Wizards remain a work in progress. More below the jump.
- It was great to see Nene directly involved in the Wizards' first two scoring plays of the game. On the first one, he gave Chris Singleton just enough of a rub screen to free him for the mid-range jumper. On the second play, he made a fantastic pass to Jordan Crawford for the spot-up three-pointer. Those are the kinds of plays he can make to help your team.
- The thing about all of the open shots the Wizards made is that they were assisted, except for the first one. That's the kind of intangible quality Nene provides, but it's also a testament to everyone else on the roster. Indiana's a pretty good defensive team too, which makes the beginning all the more impressive.
- I can live with some wild attempts by Jordan Crawford if they come off the pass, so while it may have been smart to pull it out instead of let it fly with a transition three-pointer, it's far better he shoot it right away instead of put it on the floor and make things more difficult for himself.
- Why are Trevor Booker and Nene such a nice pair? When John Wall comes off the high screen, either one can pop to the top of the key or roll down the lane. That distracts the defense and creates an opening. That's the value of having two bigs who can screen and make plays.
- The other great thing to see was defenders anticipating where the Pacers wanted the ball to go instead of waiting for the ball to get there. All those stolen passes are a testament to that. The Wizards' help defenders jumped into the lanes instead of just letting the ball get to where it needed to go.
- It was kind of refreshing to see the Wizards' second unit actually run offense, whereas the Pacers just ran high pick and roll for their guards to get bad shots. George Hill and Leandro Barbosa are both much better players than Shelvin Mack, but neither is best running an offense. There's a reason the Wizards' second unit looked much more organized than the Pacers'.
- Among the other subtle things Nene does: jumping out on a high screen to cut off the ball-handler. Paul George and David West ran a pick and roll that sealed Jordan Crawford off, but Nene expertly cut off the angle and forced George into a step-back jumper that he missed. That's just not how JaVale McGee defends, for better or worse. Given how Randy Wittman has instructed his team to play pick and roll, Nene's approach works so much better.
- Awesome job by Chris Singleton in the first half, filling in the gaps offensively and cutting off Danny Granger defensively. I don't even think Granger got that many touches in the first half, much less shot attempts. I didn't really notice what Singleton did, which is ideal. That's how a guy is supposed to defend a top perimeter threat. (Yes, I know calling Granger that is debatable).
- Good to see Booker become much more decisive when he gets the ball at the top of the key. Shoot, pass or drive, he's too often made his decision too slowly. As long as he plays with Nene, he needs to make his decision right away. He'll be open.
- Jordan Crawford got a little dribble-happy early in the third quarter. He didn't move the ball, and Wittman sat him down.
- So, about Singleton's great defense in the first half? Not so much in that third quarter. The thing about Granger is he's crafty, using pump fakes to create space. If you stay down on him, he'll take tough shots. Instead, Singleton bit on an up and under move for a layup, then closed out poorly on a pump fake from the three-point line and surrendered another layup. These things can't happen if Singleton wants to be an elite perimeter defender.
- We saw a return to the old Singleton in the third quarter. The problem now is that there's really no other good option to use to stop a top perimeter thread, now that Nick Young is in LA.
- Liked seeing Wall take command of the half-court offense for a few plays, even if the jump shots he hit weren't exactly on intricate sets. That's what a point guard has to do when his team is struggling. That said, I'd like to see the Wizards get more creative in how they use Wall. For example, why not have Wall start in the corner and come to the ball via a dribble hand-off with Nene?
- Jan Vesely's fourth quarter got off to a terrible start. First, he got beat to an offensive rebound by Lou Amundson for a three-point play. Then, on his first offensive set, he just floated around out of position, glaring at somebody or another and not being anywhere close to where he should have been. Just trying to explain the early hook.
- For all Nene does well, he isn't great at grabbing rebounds. I referred to him as a better boxer-outer than actual rebounder, and that was on display on one sequence where the Wizards gave up three offensive rebounds. He just doesn't have that second-jump explosion to get tough rebounds in traffic.
- This is where the schedule kills the Wizards. There's just not enough time to incorporate new sets into your playbook this late, especially after a coaching change and a major trade. The Wizards' offense got really stagnant in the fourth quarter, and there just weren't enough new plays to call to mix things up.
- Three big plays by Chris Singleton really saved the Wizards -- the three with the shot clock winding down, the steal and the three-point play with David West taking his shoulder out.
- Nene's post defense on Roy Hibbert left a hell of a lot to be desired. Because of his lack of size, he was reluctant to front Hibbert, and the Pacers did a nice job entering the ball from many different angles, allowing Hibbert to re-port.
- On the go-ahead three by Paul George, the Wizards were way too late sending help to cover Granger. When Granger sunk into the lane, everyone collapsed, when if help had come sooner, players could have stayed at home. That also explains the long rebound and the confusion that allowed George to get a wide open three.
- Yeah, so for all of Nene's strengths, defensive rebounding is going to be an issue. This is the reality when you play him with Booker. This is why I'm so into Thomas Robinson as a prospect. As Nene is floor-bound occupying bodies, Robinson can soar above and grab the ball.
- Those were some awful screens on that game-ending possession. Awful.