Mar 26, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Detroit Pistons point guard Rodney Stuckey (3) dribbles as Washington Wizards shooting guard Jordan Crawford (15) defends during the first half at the Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE
Yup, that one hurt. For the third straight home game, the Washington Wizards blew a big lead and lost a game down the stretch. This time, it wasn't the offense that let them down, though. Instead, it was the defense, which fell short on every key possession, including Rodney Stuckey's buzzer beater that ended things. The Wizards ultimately fell, 79-77.
What was especially frustrating down the stretch is that the Wizards executed the plays. They got big buckets from Nene in the final minute to take the lead. Problem was, there were just so many missed bunnies around the rim. Nene missed two layups down the stretch, one off a great post move and another after Jordan Crawford delivered a great bounce pass. Chris Singleton got a great dish from Nene on a John Wall/Nene pick and roll and blew a dunk. Then, of course, there was the miss by Wall, which came off a great baseline cut and pass from Nene. This wasn't like the past two losses, where the Wizards didn't run good offense late. This time, they ran good offense.
I don't really have much more to say than that. Let's jump to the notes.
- The Pistons got off to a bit of a sluggish start offensively, but the Wizards were doing some nice things on that end. On the Pistons' second possession, Nene did a nice job of bodying Greg Monroe to force a turnover, showing his value as a post defender. On a later possession, John Wall did a really nice job cutting off Brandon Knight's drive to the rim. Those were good things that helped allow the Wizards to hold Detroit at bay early.
- Nice to see the Wizards run a play for John Wall moving without the ball. I need to see the play again, but it looked like Wall did some sort of circle cut to sneak behind Brandon Knight as Jordan Crawford delivered the pass. As long as Wall is going to cede some playmaking to Crawford, I'd like to see more plays like that.
- One bugaboo for the Wizards has been defending the side pick and roll. The Pistons ran one to perfection to confuse Wall and Nene, resulting in a wide open three in the opposite corner for Tayshaun Prince. The side p&r is very tough to defend, especially when the roll man is a skilled passer like Monroe.
- A couple games back, we saw Kevin Seraphin counter his typical right-handed hook shot with a drop step for a score. Tonight, we saw him show another counter: a lefty hook to the baseline. For Seraphin to be a decent post-up threat, he has to have these moves in his arsenal.
- Chris Singleton continues to struggle staying balanced defensively, whether it's off the ball or on the ball. Tayshaun Prince used a series of fakes to free himself pretty easily.
- The one-on-two transition defense Wall showed was pretty spectacular. Instead of hanging back trying to block the first guy, Wall ran to Rodney Stuckey to force him to pass the ball, then ran back to block Knight's layup. He needs to do this more instead of just going for the highlight stuff.
- Nene was overpassing too much early on. You can't expect another big man to catch bounce passes in traffic with that little space between him and the player. Blaming Jan Vesely and Seraphin is easy, but Nene also deserves blame for putting them in a tough spot.
- Wall missed a floater over Ben Wallace that he'll have to eventually put down. He's working on it, but it's not there yet.
- Jan Vesely has to calm down. Roger Mason gave him a nice bounce pass around the basket, and as soon as Ben Wallace recovered to Vesely, he freaked out and shot a laser that barely grazed the other side of the rim. Take your time, gather yourself and go up strong.
- There are two plays you should clip and save from the beginning of the second quarter that demonstrate something I'd like to see the Wizards do more. On both plays, Crawford came off a guard-guard screen on the baseline with Roger Mason, then curled around the screen of another big man to catch the ball on the left side. As that was happening, Vesely ran from the other side to be in position for a ball screen. On the first play, Crawford used the screen, and two passes allowed Shelvin Mack a wide open look for three. On the second play, Crawford held the ball and Brian Cook snuck into the high post. Cook caught the pass and Vesely cut backdoor for the slam. I want to see this set in the first unit with Wall running off the baseline screens, because this will take advantage of his speed. You could use Booker and Nene equally well as the screener and high post cutter.
- The kinds of plays that get Vesely into trouble: when he does a great job recovering to cut off Jonas Jerekbo's drive, but reaches anyway instead of staying straight up, surrendering the three-point play. There's no excuse for those kinds of things. He'd be so much more effective as a defender if he stopped playing with his hands.
- Nice job scouting Stuckey's tendencies. Stuckey picked up three offensive fouls in the second quarter, with three different players picking up the charge. It was as if they knew where Stuckey was going before he did.
- It's good to see Wall cutting more around his post players when he dumps it into them. Now, he just has to cut more with a purpose and be ready to receive the pass. It's a start, though.
- Mental mistakes by the Wizards kept Detroit in the game in the first half. Vesely's three-point play we discussed earlier, Wall and Crawford not stopping ball on a Will Bynum layup, Singleton failing to see a backscreen that freed Tayshaun Prince for a jumper and Singleton having a rebound poked away from him from behind to give the Pistons another possession at the end of the half qualify as mental mistakes.
- I don't know why Wall decided to spin around and go for a block on Bynum's coast-to-coast layup attempt at the end of the half instead of, you know, sliding his feet and cutting Bynum off. He deserved the goaltend call, even if the shot came after the buzzer.
- I LOVED seeing the set the Wizards ran that resulted in a Kevin Seraphin dunk. Wall gave the ball up, sprinted through some baseline screens and caught the ball on the move, where he makes his best decisions. Seraphin came to the ball to set the screen and the Pistons' defense couldn't catch up because they were already reacting to the curl. Wall makes his best decisions while moving, so I don't understand why the Wizards don't do this more often.
- Again, mental mistakes cost the Wizards points in the third quarter. It's the only reason the game wasn't more out of reach. The defense started to give up a bit too much dribble penetration that, luckily, wasn't converted as often as it should have been.
- Too many turnovers and forced shots from Wall in the third quarter. The Wizards are a bit lucky the Pistons were so inept offensively. Overall, I can't complain about the Wizards running more high pick and roll, but Wall has to be more efficient with it. At the very least, there were openings to make plays. It was nice to see the floor spaced for a change.
- I do love how Wall is willing to sacrifice his body and take charges. Invaluable skill.
- Really random, but the Wizards whipped out a Mike D'Antoni staple to end the third quarter. Shelvin Mack caught the ball, pitched it way ahead to Roger Mason on the left wing and took the handoff back as Kevin Seraphin came to set the side pick and roll. Meanwhile, Mason curled off two baseline screens and popped out to the opposite side for a swished jumper and a perfect two-for-one conversion.
- Liked seeing Jan Vesely grab two defensive boards in traffic. He would have fumbled those away in past games. Next step: boxing out.
- Didn't like seeing Shelvin Mack racing to cut off Stuckey on a curl move with 8:28 left when Crawford actually did a nice job training Stuckey through the screen. The overhelping opened up a driving lane and a three-point play for Bynum.
- Mack struggled with Bynum again on a screen and roll, allowing Bynum to get to the cup and opening up a weakside rebound for Ben Wallace. Mack couldn't recover, wasting a nice step-out by Cook.
- Wall was really trying to make things happen, but it just wasn't resulting in much. He has to force contact and not let a couple missed layups early on get him down.
- Nene's first missed layup was inexplicable. His second missed layup was because he's undersized. Pump fake and go back up, man.
- The shots were there for the Wizards in crunch time. They certainly executed. They just couldn't put anything down. Wall and Nene were doing a nice job running the pick and roll, and it resulted in an open Roger Mason three that he hit and a Chris Singleton layup that he missed. Toss in the missed layups by Nene, and that's six points the Wizards should have converted.
- Awesome defense by Nene to get his hands up without fouling to prevent Rodney Stuckey from hitting his second straight floater. Great, great help.
- Jordan Crawford overhelped on the go-ahead three-pointer. Prince was going middle for a hook shot and Crawford drifted off Stuckey without really double-teaming. That's a no-no, and Prince is a good enough passer to make the easy delivery.
- Nice, subtle play by Wall to fake the drive to the middle to open up the passing lane for the post delivery to Nene. From there, Nene just went to work, and I can't understand for the life of me why the Pistons didn't double.
- The Wizards got an unlucky break on the tip-in, but Singleton has to do more to force Prince away from his left hand. No reason Prince should have gotten that deep when he caught the ball well out on the wing.
- A great pass from Nene to Wall is not converted. Story of the final few minutes.
- Nice move by Nene. Not much more to say.
- Why was nobody running at Stuckey to help Crawford? Instead of letting him get a full head of steam, why not throw in a soft trap? Poor late-game execution there.