So much for carrying over momentum from a victory over Cleveland. Once again, the Wizards proved they couldn't handle success, laying an egg at home against the Golden State Warriors, 120-100. It was a dreadful effort, one that featured a 41-point first quarter and endless easy shots for the Warriors.
There are some serious problems with this team's pick and roll defense, to the point where identifying one man as a weak link falls short. The guards do too poor a job fighting over the pick and recovering to their man. The initial big man defender isn't cutting off the guard, instead giving just a token effort to do their part. Then, once the guard gets into the lane, they beat the big man because the big man is too slow to be in proper position. If the guard doesn't get to the rim, the weakside defenders leave their shooters too easily, leading to open shots. If they miss, everyone has good offensive rebounding position because nobody rotates back.
It's worth wondering if there are larger issues at play. Can this staff teach proper pick and roll principles? Is a larger scheme change needed where the players trap or go under screens? These are worth asking, because the problem was universal. Multiple Warriors guards beat the Wizards' coverages, and multiple Wizards messed up.
More notes below the jump.
- Two rushed shots from Jordan Crawford early, both of which glanced way short. The second one was especially infuriating, with him stuttering instead of driving to the basket on a fast break, pulling back, then launching a 20-footer with no rebounders with a hand in his grill.
- JaVale McGee was active early defensively, challenging Warriors players at the basket and altering lots of shots. That changed later on, but early on, he at least did his job. The Wizards' perimeter defense, on the other hand, left a lot to be desired. Honestly, they really need to mix up their pick and roll coverages. It serves John Wall no purpose to always ask him to fight through the screens and have the big man hedge and recover when they can't do it well. Either show a hard trap or go under every so often. As it stands, Wall's just too slight to go over the pick. He can use his length to recover and put a hand in a player's face if he can stay balanced.
- Trevor Booker's pick and roll defense left a lot to be desired early on. We saw a lot of what I call the "Antawn Special," where he'd give a token effort to cut off a ball-handler trying to turn the corner, but fail miserably and be way out of position. Booker brings a lot of toughness, but there have been a lot of instances when he's been out of position defending pick and roll this year.
- Too much trying unsuccessfully to fight over the ball screen by the Wizards' guards. I'm honestly not sure if hedging and recovering as a default strategy works for this team. The big men aren't mobile enough and the weakside defenders don't cheat into the middle enough to stop dribble penetration. Even someone like Jan Vesely struggled in this game. Pick and roll defense is one of those skills that doesn't really get enough play. Stopping pick and roll is a team effort, but having a mobile big man to do it really helps.
- I don't care how valuable someone is as a hustle player -- you have to be able to catch and finish around the rim. Vesely can't. All those missed layups, those fouls that should have been AND-1s, it's infuriating.
- Nick Young didn't have his legs early on, and the problem with Young not having his legs is he still plays the same way as he normally would because he doesn't know what else to do.
- The Warriors beating the Wizards in transition is a direct result of a lack of discipline. Transition is the hardest part of the game to carry your concepts into action, and yet, the Wizards kept letting wing players sneak too early to their spots instead of forcing the ball-handler to give it up in a tough spot.
- More terrible pick and roll defense stemming from the hedge-and-recover strategy. The big man should be beating the guard to the spot, but thanks to the strategy and poor execution, he's instead coming late. The play where Booker was beat on a side pick and roll to the left baseline, leaving Klay Thompson wide open for a corner three on the other side, was especially bad. That's the easiest play to trap.
- You have to give Wall credit: he willed a bit of a comeback with his activity. It's nice to see that. He's capable of putting together such stretches to get his team back into games. The next step is to cut out some of the bad habits that hurt him before he starts to flip that switch.
- I liked seeing Wall duck under a ball screen involving Ellis midway through that second quarter. You have to just let Ellis beat you shooting jumpers. If he does, you tip your cap to him. There needs to be more of that.
- I'm still not really sure what Vesely is. Normally, this isn't a huge issue in the NBA, but the difference between a wing and a big is significant. I think the Wizards hope he can be that kind of mobile big man that can cut off pick and rolls, but they're also using him as a backup center. The problem here: he can't rebound, and you lose his best attribute by having him patrol the backline. More importantly, none of this matters if he can't make a layup.
- I liked the set the Wizards ran right after halftime. Wall handed off to Crawford and immediately ran off two baseline screens to curl out to the left side. As he caught the ball, McGee ran to set a ball screen and Booker snuck out to the three-point line as McGee dove in for a post-up. McGee missed the layup, but it got him deep post position and a nice look. Wall on the move in general is definitely the way to go -- the Cavaliers do this a lot with Kyrie Irving, for example.
- For the 500th time, let's try going under ball screens involving Ellis.
- The Wizards cannot play at all against a zone. It's like the wheels are turning extra slow in their head. Take the Chris Singleton turnover, for example. He paused a split second before dribbling to the right, stopped, paused another second, then threw the ball without really looking to see who was there.
- Ellis was hitting his jumpers in that third quarter. Not a ton the Wizards could do.
- You simply have to make the easy ones. As much as I appreciate the rim defense Ekpe Udoh provides contesting shots, he's still Ekpe Udoh. The Wizards' big men couldn't finish anything around the basket, and that includes McGee, Andray Blatche and Jan Vesely. Finishing around the basket isn't easy -- there's a lot of skill involved to do it right, know when to power through contract and concentrate. Those misses become especially damaging when the Warriors are hitting 40-footers at the end of the third quarter.
- Andray Blatche is trying out there. He just doesn't have it. It's a firm reminder that the issue with Blatche isn't what happens within the 48 minutes of a game as much as it's everything that happens outside of it. If he was in better shape, he could drive by David Lee and not get beat on a loose-ball rebound by Nate Robinson.
- Crawford simply didn't have it today, taking bad shots and missing them. Young had it at some points, but he too took some really bad shots out of the flow of the offense. That position badly needs an upgrade. Those two players are the same guy, and they killed the Wizards offensively in this game. You can live with one guy who can shoot you in and out of games depending on if they're hot. You can't live with two without any other options.
- And, I'm done.