For the first time since the Nene trade, the Washington Wizards suffered a truly bad loss. This one was ugly, with the Wizards falling, 112-98, to the Milwaukee Bucks at the Verizon Center. It was a game many players would like to forget, including John Wall, who got frustrated by the officiating and missed tons of shots around the basket in yet another underwhelming effort from him.
I have two major takeaways from this one. First, the Wizards lost because they were caught helping out too much on pick and rolls, allowing the Bucks to get open players cutting to the basket for layups and offensive rebounds. The second relates to the first: too much fouling. Lots of people will complain about the free-throw disparity, but the reality is that the Wizards were caught reaching because their defensive rotations were too slow. On the other end, the Wizards tried too many mad dashes to the rim, and when they were bumped a bit off their path (a judgment call but often not a foul), they had trouble finishing. It's easier for a team to defend these kind of plays without fouling, so while there may have been a couple times where a foul could have been called, there are reasons for the free-throw disparity that have nothing to do with incompetent officiating.
You can bet coach Randy Wittman will stress ball movement in the coming days. The Wizards need more of it if they want a chance to win more of these games.
More notes below the jump. For discussion of tonight's Kentucky-Kansas game, click here.
- The Wizards got a couple fast-break hoops off turnovers, but the play I liked most in the first three minutes was when John Wall found Kevin Seraphin for a dunk on a pick and roll. The play came on a secondary break off a missed jumper by the Wizards, and it's the kind of thing Wall needs to do more. Take advantage of the defense's confusion and have confidence that your big men can read the situation.
- Jan Vesely shooting a jump shot was surprising. Jan Vesely admiring his shot and not getting back to defend Drew Gooden running behind him was disappointing
- The Wizards need to remember that Drew Gooden slips pretty much every screen. The man guarding Gooden on pick and rolls (mostly Kevin Seraphin I believe) has defended him as if he will set a solid screen instead of fading into open space. They overplayed to contain Brandon Jennings and opened up space for Gooden, which led to open shots for the Bucks' guards. The Wizards' bigs have to do a better job staying with Gooden instead.
- Wall's second foul was really unfortunate. For one, it was a terrible call, as he bounced off the side of the help defender, not the chest. A blocking call was obvious. For another, it forced Shelvin Mack into the game, and Mack just isn't ready to do the job against first-line guys. He struggled handling the ball, committed a poor turnover in transition slamming into Monta Ellis and couldn't gather himself to finish after taking a handoff from Kevin Seraphin. Not a good stint for Mack, who needs to be stronger with the ball and more aggressive in getting his shoulders ahead of his defender on drives.
- Chris Singleton has to always be ready to shoot open three-pointers. Jordan Crawford hit him with an outstanding pass and he missed badly because he lost concentration. It often feels like he tunes out of possessions when the ball is on the weakside, which is bad because that's exactly when he's needed to tune in the most.
- The loss of Wall eliminated the Wizards' best threat on the floor. No matter how poorly Wall is shooting, defenses have to at least pay attention to him. Nobody on the Bucks' defense has to be worried about Mack, Singleton or Vesely. Unless Roger Mason is shooting three-pointers, they don't need to worry much about him either.
- Still not entirely sure what Singleton was doing at the end of the first quarter.
- Given the confusion that results with all the different tendencies of the Bucks' big men, I thought Jan Vesely did a pretty good job, all things considering, of staying with the Bucks' bigs on defense. Singleton, however, didn't do a very good job at power forward. Guess it's still better than Brian Cook.
- Poor transition defense really victimized the Wizards a couple times. Need to watch the tape to view the culprits, but the shooter shouldn't be the only guy dropping back.
- I noted two critical mental mistakes in the second quarter. One was Vesely pinning Ilyasova on a rebound, but not jumping to secure the ball and allowing an offensive rebound putback. The other was whoever was guarding Mike Dunleavy (I believe it was Crawford) sinking down to be the third guy to contest an Ekpe Udoh hook shot, leaving Mike Dunleavy wide open for three in the corner. Guards have to understand that they aren't doing anything to affect the big man's shot, so better to stay on your man.
- Wall got hammered a couple of times with no call, but I think one reason he lacks explosion going up is his center of gravity is too high. He has to bend his knees and then go up, and sometimes, he rushes and goes up kind of weakly. He needs to be lower than he is so he can bounce up and power through contact.
- All things considered, being down eight at halftime isn't so bad. The biggest thing is second-chance points -- too many offensive rebounds surrendered due to dribble penetration and poor boxing out.
- Lots of people are complaining that Wall didn't get calls in the first half. Maybe he didn't, but it exposes a secondary issue: Wall is too slight to power through contact. The reason Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook are such terrors is that defenders bounce off them as they drive the lane. Wall needs to develop better upper- and lower-body strength so Jennings bumping him as he surges by doesn't throw off his path so badly.
- Crawford broke the offense a couple times to take bad shots and left to attack the basket too soon before his big man was set with the pick. Basically, nothing new.
- If Wall is going to slash to the basket, he probably should jump stop and power up off two feet more than he does. I'm not sure he's a strong enough one-foot jumper to finish in the trees while staying balanced.
- Brian Cook is not shy. This is annoying.
- Way too much breaking of the offense midway through that third quarter. At least Wall was attacking the basket. Crawford hit two horrendous three-point shots, and you have to worry once he hits those.
- The 1/3 botched pick and roll that Crawford and Cartier Martin ran is a perfect example of lack of familiarity. Crawford hasn't had to initiate offense in forever, and Martin hasn't been with the team for very long. Wittman was really upset at the poor execution of the play, but that's often what happens when you ask players to go out of their role.
- Kind of amazed that Cook actually did some helpful things at the end of that third quarter. He drove and dished to Vesely for a layup and played pretty good pick and roll defense to disrupt Milwaukee's end-of-quarter play.
- The easiest way to clear things up offensively is to get the ball inside, and I think that's why Kevin Seraphin's hook shot was especially important. It was a nice, simple possession with a simple finish, and it helped encourage everyone to make simple plays on both ends on the ensuing possessions. On one play, the defense on Monta Ellis by Roger Mason forced a pass, and a good contest by Vesely forced a miss. That's good collective work. Also liked the way Mason ran a pick and roll on the secondary break to get a layup for Vesely off nice passing.
- ... And then you get defensive breakdowns on the next three possessions, all resulting from the same poor pick and roll coverage that had been good the previous few possessions. Not good.
- Nice job by Wall to probe the defense on the break, keep control of the ball and stay low until he found Mason for an open three to stop Milwaukee's run.
- Poor job by Wall to close out hard on Shaun Livingston when Livingston wasn't going to shoot a three. KYP.
- Story of the game: Udoh tries to make a strong move in the post on Seraphin, but Seraphin has him pretty well covered. Nevertheless, Vesely comes to help and block the shot, leaving Ilyasova all by himself under the basket to tip in the miss. Too much overhelping.