Another game, another blowout home loss at home for the Washington Wizards. This time, the Indiana Pacers did the deed, submitting a much finer performance than their last trip to Verizon Center in winning, 109-96. The game officially got out of hand in the third quarter, but the signs were there the entire game. The Wizards kept hitting tough shots, while the Pacers kept getting whatever they wanted offensively. Eventually, those tough shots stopped falling and the Pacers kept getting whatever they wanted offensively.
That makes it two straight home blowouts for the Wizards after showing some signs of progress. What's changed? The losses of Nene and Trevor Booker to injury are huge, for one. The Wizards are not a deep team as is, and taking away their second- and third-best players will lead to lots of problems, especially defensively and on the glass. I don't want to downplay the impact of those injuries.
That said, John Wall submitted yet another subpar performance in the loss. His play in this one was especially curious. Early on, he didn't even look to shoot, passing out of several easy opportunities and shirking responsibility to make plays when things broke down. Then, in the third quarter, he decided to flip the switch and attack all the time, with mixed results. When he didn't have the ball, he didn't make much of an impact. There weren't any instinctive cuts into open space when his man turned his head, which happened a lot. There were also not one, but two 360 layups that missed, the same play that Randy Wittman yelled at Nick Young for doing during a press conference.
There are plenty of factors explaining Wall's recent struggles that don't have to do with Wall, but none of them explain how he shifted aggression so strangely. For the Wizards' sake, Wall needs to find himself, even if the games aren't really important for anything right now.
- Things I liked on the Washington Wizards' first possession: the way Kevin Seraphin bodied Roy Hibbert and forced him to catch the ball outside the block. Things I didn't like: John Wall turning his head and letting Darren Collison sneak behind him for a layup.
- Chris Singleton let Danny Granger beat him to a spot two times too many early on. Singleton has to understand that the best defenders don't wait for the offensive player to make his move and follow them; they dictate where the offensive player goes.
- Two weak finishes by Kevin Seraphin and Jan Vesely early on. Actually, in Jan's case, it was a non-finish -- a pass instead of a shot. I'd rather see them pick up offensive fouls challenging the defense than putting up weak stuff.
- The Pacers' pick and roll defense on Wall was pretty impressive. For one, Roy Hibbert did a really good job jumping out to divert Wall's path back to half court. Given his size and supposed lack of mobility, that was really impressive work by him. But Indiana also sunk the weakside defender into the lane to prevent Wall from turning the corner. In two cases, that was Granger, who was guarding Singleton. When you don't have shooters who can make the defense pay for this strategy, you get turnovers.
- Good to see Vesely hit the baseline jumper. He kind of needs to hit that shot to have value. Keep shooting.
- I liked seeing Jordan Crawford pitch it ahead to Wall instead of going by himself, but Wall's 360 layup was not necessary. It was good defense by Hibbert, but still, c'mon. Randy Wittman was not happy with that shot attempt on the sidelines.
- The Pacers paid absolutely no respect to Wall or Singleton. On one play, Crawford held the ball at the top of the key and Collison moved to the elbow to cut off a drive. This is where Wall needs to cut through to at least force the defense to honor him. Instead, he stood there as Crawford took a wild three that went in. That has to change.
- The Wizards are lucky Crawford was making shots, because that was their only offense. Normally, I blame Crawford for ball-stopping. Tonight, I blame Wall and Singleton for allowing the Pacers to zone up on them and clog all driving and passing lanes. They have to cut to force the defense to honor them. They didn't.
- The Pacers are a winning team because they make winning plays. For example: Tyler Hansbrough set a vicious backscreen on Crawford to free up a crosscourt pass from Granger to Leandro Barbosa for a wide-open three. The Wizards don't have any players willing and able to make that play. Vesely has the mindset, but doesn't have the basic understanding of the NBA game.
- The Wizards' second unit did a nice job of getting early offense. My favorite play was when Roger Mason and Vesely ran what Mike Fratello likes to call a "random" pick and roll, because it's unscripted and it's on the secondary break. The Pacers' zone help defense wasn't set and Vesely got a dunk. The Pacers' half-court defense is really strong, so getting offense in transition is important. There are ways to do it without crashing head-first into a defender.
- There was much more motion and flow in the Wizards' second-unit offense. Part of that is because they defended better, which allowed them to get into their offensive sets more and create confusion for Indiana, but part of it is because the players were moving and setting screens off the ball. Flow is created by the guys who don't have the ball, not the guy who does have it. Hopefully the first unit took notes.
- Impressive stuff from Brian Cook. Wow, shocked I typed that. Nice job with helping out on defense and crashing the offensive glass.
- Kevin Seraphin had two really good post moves on Roy Hibbert, both of which involved him going right into his body to negate the advantage in length. On the second one, he faked the right-handed hook and stepped into Hibbert on the up and under instead of around him. That's key. It prevented Hibbert from getting leverage. Really nice stuff.
- The biggest reason the Wizards rallied in the second quarter was that they played better defense. The offense was nice, but stuff like Cook defending David West and Seraphin baiting Hibbert into his third foul made more of an impact.
- John Wall passed up two makeable shot attempts to make fancy passes back on one fast break. I'm not sure what's wrong with him. That's when he has to be aggressive. Wittman said before the game that Wall has, by and large, taken shots that were there, which he likes. Why the hesitation tonight?
- The Pacers sunk five guys with a foot in the paint when Wall drives, and nobody has the ability to space the floor and make Indiana pay for the decision. Sometimes, it's not really Wall's fault.
- The Wizards still have way too many possession where they don't know what they're doing and everyone just stands around. That's on the point guard to quickly bark out a new play, but either way, I'd rather everyone run into each other trying to make a cut to the rim than have everyone stand.
- Horrendous decision by Wall to pass the ball ahead to Crawford on a two on one break instead of drive at Paul George and force him to make a decision before giving up the ball. It's almost as if Wall doesn't want the responsibility of being the primary playmaker.
- The Pacers don't have top-level talent, but they're extremely well-coached. What I like about them is that they have a really good sense of when to ad-lib within a play to get an open look. For example, Paul George sliding ever-so-slightly to the top of the key as West went right in the post. West saw the action and pitched it back to George for a wide-open three.
- Wall got a bit more aggressive later in the third quarter, which is good. He was visibly frustrated by not getting calls, and I understand his frustration. He got raked across the arm on one foray to the rim.
- Smart guards understand how to probe the defense for opportunities on the break, then pull it out when nothing's there. Crawford pulls up from the free-throw line with three Pacers in his airspace and tries shooting.
- The biggest difference between the Wizards' and Pacers' defense is that Indiana has a wing defender plugging the middle. The Wizards don't. Why? The Pacers have a weakside shooter the Wizards are scared to leave, and the Wizards don't.
- Darren Collison kind of went off in that third quarter, and it's because he has so many jerks in his motion that it can get you off-balanced. At the end of the day, he really isn't that quick or speedy. Just keep your eye on the ball and not the rest of the body.
- The Wizards' bigs don't box out. That's why they keep getting beat on the offensive glass. Simple, yet easy to identify. I miss Nene.
- I'm still laughing about Brian Cook's coast-to-coast play.
- I've got nothing. Another game, another blowout.