If you just looked at the 83-81 final score of the Washington Wizards' preseason loss Saturday to the Chicago Bulls in Rio, you'd probably be under the false impression that Washington played a decent, defensive game and came up just short at the end.
But you'd be wrong. First of all, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah did not play. Second of all, the Wizards spent the bulk of this game down by double digits. It wasn't until the Bulls went into the tank offensively in the fourth quarter that the Wiz pulled back into the game, led largely by Glen Rice Jr., who had eight points in the quarter but in the final minute missed a wide open three and had a floater blocked.
The Wizards came out of the gate sluggish and sloppy, committing eight first quarter turnovers. John Wall looked disinterested, committing four turnovers himself. Wall ended the game with three points on 1-for-9 shooting, six rebounds, five assists, and a -19 plus-minus, so maybe it's a good thing Rose didn't play. Nene was nondescript in his homecoming to Brazil, recording five points and six rebounds in 20 minutes of playing time.
The Wizards settled for far too many long two-point jumpers in the first half, though some of that was due to Chicago's typically-strong defense. Washington had a tough time even getting into its offense, leading to a Wizard often dribbling in place 18-feet from the basket with the shot clock winding down. This is when Trevor Ariza likes to force the issue and jack up ill-advised shots. The team's starters not named Bradley Beal shot 0-17 in the first half, so really, the Wizards were lucky to enter halftime down only 44-35.
The Wizards looked much better offensively in the third quarter, but they made up for it with some horrific defense. Both team's trading mini-runs, with the Bulls scoring 29 in the quarter and the Wizards tallying 27. One thing that was obvious was how much better the ball moved with Eric Maynor and Martell Webster in the game instead of Wall and Ariza. A couple quick threes at the beginning of the second half made Ariza's final line of nine points look better, but otherwise he had another game that makes you wonder why he's starting over Webster, who finished with 15 points on 4-of-8 shooting, and 3-for-6 from three (including a couple of his patented four-point plays, though he missed the free throw on one of them).
The wheels fell off for Chicago in the fourth quarter, and the Wizards went on a crazy run three minutes into the quarter that featured a Vesely hook shot (!!) and an offensive putback by Seraphin (!!!), pulling them to within one point with 7:36 to play. But then Seraphin committed two silly turnovers in the most #SoWizards way possible.
Rice tried to save the day, knocking down a floating jumper and a three to give the Wizards their first lead at 79-77, but the team followed with four misses and four turnovers. The Bulls, however, weren't able to fully take advantage, and after a pair of Seraphin free throws, the Wizards were somehow only down one with 1:30 to play.
But alas, it wasn't to be. Rice had the aforementioned nice pump fake, but missed a wide open three, and later had the same floating jumper he'd made earlier in the quarter blocked by Taj Gibson, who led the Bulls with 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting, eight rebounds and four blocks. Related: When Taj Gibson shoots 7-for-9 against you, and most of those makes are jumpers, it's probably not your night.
Still, the Wizards had a shot at the end, but Maynor's three at the buzzer clanged off the rim, securing a loss the Wiz definitely deserved.
As much as the bench was the problem in the first preseason game against the Nets, the opposite was true this game, with Webster, Rice and Maynor (eight points, eight assists, +17 plus/minus) supporting a solid effort from Beal, who finished with 16 points on 6-for-14 shooting, including 2-for-3 from three.
Shoot, even Kevin Seraphin had a decent line with 10 points and six boards, though he had a handful of boneheaded plays per usual. Jan Vesely looked much the same as he did against the Nets, recording nine rebounds but only two points on 1-for-5 shooting. The power forward spot remains an issue.
Here's some more game notes:
- Vesely had a nice dribble drive to the hoop early in the first quarter, but couldn't convert the layup, eliciting simultaneous groans from across the DMV.
- Beal was the only one with any offense going early on, scoring the team's first seven points on a three, two free throws and a baseline jumper.
- It took Wall five minutes to record three turnovers, and overall the Wizards played pretty sloppy offense early on.
- Ariza isn't afraid to force the issue offensively, but he should be. Bad things happen when he tries to create. He missed a turnaround jumper badly, and then traveled trying to pivot around a defender.
- Webster, on the other hand, can jack up fadeaways all day long. A missed free throw a minute into the second quarter kept him from recording his second of what will undoubtedly be a billion four-point plays this season.
- The Wizards tied it up at 23-23 early in the second quarter with a great bounce pass between two defenders from Trevor Booker to Seraphin, who used his elbow to create space and finished with a two-handed stuff.
- Fifteen minutes in, Gibson is leading the Bulls offensively...with jumpers. I don't understand things.
- Rice made a nice floater midway through the second quarter, prompting one of the Bulls' announcers to say, "I think that is Glen Rice's son." #analysis
- The Wizards got back into the game with Eric Maynor in at point guard. PG CONTROVERY!! #notreally
- Sigh, Rice found Vesely wide open for an easy dunk, but AirWolf felt the need to pump fake, letting Gibson get into position and force a badly-missed layup.
- Good lord, the fans in Brazil are booing Nene at the free throw line...
- Wall just doesn't look into the game. Maybe he's down that Rose isn't out there?
- And just like that, the Wiz begin the second half with a Wall outlet pass and Ariza fastbreak dunk, and a couple jumpers from Nene and Beal, but follow it up with bad defense on the other end.
- Back-to-back Ariza treys pulled the Wizards to within 52-47, but Chicago scored a quick six points to push the lead back into double digits.
- Maynor looks to have a pretty tear-drop bank shot that could be a nice offensive weapon.
- The ball moved much better in the second half with Maynor and Webster in the game. More quick passes, less dribbling in place.
- The third quarter ended with Gibson tipping in a Bulls miss while surrounded by four Wizards. Yuck.
- Rice is a natural scorer and is going to make it hard for Wittman to keep him on the bench, particularly if the reserves keep having trouble scoring. But Rice also had his first "Welcome to the NBA, rook" moment when Gibson blocked his floater.