Talk about running hot and cold.
The Washington Wizards looked horrible in the first half of their preseason game against the Detroit Pistons, falling behind 65-43 at halftime and playing some of the team's most porous defense in recent memory. The second half of the game was almost the complete opposite, though, as John Wall, Bradley Beal and Nene led a third quarter charge that got Washington back into things. Despite the closeness of the game, Randy Wittman chose to sit his starters late rather than play them extra minutes in an attempt to win what is technically a meaningless game. The Wizards' bench closed the gap even further, but it wasn't enough, as the Wizards fell, 99-96.
While it's unfortunate that the bench was unable to close the game out, they were playing against Detroit's starters, so you can live with it. What's more troubling, though, is that they looked completely lost without Wall to set them up and didn't defend well enough to prevent the Pistons from running up the score in the second quarter. Wall also struggled, especially in half-court sets, and finished with only 11 points and two assists in 27 minutes. While his numbers were bad, the team was noticeably better with him on the court, so he was still able to contribute despite the bad game.
Here are some notes from the game.
- The first quarter saw both the best and the worst of Trevor Ariza. He took a bad shot off the dribble, gave up a wide open three pointer and a wide open layup to Kyle Singler, and had a couple of steals and a bucket in transition. Ariza's been in the league for a while. He should know better than to play down to his competition like this.
- The problem with starting Trevor Booker is that the big men he winds up guarding are more often than not more skilled than the bench guys he's used to playing against. Booker's not a dumb defender, but skilled 6'10 guys can shoot over him very easily, as Greg Monroe did a few times in the first quarter.
- Washington gave up way too many open baskets early on. Replacing a plus defender like Emeka Okafor with a liability like Booker or Jan Vesely has a lot to do with this. This team needs to field a top-10 defense if it's going to make the playoffs, and I'm starting to question whether or not that's going to happen without Okafor around.
- Tony Mitchell looked really good for the Pistons tonight. He's not going to play much due to his lack of a jumper but he could blow up if he gets an opportunity, either in Detroit or for another team.
- Detroit basically blew the game open late in the first quarter and early in the second. Washington's bench looked awful with Wall not around to create open looks for everyone. Most of the offense for the second unit was run through Kevin Seraphin in the post. He's gotten better as a passer, but this is still someone who should never be anything more than a third option, even when he's playing with the bench.
- Vesely continued to focus on rebounding and not fouling and did OK there. He stunk at everything else, though, with the low point probably coming when Drummond swatted what should have been an open dunk out of bounds.
- The second half was all Washington. Wall and Beal got going and the defense tightened up, preventing Detroit from getting quite as many open threes and dunks. Nene and Wall stabilized things by preventing Detroit from getting threes and dunks off of penetration. Beal hit a ton of jumpers but some of this could be a result of Billups being unable to chase him around the court. Washington was down by a lot, maybe 20 points at one point, but a 17-2 Wizards run got them to within two, 81-79, at the 8:20 mark in the fourth quarter.
More from Bullets Forever:
- Wizards vs Pistons preview: Can Andre Drummond be contained?
- Fact-checking Bradley Beal's St. Louis hat allegiance
- Sounds like Trevor Ariza really is the Wizards' starting small forward
- Wizards vs Pelicans recap: Washington blows late lead, falls 93-89
- Wizards vs. Pelicans game time, TV schedule and open thread