This was not the way the Wizards wanted to open the regular season. Their preseason struggles translated over to tonight, as they consistently gave up uncontested shots at the rim to the Detroit Pistons and failed to keep defenders off the boards. They rallied after getting into a double-digit hole, but in the end, they couldn't get the necessary stops to complete their comeback and fell, 113-102.
It didn't help that both John Wall and Bradley Beal couldn't get it going offensively, and both need to play much, much better going forward. But it was a complete failure on the defensive end to get stops and get out on the break that mainly caused this loss. The Pistons asserted their dominance in the paint, led by Greg Monroe's 24 points and 16 rebounds.
No one thought this was going to be easy. The Wizards opened up the season on the road against a very talented front line in Josh Smith, Monroe, and Andre Drummond. After an even start, Detroit pulled away in the second quarter by dominating the boards and feasting on easy buckets in transition. The Wizards had no answer for Greg Monroe and Josh Smith in particular, as they continued to pick apart a scrambling defense that for the most part looked clueless with their rotations. For a team that contained the pick and roll so well last year with crisp rotations, they inexplicably struggled to do so tonight.
The Wizards remained in the game thanks to some hot shooting from Trevor Ariza, who connected on five threes in the first half, and they scratched and clawed their way back in the second half. But the rally officially ended thanks to an untimely Chauncey Billups three, followed by a charge on John Wall. The Pistons built their lead back up to double digits and didn't look back.
Here's my game notes, in chronological order:
- Wall started off the game missing his first three shots, and it's not hard to see why. He took a standstill jumper with 18 seconds left on the shot clock and followed it up with a corner three. He has to let his shots come organically within the offense, which means stepping into his shots and getting into the lane for layups.
- It's easy to just blame the lack of an interior defender for the teams' early struggles, but they continued to crash the glass rather than getting back on defense, leading to a lot of easy Pistons buckets.
- Detroit kept helping one pass away on those Ariza threes, and the Wizards took full advantage of it. The ball movement was excellent to start.
- Wizards' bigs continued to trap these pick and rolls, and they gave up a lot of easy Pistons shots as a result. They were a lot more disciplined with this last season, but they are really struggled to properly rotate to the ball.
- Detroit outscored the Wizards 32-4 in the paint during the midway point of the second, and it's not even halftime yet.
- Wizards have not been able to get in the lane with the paint packed the way it is. Just eight free throws attempted by the middle of the third quarter. Wall has been forced to settle for a lot of ill-advised jumpers. I would have liked to see the Wizards run more misdirection or side pick and rolls to get the defense scrambling, but it's hard to implement all this in the first game of the season.
- It looks like Bradley Beal doesn't fully believe in his floor game. It seems like any time he struggles from the perimeter, he settles for those very shots rather than getting into the lane. All a part of the maturation process.
- You just can't have Gortat trapping that far out on the perimeter defensively. It's just one game, sure, but given the personnel, I think the Wizards should look to change their philosophy and have their bigs sag into the paint on those pick and rolls. They got beat way too often, and you don't have Emeka Okafor there to protect the rim.
- The perimeter defense was been problematic all night. Will Bynum got into the lane at will, causing players like Nene and Gortat to step over to help, leaving those athletic Pistons big open along the baseline. As the last line of defense, you should expect your bigs to make stops, but not on each trip down the floor.