This is supposed to be a playoff team. Playoff teams win games they should win and make the other team play their preferred style. Playoff teams do things that don't result in steals, stats or easy things because they know their sacrifice is necessary to win. Playoff teams take care of the ball because playoff teams have practiced their sets, stay calm and treat games like battle plans that must be carried out as planned come hell or high water. Playoff teams do the grunt work. Playoff teams grind.
Playoff teams don't do what the Washington Wizards did tonight. Playoff teams sure as hell don't let the Philadelphia 76ers walk into their arena and come away with a 109-102 win. If this is truly a year of no excuses, heads need to turn after this one.
Even when the Wizards raced out to a 10-point halftime lead, I was concerned. The 76ers, who lack talent and know it, were trying to scramble the game, running at every opportunity and firing up threes because these plays increase variance. The Wizards were prospering, but they were playing Philly's game. The 76ers got too many fast-break points and caused too many turnovers for me to feel comfortable.
But rather than fixing their errors, the Wizards continued to be seduced by the 76ers' junk in the second half. They tried too hard to make highlight plays on both ends of the floor. They went for steals instead of playing solid defense. They crashed the offensive glass hoping to come flying in and get the crowd pumped instead of dropping back and making sure the 76ers couldn't get easy buckets on them. And eventually, once the shots stopped falling, it caught up to them.
Simply unacceptable. To the notes:
- Those first two John Wall threes were dubious, but once he knocked those down, he seemed to step into his jumpers well. I liked his two dribble pull-ups because he had great balance and took them confidently instead of reluctantly. He, as always, was great in transition.
- The pick and roll defense was pretty bad early. I still don't get why the Wizards are asking their big men to step up high and cause scramble situations, but it's not really their fault. The guards -- Bradley Beal and Eric Maynor in particular -- did an awful job of fighting through screens. Basic, fundamental breakdowns.
- The Beal we saw is the Beal we saw early last season, appearing overwhelmed by tight coverages on the pick and roll. The 76ers weren't letting him rise up for clean looks, and he's not sure how to deal with that. He forced way too many bad looks in this one.
- The second unit did things that concerned me in the second quarter. Bad floor balance continues to be an issue, and the timing of the offense is all off. Some lowlights: Eric Maynor launching himself into a double team instead of making an easy pass to a shooter at the end of the shot clock, and Al Harrington trying to get Ariza cutting backdoor, but mistiming the pass.
- Trevor Booker really needs to stop going for so many offensive rebounds. It kills me when a Wizards player shoots from the corner and he still goes for the offensive board. All that means is that Philly gets an odd-man break when they get the defensive board. New rule: only two players can crash max, and only one if the shot is from the corner.
- The 76ers really scramble the game. It's guerrilla warfare. They know they stink and they are trying to speed it all up. As great as Wall played offensively in the first half, I think it would have served the Wizards better if he controlled the pace and was more refined instead of just running.
- I really like how Marcin Gortat's played. Two things I really enjoyed: his eluding of a point guard in a pick and roll to get a layup (most centers would not have been able to do that) and a subtle thing he did on a play the Wizards didn't score. The Wizards ran their spread set and Gortat started by screening Wall on his right, but subtly switched sides without getting a moving screen. Wall got tons of separation and got to the rim, though he missed the layup. He was also much better defensively than he was in Detroit.
- In general, the Wizards took the easy way out on too many off-ball screens, trying to switch or cheat. That's not a good long-term strategy.
- The 76ers kept seducing the Wizards into bad, quick shots. Beal's 17-foot corner pull-up on the break was not a good shot. Wall's stepback three was an even worse shot. And the 76ers ran way too easily, with the Wizards committing fundamental floor balance breakdowns. How does Evan Turner sneak behind Martell Webster for a layup? Why are three players crashing the offensive glass on a shot from the corner? These are basic mistakes.
- Webster did a great job at the beginning of the fourth quarter in staying in front of drivers and fighting through screens in the Wizards' coverages. He really boxed in ball-handlers there. Wish more of the Wizards would play this solidly on that end. Martell was the only one.
- Play of the game, to me: the Wizards force Young into a wild shot, so that's good. Problem is that while three Wizards are near the ball, Turner snuck in to the left side, grabbed a tough rebound, and then everyone else on the Wizards recoiled as Turner laid the ball in. Pardon the cliche, but Turner just wanted that rebound more. That's unacceptable.
- Once things got tight, Wall stopped trusting his teammates and made mad dashes to the rim. It worked sometimes, but it's a sign of on-court immaturity.
More from Bullets Forever:
- Wizards vs. 76ers final score: Washington drops opener in disappointing fashion
- Wizards, 76ers deflect importance of matchups before Friday's game
- Wizards vs. 76ers: Washington falls to lowly 76ers in home opener
- Wizards vs. 76ers preview: Basketball in the capital, oh how we missed you
- Wizards Wrap: A bright future in John Wall and Bradley Beal