Stop me if you heard this before, but the Wizards' starters had to dig themselves out of a hole after their bench relinquished yet another lead. It was all downhill from the moment Randy Wittman had to look to his bench in the second quarter, and thanks to a scoring drought, the Mavs built up a double-digit lead and never looked back in their 105-95 win over the Wizards.
The bench mob plagued the Wizards again late in the third quarter after the starters climbed their way back into the contest, and an 8-0 run to end the quarter combined with Monta Ellis catching fire and Dallas getting into the penalty at the 10-minute mark proved to be too much for the team as they dropped yet another road game.
It's hard to pin this loss on the starters. Despite a quiet night from Bradley Beal, the Wizards ran early and often as Rick Carlisle's fears heading into the game came to fruition. John Wall led the charge, as he continuously exploited Dallas' often sluggish transition defense with mad dashes to the rim and dead-on kick outs to corner shooters. But the defense as a whole struggled to contain penetration and close outs on perimeter shooters. Whether it be due to poor communication or a general lack of concentration from their wings, it's clearly a work in progress as it appears the team still struggles to deal with the loss of Emeka Okafor.
It's obviously early into the season, but it's hard not to see this becoming a trend throughout the year. The starters can only do so much, and as Mike noted on Twitter, Randy Wittman can only play his starters so long. This all goes back to the approach the front office took during free agency and in their previous draft selections. The Wizards lack a shot creator in their second unit, and no one to come in the game to anchor the defense once Marcin Gortat and Nene head to the bench. You hate to see this team running Wall and Beal into the ground with extended minutes, but that appears to be their only chance at salvaging each game.
Alas, here are my game notes, in chronological order:
- Liked seeing Trevor Ariza attack the hard closeout in transition to get a layup at the basket. This is worth monitoring over the course of the season, especially if the Wizards continue to shoot threes at this current clip.
- Didn't like how the Wizards defended the pick and roll to start the game. Too much ball watching on the guard's part and the bigs have jumped out too far out on ball handlers. Really makes you wonder if the coaches continue to preach hard-hedging as a part of the defensive philosophy or it's just the young bigs suffering from bad habits.
- The bench unit of Eric Maynor, Martell Webster, Ariza, Trevor Booker and Al Harrington continues to struggle. Sooner than later Wittman will have to further stagger the minutes of Nene, Wall and Beal in order to stay in these ball games. More importantly, this team is not going to stay competitive in the second quarters if they're playing Maynor till the six-minute mark.
- On back-to-back possessions where the Mavericks ran a pick and roll, Gortat stayed back in the paint and blocked the shot. On the very next play, he jumped out on the pick and roll, and Monta Ellis blew right by him for an uncontested layup. This has to stop.
- Ariza running a pick and roll with Gortat and subsequently turning it over is the perfect microcosm for this game so far.
- Wizards got outscored by 13 in the second quarter. If it weren't for John Wall bailing the offense out by racing up the floor in semi-transition, this game would have looked a lot uglier heading into the half.
- Wizards have got caught helping one pass away a number of times tonight, a term for when a team double-teams using the man closest to the passer's line of sight. This is where they have missed Okafor the most; he did so much on each possession to contain ball handlers, which allowed the wings to stay home on three-point shooters.
- Beal played exceptionally well on defense against the speedy Monta Ellis in the first half. Ellis does a lot of damage when you close out too hard on him at the three-point line, but Beal showed a lot of discipline by respecting his penetration. He kept his balance once Ellis caught the ball, and slid his feet well to cut off his driving lanes. Problem is, Ellis got hot in the fourth quarter
- It's really odd that Nene continued to hold the ball once he caught it in the low post. For a player that has always struggled to finish through contact, you would expect him to make his move before the defense collapses on him in the paint.