Do the Wizards' third quarter struggles have a simple solution?

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Wizards survived an ugly collapse in Milwaukee that simply will not do in the playoffs. While that was one of the ugliest quarters fans have seen since John Wall came to town, witnessing the Wiz Kids surrender big leads is a depressingly regular sight. Perhaps it's a case of mistaken identity.

In the comedy '50 First Dates', there's a character named Ten Second Tom whose short-term memory is wiped every 10 seconds. It's a faintly amusing bit of schtick, and somehow the first thing that came to mind thinking about the Wizards' habitual third quarter ruts.

In a recent interview with SB Nation, Bradley Beal talked about his introduction to the NBA:

You can have one bad game and you can play again less than 24 hours [later]. You need to have a short-term memory. That's a big thing that I learned a lot. Moving on from games, even good games that I have. Move on from them and be prepared for the next night.

That pretty standard rookie speak takes on a different dimension considering the can't-stop-self-destructing third-quarter stretches of play timeouts seem powerless to halt. Why, every fan wonders, can't the team just run a halfcourt set and get back on defense until the bleeding stops? Instead, as has been noted by just about every beat blogger, the Wizards let their opponents dictate the pace and struggle accordingly.

SIGN UP FOR OUR NBA NEWSLETTER

Get news, links and Ziller's #hottakes in your inbox every weekday morning.

Saturday's third-quarter against Milwaukee was just the latest example. The Wizards have been outscored by at least eight points in the third quarter a whopping 11 times this season, including in a recent home game against Memphis.

Why? As a team, the Wizards like to run. When they run on their terms, buckets rack up like a video game. When they're pushed into running to slow the hurt, things go from meh to bad to worse.

This seems like something coaching should have fixed, but it's difficult to diagnose just what the problem is. Maybe it's as simple as the Wizards getting caught up in the narrative of the game.

Players cultivate a short-term memory from night to night. Forget this game, move on to the next. That's what they say, but it's not what they do. A slumping three point specialist that's 1-6 on the night is still going to draw a lot of attention on the perimeter with the game on the line because basketball isn't game-to-game, it's possession-to-possession. You have the scouting report on every player, a reasonable idea of their capabilities, and nothing matters but the next play. Everything is about the possession.

To put it simply? The Wiz need more chill.

Watching years' worth of bloody third quarters, it looks like the Wizards forget to focus on each possession when things start to become uncertain and instead look to impose their will on the narrative of the game. Like they try to blow it back open pressing in transition as opposing teams feast on the other end.

To put it simply: the Wiz need more chill. When things start to go wrong, value the possession and get back on defense. It's a staple of any playoff team that expects to go farther than the first round, though it's uncomfortable to even suggest because it seems so painfully obvious. But then again, until the Wizards stop third quarter trouble by applying the brakes and imposing their will in half-court situation the way a playoff team must, what else is there to point to?

In the end, I believe this team's best stretches hinge on the strength of its defense. Defense triggers transition, and in these rough moments, it may be that the players mistake the effect (transition) for the cause (defense). It's always a temptation with John Wall's premium speed to step on the gas, but if the Wizards nearly blow a 28 point lead to the Bucks, can they survive Chicago? Brooklyn? Toronto? Miami?

If this team hangs their hat on defense every night and takes transition as it comes, I expect some noise in the second round. If not? I wouldn't be surprised at a 4-1 first-round exit.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Bullets Forever

You must be a member of Bullets Forever to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bullets Forever. You should read them.

Join Bullets Forever

You must be a member of Bullets Forever to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bullets Forever. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9347_tracker