The Washington Wizards played harder, but ultimately, they were beat down the stretch, falling 101-94 to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Wizards definitely played better defensively, but the offense really struggled, especially in the third quarter and at the end. The hope is the defensive effort can be sustained during the season. If so, the Wizards should improve even if the offense continues to struggle.
A couple other notes:
- John Wall started off really poorly, committing a bunch of turnovers and not making much of an impact on the game. He seemed to be reading the defense really slowly, thinking instead of playing. The best example came on the jumper he hit to end the quarter. He made a great crossover move to free himself, but instead of shooting, he pump-faked and hoped the defender would bite. He didn't, and Wall forced a shot that went in.
- But Wall was much better in the second quarter, making quick decisions on the pick and roll and getting to the rim. He was still a bit sloppy, but at least he was attacking the rim.
- There were two big momentum swings in the second quarter. The first came when the substitutes came in. Nick Young hit a couple nice shots, and then the trio of Shelvin Mack, Trevor Booker and Ronny Turiaf did a nice job picking up the defensive intensity. The second came when JaVale McGee dunked on Nikola Vucevic and stared him down, a somewhat silly gesture that nevertheless got him and the rest of his team up for a quick burst.
- The play at the end of the quarter where Vucevic hit a three was pretty unacceptable even for preseason. It looks like the Wizards weren't sure whether to switch or fight through screens, and that confusion gave Vucevic an open look. That turned an eight-point halftime lead into a five-point one and helped stop the Wizards' momentum. Gotta play every possession.
- Young hit a couple shots early in his first game, but continues to struggle as a playmaker. The Wizards involved him in pick and rolls several times, and he wasn't able to create good opportunities for his teammates. It's not that he's selfish, it's just that the instinct isn't really there. On the bright side, he did stick his nose in for several rebounds. I hope he continues to do that.
- Booker in particular was impressive in the third quarter keeping balls alive. Flip's got to find a way to play him this year, because he makes so many hustle plays to help you. Hopefully, he develops his jumper so he can be a bit more of an offensive threat.
- As good as the defense was in the third period, the offense was just as bad. Lots of forced jumpers from the guards, as nobody was really able to get to the basket. Part of this was personnel, but part of it was mentality. The Wizards were settling far too often, and I fear it's a problem that'll continue into the season.
- Jordan Crawford continues to struggle to fit into a team setting. Worse, when he does make a good, quick move, he has lots of trouble getting separation and forces a shot anyway. If he's going to be an instant-offense player, he needs to pick up some tricks to get off his shot more effectively. If he's going to be a starter, he needs to improve his defense. He lost his man several times watching the ball.
- On the flip side, it looks like the Wizards have themselves a player in Shelvin Mack. He defended well and made good decisions offensively. He just needs to consistently knock down shots. If he does that, he's a rotation player.
- I like JaVale McGee's hook shot if he can perfect it. I still think he's got a ways to go before he perfects it. But it is a sign that he's starting to develop a bit of a post game.
- Down the stretch, the 76ers were patient on offense, while the Wizards took the first shot they saw. That's the next step for this team. Right now, the Wizards don't have the confidence to get exactly the shot they want, and they instead take the first semi-open look the defense gives them. They need to learn their bread-and-butter plays and perfect them. Sometimes, that means turning down the open look the defense gives you.
Overall, it was a much better effort than the preseason opener on Friday, and that's encouraging. That said, there are still some structural issues offensively that need to be worked out before the season begins on Monday.