One game after submitting one of their best performances of the season, the Washington Wizards submitted one of their worst in a 110-99 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. The Wizards have had plenty of lopsided results this year, but given how much the Blazers were struggling recently, especially offensively, this one has to be up there. Once again, the Wizards demonstrated they aren't good at handling prosperity.
The most disappointing part of this loss was the Wizards' defense, which collectively was as far removed from the fourth quarter of the Lakers' win on Wednesday. Randy Wittman talked about the Wizards' attention to detail in that game, but in this one, the Wizards were sloppy with their rotations and allowing the Blazers to screen them off way too easily. Given the circumstances, that's just not OK.
More notes below the jump.
- The Wizards let LaMarcus Aldridge get way too much room for his jump shot early. Aldridge can hit fadeaway jumpers over anyone, but you still have to get into his legs to prevent him from being on balance. Trevor Booker did a poor job at that, and the one time JaVale McGee switched off onto him, he gave Aldridge too much space to hit a face-up jumper.
- The Blazers' defense really is a mess. Someone pointed it out on Twitter (forget who), but Marcus Camby got really old really fast. Wall drove left on one play and three different Blazers didn't bother communicating to cut him off, allowing him to dunk it. Then, on one play where McGee dove down the lane for a three-point play, Camby just stood there instead of rotating back and Aldridge did the same instead of jumping in to cut off McGee's dive to the rim. Just horrible stuff.
- The Blazers' front line is slow and immobile, so these are the kinds of games where McGee has to shine. Tonight, he did pretty well diving to the rim.
- Portland isn't a good shooting team, but they have shooters, if that makes sense. I guess that's a long-winded way of saying that they have guys who you have to watch from three-point range. Jamal Crawford and Nicolas Batum apply.
- Really nice move by Wall to close the first quarter, changing speeds, showing a really nice hesitation dribble and finishing the play on a big man.
- The Wizards have to understand that they have to stay alert when Gerald Wallace posts up. The Blazers don't just isolate Wallace and stand still; they cut through and run other weakside action to free up other players. Roger Mason got beat backdoor by Jamal Crawford and Nick Young got backscreened to free up a wide-open three for Wesley Matthews that he missed.
- Given how poorly the Blazers' big men were moving their feet, it was nice to see Nick Young attacking the basket.
- Jordan Crawford's disinclination to use his own solid court vision is really infuriating. Take the possession with five minutes left. He ran a pick and pop to initiate the offense, which left Andray Blatche open at the top of the key. The simple play is a pass to move the ball and keep things flowing. Instead, he ignored the easy pass, sized up Jamal Crawford to drive on him, went left right into the teeth of Portland's defense and had his shot blocked. Those are the kinds of plays he needs to cut out.
- The Wizards need to do a better job picking up men in transition. Portland's not a very good running team, but they do try to push it a lot more than before. When that happens, you have to stop the ball and you have to find players to pick up. The Blazers got too many good looks from the confusion that resulted.
- Not sure why Marcus Camby chose to mess with Kevin Seraphin of all people. That's a dude I don't want to piss off.
- I know it's easy to say, "Well, there's nothing you can do about all of Aldridge's fadeaways," but that's not really true. For a player like him, it's all about footwork. If Aldridge can get his foot inside of the defenders', he can easily push off and get the kind of separation he needs. The challenge for the Wizards' defenders is getting their body into Aldridge and not letting him plant that foot where he wants to plant it. In the first half, the Wizards simply weren't doing that. You stop a fadeaway by getting into a player's legs, not with your arms.
- The Wizards did a little too much switching on defense. The Blazers kept running a simple pick split (or whatever people call it, and the Wizards were getting beat for rebounding position. That explains the Blazers beating them on the glass more than not boxing out.
- The overhelping continued throughout the third quarter. It'll be tempting to say the Wizards' bigs are bad rebounders, but those rebounds were lost before the shots even went up.
- To go along with that -- Wall's pick and roll defense was a bit disappointing in that third quarter. I don't mind him going underneath screens on Raymond Felton. I do mind him recovering too slowly when that happens.
- On the flip side, Wall was doing a nice job probing the Blazers' defense and taking scoring opportunities. But Portland's interior defense was really bad, so frankly, he was just doing what he should have been doing.
- You have to give the Blazers credit -- they threw together a maze of screens for their guards to get open. A better defensive team could fight through these more effectively, but this is the Wizards, after all. If the Blazers are making their jumpers, they can put up points like this. Doesn't happen often, but it can sometimes.
- Roger Mason had his shot going, so I can understand trying to ride him for a couple possessions. That said, given how easily Wall was getting to the basket, I think the Wizards should have put the ball in his hands more midway through the fourth quarter and allow him to create for everyone else. Mason would be deadlier spotting up from Wall's own work than creating himself.
- Wall can't accept the kind of defensive performance he put on tonight. He was way too slow to recover to Felton, and Felton's been in a really bad slump recently. He needs to recover way better.
- The defense in general was a step too slow stopping cutters. It's unfortunate. One game after paying such great attention to detail in a win over the Lakers, the Wizards had such terrible attention to detail on defense. Too many cutters were moving through unimpeded, and too many pick and rolls were covered horrendously. Everyone is to blame for this, though if you had to blame someone, I'd blame the guards. Too little pressure at the point of attack.