Stop me if you've heard this before: the Washington Wizards had their way with an Eastern Conference playoff team on their home floor, only to let them back into the game in the third quarter and fall apart at the end. Yup, this was basically a copy of the script we saw Thursday against the Indiana Pacers. This time, the Wizards blew a 16-point lead and fell, 95-92, to the Atlanta Hawks.
The only difference was how the lead was surrendered in the final minute. Against the Pacers, the Wizards couldn't grab a defensive rebound when they needed it. Against the Hawks, it was a botched defensive rotation that allowed Joe Johnson to hit the game-winning three-pointer. Then, it was a horrible offensive possession, with John Wall not involved and Jordan Crawford throwing in a bunch of fancy dribbling moves to miss a 22-footer.
I guess there's reason to be encouraged that the Wizards find a way to play 42 good minutes. The last six will hopefully come. But there are also some troubling signs, namely the shot distribution between Wall and Crawford. Crawford took 19 shots and dominated the ball offensively, while Wall went 1-10 and was shooting only as a bailout option. That has to change going forward.
More notes below the jump.
- The Wizards had very active hands defensively early on. It was good to see Jordan Crawford poke the ball away from Joe Johnson in the post, and it was also really good to see Nene deflect a pass to Zaza Pachulia that would have been a sure layup.
- Speaking of active hands, strong double-team by John Wall to force another Johnson turnover.
- Nene was definitely more into this game early on than the Pacers game. You rarely see him swat shots like he did early in the first quarter, and he was much more active on the glass on both ends of the floor.
- It was also cool to see him look for his own shot a bit more. He needs to take that mid-range jumper when it's there, especially given the lack of shooters on the roster.
- Jordan Crawford was definitely pounding the hell out of the rock early on. He hit some shots, but I worry when he gets that way as soon as the first quarter. Usually, we don't see that Crawford appear until the second half. At least Nene got going early.
- The byproduct of Crawford shooting a lot early: Wall isn't really in the game offensively. His jump shot with 20 seconds on the shot clock and no rebounders was the kind of play someone out of the flow takes to get himself going. It was a very bad shot.
- The tricky thing about playing the Hawks is that they can force mismatches with their forwards. Smith and Marvin Williams are both very versatile, and they were able to force switches on pick and roll and punish the Wizards' defenders in the post. Atlanta spaces the floor well in these situations, which makes it tough to double team.
- Really nice stuff from the second unit. Heck of a post move by Kevin Seraphin on Ivan Johnson, and then Edwin Ubiles was confident with his shot instead of shot-faking all the time. That's the one thing I've noticed when he plays -- he shot fakes and drives so much instead of just shooting. Hard to fool many people with a shot fake when they know you won't shoot it.
- OK, maybe he has reason to not be confident (the air-ball).
- Jan Vesely was reaching far too much on defense. One time, it didn't work out for him. One time, it did and he got a dunk. Still, he needs to defend with his feet, not his hands.
- That charge he took was exactly what I was hoping to see.
- Nice job by Crawford to double down on Johnson in the post, then rotate to the far corner to bother Smith's three-point attempt.
- In general, I've liked how the Wizards have defended the post and closed out on shooters. The two go hand-in-hand. The double teams have arrived at the perfect time, and the rotations back to the shooters have been excellent. Also liked the ball pressure shown late in the first half -- it took the Hawks out of their comfort zones.
- Two nice cuts by John Wall resulted in a couple trips to the free-throw line. This is the area of Wall's game that must improve with Nene around. Wall has to be more engaged off the ball with Nene around, because unlike JaVale McGee, Nene will find you. There's so much potential for Wall to play off Nene in the high post, but he has to be willing to make the cuts and trust that his center will find him when he's open.
- The Hawks' defenders were pretty slow all throughout the first quarter. Normally, the Wizards might play into Atlanta's hands by not cutting, but that's changed with Nene around to hit players when they move. It also helps when Nene himself cuts hard, like he did on the alleyoop.
- Nice job by Chris Singleton defending Joe Johnson in the third quarter. He used his hands to distract and stayed on balance to avoid falling for all of Johnson's body shakes.
- If there's a positive to Crawford's shot selection, it's that the Hawks started double-teaming him when he came off pick and rolls. That got some other players open looks.
- The Wizards' defense started to falter late in the third quarter. Jan Vesely really struggled in one post-up against Josh Smith, giving up a layup. Later, he overhelped off Vladimir Radmanovic, resulting in an open three. I'm not entirely sure why he keeps overhelping, but it should stop.
- More bad overhelping by Vesely. Can't leave Radmanovic open beyond the arc. Just can't.
- The possession that Edwin Ubiles bailed out with his banked three is the kind of possession the Wizards have far too often in the fourth quarter. You had Nene shouting at the team to do one thing and the guards thinking about whether they should have done something else. By the time the Wizards finally got moving, there were 10 seconds on the shot clock. The shot clock is too short to have any confusion over what play you're running.
- The second unit stayed in there a hell of a long time given how poorly they were executing offensively in the fourth quarter. Maybe Randy Wittman was thinking about managing minutes for the back-to-back-to-back after all.
- Nice job by Wall to wait until Booker came to the high post, which opened up the bounce pass to Nene for the dunk. Good patience there.
- Crawford made a horrendous decision to not throw the ball to Nene in the post when he forced Josh Smith to guard him on a switch. The pass was right there -- it was an easy play. Instead, he launched a contested three-pointer over Zaza Pachulia. That's just not a winning play. Simple as that.
- More lack of composure -- Wall taking an off-balanced jump shot to his right very early in the shot clock with the Wizards up two inside of two minutes.
- Just unfortunate to see Johnson hit that go-ahead three. Why? Nene did an unbelievable job forcing Johnson to make a wild pass to the corner. Absolutely unbelievable. There's not another center in the NBA that could do what Nene did. But then Nene went back to the rim, as he should have, and Trevor Booker didn't realize Johnson had been passed off to him. Booker fell asleep, Johnson snuck wide open and hit the dagger three.
- Ugh, what a terrible play after that. Wall has essentially been reduced to a decoy, which I don't understand. The play was a post-up for Nene, but that's a really tough thing to call. Instead, it resulted in Crawford doing his Crawford worst and taking an awful shot.