The Washington Wizards are now 2-0 this season against the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder this year. How crazy is that to type?
I'm still trying to figure out how the Wizards turned a 20+ point third-quarter deficit into a 106-101 win. What we know for sure is that it was a run fueled by the bench. With John Wall playing arguably the worst game of his season (except for maybe that Orlando game) and Jordan Crawford chucking away like a madman, Randy Wittman turned to a unit of Shelvin Mack, Roger Mason, Nick Young, Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin. They first attacked the weak Lakers bench, cutting the lead down to five, then two. They continued that run to take a six-point lead in the fourth quarter. They stayed in the game to keep the lead against the Lakers' starters. Finally, when the Lakers made their final push, Wall returned and the lineup sans Mack held off that charge to get the win ... except even then, it was Seraphin and Booker leading the way.
There's going to be plenty of time to analyze what exactly happened. For now, though, let's enjoy one of those rare moments of bliss in a tough season.
Notes below the jump:
- The one advantage to playing against the Lakers' big front line is that they can be a bit slow in covering pick and roll. Mike Brown has worked hard with them to get better, but they can still be exploited. The Wizards ran a really nice one early in the game to get JaVale McGee a dunk.
- Call it a miscommunication, call it whatever. But the play where McGee tried to post up Andrew Bynum and John Wall completely ignored him spoke volumes. At this point, McGee should understand his advantage over Bynum is in his ability to pick and slip to the rim, not in posting him up.
- The Wizards weren't getting beat in transition, per se, because the Lakers really aren't a running team. But they were getting beat on the secondary break, especially when one of the Lakers' two big men filled the lane late. That's a ton of size running at you, so it's important to match up quickly and prevent that from happening.
- Man, the Lakers were allowing a ton of dribble penetration early in the game. Good on the Wizards for attacking, but I think that says more about LA than Washington.
- Good on Randy Wittman for sneaking Andray Blatche into the game during a timeout.
- Wall tends to struggle against teams with good interior defenders and lots of length, and tonight was no exception early on. The Lakers walled off the paint beautifully in transition, forcing Wall into turnovers and tough shots. At some point, Wall has to learn how to finish against these kinds of teams. He's historically struggled against teams like the Lakers and Magic.
- Kevin Seraphin showed some nice post defense on Andrew Bynum, and I liked his activity on the offensive glass. I'm not sure why he lost his spot in the rotation following Blatche's return.
- I keep harping on this, but the Wizards have to be the worst team at going for pump fakes. I don't think I've ever seen a team get beat this much by them. It's a complete problem too, to the point where McGee isn't even the worst offender. I feel like there's a larger statement to be made about player development here.
- The thing about the Lakers' pick and roll defense: you can split double-teams and get to the rim, but you better be very decisive, because otherwise, the Lakers can use their length to get a hand in there and poke the ball away.
- The Wizards' defensive transition was really bad in the second quarter. The Lakers don't run: only nine percent of their points are scored in transition, according to MySynergySports.com. For comparison's sake: the Wizards are at 17.5 percent. And yet, there were the Lakers beating the Wizards down the floor, hitting open threes and getting easy layups. There was definitely a lot of head-hanging, something Randy Wittman said he stressed to his team before the game.
- Really awful first half for Wall. He looked really indecisive, as if the Lakers' length intimidated him. Passes were a beat off. Shots were not taken with confidence. He didn't even explode to the rim or put much pressure on the Lakers off the dribble. Derek Fisher snuck by him for open shots on the other end. It was a return to the head-hanging Wall we saw early in the season. If I'm Randy Wittman, and I'm not because he's much taller and more in shape than me, I'm telling Wall to just attack, turnovers be damned. He has to put pressure on the defense.
- Things didn't improve much for Wall in the second half. I see this as a learning experience. The Lakers just don't let you get all the way to the rim so easily. You have to manage space and have an in-between game to beat those big men. Wall still is developing that.
- Yet another really bad shooting game for Crawford, but here's one thing we have to think about. Would you rather have a guy attack like Crawford at least tried to do in between his bad shot selection, or would you rather see Wall play the kind of game he did? I at least give Crawford credit for competing.
- That said, when it comes to Crawford, there has to at least be a little more of a happy medium.
- That's partially why I think the Wizards may want to roll with Young down the stretch. I liked Young's defense on Kobe Bryant in that third quarter. When you place Young on a top isolation player, he can lock him down far better than anyone on the team. He struggles with help defense, but he has great length and quickness guarding a man on his own. In many ways, he's a similar player on defense than he is on offense, with the exception of him actually being pretty close to elite at his one skill.
- Speaking of players playing great defense, Booker was everywhere in that third quarter, allowing the Wizards to get back into the game. He locked down the pick and roll, stepped into passing lanes, grabbed rebounds, etc. He can play like that every night -- he just needs to gain a better understanding of angles.
- I was all ready to yell at Roger Mason for taking a shot over two defenders as Young stood wide open in the corner, but he made the shot anyway. What are you going to do.
- Loved Shelvin Mack's help defense in the fourth quarter. On one transition play, he stopped Steve Blake enough to force the pass to Kobe, then recovered to bother Kobe's shot in the corner. On another, he successfully passed off his own man to Roger Mason, then jumped in to one-swipe just as Kobe made a spin move for what he thought was a wide-open jumper.
- Can't say enough about Young's defense on Kobe. That play where Bryant got a double-dribble really said it all. Young was right in his grill, and Bryant almost acted confused, like he didn't know what to do.
- But then again, he had help. The five players on the floor all did everything they could to take a step off their men and stop dribble penetration. It was one heck of a display, one we so often don't see from the Wizards' more talented athletes. I'm really not sure what caused all this. Perhaps it was the confidence gained from Bryant missing a bunch of long jumpers in the third quarter. Who knows.
- Good on Randy Wittman for sticking with the five-man unit that got him the lead for so long. I also think he went back to Wall at just the right time, right as the three-pointers stopped falling.
- Things got a little too hero-ball'y right after the Wizards took a six-point lead. Mason's 30-foot heat check was not a good shot. Young failing to move the ball when being trapped and instead settling for a long jumper over Bynum was not a good shot. It's tempting to keep firing it up when you're hot, but the shots have to be good shots within the flow of an offense. You can't get caught up in the moment.
- WHOA, Kevin Seraphin. You may have your rotation spot back.
- Wall's time back in the game featured a really shrewd double-team to force a turnover on Bynum and a really bad double-team on Bryant that allowed a wide-open three that Derek Fisher missed. But the vision to see Seraphin streaking down the court was outstanding. That was a harder pass than it appeared.
- Wow, what an impressive set drawn up by Randy Wittman up three with under a minute left. I haven't seen the Wizards run a guard-guard screen before, but Wall and Young executed one to perfection. Young set a solid screen to Wall's left, then faded to the right and was open for a jumper. He made the shot a bit more difficult than it needed to be, but he still nailed it. Nice stuff from all involved. Loved seeing an actual play instead of a clear-out .
- Only fitting for Booker to grab the most important rebound of the game.