In what was a highly competitive preseason finale, the Wizards went down to the wire in New York, but fell 103-100 after Carmelo Anthony scored the game-winning basket as he was fouled with just under 14 seconds to go. There wasn't much you could do about that possession. Carmelo was isolated on the left block against Damion James, and did what he's done throughout his career. He rose up over his defender, sunk the basket, and got fouled in the process.
But it was a valiant effort. Washington saw two huge performances from John Wall and Otto Porter, who combined for more than half of the team's total points. Porter shined, connecting on four of his seven three-point attempts, three of which came from the corners -- something the Wizards desperately need from him. As for Wall, he ended his preseason on a high note, shooting a healthy 10/16 from the floor, getting to the foul line eight times, and tossing in seven assists as well.
But a loss is a loss. Washington was unable to cut down on their turnovers, which has been a problem for them all preseason. They still have a lot to clean up before their regular season tips off in Miami next week.
3 Things We Learned:
1. We can stop freaking out about John Wall now.
This is the biggest takeaway from tonight. He could've mailed it in and preserved his body for next week's season opener, but he didn't, and as an added benefit, we can stop worrying about how he's looked over the last few weeks. Granted it was against a pretty helpless defense, but tonight was a nice reminder of just how good he is and how he effects the game in so many different ways. Even without a truly great spot-up shooter that keeps defenders honest, he was able to conjure up open looks for Otto Porter and Garrett Temple by sucking in defenders or by making those incredible crosscourt passes. It might never be enough to make up for the loss of Trevor Ariza, Bradley Beal and Martell Webster, but I'm betting good money that both Porter and Temple improve their three-point shooting this season.
2. Otto Porter is ready for big minutes
It's preseason, I know, but he looked fantastic tonight (and really the entire preseason), and most of all, comfortable in this offense. Randy Wittman has always drawn up good sets to get his wings moving away from the ball, and I think this is what suits Porter better than anyone else. He's already so proficient curling off those down screens while Nene has the ball up top, and he's becoming so good at staying in the corners and keeping himself ready for those tricky passes Wall throws his way.
3. There isn't enough space for DeJuan Blair in this offense
This isn't to say this was a waste of a free agent signing because Blair is an upgrade over any big man not named Trevor Booker in the rotation at the start last season. But I'm not sure where his offense is going to come from, and furthermore, I have no idea how his other four teammates on the court will counteract the loss in floor spacing.
There were a couple of instances tonight where he was out on the perimeter in the Booker role -- setting screens, rolling into open spaces -- but once he catches the ball off the roll, there isn't much he can do. He can't get all the way to the basket because the lane is almost always cluttered now, and he's not a willing jump shooter either (seriously, he attempted a running floater from 16 feet in the second quarter). And furthermore, the offense asks a lot out of their big men to make plays in these situations. It'll be interesting to see if Wittman can get the most out of him this year.