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Randy Wittman's two adjustments ignited the Wizards' comeback Game 2 win over the Bulls

Wizards coach Randy Wittman once again came out on top against Tom Thibodeau with a brilliant game plan in the fourth quarter. We explore two tweaks that really turned the tide.

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That's all that needed to be said from an utterly-perplexed Steve Buckhantz as he watched D.J. Augustin burn Washington for his 25th point of the game. That jumper would put Chicago up by eight with just over eight minutes to go in regulation and it appeared as though the Wizards' offense was crumbling. Nene had picked up his fifth foul just seconds before and had to be subbed out for the struggling Marcin GortatJohn Wall hadn't scored since the end of the first half. It didn't appear the team had the fight in them after losing their big early lead.

Three minutes later, with the Bulls still harboring a seven-point lead, Randy Wittman made the adjustment that would eventually win him the game. He switched Trevor Ariza on Augustin (perhaps at Trevor's behest, perhaps not), and for the rest of regulation and overtime, Ariza held his mark scoreless.

There were no major schematic adjustments in the Wizards gameplan in Game 2 in general. Washington was still hanging their big men back on pick and rolls, the same pitfall that hurt them in the third quarter as they were outscored 26-14. You can't expect to switch things up on the fly after drilling the exact opposite into your players' heads since training camp. Wittman knew that if he started to defend the pick and rolls more aggressively, the passing lanes would begin to emerge for Joakim Noah on the perimeter.

So instead, Wittman chose to keep things simple. He wanted to crowd the lane in order to keep Noah in check, and he certainly didn't trust the rest of Chicago's lineup to hurt them from the outside. There was only one player he needed to stop, and he'd use Ariza to shadow him the rest of the way.

Play 1

Ariza stays attached to Augustin every chance he'd get.  He starts things off by drawing a moving screen on Taj Gibson, which would not have occurred had he not gotten himself between his man and the screener. Gibson -- in fear that he didn't screen him off well enough as is -- reacts by moving to at least bump Ariza off Augustin's path. That's a blatant call even these officials weren't going to miss.

Play 2

The Bulls run their sideline out of bounds set that gets Augustin curling to the corner before running up to receive the handoff from Noah. Again, Ariza snuffs it out, getting in between Augustin and the screener. This forces Noah to throw a pass over the front from Beal and with Nene right in his face. The result is another turnover.

Play 3

If you ever needed one video to show why Ariza's one of the top wing defenders in the league, this is it. He fights through an elevator doors screen and still gets to the spot to challenge the pass. He then regroups in time to thwart Augustin's first drive to the basket, and does it all again after an offense rebound while effectively contesting the floater. This is a combination of grit, foot speed and sheer determination on his part.

The best way to beat an elevator doors screen is to stay attached to your man. It's designed for the shooter to veer up the lane and shoot through the gap between the two big men. The second he sneaks through, the bigs come together like a set of elevator doors slamming shut.



Not only is Ariza fighting through, he's also playing the passing lane. When that fails, he maintains his ball pressure. None of this will show up in the boxscore, but every bit of it plays a role in frustrating Augustin by getting him out of his comfort zone.

And after the reset, Augustin has the ball up top with a chance for the go-ahead bucket. This exact look has generated so many drives to the hoop because he's so quick and is able to catch his defender off balance by rejecting the screen. Wall and Andre Miller were beat all game because they kept overplaying him. Ariza had the benefit of seeing it all unfold before he got his opportunity.

In overtime, it was more of the same. Augustin didn't even touch the ball in half-court sets unless he was the one bringing it up because Ariza refused to grant him an inch of space. Chicago's usually mundane offense devolved into Kirk Hinrich running a two-man game with his big man, something Washington will gladly take any day of the week.


That wasn't the only reason for their fourth quarter rally. Wittman opted to go with Trevor Booker over normal starter Marcin Gortat down the stretch, and that proved to be vital in their comeback. Gortat struggled to find his way on pick and rolls against the Bulls strong-side overload scheme, which calls for the big man not guarding the pick and roll to slide over and zone up the paint.


Tom Thibodeau has been widely successful implementing this scheme in Chicago and while he was an assistant in Boston. It can really muck up pick and rolls and leverage isolation-heavy players into help and away from the rim. Washington has the personnel designed to beat it by throwing the skip pass into the corner, but Chicago's wings are masterful in closing out and running shooters off the three-point line, so the pass has to come early.

This scheme completely took Gortat out of his game. Not once was he able to get a clean roll to the basket with Noah planted under the rim. When he did manage to get a shot off, it was heavily contested and in traffic. He did himself no favors by forcing the issue with post-ups, and Wittman knew he couldn't continue to stick with him if he wanted to mount this comeback.

In came Trevor Booker, who quickly made his mark in ways he's done all season. He gave Washington extra possessions by crashing the offensive glass, including a crucial one with about 4:47 to go that ignited their comeback and led to a Bradley Beal three-pointer.

But he also did more subtle things offensively. He regularly made the backdoor cut against Chicago's overload scheme, which prompted them to move away from it. This opened up more driving lanes for Beal and Wall in crunch time.



There's credit to be given all around after a performance like Tuesday night. We haven't even Bradley Beal who iced the game for the Wizards down the stretch, or the contributions Nene made after playing 35 minutes just two nights before. But leave some for Randy Wittman, who made the necessary in-game adjustments to lift the Wizards past Chicago.