The Wizards have lost four consecutive games after winning three straight and getting back over .500 on the year. Now, they find themselves searching for answers in what some would say are the darkest days of the John Wall era.
The Wizards had their game against the Toronto Raptors in the bag Saturday night. Had they not gotten a subpar performance form Wall, they probably win the game handily. But Wall made just 6 of 25 shots and scored 18 points on the night. What's more, he missed two free throws that would have put the Wizards back up by three points with just three seconds to go.
But he missed both -- and Dwane Casey had his team prepared. With one final timeout left, he was able to draw up the perfect play and get the best personnel out there on the floor to work the action. The Wizards did not really stand a chance with this one.
Let's start with how the Raptors lined up for the final play. Toronto has just three players in the front court, Kyle Lowry in the backcourt pulling Wall out of the action and Demarre Carroll as the inbound passer. Having Lowry out of the action created tons of space for DeMar DeRozan to work as a slasher.
And it didn't stop there for the Raptors play calling. They knew the Wizards would be switching everything on the perimeter late, per usual, so they were sure to screen off Garrett Temple -- one of the team's better defenders -- with Joseph. That stuck the much smaller Ramon Sessions on DeRozan with momentum.
The Wizards did a poor job defending DeRozan off of the screen. Sessions does not maintain his position between DeRozan and the ball. Instead, he gets bulldozed and DeRozan is able to make quite an easy catch on his way to the basket.
Meanwhile, playing the center position going against Scola, Otto Porter is caught in no-man's land and is stuck between the decision to hedge or switch onto DeRozan or stay with Scola.
That is a tough decision for Porter to make there. Scola is a solid shooter from midrange and shoots 40 percent from that area of the floor and he can also stretch out to three point range where he's shooting 48 percent this year.
But still, Porter has to make a quick decision there and the correct decision was to hedge on DeRozan. You cannot allow him to catch the ball so easily going to the rim. Sessions was not bothering him on the play at all and needed some type of help.
And this action leads to another question -- why have Sessions in the game? Instead of playing with another guard on the floor, have Dudley play as the big man in his place and allow Porter to guard the perimeter. The size there matters and Porter likely would not have allowed such an easy path to the ball for DeRozan.
But before discussing alternatives, lets look at the drive. DeRozan remained unthreatened on his way to the basket causing Garrett Temple to crash down hard in the paint to protect the rim. But he makes one fatal mistake -- he doesn't cover the baseline.
Temple overcommitted to DeRozan's drive off of the corner three. He sees DeRozan is moving to pass the ball and tries to get in the lane, but falls off balance.
So there's no coverage on the baseline for the pass once Temple falls down. Because of Sessions not being able to keep position, DeRozan is able to get deep into the paint. The defense broke down as soon as that happened and doom was all but a certainty at that point.
The rest is history. But there were things that could have been done to prevent this. Again, why is Sessions in the game? He's not one of the better defensive players on the team and really should not have been counted on in a defensive situation.
Porter should not be playing Scola instead of guarding a perimeter player. Big man defense is critical in this situation and, if he were healthy, Nene would probably have been the player of choice here.
Though is rim protection numbers have always been subpar, he's great at hedging and corralling perimeter players and creating turnovers. The Wizards defense has a 98.0 defensive rating when he's on the floor. But he wasn't available and, sometimes, thems the breaks.
But Dudley is still an available option and would have been able to help the Wizards stunt DeRozan's drive a bit better than Porter.
And having Wall so far away from the action is a bad idea, as well. Wall was completely fooled by the play call. Earlier in the game, the Raptors ran a similar sideline out of bounds set where Lowry received a screen off this action and he thought it was coming again.
NBA head coaches have amazing memories -- especially when plays decide a game. Dwane Casey used a play Brad Stevens and the Celtics dialed up to beat them late last season.
Isaiah Thomas is playing the role of Lowry on this play. He's in the backcourt initially away from all the action, but Kelly Olynyk pops out to screen him and create a lane into the paint. The Celtics are able to get all the way to the rim and Smart gets himself in the right place at the right time to win the game.
Wall thought this play was coming and he guessed wrong. Scola did not move to screen Lowry. That was never the play's intention and Wall should have recognized that.
He's one of the team's best perimeter defenders, has enough size to switch onto DeRozan and is strong enough to stay in denial position for a longer period of time than Sessions.
Overall, the Wizards needed to make just one more play to win the game and just couldn't. Whether it was Wall's free throws, Wittman's ending unit, Sessions' inability to deny the ball or Temple's blunder in covering the pass, all of it eventually led to a loss for the Wizards.
This play can serve as a microcosm of the Wizards' season. They've been hanging in games, but teams eventually pull away because of their inability to do the little things. Corrections have to be made if they want to get better.