From the 41 combined turnovers on the night to the endless amounts of blown defensive rotations and general sloppiness by both teams, this hardly resembled a basketball game. Okay, it didn't at all, in large part due to the various maladies in Washington's frontcourt, leaving Randy Wittman to mostly play a five-man group that featured zero traditional big men. The blown rotations were inevitable, as was the ridiculousness of having to play Garrett Temple at the four, but a winner had to emerge, and Bradley Beal's superb shotmaking was just enough for Washington to squeak by with a 109-106 win.
It cannot be stated enough just how poorly both teams executed down the stretch. There was Wall running full speed into the lane and dishing it to a wide-open Ramon Sessions in the corner, but not before running over Ronnie Price and committing his seventh turnover.
Then, there was Wall missing a second free throw, the ball caroming off the side of the rim and headed out of bounds... until Eric Bledsoe and Markeiff Morris decided to both go after the ball, resulting in a turnover.
After an Otto Porter And-1 and two straight possessions of the Suns coughing up the ball, Bradley Beal would narrowly avoid a charge in the lane while hitting an improbable runner off the backboard to extend the Wizards lead to three. Thankfully, that was more than enough to stave off the Suns who would commit a few more egregious turnovers before the final buzzer went off.
Through it all though, the Wizards picked up a much-needed win at home. It wasn't pretty, but they received a huge performance out of Bradley Beal who dissected a porous Phoenix defense for the entirety of this game. Hopefully this performance kickstarts him after his struggles since returning from his shoulder injury.
Here's some notes:
Otto Porter has not fared well as a stretch-4
Lost in Otto's shooting woes is the fact that lineups with him playing the 4 have not fared well, which has undoubtedly led to his negative net-rating on the season. In this day and age, you either need the girth to hold your own on the boards and against post-up bullies or the foot speed to contain dribble penetration if you're being asked to slide up a position.
Porter has neither, and to add insult to injury, Randy Wittman had no choice tonight but to play him in spurts at the 5, which Phoenix did not hold back in exploiting. Brandon Knight immediately put him in his first high pick and roll, took one hard jab towards his screener which was enough to get Porter lunging that way. Knight would reject the screen and find a ton of real estate in front of him as he steps into a wide-open jumper.
On the very next Suns possession, the Wizards inexplicably fail to matchup off a made basket, leaving Porter to pick up Bledsoe as he crosses halfcourt. One slight hesitation dribble and Bledsoe gets a step on Porter, enough for him to get right to the hoop and finish through contact.
Bledsoe will knife into the lane on a middle pick and roll once again, this time leading to a Brandon Knight three:
This shouldn't be surprising. You're asking a player who's been trained his entire life to fight over screens and funnel his man to help into actually being the help. Instead of crashing the glass which he's proven to do very well at this level he's being asked to find a body and box them out when the shot goes up. One of the undersold aspects of his playoff runs was that he was able to cross-match based on opposing lineups with Paul Pierce. Meaning he could leave the yeomen's work to The Truth and play freely.
There's no benefit in playing him at the 4 right now. Sure, you can station him along the perimeter, but do team's respect his shot? Can he take opposing four's off the dribble?
Look, I don't blame Wittman for playing him there because he has no choice. But those of us that expected this to work this season (myself included) have been hit with a dose of reality. In time, this can work, and who knows how things will shake out with Alan Anderson out there playing the three than say, Ramon Sessions or Gary Neal. But for now, this should be used in case of emergencies, nothing more.
John Wall post-ups are here to stay
For the fourth straight game, the Wizards have set plays built in to get Wall backing down a defender from the high block. It's one thing when he was doing it to D'Angelo Russell or Matthew Dellavedova -- you expect him to punish them mercilessly -- but tonight he was doing it to Eric Bledsoe. You can argue if he's even at an advantage physically against a guy with Bledsoe's size, but honestly, it doesn't matter. He looks very comfortable doing it; spinning over either shoulder, and regularly getting help defenders to crash down on him.
I suspect defenses will start to play the pass more often, and eventually Wall will have to prove he can turn over his shoulder and knock down a fadeaway, but that's a concern for another time. The Wizards could use all of the creativity they can possibly conjure up right now.