Any improvement the Wizards think they made last night against the Golden State Warriors came to a screeching halt in what's certain to be Washington's most embarrassing loss to date. Worse than their humiliating blunder against the Detroit Pistons or their 38-point blowout at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers. This 97-77 loss to the 12-43 Minnesota Timberwolves is a season-defining one, irregardless of what they do from here on out.
There's no more pointing the finger, citing a lack of effort, or making the excuse that injuries derailed their effort tonight. The Wizards got beat down by an inferior team, and it wasn't particularly close.
Even as they jumped out to a 13-1 lead, there was the sense that the young Wolves would finally settle in after riding a wave of emotion as they re-introduced Kevin Garnett to the Target Center. This wasn't some blistering start to the game. The Wizards were taking and making the same shots they always see for the first six minutes of the game, but more importantly, Minnesota couldn't hit the broad side of the barn.
Before you knew it, they'd tie the game heading into halftime, largely thanks to Kevin Martin surgically tearing apart the opposing defense to the tune of 16 points on 6-9 shooting. He'd keep it going in the second half, along with Andrew Wiggins, while the Wizards offense stayed in that same gear: throwing the ball into the paint, slowing down the pace, and firing away midrange shots.
It's the same story every night now. The effort isn't there on defense, the offense obliviously runs the same sets to no avail, and the turnovers keep piling up. I'd love for this to be an easy fix: be it a coaching problem or an issue with a player or two, but it's not. This is an organizational issue, and until they realize it, the bleeding won't stop.
Here's three things we learned:
John Wall needs to do more
Not every possession has to be initiated out of the post. This has long been a staple of the Wizards offense, but when they're not doing that, they're sending their wings off pindown screens from the elbows and giving them the freedom to fire.
At some point, Wall has to do more than acting like the quarterback of the offense. He has to be willing to break out of the offense every now and then and taking the reins. He took two jumpers in that third quarter, and the Wolves went on a 17-4 run in the span. It's a little like the Rajon Rondo effect that he had on his Boston teams. He became notorious for padding his assist totals, but the offense as a whole stunk, and his lack of scoring stuck out like a sore thumb.
John isn't that. He's an improved shooter, and he expresses confidence in it all the time in interviews.
The rotation is painfully thin right now
They were down 16 in the third quarter with 4 minutes to go, and the Wiz trotted out a Sessions, Butler, Porter, Gooden, Seraphin lineup. How many of them would realistically crack the rotation of the team's currently ahead of them in the East?
There were a lot of issues with tonight's game, but none bigger than this, and sadly, it was completely out of Wittman's heads. This is a roster devoid of a plus defender along the wing and without anyone who so much as poises as a threat from distance outside of Beal and Pierce.
It's time to really start worrying about Rasual Butler and Martell Webster
As in, Randy Wittman should consider keeping them out of the playoff rotation in favor of Otto Porter. Porter isn't a lot of things right now -- he can't finish at the basket, he isn't a spot-up shooter, and it'd awfully risky giving him meaningful minutes in late April -- but at the very least, he's giving you some oomph on both ends of the floor, which can't be said about Butler and Webster.
When he's not shooting well, he's still beating his man down the floor and giving Wall a running mate in transition. He'll struggle keeping his man out of the lane, but he'll stay active as a help defender and work the passing lanes. There are times where his inexperience really shows -- one thing he'll need to do work on is that pocket pass to the big once he curls off a pindown screen -- but all of that extra motion as opposed to simply spotting up adds up in the long run.
But really, this says more about Butler's free-fall and Webster's steady decline than anything else. They got beat off the dribble by Kevin Martin every time down the floor in that second quarter, and provided nothing on the offensive end. I'm a broken record at this point: If they're not making their threes, they're providing zero value to this team.