The Wizards are in sole possession of the 14th-best record in the Eastern Conference after a 114-111 home loss to the Miami Heat, who came into Saturday’s game with a 3-8 record.
John Wall helped get the Wizards off to a hot start, racking up 6 assists in the first quarter and helping create quality scoring opportunities near the rim against Hassan Whiteside. Beal also got off to hot start connecting on 3 of his 4 shots, as the Wizards racked up 35 points in the first quarter.
The game turned when Markieff Morris hurt his ankle in the second quarter. As a result, Scott Brooks had to trot out some ineffective small lineups to close the half, which allowed the Heat to take the lead and momentum into halftime.
Things only got worse in the second half when Morris couldn’t return to the game. Brooks turned to Jason Smith to fill Morris’ spot, and needless to say, he didn’t have quite the same impact as Morris. He did hit a pair of jumpers that helped the spacing a bit, but his defensive limitations and lack of chemistry with the starters was apparent, particularly on this play.
The Wizards are totally on the same page pic.twitter.com/lNL5X4KTgr— Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) November 20, 2016
The Wizards mounted a furious comeback in the closing minutes to make it tight, fueled by John Wall and Bradley Beal who both finished with a season-high 34 points in the loss.
Here’s what else we noticed in the loss:
Andrew Nicholson provides solid minutes at center
Part of the reason why Nicholson hasn’t played more this season is because Brooks doesn’t feel comfortable playing him at the 5, given his lack of height and lateral quickness. However, he gave it a shot in the first half against Miami’s backup center, Willie Reed, and it had some promising results. The Wizards were +5 in the six minutes with him on the floor, and he scored a bucket on Hassan Whiteside when he was reinserted into the game.
It’s a shame that Morris’ injury caused Brooks to revert course and not give him another shot in the second half. Nicholson probably can’t hold up as a center against most lineups, but there are enough opportunities out there that it’s worth exploring more in the coming weeks.
Three point defense is still a problem
I know this. You know this. At this point, we’re just listing the numbers here so they can be added to the annals of history. The Heat were 13-27 from deep tonight, even though they came into Saturday’s game only shooting 33.6 percent beyond the arc.
The Wizards still don’t have an answer for Hassan Whiteside
Washington did a great job early of creating scoring opportunities in the paint against Whiteside, but once he adjusted the Wizards didn’t have a backup plan. Once he reasserted control of the paint, they couldn’t get anything going offensively as a team. Wall couldn’t get into the paint to kick and drive, which forced him and Beal to try and create one-on-one mismatches. Marcin Gortat wound up leading the the team with a mere 4 assists after the first quarter.
It didn’t help that Whiteside was dominating offensively as well. He had 12 points and 9 offensive rebounds in the final three quarters.