The Wizards shot only 40.2 percent from the field and had more turnovers (14) than assists (12) as they lost a sloppy, grind-it-out affair in Utah on Friday night, 95-88.
After Utah manhandled Washington in their first meeting back in February, Washington responded with a much better defensive effort in this one. They won the rebounding battle and they held Gordon Hayward to just 19 points after going off for 30 in the first meeting.
Unfortunately, they still couldn’t figure out how to run their offense with Rudy Gobert on the floor. Even though he only blocked three shots, his stellar protection of the paint prevented the Wizards from creating open looks and allowed other Jazz defenders to jump in and get steals when Washington hesitated on drives.
Thanks to the loss, the Wizards have the same record as the Raptors, and since Toronto has the head-to-head tiebreaker, Washington is now fourth in the Eastern Conference standings.
Rough game for John Wall
Wall has done so much to add to his game, but if there’s one area he still needs to develop, it’s adding more nuance to how he scores once he gets into the paint. He doesn’t have the crafty moves that some of the other guards in the league have, and it makes him a lot easier to slow down when he’s going up against elite rim protectors like Rudy Gobert.
As a result, Wall had to settle for a lot of midrange jumpers, which has two negative effects. It’s not an efficient shot for Wall or the Wizards’ offense, so it’s usually a win for the defense, and it allows other defenders stay home on their assignments, which keeps passing lanes from opening up. That’s how you end up with Wall scoring 16 points on 22 shots and only getting 5 assists.
Plus, Wall picked up his 15th technical foul of the season in this one. If he gets another before the end of the regular season, he’ll be suspended for one game. As you might guess, he is not pleased.
Scott Brooks stays big
It was interesting to see Scott Brooks opt for big lineups with Marcin Gortat or Ian Mahinmi for the majority of the game, save for when they went small with Markieff Morris in the final few moments of the game. Perhaps Brooks didn’t want to mess too much with his lineups just for one game against a non-conference opponent, but this seems like it would have been a perfect game to get Jason Smith some minutes at the five against Gobert to see if he could draw him out of the paint.
It will be interesting to see if this strategy shifts if the Wizards have to face Hassan Whiteside or someone else of his ilk in the playoffs.