Micro-progress. That’s a term the New York Times has used often to refer to the following theory of motivation: “For any task you have to complete, break it down into the smallest possible units of progress and attack them one at a time.”
For the Washington Wizards, breaking their myriad problems down into any one defining factor is nigh impossible. Elements of poor chemistry, lazy effort, and lack of ability all combine in different measure every night to lead to something like this disappointing start to the 2018-19 season. But to go about solving those issues, the Wizards should adopt the theory of micro-progress. One small step at a time, the Wizards can get right.
That means coming out with some measure of defensive intensity, like Otto Porter Jr. did in the first quarter against New York on Monday. It means being willing to make the extra pass, like Bradley Beal, Markieff Morris and Tomas Satoransky did throughout a massive third-quarter run that gave Washington a double-digit lead. And it means actually putting away the game when it matters, like John Wall did when he hit the dagger three that sunk the Knicks’ chances of a frantic comeback.
In all, those tiny moments of micro-progress added up to a rickety, ramshackle 110-107 win over the desperate Knicks. Wall (18 points, 15 assists) and Beal (27 points, 7 assists) were crucial to the win despite their inefficient shooting. Kelly Oubre Jr. (21 points) and Morris (18 points, 7 rebounds) also played big roles.
Despite the thrilling ending, Monday’s game began with all Wizards not named Otto struggling quite a bit. Even Porter’s two steals and two blocks in the game’s first four minutes couldn’t prevent the Wizards from falling behind 18-12 early due to some awkward turnovers and poor defensive rebounding. The Knicks shot superbly in the first quarter and ended up with a 32-26 lead at the end of one.
In the second quarter, Kelly Oubre Jr. showed he won’t accept his demotion from the starting lineup without a fight. The Wave Papi scored a quick 11 points in his first seven minutes on the court, leading the Wizards back into the game. The score stayed relatively even until late in the first half, when an 11-2 Knicks run led by Tim Hardaway Jr. helped the Knicks go into halftime with a nine-point lead, 61-52.
In the second half, the Wizards exploded with a 20-4 run to take a 72-65 lead. The run was led by a balanced effort from Washington’s new starting lineup and, most importantly, a renewed commitment to defensive intensity. The run was punctuated with, well, this play. I can’t explain it. No one can.
After one of the team’s absolute finest quarters of the season, Washington led the Knicks 86-80 at the end of three.
In the fourth quarter, the Wizards all-bench unit maintained Washington’s lead by continuing the same defensive effort and offensive ball movement that earned it in the first place. The Wizards starters returned to help build a 15-point lead with just a few minutes remaining. Disaster almost struck, as the Wizards’ lead crept down to a mere three points with under 20 seconds to play, but Wall’s three-pointer put the game out of reach for a 110-107 road win.
There are certain players on this Wizards team who more than anyone else seem to set the tone for the team’s effort on a given night. While Wall and Beal are the classic examples, as the team’s de facto leaders, it almost seems more important in a given game that Otto Porter Jr. and Tomas Satoransky are playing at the best.
When those two are on, especially as important parts of Scott Brooks’s new starting line-up, everything just seems to flow more easily. The defense is much more capable of getting stops — see: Porter’s three steals and three blocks today — and then turning those stops into easy transition opportunities — see: Wall’s season-high 15 assists, many of which came on the fast break.
Despite tallying just three points, three assists and two rebounds, Satoransky was a clear team-high plus-15 on the night. He was dedicated on the defensive end and stayed committed to the pass-first ideology that spurred the Wizards’ incredible third-quarter run. He and Porter played by no means a perfect game, but when he and Porter can set the tone with their effort, everything gets a whole lot easier for Washington.
Kelly Oubre Jr. Tallies An Assist... And More
Kudos to Ben Standig of NBCSN Washington for noticing that Oubre had failed to tally a single assist over his previous four games. Oubre has not passed the ball much of late, seemingly concerned with getting his shots up. It was fairly clear that one reason Brooks removed Oubre from the starting line-up for Satoransky was because he is more willing to keep the ball moving.
Against the Knicks, Oubre did a better job of balancing his shooting possessions with the occasional ball movement. He was still aggressive shooting, but that’s more than forgivable when the result is 21 points on eight-of-11 shooting. Pair all of that with his five rebounds and three blocks, and fans just witnessed one of Oubre’s better performances of the season thus far.
Don’t Watch This
Can’t say I didn’t warn you.
Up next: The Wizards (10-14) will play the Atlanta Hawks (5-19) on the road this Wednesday at 7:30 pm Eastern Time.