Thoughts from the Wizards Game 1 OT win in Toronto.
1. Paul Pierce isn’t done yet. His 10 points in the 2nd quarter keyed a crucial 17-6 run that gave the Wizards a 4-point lead at halftime. His scoring early in the 3rd helped extend the lead while his 3-pointer to start OT put a halt to the Toronto run that tied the game at the end of regulation. Without him, they would have lost. That’s why they brought him here.
2. Washington’s defense was outstanding throughout the game. Toronto didn’t shoot the ball well but the Wizards played great defense. Consider this. The Wizards shot 39.4% for the game with Wall and Beal going a combined 11 for 41 yet they still won the game. To overcome that required an exceptional defensive effort and a solid defensive plan. They had both.
First, the defensive game plan was smart. They doubled DeRozan and Williams at times and neither ever got comfortable in the game. They trapped in favorable trap areas on the sideline and corners throughout the game. They did a great job cutting off the baseline forcing Lowry, DeRozan, and Williams into help in the middle of the floor. They closed out on shooters particularly well without ever leaving their feet something Toronto didn’t do especially against Pierce. Porter in particular bothered DeRozan. Even the shots DeRozan made were defended well. Wall had a very good game defensively too. DeRozan, Lowry, and Williams went a combined 12 for 46.
3. Wittman’s Moves and Misses. Randy Wittman and his staff had the Wizards prepared defensively as mentioned above and made a game-changing move in the 2nd qtr going small with Pierce at the 4-spot. I also loved the inbounds play that freed up Wall for a layup in overtime that gave them a 91-84 lead. With that said, I hated their last two shots of regulation. At 82-79 after a replay reversal and an offensive rebound, they ran the clock down and got a horrible shot attempt from Beal. Wittman’s decision to leave the ball in Wall’s hands and let him take a jump shot at the end of regulation hasn’t worked for two years running.
4. They won without pace. Wall wasn’t in push-tempo mode for most of the day. They walked it up the floor for the majority. When Wall did push tempo it was effective getting Pierce two open threes in transition.
5. Offensive rebounding/few turnovers. The Wizards had 19 offensive rebounds and just 10 turnovers (3 of those on offensive fouls). If they’re going to shoot poorly, extra possessions are a must.
6. Beal had a rough day. His shooting (6-23) was bad but his defense in key spots was worse. He completely lost Lew Williams on the 3-pointer that cut the lead to 77-75 and he fell to the ground in front of Vasquez’s game-tying 3. I love Beal and think that if he stays healthy, he’ll eventually develop into an elite 2-guard.
However, his growth from good to great will depend on maturity. Right now, he lacks the necessary urgency and attentiveness to be consistent. He looked like he was daydreaming when he lost Williams on the late 3-pointer that cut it to 2. On one key possession in the 4th quarter, he let the shot clock roll down to 4 seconds when he had to know he would be doubled because they had been doubling him most of the day but he appeared to forget what was coming and it resulted in a shot-clock violation. With all of the above said, I liked that he stayed aggressive shooting the ball despite the results. Toronto’s defensive plan was focused on making it tough on Beal and that helped others. They’re going to need him to play much better if they’re going to advance.
7. Bench. Porter, Seraphin, Gooden, and Sessions all had very good moments. Porter’s defense and late floater. Seraphin’s scoring. Gooden’s rebounding and in particular his offensive rebounding. Sessions’ three and late 2nd qtr bucket to extend the lead to 4 at the half were big.
8. Minutes. Wittman went with what was working in the moment and if it wasn’t working, he changed. Nene was a high-volume (12 pts, 13 rebounds) performer in just 21 minutes. Gortat played most of the 4th but Nene started the OT. Part of me wonders if Wittman did it because he knew Nene would win the jump-ball tip and they’d get the first possesssion. Humphries didn’t play at all. Any questions about Seraphin’s role were answered….17 minutes/10 points.
9. Last 25 seconds of regulation. Nobody likes to see Wall hold the ball and take a jump shot at the end of a tied game. If he’s going to settle for a jump shot, I’d like to see him get to his money-spot just right of the free throw line. And then how ‘bout Porter/Ross almost tipping the ball in for Toronto at the buzzer?