Wizards have another ill-advised three-point party

November 14, 2012

Please tell me we’re not about to shoot another three. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

The Wizards couldn’t shoot, but they also couldn’t stop themselves. The temptation was too strong, with the Charlotte Bobcats showing little to no respect, daring them to keep misfiring. And, the Wizards obliged, with a barrage of mostly wide-open three-point shots that led to long rebounds and fast break opportunities for the opposition.

Entered this season, the Wizards had just nine games in which they attempted at least 30 three-pointers. In six games this season, they have already done it twice. And in both cases, the results have been terrible.

They were at their worst during a 92-76 loss against Charlotte in which they missed 26 of 31 three-point attempts and shot as if there were a four-point money ball coming with every fifth attempt from long distance. Even worse, the Wizards made 1 of 21 three-point attempts in the final three quarters.

The errant shooting from deep contributed to the Wizards making a season-low 29.8 percent from the field and failing to score at least 80 points for the first time this season. Scoring was always going to be a problem without John Wall and Nene, but the Wizards didn’t do themselves any favors against the Bobcats with an ill-advised three-point party.

“When you struggle offensively like that, there are reasons for that,” Coach Randy Wittman said after the Wizards opened the season 0-6 for the second year in a row. “I thought the first quarter was one of our better quarters. We moved the ball fast. Very little holding of the ball. Very little searching for shots. Second quarter, it just all became a search. Hold the ball. Dribble, dribble, dribble, until I exhaust my opportunity to shoot the ball, which leads to turnovers or awful shots.”

The Wizards had 17 turnovers, which contributed to 19 points for the Bobcats. And many of those “awful shots” were those three-pointers – and not only because the perimeter oriented Wizards weren’t hitting. Trevor Booker, Kevin Seraphin and Emeka Okafor were actually shooting well, combining to score 23 points on an efficient 14 shots. Seraphin and Okafor combined to take just six shots. Booker took eight.

The Wizards only got 24 points in the paint, but they also got another 21 from the foul line against an overly aggressive Bobcats defense sending them to the free throw line for 32 attempts. For a team that averaged less than 15 free attempts through the first five games, Wittman joked that the 32 free throws “felt like 100 for us.”

Wittman blamed the Wizards’ struggles on selfish play, but the offense actually generated open looks. The Wizards just might not have the personnel to consistently hit them.

They have six players on the roster who have attempted at least 18 three pointers this season and Martell Webster is the only one who is making more than one-third of his attempts –  and that’s barely, since Webster has connected on just 7-for-18 this season. A.J. Price leads the team with 41 attempts, but has only made 11.

This season, the Wizards rank last in the NBA in field goal percentage (39.5 percent) and that has lot to do with them connected on a league-worst 27.9 percent (43 of 154) on three-pointers. Three-pointers account for 30.6 percent of their 504 field goal attempts.

The previous 10 times that the Wizards attempted at least 30 three-pointers, they made at least eight, as they did on 32 attempts in the season opening loss in Cleveland. But a high volume of long-range shots has rarely led to success for the Wizards: they are 3-8 all-time in that situation.

Charlotte was more aggressive and determined to pound the Wizards inside. The Bobcats score 46 points in the paint, with Ramon Sessions, Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist keeping the Wizards on their heels. But they didn’t exactly have a stellar offensive performance, shooting just 39.7 percent.

“I don’t care how good a D you play. We did a decent job defensively, but we’ve got to give ourselves a chance to win the game. We didn’t make any shots,” said Price, who missed 10 of 12 shots and scored just six points. “We shot terrible as a team. Not going to win no games like that.”

Trevor Ariza led the Wizards with 19 points, but he was just 2 of 8 from three-point range. Bradley Beal and Price were a combined 2 of 13. The trio combined to make all four in the first quarter, when the Wizards led 27-23.

“That second quarter, we just stopped moving the ball and it went downhill from there,” Booker said. “It was like we just quit playing.”

The Wizards made just 14 field goals in the final three quarters and Wittman said he understood how his team collapsed.  “When you shoot 29 percent, it drains that a little bit… but I don’t take anything from Charlotte. They came out and got after us.”

Even though they shot poorly, Beal said the Wizards still could’ve won the game.

“It’s other things we could’ve done to win the game,” Beal said. “We could’ve got more stops. Could’ve rebounded the ball. Took care of the ball. Limit our turnovers and things like that. It’s frustrating. But, at the same time, we can’t lose focus. I think we weren’t focused.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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