NEW ORLEANS — Whenever Andre Miller steps on the floor, his chief objective is to involve others. He has been a pass-first point guard in the NBA for 17 years, compiling the ninth-most assists in league history. His job, he believes, is to orchestrate the Washington Wizards’ second-unit offense by running plays for teammates.
Wizards Coach Randy Wittman, however, has wanted Miller to look to himself more often and the 38-year-old Miller, the oldest active player in the NBA, responded during Washington’s five-game road trip. Twice, Miller took over games as a scorer with his unparalleled fundamentals for a stretch — the first against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday and again vs. the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday.
“He’s been very big for our second unit,” Wittman said. “When he gets aggressive and looks at the basket, teams have to respect that. Because he’s going to make passes. But when they don’t guard him, he has to take advantage of it and I thought he did that.”
On Friday, he capitalized on Russell Westbrook’s foul trouble to score 13 points in the first half en route to a season-high 15. Three days later, he tallied eight pivotal points in less than three minutes in the fourth quarter of the Wizards’ win over the Pelicans.
“Vintage, man,” starting point guard John Wall said. “We tell him every time, ‘You got to be aggressive.’ I know he doesn’t want to be a scorer, but I think not just scoring, being a post-up player, making guys double-team him and getting other guys open shots helps us out a lot. And I think he’s starting to realize that and starting to get more comfortable with that second unit.”
Miller understands his skill set. He rarely shoots jumpers — he made his first three-pointer on his fifth attempt of the season Friday — and utilizes a remarkable post-up game to overwhelm point guards who are usually not accustomed to defending in the post. He did it against Westbrook on Friday and against New Orleans’s Austin Rivers on Monday when the Wizards needed it the most.
“I think it’s just the rhythm of the game, how it goes, how it pans out,” Miller said. “It depends on how the defense is playing and what the team needs at the time and I kind of just play from there.”
OFFENSE STALLS IN SECOND HALF
Wittman was happy with how his team played defense Monday, but his satisfaction with the offense halted in the second half. After scoring 52 points in the first half, Washington mustered just 40 points in the second. The development was similar to what the Wizards experienced in their loss to the Spurs in San Antonio on Saturday when they recorded 58 points in the first half but just 34 in the second.
“We still got things to clean up. No question,” Wittman said. “Our defense was fantastic tonight. And our offense is putting too much pressure on our defense. Our pace in the second half was terrible. Walking the ball up. We weren’t getting into sets with eight, nine seconds left on the shot
clock and you get the ability to make one pass and then take a shot.
“And that’s what happened. First half was really good I thought. We moved the ball, we got up and down the floor. The pace of the game was good. We got into our sets. What did we score? 52? And then it’s like pulling teeth.”
UP NEXT: NEW YORK KNICKS
The Wizards are off Tuesday before they take on the New York Knicks at Verizon Center on Wednesday. The Knicks (5-32) will be quite different than the squad Washington crushed on Christmas Day after trading J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to the Cleveland Cavaliers Monday as they toil through perhaps the worst season in franchise history.