Washington has spent much of the last calendar year harping about its lackluster team defense, as well as pledging to shoot more three-pointers. The two games continued those flaws.
During wins over the Philadelphia 76ers and Detroit Pistons, the Wizards produced a defensive rating of 106.0, which ranks 20th in the league.
“Still figuring it out,” said Coach Scott Brooks, who has used a variant of this phrase ever since coming to Washington last season. “We definitely have to keep improving. Our offense is clicking … but defensively we’re spotty, at best. We do it at a high level for a quarter and then we give up a 30-plus point quarter. Trying to keep that down. We have to get better. I’m going to continue to talk about it until they get tired of hearing it.”
For quarters, the Wizards show that they can play solid defense, but those maddening glimpses only create more questions. If the Wizards can hold Detroit to 16 points in the third quarter, after allowing a 65-point first half, then why can’t they defend like that all the time?
“We know that we aren’t going to play perfect, but at the same time, we need to come out with a defensive mind-set,” Bradley Beal said. “We can’t go and get down 10, 11 points, you know, the way we did and have to fight and claw back. That’s something that we did all last year and something that we need to try and avoid this season as much as we can. It’s best for us to get out to a better defensive start each and every game. It is a good sign that we are able to turn it around, and coach jumps on our butt a little bit to get after it on defense.”
Besides the befuddling defense, an unexplained hesitancy has afflicted a roster with plenty of shooters. Only 15.3 percent of the Wizards’ points have come from beyond the three-point arc. This seems peculiar considering Washington’s 117.5 points per game outranks the defending champion Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, the highest scoring teams from last season.
The Wizards can certainly score, but have done so without relying on threes. Overall, the team has averaged just 19.5 attempts per game, the second lowest in the league.
“Flow of the game. We like to shoot threes; I know I do,” reserve forward Mike Scott said. Then, Scott added with a sheepish grin: “I guess that’s the right answer … I mean, Jodie [Meeks] hit a three — I think. ”
During Wednesday’s home game against the 76ers,Washington attempted just eight three-pointers through the first half — despite Washington starting a floor-stretching big in Jason Smith, then playing small after Smith left the game with a right shoulder injury. By Friday night, when Brooks had already made it known that he wanted more three-point attempts, Washington passed up deep looks for worse shots and tallied just five three-point attempts in the first half.
“They don’t listen much, do they?” Brooks quipped following the 115-111 win over Detroit. “We have to shoot threes. They’re wide open. We got playmakers that create a lot of havoc. When they’re on time and on target, you’ve got to shoot.”
The second-unit playmaker, point guard Tim Frazier, views the conservative shooting as a correctable problem that will smooth out with time. Frazier, Scott and Meeks are in their first season with the team. When plugging in center Ian Mahinmi, who appeared in just 31 games last year, the second unit looks as new as it was last season. Frazier believes teammates will need more than two games to reach a comfort level.
“Especially in our unit, we’re a little hesitant,” Frazier said. “We haven’t played together, played against other teams together. I think that’s a lot of it. I think a lot of guys, we’re all trying to get everybody involved and I think sometimes eventually when games go by we’ll find out what our roles are in that second unit.”
Still, Frazier looks at the team’s record and finds little to nitpick.
“We have three-point shooters, when they’re open they can knock it down but at the end of the day, we got two wins,” Frazier said. “So I’m pretty happy about that.”