The fourth quarter of the Washington Wizards’ loss in Atlanta, the team’s latest foray in ignominy, looked like a showcase for solo acts. Stagnation choked the offense, even despite the team’s five assists on seven made field goals as the Atlanta Hawks outscored Washington by a dozen and ran away with the 113-99 win.
After the game, Bradley Beal initially bristled at the idea of explaining this loss to reporters, feeling as if though he is participating in an exercise of redundancy since the team has piled up so many bad moments. However once Beal started talking, he interpreted the game with a new, and troubling, perspective.
“We’re too selfish,” Beal surmised. “Offense and defense, plain and simple.”
The idea that the Wizards, now 19-16 overall with 10 of those defeats coming against teams with losing records, may at times suffer from a me-first mentality has been discussed internally among teammates. Behind closed doors, players name names and call out one another, hoping that tough love corrects bad habits. However, after nights like Wednesday, the volume of these private claims reaches higher pitches.
The Wizards aren’t simply taking teams lightly, as has been suggested following losses to the Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, Brooklyn Nets (twice) and the Hawks. However, the Wizards see these teams on the schedule and view the games as a chance to have individual big nights, several players said on Wednesday.
“We talk about it. We say when we play these teams that are not above .500 or not one of the great teams, we go out there playing for stats,” John Wall said. “It’s simple as that. We can see it. I think we all can see it when we play.”
Wall revealed that there are no feelings spared when teammates uncover selfish acts among others.
“We say it all in the locker room. No matter what. We don’t sugarcoat it from anybody,” Wall said. “And we all let him know what it is. We just got to find a better job of providing and keeping it away.”
Often when Coach Scott Brooks visualizes an ideal offense, he raves about the idea of passing up quality looks to get an even better shot for a teammate, referring to this as “good-to-great.” This season, however, the Wizards have not relied on ball movement and rank near the bottom of the league in passes made per game (282.8).
This average is likely indicative of Wall’s ability to create direct offense for teammates, who take shots off his passes, and does not quite demonstrate offensive stinginess. After all, the Wizards score 105.6 points per game — not as good as their high pace from last year but still the 12th highest average in the NBA. Besides, ball movement shouldn’t automatically equate to good offense — the Sacramento Kings make the fourth-most passes per game (324.7) but have the lowest scoring offense in the league.
Even so, Beal believes the Wizards could learn to share a bit more.
“Sometimes we need to do that. Sometimes even myself included,” Beal said. “Sometimes we do one-pass shots, no-pass shots. Two or three passes on one side of the floor versus moving on both sides of the floor. Teams are going to load up on me and John. That’s something that we should know by now. We got to do a better job of creating, putting the ball on the floor and moving it.
“I think everybody as a collective unit, starters and the bench, we’ve got to do better at it,” Beal continued.
On Wednesday, as the starters returned to the floor in the final quarter, trailing by two possessions, individuals within the five-man group attempted to overcome the deficit on their own.
While down six, Wall ignited a fast break, maybe a bit too fast for Otto Porter Jr., who was not in a good position to receive the kick-out pass to the corner. After Porter lunged to save the ball, then sent it to Markieff Morris, he lofted a three-pointer with 17 seconds still on the shot clock. Later, Porter tried to net a three from a pick-and-pop play between himself and Wall but missed. Then, in the unit’s final play together before being pulled from the game, Beal measured up a taller defender from beyond the arc and missed his second pullup three point attempt of the quarter off the front of the rim.
In the fourth quarter, the starters participated in 12 possessions that resulted in shot attempts and nine concluded with either one pass within the offensive set or no pass at all. Wall made four beeline passes that set up shot attempts for teammates before he missed his only attempt of the fourth quarter — a straight-line drive to the rim, in which there was no pass within the set.
Overall, Wall, the team’s second leading scorer, attempted nine shots but the loss in Atlanta might have inspired him to start taking a greater stake within the offense.
“I just try to do my job to get everybody shots and also be aggressive at the same time,” Wall said. “But I’m going to have to go back to what I did last year a lot times and just be more aggressive offensively and shoot the ball. I only shot the ball nine times [Wednesday].”
While Beal wants to hold on to the belief that Washington can fix its problems, he does not want to declare that selfishness has taken over the roster.
“We show glimpses of it,” Beal said. “I wouldn’t say that we’re a selfish team. I just feel like we have selfish moments because Boston we weren’t selfish. We were moving the ball, passing, everybody got touches, everybody got shots. [Wednesday] it was about me, me, me, me because we’re playing an under .500 team, so we think it’s going to be easy and that’s something that’s been killing us. We fall into that trap every single time.”
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