Through the first half of the Washington Wizards' first exhibition game, players found it hard to get into a rhythm against the New York Knicks. The whistles from referees chirped early and often: tagging Otto Porter Jr. with a pair of personal fouls in the opening minutes of action and overall, hitting nine players from both teams with at least four fouls.
The constant stoppage of play was expected, Coach Scott Brooks said after the 124-121 overtime loss, but the 83 fouls and 90 combined free throws still seemed a bit excessive.
“We knew going into the game that a lot of the time in exhibitions, there are a high number of free throws,” Brooks said. “I don’t think any of us thought there would be 90. We have to adjust, and we have to play defense without fouling. I’m sure they will say the same thing also.”
After the game, Markieff Morris addressed the two major headlines of the game: his second-quarter ejection and the many fouls. The burly forward, who already wasn’t a fan of the officiating crew, compared the game to the NFL’s ongoing problem with penalties against defensive players.
“It’s a man’s sport. You got to be able to touch another player. That’s how the game go,” Morris said, cracking a slight grin. “Just like football. They want to let the quarterbacks down, put a pillow under they head and call roughing the passer. It’s the same thing.”
Other than calling fouls, the officials got a workout observing the Wizards' offensive sets. They constantly had to raise their hands to signal a three-point attempt.
Shooting more threes ranks among the top priorities for the Wizards and Monday the team chucked 38 from beyond the arc. Even center Ian Mahinmi, who had previously attempted only eight deep looks in his 11-year career, confidently hoisted a pair. Mahinmi made one, causing teammate Jason Smith to leap from his sideline seat and celebrate the momentous occasion.
Mahinmi’s one make, however, accounted for more than John Wall (0 for 2) and Austin Rivers (0 for 3). As a team, the Wizards connected on only 21.1 percent of their long shots (8 for 38).
“Y’all hit me with some stats I didn’t know: 8-38, five fouls,” Rivers told reporters upon learning of the team’s woes and his stat line for the game. “I’m already in a bad mood. We went to double overtime so I can’t get [dinner at] RPM. Shout out to RPM.”
Rivers can be forgiven for mistakenly thinking the game went to double overtime. The two-hour, 45-minute affair that featured fouls and bricked threes caused him to miss out on his favorite downtown Italian restaurant. Still, Rivers said the opening performance does not cause alarm.
“Yeah, it was the first game. Guys are missing wide-open looks. I’m not really worried about it,” Rivers said. “We have too many guys that can hit those threes. We’ll be fine.”