ORLANDO — Simplicity defines much of Otto Porter Jr.'s game. He runs, fills the wings and shoots open threes in rhythm when he gets a touch. So on Thursday when he was asked to explain what led to his sizzling three-point shooting from the previous game, Porter had a straightforward response.
“Just stepping up to the challenge, trying to set an example,” the previously struggling Porter said of his 19 points and 5-of-6 shooting from the three-point arc, his best of the season, in Washington’s 119-100 loss in Dallas. “Trying to play good defense, staying solid, trying to bring that energy that we need because we’re desperate and we got to play desperate every game from now on. We got to come out and play desperate.”
Now, if it was only that simple for his teammates.
Although shoddy defense has ascended to the top of the Wizards' woes in their 2-8 start, three-point shooting continues to plague the team.
“It’s a broken record. We got to play better in a few different areas on the defensive end, and we’ve got to shoot the ball better from the three-point line,” Coach Scott Brooks said. “We really have good shooters that really haven’t hit their strides yet shooting the ball.”
In the preseason when the Wizards couldn’t connect from long range, players thought that it was a passing phase that would end once the real games began. But through their first 10 games, the Wizards rank 26th in the NBA at 31.3 percent. What’s more, they can’t make the shots even when they’re open.
As a team, Washington attempts the sixth-most three-pointers while a defender is at least six feet away, defined as “wide open” by NBA.com. The Wizards are shooting just 32.4 percent on those looks.
“We got a lot of wide-open shots,” Porter said. “They’re just not falling. I feel like we make shots when guys are right there to contest.”
On Tuesday against the Mavericks, Porter did not particularly care who was in front him. Porter made three of his four attempts that were defended and six of the 11 shots that were considered wide open, according to NBA.com.
“It’s great to see him make the shots that I know that he can make,” Brooks said. “The shots that he works on, the shots that I believe that he can make and our team believes he can make, and it was good to see it go through. No matter how good you are as a shooter, when you don’t see it go through, you get down on yourself. And Otto’s no different than all the great shooters in league history. It’s good to have him make some of those shots.”
Porter, who had missed the previous game with a left toe contusion, broke out of his slump by returning to what he does best. No Wizards player covered more ground in that game than Porter (3.01 miles), and he made the most out of a smaller role in the offense while receiving 49 touches, behind three other starters. But Porter carved out opportunities for himself. After grabbing a defensive rebound, he twice pushed the ball down the court to take a shot. He missed both attempts, but Brooks applauded the initiative.
“There’s not one time I will look at Otto’s game offensively and say, ‘You know, why’d he take that shot? Why was he aggressive in this moment?’ ” Brooks said. “And he needs to do that, that’s what is going to make us a good team going in the next set of games. He needs to play like he did [against Dallas going] forward.”
Porter felt his game in Dallas was a good start, not quite a breakthrough. He’d like his shooting to remain consistent for a few more games before declaring the end of a slump. And Porter believes it’s just a matter of time before the other shooters on the team can say the same.
“If we keep taking the open shots, they’re going to go in eventually. There’s no doubt it,” Porter said. “It’s a long season. They’re going to start going in.”