Wizards 104, Timberwolves 100: Get. Back. On. Defense.
Check the highlight reel above from Tuesday night’s loss to the Washington Wizards.
That’s John Wall and Bradley Beal destroying your beloved Wolves. As I kept looking over stuff from this game, I couldn’t help but keep coming back to the image of Wall and his cohorts ramming the ball into the face of the Wolves transition defense all night long. You can blame all kinds of things in this game for the poor effort and execution. Fans were upset at Ricky Rubio not being in the game for almost all of the fourth quarter when JJ Barea was out there. They were upset at the lack of defense being displayed on the court. It was another hot start followed by a drop-off.
I can see why that would be so frustrating for fans because they seem to greatly dislike Barea (I still don’t totally get this because his role demands him to play a certain way) and Rubio is so beloved. Rubio was awful in Tuesday night’s game and didn’t seem to be moving the offense along at all. I’m not sure if it was the threat of John Wall on the other end or if he just didn’t have a good feel for what the Wizards’ defensive game plan was. Whatever the problem was with him creating for others on offense, it affected his game and the team.
He also couldn’t contain Wall much at all, so I get Adelman choosing to go with the more productive player on the offensive end. Coach felt after the game that the offense was the problem for the Wolves. Bad, quick shots and sloppy turnovers turned into easy transition opportunities. If he felt Barea was running the team better than Rubio, I’m fine with that, even though most would disagree. This isn’t a regular thing. It’s happened twice this season (last night and in Cleveland) in which Adelman has trusted Barea in the fourth more than Rubio. If the Wolves get the win, most people don’t care. Since they fell short, the blame game gets pushed into overdrive.
I don’t doubt that the inconsistent offense against the Wizards contributed to the transition defense woes but I think it extended beyond that. Wolves allowed 33 fast break points to the Wizards. According to MySynergy Sports, 21.4% of Washington’s offense came in transition opportunities. That’s WAY too high of a percentage to allow against any team, especially a bad team like the Wizards. The Wolves allowed 76.2% shooting in transition and didn’t commit a single shooting foul in transition.
The fact that they didn’t foul at all in those situations makes it look like they weren’t in any position to stop the Wizards from doing what they wanted in these situations. We’ve said this a couple of times this season and it’s beginning to feel like a broken record, but the effort just wasn’t acceptable. I’m not sure what it’s going to take for the players to realize this or for the coaching staff to relay the importance of imposing your will on a team like this. You’re not going to be given victories because your team is being lauded by basketball pundits and fans right now.
Of course, the one time you felt truly great about the way they played defense on a possession was when Martell Webster hit that monster 3-pointer to put the Wizards up 100-98. The Wolves scrambled on that possession, forced desperate passes and somehow the ball still ended up getting to Martell, who knocked down a big shot. This would have all been avoidable had the Wolves gotten back on defense much earlier in the game and worked their offense for better shots.
7-5 is not a bad place to be by any means but we may look at these early, frustrating losses later in the season when we’re trying to figure out why possible seeding in the West isn’t more in the favor of this team.