I wasn’t able to catch the Pacers game, but I was able to watch the Wizards and Celtics battle it out. The Wizards had shown promise throughout the end of the season, and the Celtics had shown little to no promise, so how does Boston escape with an 18 point win?
Let’s first start with injuries. It was clear that Bradley Beal was not 100%, and although Robert Williams had to exit early as well, Beal carries a slightly larger role than Williams. It was also unclear whether Westbrook was fully healthy or not. Another major factor that weighed the Wizards down was the number of fouls given up. Some of the fouls the refs called (and didn’t call) were questionable, but as a team, you have to deal with that and play on. Washington committed a total of 31 fouls which equated to 32 free throws and 27 points. The Celtics were more disciplined, only committing 17 fouls. Wizards’ head coach Scott Brooks is hesitant to insert a player back into the game. For example, Rui obtained 2 fouls in the first quarter and was played a total of 5 minutes. He only played 3 more minutes in the second quarter, and 31 seconds in the third. Brooks eventually realized in the 4th that Hachimura needed to be on the floor if Washington wanted any part of a comeback. The other player who received fewer minutes than he deserved was Daniel Gafford. Gafford, who came in on trade deadline day from Chicago has been a pure spark plug for Washington, providing the team with solid defense and a reliable paint scoring machine. Gafford obtained 3 fouls in the first quarter, so Brooks decided to remove him from the rotation altogether in the second quarter. He finished with only 20 minutes, which again seems necessary for a backup center, but Gafford deserved much more than this as he scored 12 points off of 86% shooting, grabbed 5 boards, and blocked 2 shots.
Meanwhile, Davis Bertans is throwing up heavily contested three-pointers from beyond 25 feet. The Wizards simply did not play good basketball. They weren’t getting open shots and the minimal open shots they did receive were missed, as they shot a truly dismal 14.3% (3/21) from three. Two other players that Scott Brooks could’ve given more playing time to are Garrison Mathews and Ish Smith. What did the Wizards need in this game? Defense and shooting. What does Garrison Mathews provide? Defense and shooting. Meanwhile, Ish Smith was the player of the game for Washington. You could see on the timeouts, Ish Smith was taking the role of Russell Westbrook by talking up and motivating the team to keep fighting. On the court, Smith was more energetic than Westbrook as he finished with 17 points on 6/8 shooting. Smith was also going up for rebounds as he finished with 8 (let’s keep in mind that Smith is 6’0). That seems like a good game, but he only played 26 minutes. This seems like a normally appropriate amount for a backup point guard like Smith, but at this time, he was the mode of scoring for the Wizards. He was the facilitator making things happen whether it was for him or others. You might be wondering who these minutes were given to, and the answer to that question is Davis Bertans. Bertans, who did not start, played the most minutes (33) behind Westbrook and Beal and did absolutely nothing with those minutes. Over the past 6 games, Brooks has played Bertans an average of 32 minutes per game, while he has scored an average of 13.5 points per game on 41% shooting from the field. Bertans physically cannot do anything else on offense besides shooting threes and is one of the most disastrous defenders I have ever seen. He’s been anything but consistent as he continues his erratic season, and this is the guy that Scott Brooks trusts.
One last subject I’d like to touch on is the defense I saw from the Wizards. You’d think that by now they’d have figured out their own defense, but you’d be mistaken. On two accounts that I can clearly remember, Chandler Hutchinson was utterly confused regarding his defensive assignment, which left Jayson Tatum wide open for two threes, both of which he made. Another question is why Washington switches on every single pick set, and I do mean every single one. This is the coach’s decision, but if Scott Brooks is truly an NBA coach, he is coaching to and around his players. What I mean by this is, the players have not maintained a thorough method of communication throughout the season on defense. Players would be confused about whether to switch or to fight through the screen. First off, that says a lot about the players in the organization, but I find it hard to believe that these players are this bad at communicating that Scott Brooks has decided to switch on every single pick. It’s simply not logical. I said in a previous post that teams will easily find ways to switch Davis Bertans, whom I mentioned above is a horrible defender, and that’s exactly what the Celtics did. Bertans was guarding Marcus Smart, and Smart would repeatedly come set a pick for Jayson Tatum, switching a defenseless Bertans onto Tatum.
It sure will be a fight between Washington and Indiana as they battle for the 8th seed and the right to continue competing. It might be hard to watch, but at least it’s basketball.