HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Back and Forth With Bones is an e-mail exchange between NBA.com’s John Schuhmann and NBA TV’s Brent Barry during a Monday night game. This week, they sat down (Schuhmann at home in New Jersey, Barry in the studio in Atlanta) to watch the 6-10 Orlando Magic visit the 8-9 Washington Wizards.
Schuhmann: Hey Bones, we got Magic-Wizards tonight.
The Wiz have won six of their last eight games with an improved offense (103.5 points per 100 possessions vs. 98.5 in their first nine games). For the season, they’ve been great on both ends of the floor with John Wall, Nene and Marcin Gortat on the floor with two of the Trevor Ariza/Bradley Beal/Martell Webster group, outscoring opponents by 14.3 points per 100 possessions. But all other lineups have been dreadful. So depth is an issue, especially with Beal out.
They’re a jump-shooting team. Only two teams (New York and Portland) have taken a lower percentage of shots from the paint. But they’re tied with the Heat for the league lead in corner 3-pointers. Wall has 32 assists on corner 3s (10 more than anybody else in the league) and Ariza and Webster are tied for second with 23 corner threes.
So that has to be a priority for Orlando’s defense, which ranks 26th in defending corner 3s and has been pretty bad over the last nine games after a strong start. I don’t know if Jameer Nelson is available (and the Magic offense has been pretty awful with him off the floor), but the Wall-Victor Oladipo matchup should be fun.
The Wizards have been a good defensive rebounding team with Gortat and Nene on the floor together, but pretty awful when one or both sits. So Nikola Vucevic could have some success if either gets in foul trouble.
Barry: Yes, Randy Wittman is auditioning players to help take the load off of the starting group. But this game is interesting to me in that there is a lot of positivity regarding the Wizards recent play. Can they accept and continue what it is that has gotten them there?
With Beal out, I am stoked to see Martell Webster getting quality starter minutes, though 40-plus (in three of those) is too many. He’s just ready to get in there and mix it up, being a pro.
Watching John Wall balance out his game tonight will be key. Quality possessions against a team in Orlando that competes and shares the ball on offense are a must. The bigs must stay out of foul trouble for Washington.
Orlando is not a huge dribble-penetrate attack team other than Oladipo. It’s interesting that the Wiz have had this stretch with Beal (NBA minutes leader and their leading scorer) out.
Is Arron Afflalo an Eastern Conference All-Star? Hard to say he hasn’t played like one.
Schuhmann: Nah, the East All-Stars should just be six players each from Indiana and Miami.
Barry: Add four from the West to the East. Any player born east of the Mississippi can qualify for East team headed to NO!
The Wizards got off to a fast start, taking a 15-2 lead in the first five minutes. But they eventually had to go to their dreadful bench and they scored just three times on their last 17 possessions of the quarter. Afflalo got going late in the period and the Magic came all the way back to tie the game.
Schuhmann: The Magic ran a nice flare screen for Afflalo on the first play, but I don’t think he’s touched the ball since then.
Barry: Gortat is so good at rolling. Most coaches preach roll with a purpose, and I think he is one of the best at it.
Barry: I like that Wiz are at least exploring the post to help to open perimeter play.
Barry: Awful transition D by the Wiz.
Barry: Good start for Victor back home. Lots of emotion when you go home, tons more if you play under your dad’s retired jersey in the rafters.
Schuhmann: I almost google’d “Victor Oladipo father,” and then I realized you were talking about yourself. If the Wizards just get back on defense, he’ll have a tougher time. He’s getting most of his looks in transition, and that dime to Maurice Harkless was sweet.
Barry: Chance for the bench to hold or extend for the Wiz.
Schuhmann: And… the numbers I showed you pregame are holding up. They’ve been awful since they went to their bench.
2nd quarter (score tied at 22)
The Wizards’ struggles continued early in the second. Overall it was a span of 24 possessions in which they scored only four times. With Afflalo getting a couple of more buckets, the Magic went up by five. But eventually, the Washington starters got back on the floor and finished the half on a 28-12 run to take control. Wall had nine points and five assists in the period and was a plus-23 in 19 first-half minutes.
Barry: Oops. It’s a bad combo of guys coming back from injuries and guys needing a confidence boost for Wiz. Jacque Vaughn leaving Afflalo out there to keep that unit together paid off.
Schuhmann: Chris Singleton‘s shot selection can’t make his teammates and coaches happy.
Barry: It makes one coach happy … Jacque Vaughn.
Schuhmann: Wall is 1-for-7 and a plus-11, which makes perfect sense.
Barry: The post has been good to the Wiz.
Schuhmann: Not so much to Glen Davis…
Barry: It’s strange to see how many possessions for the Wiz have screens under the 3-point line, where there is not much space for Wall to accelerate.
Schuhmann: He’s a 34-percent shooter from mid-range, so going under the screen is the right play. He has to shoot better than 45% to make them pay, or set the screen higher and have him pull up from three instead.
Barry: I would just like to see it higher to create more room to manipulate the bigs and pressure the weak side a bit.
Halftime (WAS leads 52-41)
Schuhmann: Halftime analysis is easy. The Wizards’ starters are very good. The Wizards’ bench stinks.
Thanks to some Washington turnovers, the Magic were able to cut the lead to seven. But the Wizards locked down after that and went on an 11-2 run to build another cushion. Gortat had 10 points in the period.
Schuhmann: The Magic don’t need to put Baby in the corner, but putting somebody there to guard Trevor Ariza would be a good idea.
Barry: There is that Gortat roll…
Schuhmann: Ariza isn’t just 8-for-9, he’s doing a nice job denying Afflalo, making those catches tough and forcing the Orlando offense into secondary actions late in the clock.
4th quarter (WAS leads 75-61)
Thanks to a couple of corner threes from Singleton and Webster, the Magic would not be making another run against the Washington bench. Vaughn waived the white flag pretty early, subbing in some third stringers with a 21-point deficit and 8:13 left on the clock.
Barry: Playing pick and roll and through Gortat may be a settling comfort for the second unit.
Schuhmann: Even in the post, he’s a better initiator for your second-unit offense than Maynor or Singleton off the dribble.
Barry: You can see how rudderless teams (Utah) can look without a true point guard to play a lot minutes and produce. Ships need a captain.
Schuhmann: Speaking of rudderless, the Magic are clearly feeling Nelson’s absence. Can’t get anything going toward the basket.
Schuhmann: Looks like we have some early garbage time.
Barry: Yes. Looking forward for the Wiz, they have some matchups coming up to test their consistency in efforts. Some good and some not-so-good teams. Signs of good teams point to consistency of competitive effort. That is their challenge.
Final: Wizards 98-80
After a 2-7 start, the Wizards have gone 7-2, putting them at .500 and in third place in the Eastern Conference. They got 16 points and 13 assists from Wall, but Ariza was the star. He finished with 24 points on 8-for-9 shooting, hitting all four of his 3-point attempts. And his defense on Afflalo in the second half kept the Magic at bay.
Afflalo finished with 21 points, but didn’t get much help. Oladipo scored 13 points on 4-for-12 shooting and two other starters – Davis and E’Twaun Moore – each shot 1-for-8. As a team, the Magic were 3-for-15 from 3-point range.
Schuhmann: It will be interesting to see how much longer Beal is out. Once he’s healthy, the Wizards can probably have at least two of their top six guys on the floor at all times (playing Beal/Ariza + Gortat/Nene with the second unit), put the ball in the hands of those guys, and reduce the drop-off when they go to the bench.
Most regressed offenses (points scored per 100 possessions)
|Wall, Nene, Gortat + 2 of Ariza, Beal & Webster||327||95.7||109.5||93.1||+16.4||+117|
|All other lineups||556||96.1||95.7||107.0||-11.3||-128|
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
Watching this game just makes it clear to me that a Nelson trade would ensure Orlando of some very good Lottery odds. Oladipo has a ton of talent, but isn’t ready to run an offense full-time. And if Nelson is out, you just need to keep Oladipo out of the open floor, make Afflalo’s catches tough, and keep Vucevic off the glass.
Barry: There’s so much more season to go and Jacque talking of his concerns being effort and concentration. Keeping those levels up is where they can measure this team’s success.