WASHINGTON – With the NBA playoffs upon them, the Washington Wizards have been struggling to find answers to issues that have plagued the team all season.
The team has lost seven of its last 10 games and several of those losses were against lackluster teams with under-.500 records, including the New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons.
After a disappointing loss to the struggling Atlanta Hawks on Friday, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks heavily criticized the team for its lack of ball movement and creativity.
“Selfish basketball is no fun to coach, it’s no fun to play with, and it’s no fun to watch. We’re a selfish basketball team right now,” Brooks said. “If we’re not going to share the basketball, you can’t just say ‘John’s not here.’ John’s here, it doesn’t matter. We still got to play the right way.”
All-star point guard John Wall didn’t suit up against the Hawks and his absence was evident throughout the game. Center Marcin Gortat, who has averaged two assists this season, was the Wizards’ assist leader that night with only four total assists.
Although the team struggled to move the ball well against the Hawks, it hasn’t been a consistent problem this season. The team’s frustrating loss to Atlanta is really an outlier, because the Wizards have actually moved the ball well recently.
Over the last five games, where the Wizards have gone 1-4, the team has averaged 27.2 assists per game, the seventh-best assist rate in the league. The team has also averaged an impressive 68.7 assist percentage, the third-best percentage in the NBA during that span.
It’s evident that the Wizards are actually doing an efficient job of moving the ball lately, as nearly 70 percent of all their field goals have come right after a pass. However, the real problem for the team heading into the playoffs isn’t necessarily ball movement, it’s the turnovers that come from all those passes.
Over the last five games, the Wizards have averaged 16.2 turnovers per game, the fourth- highest turnover rate in the league. The team has also averaged a 16.6 turnover percentage, the third-highest rate during this span. This means that the team is turning over the ball roughly 17 times per 100 plays.
“We’ve got to do a better job of moving the ball; looking for the extra pass, looking for the right pass, saving the home run passes,” Wizards small forward Otto Porter Jr. said Friday. “Turnovers are putting us in a bad position.”
Brooks also recognized a need for better effort from the team on defense. He mentioned that the Wizards made several mistakes against the Hawks that led to wide-open shots around the perimeter and in the paint.
The Wizards haven’t been a great defensive team this year, but stats show they’ve been regressing on the defensive side recently.
The team has allowed 111.2 points per 100 possessions over its last five games, the sixth-worst defensive rating in the league over that span. They’ve also allowed 19.2 points off of turnovers, which is the fifth-highest rate in the league.
With the playoffs approaching, the team has to find a way to cut down on turnovers and play sharper defense on and off the ball. Players will have to step up on both ends of the court for the team to make a strong playoff run.
With a potential first-round playoff matchup against the red-hot Toronto Raptors or the resilient Boston Celtics, there’s really no room for mistakes and the Wizards’ players know it.
“We are supposed to be playing great for the playoffs, improving in all things and now we’re just struggling all over the floor,” backup point guard Tomas Satoransky said after Friday’s game. “We have to really change it quickly.”