For the third game in a row, the Wizards found themselves locked in a tight game late in the fourth quarter. But the Wizards were unable to edge out the rejuvenated Knicks, marking the first loss of the year. Though the game was close throughout, the Wizards did not play particularly well. John Wall and Bradley Beal continued to carry the load, and Drew Gooden gave productive minutes off the bench with three putback tip-ins.
For the most part, the rest of the team struggled. Otto Porter finished with what a stat line that, if you missed the game, would look respectable, but he has shot poorly now in three consecutive games. Much of the Wizards ability to space teams out and run depends on the team’s ability to knock down 3’s. And right now, the only shooter that really worries teams is Beal. Maybe Otto is not a 40% 3-point shooter, like many optimists envisioned. He needs to be able to shoot over 35% though and knock down open corner 3’s – he had a couple against the Knicks with no one around that he missed.
The other two starters, Marcin Gortat and Kris Humphries, offered almost nothing. It’s inexplicable for someone Gortat’s size to only grab five rebounds. At least four or five times throughout the game, either Wall or Porter drove and dished to Gortat in the middle of the paint, only for Gortat to miss or get swatted by Robin Lopez. Meanwhile, it’s time to seriously consider whether Kris Humphries is destined to be a guy who beats up on backups. You know, someone whose energy is his best attribute, who grabs a bunch of rebounds and scraps around. It’s intriguing seeing him stretch his game out behind the arc, but it also just doesn’t seem right seeing him primarily line up 25 feet from the hoop on offense. He is most effective as a banger down low – a guy who makes a living on garbage points and tough rebounds.
The Knicks are not the laughingstock they were last year. They have eight new faces this season, but losing to them at home is disappointing. Especially in the fashion that it happened: efficient play by Carmelo. Carmelo is anything but efficient on most nights. He’s a gunner that looks more concerned with keeping his scoring average up, rather than winning. Yet, on Halloween night, he very efficiently poured in 37 points, only missing seven shots. Some of the blame for his performance might be incorrectly laid on Otto’s shoulders. Otto did, in fact, guard Carmelo, but the majority of Carmelo’s jumpers were contested. Seeing Carmelo torch the Wiz the way he did, though, it’s apparent that the Wiz are shorthanded on the wings. Really, there is a glaring weakness, having lost Trevor Ariza and Paul Pierce in consecutive years. Unless you’re counting on Otto and Jared Dudley to shut down the best wings in the NBA.
The long-term signing of Martell Webster is looking worse and worse. After a productive season two years ago, Webster has been hindered by injuries, and it looks like he may miss the entire season. Also missing is Alan Anderson, who’s dealing with an ankle injury, but he’s not going to magically fix the wing woes.
How you feel about the Wizards first three games largely depends on how you decide to frame things. The Wizards are 2-1 with two wins on the road, but deep down, neither win felt impressive. Against the Magic, Wall and Beal took over in the final couple minutes after what had been a lackluster performance by the team all night long. And the comeback against the Bucks was a case of everyone getting hot in the fourth quarter. Either the Wiz have been playing subpar basketball and have still managed to figure out how to scrap out wins, or they’ve played poorly and just been bailed out by hot (read: lucky) shooting, mostly by Beal.
It’s three games into the season and there is no reason to panic. But if Wall and Beal are to carry this team all year, then…. Well, then Beal will have earned his max extension.