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Wizards Late Game Struggles

During the Wizards Heat game on March 6th, Bradley Beal missed the potential game winning shot at the end of regulation. No big deal. However, at that point the Wizards ran this stat. The Wizards are shooting 1/16 trailing by 3 or less or tied, with less than 10 seconds left in the 4th quarter or overtime.


Teams are supposed to shoot a low percentage in these situations but this is awful. I double checked the numbers per nba.com and saw a slight disparity (stats.nba.com has 0-10 on 3 pointers, which matched up with the clip I put together) but the reality is that they are awful at end of game situations. The worst part is that all except for one of these situations had a drawn up out of bounds play. The Wizards were able to draw something up, talk it over, and still can't convert. Here's the video (random side note, watching Gortat literally grab and hold guys when he screens is pretty funny).


The first thing that jumps out is that in almost all the situations there is basically zero movement. The run a down screen to free up Beal (Wall a couple times), he gets the ball and a screen from a non shooter. It ends up in a contested midrange shot or three. There is zero creativity and a Scott Brooks trademark. Thunder fans should understand better than anyone, the monotonous my turn your turn mentality that his teams play with. To be fair his teams are pretty successful and coaching superstars isn't easy, but Scott Brooks is definitely not an X and O guy. My suggestion would be putting the ball in someone else's hands rather than letting Beal work in isolation, and have Beal run off screens to create movement and confusion for the defense.


With Wall out it does make it tougher when it comes to creativity. Beal is not a point guard and doesn't even give the impression that he might pass. In this screen grab below you see Wade leave his man in the corner to cut off Beal's driving lane, daring him to pass. Beal doesn't recognize it quick enough and settles for the midrange jumper.

Wade leaves his man in the corner to stop Beal’s drive — by Sean Taira
Wade leaves his man in the corner to stop Beal’s drive — by Sean Taira

In the second screen grab against Boston, Beal gets a pick from Satoranski and gets Kyrie one on one. They clear out the right side of the floor hoping for an isolation. Boston clearly doesn't respect Beal's passing ability (nor should they) and Horford and Brown collapse, leaving Tatum and Rozier to guard the other four Wizards. Morris has Tatum pinned down low, and would get a wide open Oubre three. Porter could easily screen Rozier as well setting up a Satoranski three. Beal can't make those passes though and ends up missing badly on a contested jumper.

Boston’s defense collapsing on Beal’s drive — by Sean Taira
Boston’s defense collapsing on Beal’s drive — by Sean Taira

One thing about this play really stands out. Otto Porter is an excellent three point shooter at 43.8% and not involving him or using him to spread the floor makes zero sense. If he's not involved in the pick, why is he not in the corner where Oubre is, or switched with Satoranski? Satoranski is shooting 48.7%, from three but on only 1.4 attempts per game, with 1.1 of them being classified as wide open looks (6+ feet of separation). Boston might not have been able to collapse as hard if Otto Porter is on the perimeter. The second thing that stands out is that it seems that the Wizards intentionally chose to keep things away from the middle of the floor.

Even doing something simple like the screen grab of the Bulls below, would create much more space for Beal to operate.

The Knicks creating better floor space — by Sean Taira
The Knicks creating better floor space — by Sean Taira
Slight tactical changes can make a world of difference — by Sean Taira
Slight tactical changes can make a world of difference — by Sean Taira

By having Markkanen on the weak side of the floor, it takes the Knicks best rim protector Porzingis away from the rim. As Dunn starts to drive Markkanen rotates behind him forcing Porzingis into a decision to help Jarrett Jack (it is Kris Dunn so it's a pretty obvious choice), or stick with Markkanen and take himself out of the play which he wisely does. Lopez is under the rim, and if Dunn gets by Jarrett Jack, Kyle O'Quinn would have to rotate over leaving Lopez open for a dump off or a chance at a rebound (Dunn doesn't get by Jack so this is all theoretical).

Bradley Beal needs to attack the the rim better is these situations as well. He is one of the best finishers ranking 10th for guards shooting 65.5%, finishing better than guys like Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Demar DeRozan, Steph Curry, and Jimmy Butler to name a few. Maybe it's just coincidence but the one Wizards conversion happened to be when Beal took it to the basket rather than settling. Maybe when John Wall is back the dynamic changes and this whole article becomes moot.

More space when Wall has the ball — by Sean Taira
More space when Wall has the ball — by Sean Taira

In this screen grab against Brooklyn, you can see the difference in defense between Wall and Beal. Brooklyn defenders are sticking way closer to the guys they are guarding on the perimeter clearly respecting John Wall's passing ability. Wall gets the pick from Gortat and gets rookie Jarrett Allen one on one who actually does a very good job of contesting the shot. Like Beal, Wall settles for the tough midrange shot rather than attacking the rim. John Wall has been a poor shooter his whole career, but this year he has been especially bad from midrange shooting at only a 28.3% clip, worst in the NBA (100 attempts or more). He hasn't been as good at Beal at finishing at the rim, but has shot a respectable 60.8%.

Don't except much to change from the coaching side for the Wizards going forward, it's hard to imagine Scott Brooks suddenly becoming creative. Until Wall gets back, it will probably be a lot more ugliness of Beal in isolation taking tough contested shots. If Beal and Wall don't start attacking the rim, or looking to pass in end of game situations, it's hard to imagine the Wizards improving on their brutal end of game offense.


All stats courtesy of stats.nba.com