The Washington Wizards struggled late Monday at home in an 87-78 upset to the Dallas Mavericks. John Wall kept the 2014 Wizards on pace by notching his eighth straight 20-plus game (22 points 8-for-18 from the field), and Trevor Booker claimed a career-high 19 rebounds, but the last four minutes and change belonged to Monta Ellis and the Mavs.
"We had a tough shooting night. There's no question about it," said Wizards Head Coach Randy Wittman after the game. "We wasted a good defensive effort I thought from our defensive standpoint, but we just couldn't get into a rhythm the whole night. Between Bradley [Beal], Trevor [Ariza] and Martell [Webster], the three best three-point shooters [making 4-of-18]. It was just one of those nights."
Coach Wittman left out Wall, who went 1-for-6 from deep and committed 7 turnovers on the night. Ellis, on the other hand, went 0-for-2 from range, but scored 9 of his game-high 23 points from the free throw line. Jose Calderon--a poor shooting night nonetheless--committed 0 turnovers for the Mavs after some 32 minutes on the floor. Down the stretch, Washington couldn't find a way to execute inside. The good news is Booker should have the green light Friday versus the Toronto Raptors, one of two straight at home.
"It was one of those nights where we couldn't make many shots so they were coming off and I'm an offensive rebounder," said Booker. "I try to go get every one and they rolled my way." The 6-8 forward finished the night with 10 points to go with his 19 boards, which Coach Wittman called "[a] pretty good night." The question is whether or not Coach Wittman can figure out how to use Booker, or another big, more effectively down the stretch of a close contest.
Marcin Gortat finished with a respectable 12 points (yet got zero looks down the stretch). Nene continued his off-the-bench streak and struggled with only 4 points before he fouled out late in the fourth quarter. Kevin Seraphin fared even worse with 2 points. On nights in which Washington's outside shots are not going down, someone will need to step up inside the paint.
With Nene battling veteran status injuries and Seraphin wildly inconsistent, Booker is going to need to be the guy to relieve Wall from driving to the hoop. The problem, however, is the Wizards--outside of a John Wall slam--made no attempts to edge closer with paint dominance Monday night.
What's alarming about that, regarding a potential Wizards offseason, is the Mavs simply do not have a tough interior defense. They allow 61.1% completion from five feet to the basket, which is fifth worst in the NBA. If Wall and the Wizards hope to keep things going in the right direction, they're going to need to make better use of their bigs.
COACH D'ANTONI PRAISES YOUNG
On the other side of the States, former Wizards guard Nick Young is doing his thing for the Los Angeles Lakers. No Kobe Bryant? No problem. Young hasn't scored less than 10 points since the Wizards beat the Lakers late-November, and he's averaging 22.2 points over his last five games. There is the little matter of Los Angeles failing to win their last six games, but Swaggy P is making the most of this time to root himself as a potential cornerstone of a post-Bryant era.
Hey, you never know. Bryant never passes, and neither does Young. He could be the heir apparent. Ironically, though? Young's career-high in assists--6--came while playing against the Lakers in 2011-2012. Washington Wizards Examiner was there. The memories. A younger Seraphin, body checking like crazy, swishing hook shots. Where did that potential go?
"Kevin, this was his best game since he's been here. He was under control, he rebounded, he made shots, he took shots under control, no quickness to it, he defended, he banged Bynum," Wizards Head Coach Randy Wittman said after the game. "This team he was made for--Bynum, Gasol, they even went down to McRoberts. He (Seraphin) likes that, banging with those guys. He did a good job of that with Bynum."
Oh. Against Bynum. Maybe that's when Bynum decided he didn't like playing basketball and being a millionaire.
The Wizards will tackle the Raptors Friday at 7:00 p.m. ET, baring some kind of crazy snowfall. Make sure you check the weather and any Metro Alerts that might pop-up, and be safe if you go.