Jacob Raim - WashingtonWizards.com
John Wall had arguably his best night of the season personally, scoring 27 points, dishing out 14 assists and grabbing seven rebounds. Unfortunately for the Wizards, this was not enough as they still fell to the Cavs in Cleveland 95-90. Both teams were playing without their leading scorer as Bradley Beal missed his fourth straight for the Wizards and Kyrie Irving was missing for the Cavs. Here are some more thoughts on the game:
1. John Wall's Night
John Wall was brilliant. He was incredibly aggressive, getting into the lane with ease all night and breaking down Cleveland's defense. When Wall was sitting for reasonable parts of the second and third quarter due to rest and foul trouble respectively, the Wizards offense lost its rhythm and only managed 32 points over the two quarters. While he finished 4/6 at the hoop and was fouled and got to the free throw line seven more times and knocked down 13/14 of those free throws. With the exception of being fouled once on a jump shot, six of those fouls were driving to the hoop which means that of the 12 times Wall attacked the hoop and got a shot attempt, he got points on 10 of those occasions. That's a ratio the Wizards will certainly take every time, and means that they would have liked to see him attack the hoop even more than he already did. He chipped in three jumpers on nine attempts, which is about par for the course for him. The way he got into the lane and drew defenders also helped result in the 14 assists. He did a great job kicking to Webster for open threes or dishing down to Nene and Okafor for easy finishes. Given that the team shot 40 percent from the field, it is safe to say that on a better shooting night for the Wizards he would have gotten at least 17 or 18 assists. Finally, Wall finished the game +12, which in a game they lost by five is a nice summation of his impact.
2. Second Chances
The Cavs are the Eastern Conference's leader in second chance points per game with 15 and are top 10 in the conference in offensive rebounds per game. Tonight was no exception as the Cavs had 20 second chance points and 14 offensive rebounds. Tristan Thompson was basically a one-man wrecking crew, grabbing six offensive rebounds and the Cavs got points on every single one of those offensive rebounds. The Wizards big men really struggled to stay in front of the under-sized and quick Thompson, who consistently got to the ball first. Tristan Thompson is a guy who is clearly improving in a big way and his 13-point, 14-rebound performance showed that he's starting to justify his lofty draft position. What makes this second chance performance even more impressive for the Cavs is that they were doing it without Varejao (who is out for the year) who helped account for a lot of those second chance point and offensive rebound numbers.
3. Second Quarter Let Down
The Wizards came out on fire in the first quarter and it really looked like the Cavs were just not going to be able to hang with them. They were beating the Cavs down the floor, getting easy buckets and hitting open jumpers. They also completely shut down the Cavs offense on the other end, holding them to 20 points on 33 percent shooting. Then in the second quarter it all went away. All of a sudden the Cavs were the ones getting up and down the floor faster and getting the easy buckets. The Wizards were the ones who could not execute on offense. It's almost like a switch was flicked and the teams changed roles. Unfortunately for the Wizards, this continued into the second half and they fell into a hole and could never completely dig themselves out. Consistent play across four quarters is something the Wizards have improved at during their stretch of play the second half of the year but tonight was an exception.
4. Where's the Scoring Depth?
Four Wizards accounted for 77 of the Wizards' 90 points, or 85 percent of the scoring. Webster, Nene, Wall and Okafor shot 50 percent between them while the rest of the squad managed just 5/24 from the field. For a reasonable stretch this year, the Wizards had one of the top three highest scoring benches in the league and got about 50 percent of their points from the bench. As recently as Saturday night Ariza had 26 points off the bench to lead the Wizards. But tonight the second unit had trouble getting anything going on offense. The Cavs bench outscored the Wizards bench 29-11. This team thrives when everybody is contributing on offense, and defenses can't get comfortable and Washington did not have that in this one.
5. Nene and Okafor
Nene and Okafor did not play perfect games but they were both quite effective in the post. Both players had double-doubles with Okafor getting 18 points and 11 boards and Nene scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Okafor did most of his damage in the early going helping the Wizards jump out to the early lead while Nene did most of his late, helping the Wizards on their late run. Both players established position in the post well against Cleveland's thin front line and didn't let anybody but Thompson do much damage on the boards. The Wizards offense was very clearly less effective when one of, or both of them were not in the game.