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Terps, Hoyas, and Wizards

Alright, so the Washington Wizards lost a tough one against the Boston Celtics last night and now start the season 0-3 for the second straight year. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. Obviously it would have been nice to begin the season on a strong note, but once again the Wizards accidentally put diesel fuel in their unleaded tank before to season, which means we can’t start the car until it goes it goes into the repair shop.

Yes, it was a painful 100-94 overtime loss, and one in which was in the Wizards reach the entire time, but it was far from a bad loss. There were definitively some positives attached to this one that the Wizards can hopefully use to build upon for Saturday’s game against Milwaukee to hopefully break this streak. The tendency after a loss is to look at all the negatives, and while I will chew out some of the Wizards here, I’m going to also take a look at a few of the good takeaways from this game.

1.) Statistically, the Washington Wizards are doing a lot of things right

Anytime you can stay on par with a team rebounding (44 for both teams), have about the same amount of assists (the Wizards had 25, the Celtics 26) and steals, and have more blocks, you really just can’t complain about effort levels. The Wizards are actually doing a decent job on the boards (save for the first game when Varejao grabbed more balls than a ballboy at Wimbeldon) and distributing the ball effectively in spite of not having their lead man, John Wall. Nene is unhealthy and Wall is out, yet the Wizards are not slipping too far.

When those guys return from injury, Washington will most assuredly improve in two categories and perhaps that will lead to a few more wins at the end of the day. Everyone is fighting for rebounds, and while Okafor has been downright awful so far for Washington (his worst game coming against Boston yesterday), I think he can improve in the long run with another power forward on the court like Nene who helps with rebounding.

2.) Bradley Beal showed signs of “getting it”

Yesterday, after hearing some grumblings of Beal crying after his second loss of the season, a lot of Wizards fans were ready to start ragging on the kid (on Twitter someone actually said, “He probably listens to a lot of Cher”) for being mentally soft. I didn’t exactly do that, as it is common knowledge that NBA players are, in fact, made of the same flesh and bone as the average Joe and I hate to break it to you, but everyone gets overly emotional sometimes. That being said, yesterday may have been an eye opener for Beal in terms of learning how to play shooting guard for the Wizards.

Beal scored a career high 16 points last night on 6-of-15 shooting from the field (3-of-8 from long range) and looked far, far more assertive than in his last two games. He was openly looking to shoot the ball, which is great because it is what he was brought in here to do. No, he’s not shooting 50% from the floor and his deep ball still needs some work, but last night was the first sign that Beal may actually be coming into his own as a player.

The good thing about Beal is that in other aspects of the game he is already getting it. His four rebounds and three assists are the second time this season Beal has had at least three rebounds and three assists in the same game. So he’s still figuring things out offensively as a young player, that’s fine. If he is actually contributing in other ways outside of just shooting the ball, I can live with that from a young guy.

3.) A.J. Price can’t always shoot, but he is filling in alright in other areas

The good thing about A.J. Price? He isn’t a shoot-first ask questions later type of point guard. Price isn’t a pure passer like Rondo, but he does try to get his teammates involved enough so that the offense isn’t stagnant. Price now has two games with 6 or more assists under his belt, and even though those numbers aren’t astronomical, I’m pleased with the results on that end. That number could be higher if Washington was capable of hitting shots on a more consistent basis, so it might actually get better the more he and the Wizards play. Not to mention the fact that Price has grabbed 4 and 5 rebounds in the last two games, which isn’t too shabby for a point guard.
The bad thing about A.J. Price? He shoots even though he can’t. Last night he shot 6-of-13 from the floor, which is his best on the season, but by and large Price has been a pretty poor shooter. On the season he has made 11-of-37 shots for 30% in total (ugh). The biggest problem with him is that he takes way too many three pointers for a guy who isn’t very good at shooting them. Price has attempted 22 three’s on the season, making only 30% of them. It might get better, but then it might get worse, too. His averages for his career would imply that he will not be effective at three pointers for the whole season. If he is launching early in the shot clock three pointers, the Wizards are going to have a hard time winning.

4.) The Wizards need to get to the line more often

This one is pretty simple. Last night, Washington only shot 7 free throws the entire game. It’s hard to win when your team isn’t taking advantage of free points. They benefit everyone by pacing the game, and can get opponents in foul trouble that can take them out of their comfort zone. The reason for the poor performance at getting to the line falls on a few players, but mainly Kevin Seraphin and Bradley Beal.

Beal should be getting to the line a whole lot more, honestly. It would improve his shooting numbers and make his life a whole lot easier by giving him more space. Creating contact is a learned skill, but it’s one in which Beal should learn quickly. He is athletic enough (I think) to get to the rack at will and his body is NBA ready to absorb that contact while staying healthy. It is just a matter of execution.

As for Seraphin, while I love his new found jump shot, I would also love if he used that soft touch down low to bang a little bit and force people to foul him. He could convert a lot of and-1′s that way, and get opposing big men off the floor quickly. His soft touch is dangerous from down low, and he should really keep improving as the season goes along at using it.

5.) Stop playing Ariza…

Sometimes you just want to sit Ariza down and say, “So what is it, exactly, that you do here?” I’m still trying to figure out what he does other than miss shots and supposedly play stingy defense. Last night’s 1-of-6 performance now brings his shooting percentage to 22% on the year, having not shot better than 40% (basically the Mendoza line of basketball) thus far. Either cut his minutes down and start Singleton or relegate him to the bench as a situational defensive starter. He doesn’t do anything on the court, and I’m not sure why he is in the starting lineup unless Wittman is some guru who knows something we don’t.

Other than Ariza, the starting lineup is fine as-is.

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