NBA Wizards 

Wall makes his debut, Wizards top Knicks

Two preseason games, two wins. The Washington Wizards beat the New York Knicks 104-100, Wizards point guard John Wall made his preseason debut. He played 23 minutes in the contest, scoring 19 points and dishing out six assists. The one negative was the six turnovers he had, but it’s called preseason for a reason. His backcourt mate Bradley Beal had 13 points in 21 minutes, looking extremely comfortable on the offensive end. The Knicks were led by Enes Kanter’s 16 points and got quality contributions from Courtney Lee and veteran guard Jarrett Jack.

Washington started slow in terms of the flow of their offense, had far too many turnovers(5) in the first quarter and trailed by one. Michael Beasley and Enes Kanter got going inside early on for the Knicks, which led to open looks from three. New York had great success from deep in the first half, going 7-of-12  from beyond the arc. Courtney Lee and Doug McDermott combined to hit five of those seven triples.

The home team would get on track in the second period as Wall started to look like himself, he’d finish the first half with 14 points and 5 assists. His backcourt mate was just as effective, scoring 11 points.

There were glimpses of defense at times, but it definitely felt like preseason on that end of the floor. New York shot 52.4% in the half and Washington shot a blistering 59.5% from the floor.

Each team also got solid contributions from their benches, it’s clear that Jodie Meeks is going to thrive on that second unit. He found open spaces to get his shot off both in transition and the half court. Kelly Oubre and Mike Scott looked confident and contributed in their time on the court as well. McDermott and Jarett Jack stood out in that capacity for the Knicks. Jack really brought a calm to their second unit, like a veteran quarterback making the right reads over and over. He found mismatches for his bigs, use his experience to draw a few cheap fouls on Washington’s bigs and looked healthy most importantly.

That first half also provided an early look at one of the possible lineups from the second unit. Washington had Satoransky, Meeks, Oubre, Scott, and Ian Mahinmi on the floor. Tim Frazier has yet to play this preseason, but it was still a good opportunity to look at Washington’s depth. They were solid, but definitely missed a leader on the floor. Jack provided that for his team’s second unit, the hope is Frazier can provide a similar impact for Washington.

The third quarter saw both teams take the floor with their starting units, well the starting five for this game at least. It was a back-and-forth type of affair as it had been for much of the first half. The Knicks started to create a bit of separation midway through the third period, but it looked as if Washington had sat down their star backcourt for the night.

Washington found themselves down 10 with less than two minutes to go in the third, but a run started by Kelly Oubre helped them close the gap. He hit a three in the halfcourt, then the team got a stop and Carrick Felix hit a triple in transition. Kelly would then hit another triple from the same spot in the last time, the difference being this one happened in transition. A strong close to the quarter by Washington helped them cut the deficit and tie it, but a technical foul on Felix gave New York a  one point lead.

Scott made some noise in the fourth period, he and Ochefu connected on back-to-back possessions. The first, Ochefu caught the ball while rolling to the rim, when a second defender stepped up, he immediately whipped the ball to the corner for a waiting Scott who drilled the three pointer. Next it was Scott getting a wide open look, a Knicks player sprinted to close down and left Ochefu. Mike wasted no time getting Daniel the ball. That sequence, coupled with some good defense helped Washington stretch the lead to eight.

Obviously this would be a different type of game with each team having their full complement of players, but preseason is all part of the process. These two teams will definitely see more than enough of each other throughout the regular season. 

Observations

Wall’s Debut: It’s preseason and for a quarter, Wall looked like it from a timing standpoint in regards to his passing. Then the second quarter started and he looked like himself again. What was different was his assertiveness, from the opening tip to the time his night ended, John was in attack mode. He still made plays for others, but he didn’t turn down opportunities to get his both in transition and in the halfcourt. His aggressiveness tilted the floor and kept pressure on the New York defense all night long. I’m sure he’d like to have the 5 turnovers back, but that’s not something to worry about going forward. 

Beal: Footwork was on full display and just his overall feel for the game made things look very easy for him. With it being Wall’s debut, he had a bit less ball-handling duties than on Monday, but he was still very efficient when he put the ball on the floor. His ability to handle the ball played a big role in the year he had last season and it appears he’s continued to work on that area of his game. He looked surgical in the few isolation situations that came his way and did a great job moving without the ball. He and Wall would of continued to do more damage had it been a regular season rotation.

Defense: Washington definitely got a bit too far inside when helping on defense. That caused that weakside defender to be out of position, leaving him with far too much ground to cover when the Knicks connected on that crosscourt pass. Washington’s propensity to over-help literally left Knicks shooters wide open, the most contested triple was a late closeout by Jason Smith on Tim Hardaway Jr. Definitely a far cry from Monday when Washington ran the Long Lions off the line routinely.

Turnovers: Washington turned the ball over several times in the traditional sense, bad passes and what not. However they picked up more than a fair share on travels as well. There were a combined 42 turnovers in this game.

Oubre: He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but he was very effective. Playing a big role in Washington’s run in the third quarter that got them back into the game and hit a couple of shots to steady them in the fourth quarter. He was in control for all but one of his dribble drives all game, using that handle to create space for himself and attack. He was assertive when on the floor with John and Brad or members of the second unit. It’s clear he’s put the work in to improve.

Scott: In only 18 minutes of playing time, Mike showed why his addition is so important for the Wizards. He successfully guarded a couple of centers on the low block, was able to move his feet and win the physical battle when matched up on Beasley. Offensively he simply has to be accounted for, he put stress on the Knicks defense several times during the game. Catching the ball in the high post, on the low block, and beyond the three point line.

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