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Wizards continue to struggle with execution late in games

AP Photo/Nick Wass

In the first few weeks of the NBA season, there tends to be plenty of overreactions to how teams will fare throughout the 82-game season. You take what you see from a respective team with a grain of salt, knowing a ton can change from late October to following the all-star break.

For the Washington Wizards, though, they’re problems are concerning no matter what time of year it is. Executing late in games separates the playoff teams from those who are forced to watch the postseason from their couches, and if the first two games were a depiction of how the rest of the season were to end up, the Wizards would be doing the latter.

Most recently in last night’s game in Memphis against the Grizzlies, the Wizards had a chance to win the game on the last possession. With Memphis trailing by three, Marc Gasol stepped into a deep three-pointer to tie the game at 100. Just 10 seconds remained, but instead of calling a timeout to set up a play, head coach Scott Brooks allowed John Wall to take control of the situation in hopes that Memphis would struggle setting up their defense.

Here is how the final two possessions of regulation panned out:

As you can see, Wall penetrates to the left side where Vince Carter was waiting in help position to help contest the floater. The Wizards went on to lose in overtime 112-103. Wall had this to say about the possession:

“I was seeing iso but I should’ve went to the opposite side,” Wall said of the 112-103 loss. “I went to a double side where they had a guy at the elbow and he made a good defensive play. That was bad on my part.”

It wasn’t so much the fact that Wall went left that made me scratch my head. He and Marcin Gortat are one of the most lethal pick-and-roll duos in the NBA. There was still plenty of time for Gortat to come set a ball-screen for Wall to come off and dissect how the Grizzlies reacted.

What left me speechless is why Brooks forewent the calling of his final 20-second timeout to let them play out the final possession. If you have timeouts, use them. Not only would it help the Wizards players get their mind right for the game-winning possession, but it would also assist in making sure everyone is on the same page.

One play doesn’t decide a game. There are hundreds of other things throughout a 48-minute span that helps determine the outcome, but when you have a chance to slow down, gather your players, and draw up a set, you do it.

Brooks commented on his mindset heading into the last possession:

“We had a 20-second timeout but I like the veteran group that we have,” Brooks said in explaining why he opted to not stop the action for a set play “I know they have a veteran team so I wanted them to play on the run. Could’ve had a better look but we wanted to make sure we do get the last shot.”

The game against Memphis was different than the season opener against Atlanta. The 114-99 loss in that game obviously wasn’t decided off last possession execution, but the Wizards did have a one-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

From there on out, it seemed as if the Wizards were turning the ball over at will and the Hawks were making sure to take advantage by scoring off those turnovers in a hurry. In many ways, it looked similar to last season’s team in that when one thing goes wrong, it turns into an avalanche of mistakes.

The collapse could be because of Brooks opting to stay with the reserve lineup too long. Again, it falls back on the coaching decision. By no means am I trying to summon the “fire Brooks” chants. Shaking off the rust was expected for a guy who took a year off from the game, but executing in the fourth quarter is something you want to be sure to polish immediately. For Brooks’ sake, he has to do so quickly or else the Wizards will find themselves fighting for any postseason hopes they can grab on to come April.

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