Timberwolves vs Wizards coverage
Wolves at Wizards
6:00 PM CST
The Timberwolves are taking on the Washington Wizards tonight, showcasing the extreme variability of these end of season games as we are going from playing the Sacramento Kings without DeMarcus Cousins to facing the Wizards as they vie for one of the last playoff spots in the East.
The Wizards have had a very disappointing season after reaching the playoffs and conference semi-finals in consecutive years under head coach Randy Whittman. This was the year when the team was going to come together and hopefully take the next step in reaching the conference finals, but the team has instead fallen into disarray despite retaining most of their core players.
This fall from semi-grace is somewhat due to injuries, specifically with Bradley Beal and Nené, but these players are also oft-injured and were likely not going to be counted on to play the entire season. Without truly following the team it's hard to pinpoint exactly what has caused the team to fall so far in the standings from being one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference the last few years.
The easiest statistic to see this drop-off is with the team's defensive numbers, as last year the Wizards were the 9th best defense in the league in terms of points per game at 97.8 while this season they are at 104.2, which is good for 21st in the league. However this is also likely due to the increase of pace that the Wizards play at, as they have gone from 18th in the league to 4th.
The Wizards are actually a pretty interesting case study for the Wolves as Randy Whittman is well within the "country club" group and also was taken to task for his antiquated offenses that shied away from shooting three pointers. This was also true with how he used Paul Pierce, as he refused during the season to play him at a small-ball four, which seemed like the ideal spot for him to take advantage of slower-footed power forwards.
During the playoffs it was as if "Playoff Wittman" was unleashed and the Wizards featured Paul Pierce at the four and adopted to the more modern style of play with an uptempo, three-point heavy style. This is essentially what we want for the Wolves, as this style discards the long-two point shot attempts which are the bane of the more analytical approach to basketball.
The Wizards have continued this adaption of play with increased three point attempts, their 3 point attempts last year ranked 27 and now they are ranked 16, as well as the aforementioned increased pace. But this has not led to a substantial increased offensive team rating, while instead the defensive rating has cratered.
It's a bit facetious on my part to suggest that the change in play-style is solely responsible for the dramatic loss in defensive efficiency, as there is likely some regression plus injuries also influencing the lack of team success, but I think that it's important to note that not every team has a successful transition to a more modern style of offensive play. It is possible that if a new coach came and implemented a system that favored three-pointers and a faster pace that the Wolves may struggle to fit into the style due to personnel issues.
As far as the game tonight, this will be a good test of seeing where the Wolves are at as the Wizard's have substantially more at stake as they fight for the 8-seed. Ricky Rubio will draw the toughest match-up as John Wall is one the best, not to mention fastest, point guards in the league. Wall is so talented as well as smart in his decision making, it truly is a treat to watch him play.
Alan Anderson and Bradley Beal will be questionable tonight, but Beal did play in the Wizards previous game.
Otto Porter Jr.
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Enjoy the game