After nearly a month of the new NBA season, the best team in the East is not the champion Milwaukee Bucks, also not high power brooklyn network. It’s the newcomer Washington Wizards, who moved to 10-3 on Monday night after the win returned 19 points ago New Orleans Pelicans.
Play without Bradley Beal (personal reasons) for the second game in a row, the Wizards got off to a slow start against the Pels and led by 19 points early in the third inning. It looked like they were preparing for their first loss in almost two weeks, but they turned their sights on the second half. They cut the deficit to just seven points entering the fourth inning and used a 14-0 margin of victory to take the lead and take the win.
Spencer Dinwiddie lead with 27 points, five rebounds and nine assists, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope took 18 points and Deni Avdija had their best game of the season with 11 points and 10 bounces off the bench as the Wizards secured their best start in 47 years. Having a good bit of synergy, that 1974-75 Wizards team was led by Wes Unseld Sr.; This team is coached by his son, Wes Unseld Jr.
The Wizards’ sizzling start is obviously unexpected, but the fashion in which they’re doing it is especially surprising. They have been very poor defensively and currently have the 4th best defensive stats (102.7), and also lead the league in goal-to-field ratio (42.4) and 3rd rate. opponent score (30,7).
“I think a lot of that comes from the fact that we have new boys joining,” Kyle Kuzma said recently after the win over Cav Retail. “We’re defensive people, but we also have coach Wes (Unseld Jr.). He did a great job. I think a lot of times in this tournament what separates the good team from the bad team is that defensive plan.”
“When you get here – first day of training camp, we want to be the top 10 defensive team,” Kuzma continued. “Okay, how do we get to that? Wes put us in great situations and it’s really faultless. You know what to do. [If] It’s a step closer, we know what to do. Likewise, if they lock and track, we know what to do. That just clarifies a lot more thoughts you can have on the field so you can comfortably play. “
Over the past three seasons, the Wizards have placed 20th, 29th and 27th in the league in defensive stats. But with Unseld’s leadership, new in-season additions and high levels of buy-in, the Wizards have become one of the hardest teams to play. They built on that defensive mindset against the Pelicans, keeping them scoreless for nearly five minutes as they continued the game with a game-changing 14-0 scoreline.
Let’s take a closer look at how they’ve done it.
Making things difficult on Ingram
With Zion Williamson still wounded, most of the attack burden for the Pelicans falls on Brandon Ingram. And even though he finished with 31 points in this game, he needed 23 shots to get there. The Wizards actually put him to work and shut him down in the fourth quarter, limiting him to 3/11 shooting.
They did so with good old fashioned diligence. Deni Avdija has become a key defender for the Wizards because of this style of play. Here, he fights across two screens, then sits down to stop Ingram out of lane and scrambles for a two-pointer long.
This is a perfect example of how successful defensively isn’t always about possession of a tight, spectacular lock, but about making solid plays over and over again. Teams may not respect Avdija defensively, but they will soon realize if he continues to play like this.
“I think I was a good defender even last year, but last year I didn’t get the most respect,” Avdija said at the beginning of this season. “I’m just, that’s my heart, you know? I’m not the fittest. You see people putting me in and rolling around all the time. They think they can attack me, they think they can score on me. , and it’s fun.”
Second round selection in 2019, Daniel Gafford Not much was remarkable at the beginning of his career. But after being traded to the Wizards at the end of last season, he emerged and was a key part of the team’s playoff push. He has earned his starting center position this season and has given the team a much-needed boost in fitness and defense around the belt.
His three saves against the Pelicans earned him his third three-game run of the season, and he’s currently seventh in the league at 1.7 blocks per game. Perhaps his biggest goal came late in the fourth inning as Herb Jones descended from a screen and tried to go all the way into the belt. Gafford played it perfectly and got rejected a lot.
One interesting aspect of the Wizards’ defense is that they don’t really force that many turns. In fact, they are last in the league with just 12.5 turns per game. But against the Pelicans, they came up with some big games when it mattered.
Two down with less than three minutes to play, the Pelicans had a crucial stop of their own and had a chance to draw or regain the lead. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope instead jumped across the crosswalk to make a massive steal, which eventually resulted in two free throws for Montrezl Harrell to push the Wizards’ lead to four.
Not forcing spins can make it difficult for Mages to maintain this level of defense, but it’s clear that they care, are all on the same page, and are willing to work hard to be great at the end of that floor. That alone should suffice most nights.
“The coach comes in with a simple plan of play, both offensively and defensively as each team goes,” Harrell said earlier this season. “But you know, the Coach does all the little things that some guys might not want to do sometimes. We’re all bought and attached and backing him 100% because at the end of the day. , it’s a collective team. try.”
https://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/wizards-improved-defense-on-display-in-19-point-comeback-vs-pelicans-to-earn-best-start-since-1975/ | Wizards’ improved defense in a 19-point comeback from the Pelicans for their best start since 1975