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The Washington Wizards lost to the Charlotte Hornets 119-97 on Sunday afternoon. Here are five takeaways from what went down...
Another bad loss
Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said before Sunday's game he felt the team had enough players available and up to speed now to be properly evaluated. After their weeks-long coronavirus outbreak, which left players out of shape and out of rhythm for weeks after, there were no excuses anymore. You heard it from him.
Then his team went out and played as they have far too often this season, lacking urgency and precision, once again getting overmatched by an opponent they are arguably more talented than on paper. The Hornets are young and on the rise, but to be blown out by them is simply indefensible.
The Wizards are now 5-15 on the season, 10 games under .500, and they just got beaten handily by a team that represents the echelon of the Eastern Conference they would like to join. The Hornets aren't a top team, but they may make the playoffs this year and the Wizards right now look far from even that.
Brooks said he held a film session with Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija on Saturday, focusing on defense and especially in transition where he thought they weren't getting back fast enough. The lesson didn't seem to get across as the Wizards as a team played terrible transition defense and Avdija in particular got beat several times in the first half.
The Hornets went off from long range, knocking down 15-of-36, good for 41.7 percent. Meanwhile, the Wizards shot 9-for-40 (22.5%) from three themselves.
The Wizards' defense is so bad that something pretty clearly has to change to save their season. It might require a trade for some defensive help. Just changing schemes, or even coaches, isn't going to fix this. They need some help. Pick up the phone and trade some offense for defense, ideally a physical guard or wing.
Brooks made a change to the starting lineup before this game, promoting Alex Len into the starting role in place of Robin Lopez. It had to do with Len being one of the only Wizards to play well on Friday night against the Heat, when he had five blocks, one off his career-high.
Len, though, did nothing to back up that decision, as he came out with low energy and no sense of urgency on the glass or in protecting the paint. That was epitomized by Cody Zeller getting hot early and basically single-handedly erasing the Wizards' 7-0 first quarter start.
Lopez played decent and got a few hook shots to go down, but also had some turnovers and was slow to get back on defense. So, Brooks went with Moe Wagner, searching for a spark. Wagner didn't exactly provide one, either. Maybe the 1 p.m. tip-off had an effect... on all of their centers?
Zeller went off?!
Zeller is known more for being a draft bust than anything, a guy who can rebound decently well but only rarely make a major impact offensively. Well, that wasn't true in this game, as he took advantage of a sleepy Wizards defense to go off for 13 points in his first eight minutes and ended up with 16 points, seven rebounds, two steals and a block for the game.
Zeller's season average coming into this one was 8.9 points, so maybe it was just a day where he was feeling it and the Wizards didn't pay enough attention to him on the scouting report. You could say that, or you could look at how he got his points which mostly came on plays where he just wanted it more than the Wizards. This wasn't a guy who just got his shots to fall, he was scrapping around the rim and the Wizards were just a step slow over and over.
Hornets were joking around
Color analyst Drew Gooden talked a lot about this on the NBC Sports Washington broadcast, and it was obvious to anyone who was watching; the Hornets were smiling and laughing as they beat the Wizards down. They were having fun, which is understandable given how they were scoring with wide open threes and dunks, but the Wizards didn't seem to have the fight in them to do something about it.
Gooden remarked how the Wizards should have given the Hornets a proverbial 'punch in the mouth,' and the fact they didn't says plenty about this team's inability to exert their will on opposing teams defensively. To have a team joke around and not then be motivated by that, or show some defiance because of that, just does not seem to be a good sign at all about this team's chances of turning their season around.