Coach Scott Brooks thinks he has found something with a small lineup, playing Kelly Oubre and Otto Porter together in a 92-85 win over the Denver Nuggets. They might have to go to it again tonight with the big, long Milwaukee Bucks at Verizon Center.
"I feel comfortable out there now that I know my role a little bit more. I don't think anything of it," said Oubre, who at 6-7 has a 7-2 wingspan, of playing with the 6-8 Porter."We play very well together. When we're on the court together I don't think of it as just Otto out there. I think of it as another piece to the puzzle. Me and him can run the wings. ... As long as we get the job done I'm happy with any lineup I'm in. Otto's a great player. When we're out there we can definitely cause a little bit more havoc."
The key word here is defense. The scheme was to switch on screens, handoffs and pick-and-rolls from the point guard through the power forward. But the center, Marcin Gortat, had to swtich out at times, too, and did so successfully.
The offense with this lineup was sloppy and sub-par, particularly in the half-court. To say that the Wizards have figured out this is their best lineup is premature, but considering defense has been their biggest problem all season this is progress. We pick it up at 10:03 of the fourth, when Porter enters for Markieff Morris:
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This is where Oubre's wingspan comes in handy. He's covering the weakside a lot like Trevor Ariza used to for the Wizards, following the ball while staying between his man (Danilo Gallinari) and the help out on Jusuf Nurkic because Gortat has to step up to seal Jameer Nelson's penetration. Oubre shoots the gap the right time, gets the steal on the pass out to Gallinari. He insists on finishing with his left hand from the right side of the rim which is why he's prone to getting his shot blocked on drives. He's better-suited using his right hand and using his body to ward off any potential shot blocker. He's clearly not comfortable doing that yet.
Porter and Bradley Beal switch. Beal fronts his bigger man in the post, Wilson Chandler, and Nurkic cuts to the top to clear the space, get the ball and try to throw a quick pass over the top. But look at Gortat running out on Nurkic to extend and Oubre's positioning. He gives Beal help without fully being there because Nurkic has to considering his quickness and wingspan. And Ourbe stays between the rim and the man he's responsible for, Gallinari, in the corner. That simple read forces the ball out of the middle as Nurkic passes it out to Will Barton and opts to run a screen-roll. Gortat doesn't let him go quietly, nudging him and he instantly switches with Porter. Porter puts a body on Nurkic to disrupt his roll to the basket and Gortat stays on top of Barton to force a 24-second shot clock violation on an airball from three.
This all starts because of the ball pressure and defenders being up into their man even off ball. Oubre fights off two screens from Nikola Jokic. When the second one turns into a side pick-and-roll, he jumps on top of it to blow it up which allows easier containment from Gortat on the baseline as he stays attached to his man, too. When Jokic gets it back, he meets immediate resistance and isn't allowed ideal post position. As Nelson tries to run the baseline to gete the ball back, there are multiple efforts by John Wall to deny the passing lane. Jokic is abandoned in an uncomfortable position, Gortat stays vertical and forces a tough shot attempt. But Jokic is called for traveling first.
Porter gets pinned under a screen from Jokic so Gortat quickly runs out to defend a smaller player on the perimeter to cover for him on Chandler, who attacks the rim. Gortat forces him into a difficult reverse and Porter runs back to make sure they force an impossible shot that's deflected. The Nuggets recover the loose ball and Porter picks up Nelson in scramble mode as the Wizards have to match up with the closet man. He reverses it to Gallinari who takes a contested three over Oubre that's missed. Jokic rebounds that miss and it gets to Barton, a 33% shooter from three, as he misses. Wall finally secures the ball on the rebound.
Gortat went for an offensive rebound and Jokic is far ahead of him down the court as the Nuggets get the ball. Porter recognizes the big has an easy run to the rim, picks him up high post, battles him for position and gets the steal. It's a mismatch that can work for the Wizards if they have a small on a big from this distance.
Wall's ball pressure on Nelson forces the ball downward and into bad spacing. He pokes it away. Gallinari recovers it and Wall immediately switches with Oubre. He gives it up to Jokic at the top and sprints for the handoff. Wall appears to be able to get in front of Gallinari because of his anticipation but gambles for the steal and gets it. The danger here, of course, is if he doesn't it could compromise the defense but the Wizards are in help position to recover if the ball makes it way back to Nelson.
Beal helps on Chandleer as he curls to the basket on the inbound. When that's taken away, Jokic cross screens Porter to free Barton popping to the corner for a three. Gortat recognizes it quickly and runs out to contest to force the miss. The best rebounding team in the league gets it again, and Oubre makes a hard closeout on Gallinari's three. Wall does the same on Nelson and Beal hits the floor for the defensive rebound.
Wall stops this handoff from the inbound back to Nelson and then sees the stagger screen he sets with Jokic to free Gallinari. He immediatley switches with Oubre, who is able to get over Jokic to recover to Nelson as he flares. Porter's ball pressure makes any sort of pass from Chandler a chore. He's left to dribble out the clock and take a contested three. Gortat can't get to the rebound because Jokic is a load to box out, so he makes sure if he can't get it neither can Jokic. That clears the path for Wall to get the rebound.
The Wizards held them to 12 fourth-quarter points and forced them into 10 turnovers. They only scored 17 points themselves, however, and gave it away five times (four came after 10:03 when they went smaller). The Wizards were 9-for-10 on foul shots and didn't have a field goal after Wall's jumper at 3:47.
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