Pregame warmup: To shoot, or not to shoot

Pregame warmup: To shoot, or not to shoot
November 22, 2013, 4:30 pm
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Ever since John Wall made a career-high five three-pointers, in the Wizards' first win of the season after opening with three consecutive losses, his shooting percentages have taken a nose dive.

In the last seven games, Wall is 31-for-102, or 30.3%. He's 4-for-21, or 19%, from long range going into Friday night's game at the Toronto Raptors (CSN+, 7 p.m. ET). 

The trick for Wall is finding the balance between being aggressive and making teams pay for sagging on him defensively but simultaneously not taking shots away from sharpshooters at his disposal such as Bradley Beal and Martell Webster. 

Webster, who has started the last three games because of an injury to Trevor Ariza (strained right hamstring), was the Wizards' best three-point shooter last season at 42.2%. But he already has had two games in which he played 21 and 16 minutes but attempted just one shot in each. 

"Just trusting those guys, believing in those guys to make plays, knowing that I don't have to make plays every time," Wall said of his renewed focus after he tied a career-high with 16 assists as the Wizards came back to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves earlier this week. "Bradley got hot and we started letting him come off the ball, come off the pick-and-roll."

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During a crucial possession in that game, Nene set a high-post screen for Wall. J.J. Barea, like everyone who defends Wall in that scenario, went underneath which gave him a clean look. Wall, who only shot 5-for-17 in that 104-100 victory, buried it to put the Wizards ahead 97-95 at 1:26.

"I was confident in all my shots.  A couple ones I missed it was fatigue, or my follow-through," said Wall, who is averaging 12.3 assists in his last three games. "Little things like that.

"That shot is going to be there every time for me. I don't have to take it every time and definitely don't have to take ones early in the shot clock. See if I get the ball back later on during the shot clock and it's like 14 or 12 seconds left, I'll take it then. Just try to move the ball and get some flow into our offense."

And that's the most important element. Taking first-side shots without swinging the ball is problematic for any offense. Primarily it takes the bigs such as Nene and Marcin Gortat out of their rhythm. They need touches early and often to stay engaged even if they don't take the shot. Moving the ball forces the defenses adjust and scramble to create mismatches. Then, attack that weakness.

Sometimes the best option will be Wall from 15 feet. But he shouldn't feel obligated.  

"If he's not going to take it with confidence, and I told him, then move the ball onto the next guy. You don't have to take it," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "I want him to. If they're going to play him (soft) like that you got to knock that down and then it opens things up."