CHARLOTTE – Here’s our five takeaways from Friday’s 119-118 loss at Washington. OK, it really is five takeaways from one play – the layup Bradley Beal made at the buzzer to win the game. So many things went wrong for the Mavericks on this play, it’s worth five takeaways.
The screen: The play started with Troy Brown Jr. as the trigger man on the inbounds pass. The first thing that went wrong was that Tim Hardaway Jr. didn’t switch fast enough on Beal when Dorian Finney-Smith got picked off by a Mo Wagner screen. In these situations, every NBA team switches on defense because of the inevitable screens that are coming. Beal had started in the backcourt and looked like a wide receiver making jukes before slipping behind the Wagner screen, which was a well-set pick. Finney-Smith was effectively taken out of the play.
The pass: Brown had patience, but he also had help. Kristaps Porzingis was guarding the inbounds pass and made the mistake of stepping out even with Brown, as if to guard against a pass into the 3-point line. This negated Porzingis’ length and allowed Brown to get a too-easy pass to the cutting Beal, who by this time was already past the screen and ahead of Hardaway.
The recovery: There wasn’t any. At least not fast enough. Delon Wright had just come into the game for defensive purposes, and he was in the far corner defending a player with virtually no chance of being involved in the play. Wright was correctly hedging as much as he could. He was closer to the basket than the corner. But as soon as the situation developed, Wright could have made a quicker dive into the paint to try to head off Beal. By the time he started to slide toward the rim, it was too late.
The play: It was immaculately conceived by Wizards’ coach Scott Brooks, and the Mavericks got beat by superior execution on Washington’s end. But their breakdowns were plentiful and one of the worst ones is that there really were only two Wizards on the floor that you worry about breaking your heart: Beal and Davis Bertans with his 3-point shooting. You can’t let them be the ones with the ball in their hands at crunch time.
And, by the way: Yes, the last play was painful. But consider how many plays before that contributed to put the Mavericks in that situation. There was (in inverse order) Hardaway’s missed free throw with 1.8 seconds left. And the second one barely dropped in after hitting every conceivable part of the rim. There was Porzingis’ missed free throw with 3:49 left that could have made it 115-109. The Mavs had seven – count ‘em – seven turnovers in the fourth quarter. And yes, they got jobbed on the final play of the first half when Ian Mahimi’s tip clearly came with the ball still in the basket. Should have been goaltending. But missed calls happen. So, no, it shouldn’t have come down to the final play. But it did. And on a night packed with miscues, too many of them happened in the final 1.8 seconds.