WASHINGTON – Speed kills … the Washington Wizards’ opponents in the NBA playoffs.
Led by the sprinter-like pace of point guard John Wall – perhaps the fastest player in the NBA – the Wizards thrive on fastbreaks and in transition.
“If you take a bad shot or turn the ball over, you’re in trouble,” Wall said. “When we’re attacking, I can score in transition. I can find my teammates in transition. Guys are finishing at the rim. Guys are spotting up for wide-open threes. It’s difficult to deal with.”
Don’t the Boston Celtics know it. The Wizards have outscored the Celtics 39-18 in fastbreak points in Washington’s two victories in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Game 5 is Wednesday in Boston (8 p.m. ET, TNT). The Wizards want to push the ball, beat the Celtics down the court and create easy and open shots. The Celtics want to prevent that by making shots and limiting turnovers.
“If you turn the ball over against these guys, you'd prefer to drop kick it into the stands so that at least you can set your defense,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters. “Their attack in transition killed us."
It’s no secret the Wizards love to run, and they should as Wall's speed puts pressure on the defense.
In the playoffs, the Wizards are:
- No. 1 in points scored off turnovers among remaining teams at 19.5 per game.
- No. 2 in fastbreak points at 18.9 per game.
- No. 1 in percentage of points scored via fastbreak (17.1%)
- No. 3 in percentage of points scored off turnovers (17.6%).
- No. 1 in transition possessions (206) and No. 1 in points scored in transition (228).
“I tell the guys if we want to utilize their speed, we have to utilize it off a defensive stop, and then we are going to get a lot of open threes, a lot of attacks to the basket,” said Scott Brooks who coached Russell Westbrook with the Oklahoma City Thunder for seven seasons. “Because if we get a stop, it’s hard to keep up with that speed. I try to motivate it through the defensive end.”
Brooks wants it to start with steals, blocks and rebounding and then make sure Wall has the basketball. Wall’s ability to score on layups or find teammates for open shots makes him one of the league’s most dangerous players in transition.
Brad Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, Bojan Bogdanovic and Kelly Oubre Jr., are targets at the three-point line. Or any of those players, along with Marcin Gortat, can receive a pass from Wall as they cut to the basket.
Brooks, a former NBA point guard, appreciates Wall’s court vision.
“Most guys who are that fast they don’t have the vision. He has the vision,” Brooks said. “That is uncanny and instinctual, and it has nothing to do with my coaching. Before he gets the outlet pass, he takes a quick photo of the whole court. As a point guard, I would do that, too, but my picture was blurry. He sees it clearly.
“When he’s going 100 mph, he’s putting so much pressure on the defense."
Wall averages a playoff-high 7.1 possessions in transition per game and scores a playoff-best 8.2 points per game in transition, according to nba.com/stats.
“The way we push the ball in transition, our guys do a good job of running,” Wall said. “Throughout 48 minutes, if we can keep that same pace, we can wear guys out.”
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