All season, Wizards coach Randy Wittman has been on the verge of blowing a gasket over the way his team defends. He doesn't want to see John Wall, Bradley Beal and company on the perimeter switching on pick-and-rolls. It's a sign they're not fighting hard enough to blow up screens and disrupt the opponents' offense.
They avoided doing it for the most part in Sunday's 98-89 win against the Chicago Bulls to take a 3-1 series lead going into Tuesday's Game 5 at United Center (CSN, 8 p.m. ET). Their inconsistency defending the pick-and-roll is what got them shredded in three of four meetings with the Toronto Raptors during the regular season.
"It’s vital for us. The easy thing to do is point and switch and two guys run on one (player) and you have breakdowns," Wittman said. "We’ve kind of eliminated all of that. I’ve challenged them to take some pride in stopping the guy you’re on. It’s come down to a lot of that. They’ve stepped up. Tonight was better. Our pressure was better than it was in Game 3."
So why is it a concept so difficult for the Wizards to grasp and hold onto?
"It's tough for a lot of teams to come out with that type of energy, knowing how much energy it takes," said Andre Miller, a 15-year veteran for Washington. "Sometimes your body is not feeling that type of level of intensity so you got to find other ways to get yourself going. We've definitely got to suck it up."
Instead of going under the screens and allowing Mike Dunleavy to get 35 points like he did in Game 3 or D.J. Augustin to get 25 like he did in Game 2, the Wizards wouldn't allow either to get loose. Dunleavy was held to six points on 3-for-8 shooting in Game 4. Augustin had just eight points and five fouls. The Bulls had 16 turnovers, 10 more than their opponents, that led to 29 points.
"We felt like in Game 3 we didn’t play our defense that we played in Games 1 and 2," Wall said of the 100-97 loss, their only of the series. "We came out and did a great job in challenging them guys and making them take tough shots."
The solid defense is also allowing Washington to get out in transition, where they had a 16-2 edge in fast-break points Sunday.
"The main thing is getting defensive stops, putting pressure onto them guys and making them rattle and not let them run their offense with the flow they want to," Wall said. "When they miss, (our) guards are doing a great job and the bigs are doing a great job of rebounding and getting the ball to me or Brad and guys are putting pressure on them and I think late in the fourth quarter when they make their runs in the last four or give minutes they’re kind of fatigued and it plays in our favor."