Porter Jr. broke out of funk; Wiz need to fol­low

Wash­ing­ton’s strug­gles from deep main cul­prit in poor start

The Star Democrat - - SPORTS -

OR­LANDO, FLA. (WPNS) — Sim­plic­ity de­fines much of Otto Porter Jr.’s game. He runs, fills the wings and shoots open 3s in rhythm when he gets a touch. So on Thurs­day when he was asked to ex­plain what led to his siz­zling 3-point shoot­ing from the pre­vi­ous game, Porter had a straight­for­ward re­sponse.

“Just step­ping up to the chal­lenge, try­ing to set an ex­am­ple,” the pre­vi­ously strug­gling Porter said of his 19 points and 5-of-6 shoot­ing from the 3-point arc, his best of the sea­son. “Try­ing to play good de­fense, stay­ing solid, try­ing to bring that en­ergy that we need be­cause we’re des­per­ate and we got to play des­per­ate ev­ery game from now on. We got to come out and play des­per­ate.”

Now, if it was only that sim­ple for his team­mates.

Although shoddy de­fense has as­cended to the top of

the Wizards’ woes in their 2-8 start, 3-point shoot­ing con­tin­ues to plague the team.

“It’s a bro­ken record. We got to play bet­ter in a few dif­fer­ent ar­eas on the de­fen­sive end and we’ve got to shoot the ball bet­ter from the 3-point line,” coach Scott Brooks said. “We re­ally have good shoot­ers that re­ally haven’t hit their strides yet shoot­ing the ball.”

In the pre­sea­son when the Wizards couldn’t con­nect from long range, play­ers thought that it was a pass­ing phase that would end once the real games be­gan. But through their first 10 games, the Wizards rank 26th in the NBA at 31.3 per­cent. What’s more, they can’t make the shots even when they’re open.

As a team, Wash­ing­ton at­tempts the sixth-most 3-point­ers while a de­fender is at least six feet away, de­fined as “wide open” by NBA.com statis­tics. The Wizards are shoot­ing just 32.4 per­cent on those looks.

“We got a lot of wide-open shots,” Porter said. “They’re just not fall­ing. I feel like we make shots when guys are right there to con­test.”

On Tues­day against the Dal­las Mav­er­icks, Porter did not par­tic­u­larly care who was in front him. Porter made three of his four at­tempts that were de­fended and six of the 11 shots that were con­sid­ered wide open, ac­cord­ing to NBA.com.

“It’s great to see him make the shots that I know that he can make,” Brooks said. “The shots that he works on, the shots that I be­lieve that he can make and our team be­lieves he can make and it was good to see it go through. No mat­ter how good you are as a shooter when you don’t see it go through, you get down on your­self. And Otto’s no dif­fer­ent than all the great shoot­ers in league his­tor y. It’s good to have him make some of those shots.”

Porter, who had missed the pre­vi­ous game with a left toe con­tu­sion, broke out of his slump by re­turn­ing to what he does best. No Wizards player cov­ered more ground in that game than Porter (3.01 miles) and he made the most out of a smaller role in the of­fense while re­ceiv­ing 49 touches, be­hind three other starters. But Porter carved out op­por­tu­ni­ties for him­self. Af­ter grab­bing a de­fen­sive re­bound, he twice pushed the ball down court to take a shot. He missed both at­tempts but Brooks ap­plauded the ini­tia­tive.

“There’s not one time I will look at Otto’s game of­fen­sively and say, ‘Ya know, why’d he take that shot? Why was he ag­gres­sive in this mo­ment?’ “Brooks said. “And he needs to do that, that’s what is go­ing to make us a good team go­ing in the next set of games. He needs to play like he did [against Dal­las go­ing] for­ward.”

Porter felt his game in Dal­las was a good start, not quite a break­through. He’d like his shoot­ing to re­main con­sis­tent for a few more games be­fore declar­ing the end of a slump. And Porter be­lieves it’s just a mat­ter of time be­fore the other shoot­ers on the team can say the same.

“If we keep tak­ing the open shots, they’re go­ing to go in even­tu­ally. There’s no doubt it,” Porter said. “It’s a long sea­son. They’re go­ing to start go­ing in.”

* * *

Cavs have new in­jury, Hill out 2 weeks with shoul­der sprain

CLEVE­LAND (AP) — The Cava­liers are los­ing games and play­ers at an alarm­ing rate.

Start­ing point guard Ge­orge Hill could miss two weeks with a sprained right shoul­der, the lat­est set­back for the Cavs, who have won just one game and are ex­pected to be with­out All-Star for­ward Kevin Love for at least an­other five weeks fol­low­ing foot surger y.

Cleve­land is also miss­ing for­ward Sam Dekker, who sprained his an­kle and is out for a month.

Hill was a late scratch be­fore Wed­nes­day night’s loss to Ok­la­homa City. The 32-year-old, who hurt his shoul­der on the fi­nal pos­ses­sion of Mon­day’s loss in Or­lando, went through his usual pregame work­out, but was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing pain in his shoul­der and couldn’t play against the Thun­der. Fur­ther med­i­cal tests per­formed Thurs­day re­vealed the sprain.

AP PHOTO

Otto Porter Jr. broke out a shoot­ing slump with five 3-point­ers Tues­day against the Mav­er­icks.

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