Dallas Mavericks Exclusive: P.J. Washington Details Hot Playoff Shooting After Trade Adjustment


DALLAS — P.J. Washington has been a dynamic contributor for the Dallas Mavericks postseason. He averaged 28.0 points per game over his previous two performances and shot 53.7% from the floor and 52.2% from beyond the arc. He was the team’s leading scorer in both games, instrumental in guiding the Mavs to a 2-1 series lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Washington made a substantial defensive impact for the Mavericks upon his arrival. Lately, his offensive contributions have experienced a major uptick in the postseason. During 29 regular-season games, he averaged 11.7 points while shooting 42.1% overall and 31.4% from deep. He has improved to score 14.6 points per game in the playoffs while converting at a 47.6% clip overall and converting at a 41.4% rate from 3-point range.

May 11, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward P.J. Washington (25) dunks past Oklahoma

May 11, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward P.J. Washington (25) dunks past Oklahoma / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Washington’s production for the Mavericks has resulted from a combination of a greater comfort level in his role after being traded midseason from the Charlotte Hornets and making the Thunder pay for emphasizing loading up on superstars and trying to neutralize the roll man by often rotating the weak-side low defender early. The defense has been daring him to shoot, particularly as a weak-side corner spacer, and he’s fully punished them, going from shooting 28-116 (24.1%) in the regular season from those zones to 16-35 (45.7%) in the postseason.

While observers may get used to Luka Doncic looking off a weak-side defender before darting a no-look pass to the corner pocket or Irving drawing two defenders before quickly finding a teammate, it takes time to fully get acclimated to those sequences and convert at a high clip. A new teammate must adjust for as much of an unpredictability element as the defense faces.

“I think it’s just the timing. Just knowing when the passes are going to come, obviously playing with better players like looking Kyrie and Luka, you never know what to expect from them,” Washington told MavericksGameday.

When comparing his current results and his initial comfort level, Washington explained how he wasn’t nearly as prepared as he is now. He’s fully aware of when Doncic or Irving wants to make the passes they make and how the ball is going to arrive to him in the flow of the offense.

“My first couple of games, obviously I didn’t [know what to expect], I wasn’t ready for none of it,” Washington told MavericksGameday. “But now I feel like I’ve got my rhythm and I kind of know when they’re, when they want to pass it, when they’re going to shoot. So just knowing stuff like that, for sure.”

It’s very possible the Thunder will adjust how they are closing out on Washington and how they view sending the low defender early to help in the paint. If they begin to run him off the line more aggressively, he’s prepared to counter by attacking downhill to get to a finish, or use his right-hand floater playing off of two feet. He looks forward to having the paint open up as a result.

“I feel like just the way people close out, I mean, obviously if I’m not shooting the ball well, they’re going to close short,” Washington told MavericksGameday. “Now that I’m shooting the ball pretty well, they’re trying to close hard and run me off the line, and it opens up everything inside the paint. For me, just taking what the defense gives me and just trying to be aggressive at it as well.”

A recent emphasis the Mavericks have made with Washington’s involvement in the offense has been to run an early play to get him a post touch to play out of. It became a featured element of their attack in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals, considering the Thunder tend to hide their weaker perimeter defenders on him and Derrick Jones Jr. instead of placing them on Doncic or Irving. Washington has often taken advantage of his size and short-range touch to make plays.

From a player’s perspective, getting into a shooting rhythm from beyond the arc can be assisted by seeing a shot go through the hoop, even if it’s in the paint or in the post. Even if the quality of 3-point attempts is high, it can be challenging to step into a game and mostly take those attempts and expect to convert at a high clip.

“It’s a lot easier once you see the ball go in to make shots,” Washington told MavericksGameday. “Obviously, coming in just shooting threes, that’s honestly one of the hardest things to do in the game. Being able to hit some layups or post-ups or anything in the paint warms you up and you feel a lot better shooting three.”

During his Hornets career, Washington showed the ability to produce dynamic scoring outbursts, including a career-high 43-point performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Paycom Center last season. It’s still a continued process since it has still only been a few months since he made his Mavericks debut, but he feels a greater comfort level to attack and is benefiting from it.

“I think it’s just growing each and every game. I’m getting more comfortable,” Washington told MavericksGameday. “My teammates are having more trust in me.”

Instead of making the game complicated, Washington understands the value of making simple plays by reading how the defense is defending as a unit. He’s taken pride in attacking within the flow of the offense, whether he’s re-driving a closeout, or he’s catching a defender ball-watching and counters by cutting.

“I’m just trying to attack wherever I see fit. Whenever the defense turns its head, I just try to make a play or cut or do something simple,” Washington told MavericksGameday.com. “I think it’s just simple when you think about it, and the biggest thing is just trying to keep it simple and not overthink anything.”

As the Mavericks seek to take a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Thunder using Monday’s Game 4 matchup, Washington remains an integral part of how Dallas can pull it off.

READ MORE: P.J. Washington Emerging as Dallas Mavericks’ Third Scorer Against OKC Thunder

READ MORE: Dereck Lively II Punished OKC Thunder’s ‘Disrespect’ at Free Throw Line

READ MORE: P.J. Washington is Stepping Up For the Dallas Mavericks When He’s Needed Most

Stick with MavericksGameday for more coverage of the Dallas Mavericks throughout the NBA Playoffs 

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