Droughts and Runs: A Wizards Game of Inconsistency
[Editor’s note: Ryan Gracia is majoring in sports communication and journalism at George Mason University and freelances for local sites of Patch.com. Some of his previous work for TAI can be found here and here. Below, Ryan recaps the droughts of let-down for the Wizards against the Warriors on Wednesday night.]
It’s safe to say the Wizards have been inconsistent this year. They lost at home to the Phoenix Suns by 18 points back on January 21, then bounced back the next night to pull out arguably one of the best wins of the season against the Boston Celtics (thanks to some missed shots that Celtic vets don’t miss often — but hey it was a win nonetheless). I’ll also remind you that the Wizards actually boasted a winning record at home (13-10 leading up to February), while nearing an unbelievably embarrassing feat of setting an NBA-record 30 straight losses to begin a season away from the friendly confines of the Verizon Center, going 0-25 before their first win against the Cleveland Cavaliers — who had just ended a 26-game overall losing streak of their own.
I know, that’s a lot to take in, but those inconsistencies throughout the season were on display Wednesday night against the Golden State Warriors, and it set up quite an interesting matchup against the seventh-highest scoring team in the NBA this season.
Barely three minutes into the game, the 13-4 Washington advantage showing on the jumbotron must have been shocking even to the five Wizards players walking toward the bench following a timeout. Here’s why: Flip Saunders (or Randy Wittman in the case of Wednesday night’s game) wasn’t the pissed off coach calling the timeout following a big run.
Things then went back to normal when those players stepped back on the court. The Wizards allowed Golden State to make what was supposed to be an uphill battle of coming back from nine point deficit much too easy. They turned the tide to lead 18-16 from the time Stephen Curry hit a 3-pointer 12 seconds after the timeout to the point when Curry finished the run by hitting the free throw to complete a 3-point play barely two and a half minutes later. A 13-4 run in just over three minutes to start a game is nice — very nice after knowing that the Wizards were the team that completed the feat. But a 14-3 run (scored by only two players, Curry and Dorell Wright) in two and a half minutes? Well, I’d say that more than counters the run from the Wizards. Those three Wizard points, by the way, all came from the free throw line.
So what went into that drought? Let’s take a closer look.
Josh Howard missed one of two free-throws after Curry’s three following the timeout. He then missed a long jumper and fouled Wright four seconds later to put him on the free throw line (where he made both). Sandwiched between Howard’s mistakes was John Wall fouling Curry, which led to a deep 3-pointer from Wright on the reset.
Once Golden State cut Washington’s lead to two after this 8-1 run, the Wizards figured they’d keep screwing up. Maybe they wanted to test Wittman’s patience. Maybe they figured they had already done all the hard work by getting the lead and the rest of the game was meant to look at Nick Young’s fresh new hair-style on top of his head. Or maybe, Andray Blatche wanted to take a jumper without looking up for a teammate to pass to. Probably all of the above, but the third option is the only one we know for sure.
During the two-man show put on by the Warriors, skinny little Monta Ellis was grabbed two rebounds, equalling the total accumulation that all five Wizards players were able to snag during that time — a Washington lineup featuring the 7’1″ JaVale McGee and nearly 7-foot Blatche. Something about that doesn’t sound right.
9-0 Warriors 2nd Quarter Run
The first run from the Warriors was held in check because of the Wizards’ game-opening run. The second Golden State run just about put the Wizards away for good. The Warriors broke away from a deadlocked score of 42 to give Mike Bibby more satisfaction with his decision to leave.
From the 7:13 to 4:37 marks of the second quarter, the Wizards threw up just three shots in nearly three minutes, taken by Young and Blatche, who we all know love to shoot. Washington also pulled down just one rebound. Those kinds of stats are not going to win games.
But more importantly, where was the defense? The Warriors proved why the Wizards are stuck in the NBA’s cellar by attacking the rim with an easy short jumper, a dunk and two free throws. They also let Vladimir Radmanovic hit one of his two open 3-pointers on the night. The run ultimately gave the Warriors a nine point cushion at 51-42 that was held at halftime, 62-53, and ultimately made the difference in the 106-102 Golden State win despite a furious Washington comeback attempt.
Clearly, the Wizards need to focus on defense — both down in the paint and up at the top of the key. Or maybe it’s consistency that really needs to be sharpened. Actually, there are a laundry list of issues. But no more talking like in years past — just doing.