At every buzzer, there are key points you can look back on when considering the outcome — a game-changing instance, a slept-on moment, an initial reaction to the final score. Sure, in a contest of ebbs and flows, moments can be subjective, but it doesn’t make it any one less important than others. In a Wizards 105-102 win against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday, these were some of those moments…
Obviously there’s a John Wall alley-oop dunk…
With the Wizards struggling to make a basket in the third quarter, a streaking John Wall elevated toward the rim only to kick out to a wide-open Nick Young in the corner for an open three. What many would call “lucky” shooting in the second half was often a product of superior point guard play from Wall and team execution, especially in pick-and-roll situations. After making five threes in the second half of the game, Young finished his post-game interview by swaggily pronouncing, “Straight buckets! I heat it up! Five for five!” Nick Young, ready to party. Oh, did I mention he played passable defense on Kevin Durant late in the fourth?
JOHN CONVERSE TOWNSEND:
The Washington Wizards may have won tonight, but they still boast the least efficient offense in the NBA. You can point to poor shot selection — even poor shooters — as the reason the Wizards stink it up on offense. But if you look past personnel issues and below thick layers of sabermetrics, you’ll notice a third, more damning cause for their offensive ineptitude: the Wizards don’t give themselves enough opportunities to create open looks. Early in the 3rd quarter, the Wizards found themselves down to the Thunder 47-54, but had a chance to cut the lead to just four points after an offensive three-second call on Kendrick Perkins. Here’s what happened next:
With 15 seconds remaining on the shot clock, Andray Blatche fired and missed an 18-foot jumper — I’m confident in saying that’s not how the play was drawn up. Fortunately, JaVale McGee saved the possession by tipping the ball out to Nick Young. Young, however, decided to let it fly from beyond the arc — he missed, too. McGee again (!) came to the rescue, saving the Wizards from themselves by slapping the ball to John Wall at the top of the three-point line. Without hesitation, Wall slashed past Russell Westbrook for a driving layup, but couldn’t finish. Westbrook, having trailed the play, recovered the defensive rebound and raced to the other end of the floor, drawing a foul from Nick Young and earning himself a pair of free throws. In 14 seconds, the Wizards missed three shots and left almost a minute on the shot clock. The offense never reset and the Wizards walked away with nothing, again.
“Jan [Vesely] was great. Great amount energy. He’s getting to the point right now where he’s one of our better bigs as far as pick-and-roll defense, he gets his hands on a lot of balls.”
-Flip Saunders, coach, Washington Wizards
“I think [Jan Vesely] is very good. he’s long and athletic and hustles, and he understand the game. They have a very good player in him; he’s going to get better. I like the way he plays: he plays very hard and plays for the team.”
-Scott Brooks, coach, OKC Thunder
Jan Vesely’s stat line is not going to make some ESPN.com rookie report — 19 minutes off the bench, six points, 3-6 FGs, three rebounds (all offensive), two fouls, one steal, two turnovers and one blocked shot — but his presence was sure felt. It’s been a while since a rookie has looked so comfortably active, so aggressive, yet in control. Early in the fourth quarter, Nick Young checked in for Rashard Lewis. Yes, Flip Saunders was trotting out a lineup of John Wall, Jordan Crawford, Young, Vesely and Trevor Booker with his team hanging close at 80-79. Two subsequent James Harden free-throws put the Thunder up three, and other the other end, the Wizards were ready to test their three-guard lineup. Crawford dribbled himself in a corner, to no avail, and kicked it to Wall… missed 21-foot jumper. Vesely offensive rebound. Within five seconds the ball found itself back in Crawford’s hands, and the guard naturally found himself ready to fire a three. Another missed jumper, and another Vesely offensive board. But this time the rookie left his young and gunning team with no choice, he did it himself. Jan’s offensive rebound fluidly turned into a put-back dunk. An almost careless possession added to the pile and saved for a later date, the Wizards lived to keep fighting.
[note: the video below took place in the 2nd quarter]