[D.C. Council: setting the scene, rating the starters, assessing the subs, providing the analysis, and catching anything that you may have missed. Unlike the real DC Council, everything here is on the table. Game No. 9, Washington Wizards vs. Indiana; contributors: Rashad Mobley and John Converse Townsend from the Verizon Center with Kyle Weidie from behind the T.V.]
Wanna Get Away?
Also, Tyler Hansbrough wants to f*ck Jan Vesely up.
Washington Wizards 89 vs Indiana Pacers 96 [box score]
Stat of the Game: You could point to Indiana’s 46-36 rebound advantage, but I’m going to go with field goal percentage. 31-for-87 (35.6%) for the Wizards; 34-for-70 (48.6%) for the Pacers. Need mo’ buckets.
Player of the Game: David “Manifest Destiny” West – 30 points (10-for-14 FGs), eight rebounds, three assists, one steal, and four blocks.
There was 3:30 left in the fourth quarter when Chris Singleton hit a fadeaway jumper while getting fouled by Pacers forward Sam Young. The Wizards were in the midst of a 6-0 run to pull within one point (85-86), and they were a made free throw away from tying the score for the first time since it was 2-2 just 35 seconds into the game. Singleton missed the free throw, Pacers forward David West grabbed the rebound, Frank Vogel called timeout. According to Roy Hibbert, as he and West came out of the huddle this conversation happened:
The Pacers out-scored the Wizards 10-4 after that timeout, and during that three-minute stretch, West and Hibbert combined for eight points, four rebounds and a block, as the Pacers were able to tighten up their defense to come away with a victory—their first road victory in their past six games and only their second of the season. The Wizards, led by Bradley Beal, Kevin Seraphin and Shaun Livingston, fought as valiantly as this Wizards team has all season, but in the end, there was too much West and Hibbert, and that missed opportunity from the foul line.
Rating five Wizards starters & two three key subs on a three-star scale.
Coming into the game, the Pacers were, statistically speaking, the best defensive team in the league: the best defensive rating (95.8), allowing the fewest points per game (90.1), and holding opponents to an NBA-worst field goal percentage (40.3%). A.J. Price, the incumbent Wizards starter, had the right idea—push the tempo. But just because the ball was moving faster, doesn’t mean the point guard play was any better. Price scored eight points on 2-for-8 shooting (both makes coming on pull-up jumpers), grabbed two boards, and while he didn’t turn the ball over, he failed to register an assist in 24 minutes. If it were up to me, Price would move to the bench and Crawford would get a shot at the 1. The Wizards had a plus/minus of minus-12 with A.J. Price and Jordan Crawford on the floor together. They were a plus-3 otherwise.
The best thing Jordan Crawford did was go 7-for-7 from the free throw line. He also managed to pick up three rebounds, two assists, but three turnovers in his 24 minutes, collectively the second best thing he did. Otherwise, Crawford went 2-for-12 from the field. Not helping. Four of his attempts (and the two makes) came in the paint, so there are signs that he was trying to make things happen. But the Wizards are in such disarray, and Crawford has trouble against big, tough guards anyway (as well as interiors like the Pacers), that his night was probably pre-determined before he took his shoes out the refrigerator. As hard-fought as 11 points will ever be I s’pose.
Ariza, like the rest of the starting lineup, played six lackluster minutes in the first quarter until Wittman was forced to reload the roster. The Pacers were rolling, 17-6. Ariza wouldn’t check into the game again until the start of the third quarter, where he made his presence felt by rattling off eight shots in seven minutes. It was a dance that was as awkward as it was ineffective. For his efforts, Ariza found himself stapled to the bench for the remainder of the game. He finished with six points (2-for-9 from the field), five rebounds, two assists, and one turnover in 13 minutes.
Prior to the game, a disgruntled Wizards fan crudely asked me, “Why did we draft that f***ing bum?” and I diplomatically told this fan that it was a bit early to call Jan a bum. Jan made one nice pass and a couple of aggressive moves against the Pacers, which was just enough to help him surpass bum status. But once again, Vesely’s lack of muscle hindered him against Tyler Hansbrough (who also had crude things to say about Vesely), and David West, who in all fairness to Jan, tortured every Wizards player in his path. A stat line of five points, two rebounds and three fouls in 21 minutes would be an OK night for a second rounder or an undrafted player, but not for a 6th pick. One has to wonder if Vesely will even survive Coach Wittman’s next round of lineup changes.
Cash for Clunkers? The Wizards have you covered. Okafor finished with one point, missed all four of his field goal attempts, and pulled down one rebound in nine total minutes of action. ESPN.com’s John Hollinger tweeted that Okafor had become Francisco Elson during the Jazz game the other night … well, turns out Hollinger was just being a kind old soul to the hapless Wizards, because Okafor often looks quite worse. He’s clearly not a veteran who’s helping Washington get off to good starts, as his offensive presence is so bad, and rebounding so barely adequate, that any positive Okafor might be providing on the defensive end is negated, and then some. Randy Wittman opted to bench Okafor to start the second half in favor of Kevin Seraphin. The guy set to make around $28 million total over this season and the next played three meaningless and ineffective second half minutes.
After going 0-for-4 with one point and one rebound in 12 first half minutes, Bradley Beal fought with the bench mob to bounce back in the second half. Beal finished with 18 points on 4-for-12 shooting, 3-for-6 from deep and 7-for-9 from the free throw line. He added two rebounds, one assist, one steal, two blocks, and two turnovers in his 30 minutes. Beal still looks very inexperienced in terms of being able to finish and challenge NBA athletes, blowing a transition attempt and turning the ball over twice when jumping to pass in the first half. In the second half, Beal got going by hitting a couple jumpers out of set plays and then suddenly finding confidence to drive to the hoop, earning him all those trips to the line. In fact, eight of Beal’s scoring tally came in the fourth, including 5-for-5 on free throws, so his knack to manufacture such points is promising. Beal also greatly benefited from playing next to a point guard who can attract attention. With 1:15 left in the third, Shaun Livingston posted on the left elbow, lured the Pacers in, saw passing lanes over the defense, and whipped the rock to Beal in the opposite corner for a key 3-pointer that kept the Wizards within striking distance.
In the first half of Monday night’s game, Shaun Livingston seemed to be doing his best Jannero Pargo impression. He wasn’t launching long-range jumpers the way Pargo was prone to do, but Livingston (or it could have been Coach Wittman) kept calling the same play. He would pass the ball to whoever was on the perimeter, then he’d run deep in the lane and post up D.J. Augustin or Gerald Green. Livingston shot just 1-for-4 in the first half with two points. In the second half, when the Wizards mounted a significant comeback, Livingston reverted to the type of point guard play that made Wizards fans yearn for his return. He hit Bradley Beal with pinpoint passes in stride for open jumpers (Beal had 17 points in the second half), he found Kevin Seraphin in the post when he had deep position, and he hit a streaking Chris Singleton with a two-hand floating chest pass for an easy basket. Livingston still scored the ball, but he took short pull-up jumpers in the lane rather than relying on his post game. He finished with eight points and four assists in the second half alone (10 total points on the night). With his ability to control the tempo and get teammates involved, Livingston quietly put in his bid to be John Wall’s primary replacement.
Seraphin is slowly starting to do the little things to build a good offensive rhythm, such as taking that extra dribble to get a baby right hook attempt ever-so-slightly closer to the basket, or putting his big body in the right place for a key offensive board. He scored 13 points on 6-for-11 shooting in over 25 minutes off the bench, but again had issues getting to the free throw line (1-for-2) and issues rebounding the ball (just three rebounds, all coming in 12.5 second half minutes). Seraphin also got eaten alive on defense by David West (as did all the Wizards, West finished with 30 points). With minimal effort to challenge, Big Kev gave up two consecutive jumpers to West that extended a one point Pacers advantage to five with two minutes left. Seraphin is no where near ready to anchor Wittman’s defense from the starting unit, but he’s got to be leaps and bounds better than Okafor’s net effort.
“Fire Wittman.” I saw that quip on Twitter after the game, and I’d have to disagree. Despite the dreadful start—the Wizards, at one point in the first quarter were down 7-26—and a middling second quarter, Wittman’s team fought back. They won the second half, 48-46, and probably looked better than they have all year. Seriously. They out-shot the Pacers in the paint, 23-18 (but were outscored there anyway, 16-24), had more second-chance attempts, 11-3 (though they were even in second chance points, 7-7), and even had more fast break opportunities. Free throw attempts were even. Second half rebounds were close, 24-25 in favor of the Pacers.
In the final period and a half, Wittman rode the best seven-man unit he had available: journeyman Shaun Livingston; rookie Bradley Beal; a spotty Chris Singleton; an undersized Trevor Booker; Kevin Seraphin, a big man who rebounds like a guard; Jan Vesely, who doesn’t know how to score; and the Earl Barron. They almost pulled it off. Wittman threw a fit when the Wizards looked dependent on jumpers, like a dead car battery. He had words with young Kevin Seraphin, who kept giving David West an inch (he took miles, along with 30 points).
Wittman just wanted to win, and he couldn’t have cared less about the dollar value of player contracts. He coached ‘em up, and his team let him down—again.