[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. 27, Washington Wizards vs Orlando Magic; contributors: Dan Diamond and Conor Dirks from the Verizon Center.]
Post-Game Steez Face.
[Jordan Crawford, Steez]
Washington Wizards 105 vs Orlando Magic 97 [box score]
MVP: Nene, clearly, with season-highs in both points (23) and rebounds (11).
Stat of the Game: Before the game, Magic rookie Kyle O’Quinn asked me who the Wizards had won against this season. While he took report of two of the more predictable wins in stride (Trail Blazers and Hornets), he was quick to tell me that the win against Miami was a fluke. And it probably was. But was this win against Orlando a fluke? The Wizards shot 47.7 percent from the field, well above their season average of 40.7 percent. The unusually high (for Washington) shooting percentage was buoyed by Jordan Crawford’s 11-for-16 shooting.
With a little more than a minute in the first half, and the Magic leading the Wizards by 51-49, prized rookie Bradley Beal spotted up for an open three—and missed. But the Wizards corralled the offensive rebound, and swung it to D-League acquisition Garrett Temple—who canned a 25-footer. Temple’s shot gave Washington a slender halftime lead that it wouldn’t relinquish.
Rating five Wizards starters & two key subs on a three-star scale.
This one wasn’t pretty for Steady Shelvin. Jameer Nelson opened up the game 5-for6 on field goals in the first quarter, and 4-for-5 from 3. Most of this action came at the expense of Mack, who struggled to stay in front of Nelson (and over the screens) as the Magic point guard painted a familiar landscape for Wizards fans in the first quarter. His penance for letting Nelson run wild? An extended stay at Randy Wittman’s Pine Resort. Mack was relieved by new signee Garrett Temple (who started the third quarter), and Washington improved noticeably. In his thirteen minutes of play, Shelvin went 0-for-4 from downtown and 2-for-7 overall, finishing with as many assists (1) as turnovers (1), which is to say that Shelvin didn’t do much of anything other than start the game. For what it’s worth, Shelvin did come back in the third quarter, briefly, and enjoyed more success than he did in the first half. He hit an open shot, slid his feet, and forced a few bad passes by Orlando before bricking a wide open three-pointer.
Bradley Beal inside the 3-point line is an effective player: He canned four of his nine shots, played active D, and skied quite high for an alley-oop from Jordan Crawford. But the shooter’s struggles from distance continue; he’s zero for his last 14 from beyond the arc and hasn’t made a 3-pointer in nearly two weeks, since the Wizards last played the Miami Heat. As SB Nation’s Mike Prada has pointed out a few times, Beal is aiming his shots.
It was a quiet first half for “The Definition”; no points on three field goal attempts. But he poured in eight points in 16 second-half minutes, was able to mostly stay with the Magic’s leading scorer Arron Afflalo, and was on the floor when it mattered in the fourth quarter. Webster contributed a single rebound and two assists in his 23 minutes.
During the miserable first six minutes of the game, which found the Wizards down 25-8, Nene accounted for almost all of the positive play on the Wizards side. After hitting the opening shot of the night, he tipped out a defensive rebound to a Wizards player, ran down the court, and hit a jumper from the other side of the basket. Fortunately, this wasn’t a contest where Nene was the only one with “respect for the game,” as the young guys he may have been complaining about several nights ago stepped up to aid their veteran leader. With 5:44 left, Nene caught a pass from Garrett Temple and quickly pushed it to Seraphin. When Seraphin missed the shot, Nene grabbed a tough offensive rebound and tossed it out to the arc before promptly getting it back and finding a cutting Martell Webster for an uncontested slam. Nene had four assists on the night, but the traditional big man statistics were more impressive: a season-high 23 points to go along with 11 rebounds, on 7-for-11 shooting. It isn’t surprising to see that the Wizards play their best ball with Nene on the court, but it was nice to see the Wizards play well enough to protect the lead they earned.
Emeka Okafor played in a game against the Orlando Magic on December 28th, or so I’ve heard. The Wizards center didn’t win D.C.’s most depressing mini-game tonight, and failed to accumulate enough points plus rebounds (13) to surpass his salary amount ($13.5, in millions, by the way). Although Okafor had only two points in almost thirty minutes of play on a miserable 1-for-7 shooting, he did rebound the ball well, pulling down 11 boards to go with three emphatic blocked shots. However, the shots he missed were makeable. In one sequence late in the first quarter, Okafor’s predictable and oh-so-slow pump fake under the hoop led to not one, but two Orlando players looming over him as he went up for his “shot,” which was promptly blocked.
After the game, Jordan Crawford was reluctant to say much of anything, but he made it abundantly clear that the revolving door of point guards wasn’t affecting his play. “It’s no different,” he said, remarking that he plays his own game no matter what. Ain’t that the truth.On this night, Crawford’s game was the one to play. After checking into the game, Jordan validated his particular brand of basketball by making shot after shot. His performance was a microcosm of the Wizards night (efficient and high scoring), which is troubling of course, because Crawford doesn’t always play this well, or score this efficiently. The highlight of the night came courtesy of a Crawford oop to a high-flying (is that Bradley?) Beal. Aside from a dumb foul near the end of the game, which ended up being insignificant, Crawford played about as well as one could expect. His plus-21 was second to Wizards point guard du jour Garrett Temple (who was plus-22 — Nene, believe it or not, was minus-3).
Meet your new Wizards starting point guard (Shelvin Mack started the game, but Garrett Temple started the third). Temple just had the greatest night of his 53-game, four-year, six-team NBA career; his 13 points were the most he’s had in a single game since April 2011, the six rebounds represented a career high, and the six assists tied one. That’s partly because Temple was on the floor for 35 minutes—the most he’s ever played in any NBA game, by far—as he showed the ability to initiate the offense and guard multiple positions, marking Afflalo, J.J. Redick, and Jameer Nelson at various points. Because the performance surpasses so many of his career norms, don’t expect this every night—but for this one Friday at least, the Wizards found a savior in Temple.
The Wizards immediately fell behind 25-8 because of an inability to make shots and stay with Magic point guard Jameer Nelson, who had 14 points in the game’s first seven minutes. But to Wittman’s credit, he found something that worked—lots of Temple and Crawford—and went with it. The Wizards also adjusted defensively, as Nelson didn’t score in the game’s final 34 minutes. And with a lead in hand, the team worked to stretch out each possession, using most of the shot clock in the third and fourth quarters.
One of the most unusual sights in this dark season: the typically somber Wittman was actually “jocular” in his post-game press conference. (Conor’s word, not mine.).