[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. 53, Washington Wizards vs Denver Nuggets; contributors: Adam McGinis and Kyle Weidie from the Verizon Center and Rashad Mobley from behind the television screen.]
Washington Wizards 119 vs Denver Nuggets 113 [box score]
MVP: Bradley Beal. Tough shooting night (3-for-8), but he scored 17 points on those eight shots, was a beast on the glass with 12 rebounds, and went 9-for-11 from the free throw line.
Stat of the Game: While Washington got out-scored in the paint by 18, 60-42, they were able to pound Denver on the offensive glass 18-8. Emeka Okafor led the way with five offensive rebounds, but having Bradley Beal and Martell Webster each chip in three offensive rebounds a piece was key. The Wizards bested Denver 24-to-8 in second-chance points and combined that with scorching 3-point shooting (11-for-24) to win.
At the 6:37 mark of the third quarter, Trevor Ariza took a pass at the top of the key from A.J. Price, drove the lane, and dunked it emphatically to put the Wizards up 49-39. Just when it seemed as if they were headed to halftime with a comfortable lead, the Nuggets went on a 25-15 run to tie the Wizards at 64 at the buzzer. Now, Bradley Beal was not asking his teammates why the f**k they were giving up, and the Wizards certainly had no reason to believe the game was over simply because of a squandered 10-point lead. But effort, or the lack thereof, was one of the main reasons the Wizards lost to the Raptors, and that had to be in the back of the players’ minds—and if it wasn’t, Coach Wittman surely reminded them of this fact in a blunt manner.
The Wizards began the third quarter with five straight defensive stops, and eight straight points after a Bradley Beal jump shot, and they led 72-64, which caused George Karl to call timeout. Shortly after play resumed, Phil Chenier said, “These are the moments when you really try to take a team that’s struggling, and come out after intermission, and try and put them down.” Steve Buckhantz then chimed in and said, “Or at least try and put them at a disadvantage.” That is exactly what the Wizards did over the remainder of the quarter.
In the third quarter the Wizards held the Nuggets to 31 percent shooting, they caused six turnovers, they won the rebounding battle 16-to-8, and they scored 10 second-chance points, while holding Denver to none. The end result was a 14-point lead and 100 percent effort from the full team—something Randy Wittman was more than happy to point out after the game.
“That’s all we talked about at half time. We didn’t talk anything offensively. We got four straight stops coming out in the third quarter, and I thought our intensity picked up from that defensive standpoint, and we outscored them 30-14 in that quarter to take control of the game. It was good to see us get back to playing our game. Everybody contributed.”
Rating five Wizards starters & two key subs on a three-star scale.
Oh, how the narrative has flipped for Johnathan Hildred Wall, Jr. It was setting up for the storyline to be about Washington blowing an 18-point advantage, and Wall coming up short in the clutch against JaVale McGee’s Nuggets. With David Falk’s highly publicized slander raising scrutiny on Wall’s performances, and coming off arguably the worst game of his professional career versus the Raptors, it could have been disastrous. The critics had reason to pounce after two terrible turnovers by Wall allowed the Nuggets to get within three with a little over three minutes remaining in fourth quarter. Wall then lost Lawson on an inbounds play, yet recovered nicely by blocking Lawson’s layup attempt. He quickly went down to the other end and delivered an assist to Nene on a gorgeous dribble drive. This four-point swing was a crucial momentum changer. Wall then helped seal the victory with two jumpers, the final one being a dagger. Wall bouncing back with a win over a good Denver squad became the true story and a mini-crisis was averted.
Wall finished with 14 points on 5-for-12 shooting, 10 assists, six turnovers, three blocks, one steal and one rebound in 33 minutes. His defense is still a work in progress. Effort and hustle are not the main issues, rather too many mental lapses of positioning and proper angles, even if he does get a lot of help-side blocks. I sure hope that is what Gary Payton talks with him about. Otherwise, Wall’s late-game heroics made sure “Pierre” left town without a win and kept the ankle-biting national media at bay, for now.
Solid. At least we hope Bradley Beal is solid. The player who is quickly turning into the Wizards’ best player (i.e., No. 1 asset) has taken a lot of spills this season. He had a collision with Cartier Martin at practice on Thursday; bits of Beal’s tooth literally ended up in Martin’s forehead and he ended up in a dentist’s chair for a couple hours. On Friday night he took a nasty, awkward spill in falling for a Ty Lawson pump-fake close to the hoop. Beal’s feet flipped completely in the air and he fell on this head/shoulder/back area. After lying on the ground for a bit getting checked out, Beal checked right back into the game. Afterward, he said his NBA falls have been nothing compared to the spills he used to take against his pad-wearing, football-playing brothers on the basketball court at the YMCA when he was younger. The kid, and game MVP, is obviously a tough cookie. Let’s just hope through all of this that he’s learning how to stay safe (that is, he should not have bitten on Lawson’s pump fake so hard).
For the second consecutive game, Webster did his job on both ends of the floor. The Nuggets may have scored 113 points, but Danilo Gallinari—the man Webster guarded for most of the game—was a non-factor with just six points. On offense, Webster shot 50 percent from the field, 50 percent from the 3-point line and three of his seven rebounds were offensive. Webster was particularly active at the start of the third quarter when the Wizards went on a 13-0 run, during which he had five points and he picked off an errant Ty Lawson pass. Going forward, a consistent 15 points per game (give or take a few points—he’s averaging 10.8 on the season) out of Martell would easily offset the inconsistent scoring of Jordan Crawford.
Before the game, Nuggets Coach George Karl mentioned that his team got hammered down low by Washington’s bigs in their previous meeting in Denver and implied that he planned to use that loss as motivation to his team. They seemed to get the message, as there were numerous hard collisions in the paint, and Nene was involved in several. Whatever good feelings that might exist between the Brazilian and his old teammates were nowhere to be found on Friday evening. Nene got popped in the face by Danilo Gallinari, which was called a flagrant-1 foul, and Nene responded with his own strong fouls. The Nene vs. Kenneth Faried battle was a massive ball of flying locks of hair. Nene won out, limiting the Manimal to six points and four rebounds while pouring in 14 points, four rebounds, three assists, two blocks and one steal in 30 minutes. Nene’s ability to shut off passing angles on defense is a very underrated aspect of his game, and the passing from him in high post was excellent once again. Nene missed an athletic monster dunk attempt, but it displayed that the big man still has some giddy-up in those 30-year-old legs.
It hasn’t gotten a ton of attention, but these Wizards are about 1,000 percent physically tougher than the Wizards of yore. First, you’ve got the Beal kid. Then, you’ve got Okafor and Nene, who have really meshed nicely as a bruising, won’t-back-down force. Against the bigs of Denver—Kosta Koufos and Kenneth Faried—the collisions of bodies could be heard from the blogger perch above section 104. Hard fouls, sometimes flagrants, were exchanged over the course of the night. And Okafor put his nose right in the mix, pulling down 13 rebounds and contributing 17 points (should’ve been 20; Okafor went 1-for-5 from the free throw line). The old man even pulled off a nice dunk on the kid Faried. Asked about it after the game, Okafor was pretty chill, though.
Trevor Ariza wins the ‘Best Supporting Player Off the Bench’ award, and Kyle Weidie broke down his performance in The Reaction. But the award for the ‘Best Cameo Appearance’ goes to Garrett Temple. He checked into the game with 51.7 seconds left in the third quarter, and was a non-factor until the 18-second mark, when he grabbed a rebound after Trevor Booker blocked Gallinari’s shot. Temple calmly brought the ball up the court, smartly put the ball back in the hands of point guard A.J. Price, and camped out in the corner. With 1.8 seconds left, Emeka Okafor rewarded Temple for being open in that corner, and Temple hit the dreaded long 2-pointer, and was fouled (a dumb foul at that) by a flailing JaVale McGee with 0.5 seconds left in the period. The crowd and the Wizards bench went wild, and after Temple hit his free throw, the Wizards headed into the fourth quarter up by 16 points. The moment was not lost on Coach Wittman:
“I stick Garrett Temple in there the last minute of the third quarter, and he comes up with three big points—picks up that shot in the corner, gets fouled and knocks down the free throw. Everybody came in and really contributed for us.”
Every NBA team has a hype man. It is that one player who is always into the game on the bench. He is constantly chest bumping, high five-ing and dapping out various handshakes. A.J. Price is that guy for the Wizards. During pre-game introductions, he sets up shop at end of the line of Wizards and greets each starter with different energetic veracity. Price and Wall do some Ray Lewis type of scream to conclude the intros before the team huddles up. Price is often the first guy to run on the court after a big play, and he admitted to maybe being more pumped up than Wall about John’s killer crossover on Ish Smith. Price’s genuine enthusiasm is fun to watch, so it is nice to see him perform as well as he did versus the Nuggets. His 12 points came on 4-for-6 shooting on 3-pointers, along with three assists and one rebound in 15 minutes. His back-to-back made 3-balls gave the Wizards strong momentum to close out the first quarter. He also more effectively guarded Ty Lawson than Wall. Typically, backup point guards rarely get any pub, because attention usually only comes their way when they mess up. As a result, Price won’t get much notoriety, but more often than not, his effort (and sometimes his jumper) is at a solid, consistent level every night.