D.C. Council Game 42: Wizards 101 at Suns 95: It’s Pure Blue Magic When Big Panda Produces Smooth Eggs
Truth About It.net’s D.C. Council: setting the scene, recapping key points, providing the analysis, evaluating players, and catching anything that you may have missed from the Washington Wizards. Game No. 42: Wizards at Suns; contributors: Conor Dirks, John Converse Townsend and Kyle Weidie from the home away from road.
Washington Wizards 101 at Phoenix Suns 95
Smooth as Eggs Bradley Beal.
NBA fans in Phoenix on Friday were treated to a back-and-forth affair. Lively hoops. Scoring of all sorts was served up with a side of tasty defensive bites, including a chase-down block from John Wall and a trio of steals from Suns forward P.J. Tucker. Have a look at the gameflow:
The game was tied at 93 with just under 2:30 left to play in the game. That P.J. Tucker guy I mentioned earlier ripped the ball away from Nene in the post, and got into a footrace with Wall to the other end of the floor. Wall beat him there, obviously, but couldn’t defend the rim cleanly and was whistled for a foul. Smart foul. Tucker, a 79 percent free throw shooter, missed both attempts. The Wizards recovered the loose ball.
Bradley Beal scooted to the low block, waited patiently for Marcin Gortat to pin Gerald Green with a screen, then snuck around Miles Plumlee to the top of the 3-point arc. Wall hit Beal with a quick pass from the left wing, the Suns defense did not rotate, and Beal was wide-open. The result: SPLASH.
Dragic tried to answer, and had a chance after beating Wall with a right-to-left crossover (Dragic is left-handed), but Gortat tracked back into the paint to bother the layup attempt, just in time. No bucket, all glass. On the other end, Nene took a foul off the ball and earned a trip to the free throw line, where he went 1-for-2 to make it a four-point game—97-93, Wizards.
Phoenix pick-and-roll action left Plumlee alone with Gortat on the right block for a moment. Wall doubled, Plumlee panicked and threw the ball away. Beal hit Trevor Ariza up court, he stalled, passed it to Wall, who worked the clock under a minute before hitting an open Nene at the top of the free throw circle. Nene took the jumper—not a good shot for him—and he air-balled.
More pick-and-roll action for Phoenix, which ultimately led to a big Plumlee jam. The big man slipped a screen, and Gortat was left with his feet crossed. The Wizards still led, 97-95, with about 40 seconds to play.
A two-man game between Nene and Beal on the next possession resulted in a pull-up J from Beal at the free throw line: SPLASH. Then Channing Frye bricked a three, Dragic pulled down the offensive board, missed a 3-pointer himself, and the long rebound fell to Beal who outran Plumlee and Frye for the one-handed dunk: DAGGER.
When the Wiz score 100 or more points, they win (16-6). When they play defense and hold teams under 100 points, they win (8-4).
—John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend)
Bradley Beal still has a lot of flaws in his young game, but if anything he’s proven that he can close. He’s Chairman Bao Bao.
… Or Big Panda. Or Blue Magic. Let the great Bradley Beal nickname debate begin. (As long as it’s not based on his initials or something lame like that.)
John Wall probably expended the most energy of any Wizard in not taking 29 shots, but rather 12, and in battling back-and-forth with Goran Dragic all night. Wall had his own troubles versus Dragic, a would-be All-Star in the Eastern Conference, but Washington’s defense also had troubles with how Dragic executed Jeff Hornacek’s whole offensive scheme. A learning opportunity, one would hope.
But the Wizards—like they have before—displayed the grit to fight back … or simply hang around. Yes, it was their own fault for getting down 19 to the Celtics, but they also had the muster to fight back. They just couldn’t close in overtime.
In stepped Bradley Beal. His minutes limit being better managed in Phoenix than against Boston could be mere chance, it could be better execution. This time around, Beal played about the same about of time in the first quarter, 40 seconds less in the second quarter, almost two minutes less in the third quarter, and because there was no overtime in Phoenix like on Wednesday in D.C., Beal was able to play 10:18 of the fourth, scoring nine points in the period and the last seven points of the game for the Wizards.
Balance the minutes, balance the health, get the ball in Beal’s hands in crunch time. Sounds like something that should be tried more often.
—Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)
Unexpected wins make for muted vetoes. But the Suns bench soundly outplayed Washington’s (once-in-a) Blue Moons, and Garrett Temple (1-for-6 from the floor, minus-12), despite the eye-test defense, was the brace-faced middle-school trumpeter creating the most dissonance.
—Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks)
After the loss to the Celtics, a game in which John Wall took 29 shots, and scored 28 points, Wall recognized that his volume-based game plan was poorly conceived. The impressive part of Wall’s personal post-mortem on his second career triple-double against Boston was that he immediately identified shot volume not only as a pox on his own game, but as a limiting factor for his teammates.
There’s talk, there’s walk, there’s bark and bite. John Wall is who John Wall is. He is, and will in the future be, a point guard. A passing point guard. A “pure” one, if that should mean anything to you. And this was his game: as many field goal attempts (12) as assists. He made fifty percent of his shots. He turned the ball over just twice.
Randy Wittman “sat down” with Wall after the Boston loss, and then told the media about it. Where others may have sulked, or posted their triple-double stats on Twitter (hey there, Jordan Crawford, you know what time it is!), Wall made corrections based on the criticism. Humans make mistakes. Point guards limit them.
—Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks)
That session was … Breaking Bad Habits, third-quarter habits.
Sure, the fact that the Wizards are 10-11 at home and 11-10 on the road is a bit bizarre—a pendulum swing from #SoWizards, but still in the same room.
But it’s even more encouraging than odd. If these Wizards can find tough ways to win on the road during mid-season, then they will undoubtedly be more polished down the road.
Previously beset by third-quarter kryptonite, the Wiz Kids flew to warm-weather Phoenix, finished the first half down six points after getting outscored 28-21 in the second quarter (looking like confused daisies in the process), and came out of the locker room swinging for the second half. And guess who was throwing smoke: Hookah Arms Ariza.
Within three minutes of the third period, Trevor Ariza picked up two free throws, a steal, a 3-pointer, and a dunk. Washington took the lead on that dunk and won the quarter 31-19. Ariza played all 12 minutes and tallied 13 points, went 6-for-6 from the charity stripe, and added three steals.
John Wall and Bradley Beal also combined for five assists (three for Wall) and one turnover (Wall) in the third, but the two guard-pups for the future could not have held it down without third-wheel-on-the-wing Ariza.
—Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)
Good stuff from Lord Wittman. He made due without squire Martell Webster, who was ill, and fielded a nine-man rotation: the usual suspects, plus Kevin Seraphin and 19 minutes of Otto Porter.
Wittman gave Seraphin the ax after a horrendous five-minute stretch between the first and second quarters: #KSLife was way off the mark on a midrange J, fouled Markieff Morris, was called for carrying the ball, and ran over Morris on his next touch for a charge. Wittman also pulled Porter at the right times—he was ineffective at everything besides grabbing the half-dozen rebounds that came his way.
And his X’s and O’s, perhaps even his halftime speech, helped contain the NBA’s 10th best 3-point shooting squad to 1-for-12 in the second half, and just seven makes on 22 attempts (32%) for the game.
—John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend)
4 out of 5 stars
35 mins | plus-16 | 18 pts | 6-12 FGs | 2-3 3Ps | 4-5 FTs | 3 rebs | 12 asts | 2 stls | 1 blk | 2 TOs
Total control from John Wall, NBA All-Star. He started the game like an apple pie pulled from the oven—hot and sweet—making his first four shots… Buckets from 17, 17, 25 (3-point land), and 16 feet. And he finished the game strong, chasing Goran Dragic around the court and getting the ball to the right people at the right times, things that won’t stand out on the box score. —J.C. Townsend
4.5 out of 5 stars
31 mins | plus-8 | 17 pts | 8-15 FGs | 1-2 3Ps | 0-0 FTs | 6 rebs | 3 asts | 4 stls | 0 TOs
Sure, remember Beal’s late-game jumper heroics and dagger slam. But also remember his rebounding, assisting, and stealing … and his zero turnovers. He attempted just two 3-pointers, making one, and five of his attempts were long-2 midrange shots, where he made two.
Otherwise, Beal’s remaining eight attempts came in closer proximity to the hoop than usual, and he made five of those. So, Wizards fans enjoy these moments of growth for Beal just as much as it pains you to pick apart his over-reliance on midrange jumpers and inability to get to the free throw line. —K. Weidie
4 out of 5 stars
36 mins | plus-14 | 14 pts | 6-14 FGs | 3-8 3Ps | 8-8 FTs | 7 rebs | 2 asts | 4 stls| 2 TOs
The last play of the first-quarter? A cross-court pass intercepted by Ariza.
Early in the third quarter (which belonged to Trevor Ariza, by the way), in one of the most hilarious defensive plays I’ve seen all season, Sir Hookah, mano a mano with a slightly disinterested Gerald Green, crept up like a lion in the savannah grass (or a tabby cat over-dramatizing a twitching ribbon) and mushed the ball out of Green’s hands at the moment he decided to pass it.
In the same spot, with the ball in Marcus Morris’ hands late in the third, Trevor relieved him of it. Before the steal, both players were standing still.
Trevor’s last steal came on a botched Miles “Haircut” Plumlee drive-and-kick, and although it was aesthetically the least interesting (passing lane interception) of his four steals, it came on the heels of Phoenix’s announcing team reciting facts regarding how “long” Trevor Ariza was, and mere seconds after his third one. When it comes to contract hookah: smoke it if you got it.—C. Dirks
3.5 out of 5 stars
33 mins | plus-11 | 18 pts | 8-15 FGs | 2-4 FTs | 8 rebs | 2 asts | 6 TOs
Coaching dilemmas are often chicken-or-the-egg scenarios. Although, scientists evidently determined that the chicken came first. But that didn’t exactly solve Wittman’s dilemma in Phoenix: Start Nene versus Channing Frye, having seen what Frye did to David West in a previous Suns win over Indiana, or start a more mobile guy like Trevor Booker who might be able to keep up with Frye?
The answer is not as simple as you think. Wittman has to play to egos, too, and Nene is as diva as they come. He can’t exactly say, ‘Nene, sit your big butt on the bench tonight, we don’t really think you can do it’ … and then, when Nene might have to do it, he’s just not that into it. But also, a coach has to trust a player. Nene is fairly mobile, he has guarded bigs on the perimeter before… Hey, it’s part of the job.
The ultimate problem: Nene didn’t seem too interested in hustling to do his job against Frye on Friday anyway. Sure, it’s a team thing, but Nene made it a touch too easy on Frye, who went 4-for-6 from long distance in the first quarter. (Check the Vines: One, Two & Three)
But, adjustments were clearly made and Frye was limited to just one 3-point attempt over the next three quarters, and he missed it. Credit goes to Nene for displaying toughness in other areas, taking it to smaller defenders like Frye, and hitting a good field goal percentage on the evening. But also, those six turnovers. Damn, São Carlos. —K. Weidie
2.5 out of 5 stars
36 mins | plus-17 | 14 pts | 6-10 FGs | 2-4 FTs | 5 rebs | 1 ast | 1 stl | 2 blks
Polish Heritage Night in Phoenix! It started strangely. On Gortat’s first possession, he backed down his defender with two long-armed dribbles, turned, and seemed to push the ball out of bounds. After the game, Gortat explained it thusly:
“I was just too energized, too fast. But I could anticipate that. It was just the excitement being here, playing against my ex-team.”
While Marcin certainly didn’t look “too fast” on that turnover, his night got better. Beal had this to say of what a win meant to Washington’s center (whose continued service is a “priority” for the Wizards in the offseason, via Marc Stein):
“It was terrific. Marc was energized, ready to go. He told me, ‘I need you to get this win.’ I said, ‘We’re going to get it, Marc. We got you. We got you.’”
Gortat was peppermint soft-serve on the boards, and let Miles Plumlee get whatever he wanted (6-for-7 around the basket, 7-for-8 overall). But he shot more efficiently than any other Wizard (60 percent), and helped Washington build confidence on the road in the first quarter by sending back two Phoenix shots. —C. Dirks
2.5 out of 5 stars
22 mins | minus-10 | 6 pts | 3-7 FGs | 0-0 FTs | 7 rebs | 1 TO
The rebounds were still there (Booker is averaging 7.2 boards in January) but the rest? More or less absent. He seemed to be too small, or not quite skilled enough, to make things happen on offense against a big, athletic Phoenix frontcourt. But he gave a good effort, didn’t make many mistakes, and even finished two powerful drives with soft layups in transition. —J.C. Townsend
1.5 out of 5 stars
20 mins | minus-8 | 2 pts | 1-for-6 FGs | 0-2 3Ps | 6 rebs | 1 asts | 1 blk | 2 PFs
Porter is not that terrible and so we’re all relegated to patience. But he’s also beyond not that good at all. Twitter supporters are taking extra care and going out of their way to point out all of the little things that Otto Porter does each and every time he does them. This is great, and he is a well-rounded guy who tries hard. But his offensive instinct is closer to Jan Vesely levels… Jan as a rookie. Otto has a long way to go, but at least he’s getting chances. —K. Weidie
1 out of 5 stars
23 mins | minus-12 | 3 pts | 1-6 FGs | 0-1 3Ps | 1-2 FTs | 1 reb | 1 ast | 1 stl| 1 blk
Remember: a great chase-down block on a fast-breaking Leandro Barbosa.
Remember: a tipped Goran Dragic pass.
Remember: a gates-closing, needle-threading pass that would make the TI-83 “Snake” world champion proud.
Forget: everything else. —C Dirks
0 out of 5 stars
5 mins | minus-6 | 0 pts | 0-1 FGs | 0-0 FTs | 1 rebs | 1 blk | 2 TOs | 2 PFs
Remember the Kevin Seraphin that was, by the numbers, the worst player in the NBA? Well, that’s the very same Kevin Seraphin that played five embarrassing minutes in Phoenix. Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad. —J.C. Townsend
Wizards Gs Can Block.
And Wizards Gs Can Pass.
But Goran Dragic is also good.
Otto Can Kick.
Seraphin Can Air Bargnani.