D.C. Council Game 40: Wizards 107 vs 76ers 99: Beal Stays Laced, Wizards Knotted at .500 Again
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. 40: Wizards vs 76ers; contributors: Kyle Weidie and Sean Fagan from the Verizon Center, and Conor Dirks from his abode in the District.
Washington Wizards 107 vs Philadelphia 76ers 99
For the #OOPgod.
Aside from the Wizards’ attempts to avoid being themselves, the game against Philadelphia on Monday was rather boring and unremarkable. The Wiz Kids came out sluggish for the 2 p.m. start time—surprise, surprise—and missed layups forever in the first quarter while still managing to score 29 points, leading 29-23 at the period’s conclusion. John Wall did his part to ignite teammates with 10 first-quarter points.
In the second quarter, Washington realized that even courtesy attention to defense against Philadelphia would go a long way, especially in terms of converting turnovers into points. Still, allowing 28 second-quarter points on 22 shots isn’t anything for the Wizards’ defense to brag about. On offense, Wall helped manage the game and Bradley Beal started knocking down open looks in a vanilla offense—Beal scored 13 points in the quarter and three of his five buckets were assisted. The Wizards led 61-51 at the half.
Third quarter! Moans and groans entered the heads of fans, drooling like dogs conditioned to associate a bell with the desire to eat. A 10-point halftime lead quickly bumped up to 12 for Washington, but later, a 6-0 run by Thaddeus Young himself reduced Washington’s lead to a mere four points. During the subsequent timeout, Randy Wittman drew up a play that got Beal a 3-pointer and the Wizards did not look back, entering the fourth quarter with a 13-point lead, which was increased to 21 points not four minutes into the final period. This is when the Wizards started looking back.
Kevin Seraphin or Jan Vesely or Trevor Booker paired with other starters is innocent enough. As is Garrett Temple when he spells John Wall and is paired with Nene. Even Otto Porter is relatively harmless—to his team, opponents, the box score, anyone—when in the game alongside reliable Wizards. But the combination of several of those mentioned is like a bathroom cabinet filled with personal hygiene products laced with Smilex. Why, yes, I speak of the plot of 1989’s “Batman,” featuring Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman—the best Wayne/Batman ever.
Basketball-speaking, the comical (and chemically toxic) combo of Temple, a hobbled Martell Webster, Otto Porter, Chris Singleton, and Kevin Seraphin spent a mere two minutes in what was supposed to be mop-up time. Instead, Singleton broke the mop, Porter kicked the bucket, and that collective unit lost nine points to the Sixers in a 120-second span. Smiles galore from Jack Napier, and smiles to keep from crying from Wizards fans, tempted otherwise to express manufactured jubilation via free chicken and flashing lights.
Randy Wittman then reluctantly lit the Bat Signal and thrust his resting starters, save for Nene, back into the game … and they played as if they were still on the bench, holding game console controllers while pixelated man-boys jacked up shots in vain. But they held on to keep the toxins at bay, stumbling backward away from glaring issues about the team’s bench (i.e., the Blue Moons). With 19 seconds left, Webster found Trevor Ariza for a dunk, pushing Washington’s lead to 11 points and above the 10-point spread. Philadelphia came back on the other end and hit a 3, likely causing someone in Las Vegas to slowly melt into a bath of acidic, #SoWizards chemicals.
—Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)
The clamor of the crowd about the play of Bradley Beal had reached a dull crescendo following the loss to the Pistons, with Beal’s either inability or unwillingness to cut to the hoop cited by several pundits as the great weakness in his game. Beal, moderately chuffed by the criticism, pointed out that he had become a jump-shooter due to the offensive sets that Coach Randy Wittman prefers to run, not due to any timidness of his own. Of course words are words and everyone returned to their keyboards to quietly chortle and prepare the next “Beal can’t drive” pixel grab article. Not that these articles are in any way out of play (because the shot chart don’t lie), but what had started out as a trend pointed out by a few had emerged into a cottage industry #HOTSPORTSTAKE for many.
So it was nice when Beal went to work on MLK Day and unleashed a game that silenced the clattering of keystrokes. How does 20-9-8 strike you? Or that Beal only dialed-up the scoring button to 10 after recoding four assists? How do you like Beal developing a kind of weird hybrid symmetry with Kevin Seraphin and Jan Vesely? #BigPanda understood that with a snowstorm bearing down on the DMV like the wrath of Nene, and with the Bao Bao show being closed on Tuesday (#sadface), that he had to find something a little different in his game.
—Sean Fagan (@McCarrick)
The following is a hypothetical conversation from the Washington sideline after the bench was cleared in the fourth quarter:
John Wall: “There we go, fellas.”
Marcin Gortat: “When’s the last time we got a break in the fourth? Orlando game? Sure feels good.”
Trevor Ariza: “Boy, don’t I know it. I, for one, am excited to see young Otto Porter play some basketball. And look there, is that Chris Singleton? He has an NBA body, I tell you.”
Nene: *praying silently*
Bradley Beal: “Hey, guys… Guys. Guys. Guys, look at the score. Guys. Hey, it’s me, Brad. Guys, please.”
John Wall leans back in his chair, staring at the high-wattage spotlights that line the upper levels of the Verizon Center. He breathes deeply and utters a whispered moan that sounds eerily like “Bruh…” as he feels his pupils react to the intense glow. The pain from the glare is a warning he cannot heed. Just as his corneas begin to dry out, he feels a hand on his shoulder.
The hand belongs to Nene. “John, this is not your destiny. Come, you must win this game. I have parlayed with the angels, and it is their wish.”
John Wall: (sighing) “These *************.”
—Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks)
Marcin Gortat. After an up-and-down start to the season, Marcin Gortat is starting to fit in with the Wizards. The Wizards are also starting to figure out how to fit him in. An early complaint about Gortat’s game was his seeming refusal to “mix it up” with opposing big men. A team that takes as many jump shots as the Wizards needs their big men to channel Kerri Walsh. In January, Gortat has averaged 2.5 offensive rebounds per game, his highest rate of the season. Against the Sixers, Gortat had four offensive rebounds, and several times he offered pardons to possessions on death row.
Another trend to watch is the way that the Wizards have begun to embed Gortat in their game plan. In January, 80 percent of the Polish Hammer’s buckets have been assisted, the highest percentage for any month this season. It is data that suggests Marcin is receiving the ball in locations that promote quick, open shots. This was one of Gortat’s best games of a season that is trending upwards.
—Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks)
That session was … a win.
A win is a win.
And your Washington Wizards now field a 4-1 record when they have a chance to be .500, but they are 0-4 when they have a chance to go over .500.
Otherwise, we should not be talking about this right now. Not at all.
Related: Bless the AP reporter who kept asking EVERY FUCKING ONE about .500 after the game. Sure, these same queries get the blogger-pixel juices flowing in the morning. But, poor Wizards… Watch them beat Boston on Wednesday to go above .500 … and then lose three out of the next four on the road (at Phoenix, at Utah, at Golden State, at L.A. Clippers) … only to return home, perhaps with a 22-23 record, starting down the barrel of the next three games: Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Portland.
.500 is a myth. .500 is omniscient. .500 is all around us. .500 will never go away.
—Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)
So, uh, we are not gonna talk about .500. In fact, if you mention .500 there is a good chance that Coach Wittman will take your tape recorder and smash it repeatedly upon his press conference table … while muttering about the pick-and-roll. Of course, this feigned anger over .500 is probably to escape the fact that the deeper end of the Wizards’ bench was, as it continues to be, a bottomless chasm. Unable to hold on to a 21-point lead, Wittman was forced to insert four of five starters back into the game to stop the bleeding. (Nene was already wrapped up in his Snuggie so he was unable to participate.) Blah, blah player development and all that jazz, but Wittman’s dream of an eight-man rotation is going to blow up in his face unless he can get more production on blowout nights from numbers 9-to-12 on the bench.
—Sean Fagan (@McCarrick)
4 out of 5 stars
31 mins | plus-10 | 14 pts | 6-14 FGs | 0-1 3Ps | 2-2 FTs | 5 rebs | 5 asts | 2 blks | 3 TOs
I’m not sure John Wall’s defense wholly respected the 76ers, and thus, mostly rightfully so, Twitter bitched about his defense. Not all was lost, however. Wall was still doing things I haven’t always seen him do, one being a full recovery sprint back to his man after leaving to double (presumably because he was instructed to do so). —K. Weidie
5 out of 5 stars
30 mins | plus-7 | 22 pts | 8-15 FGs | 3-4 3Ps | 3-3 FTs | 9 rebs | 8 asts | 2 TOs
There isn’t much too add here that hasn’t been mentioned above, but it bears repeating that Beal has the ability to put in an all-around game like this more than once every other month. Maybe it was the poor shooting performance against Detroit that had Beal looking to hit people for open looks and grabbing boards, or maybe he just really likes 2 p.m. games. Either way, it is the incarnation of Beal that is going to decide how much damage the Wizards do in the playoffs. —S. Fagan
2 out of 5 stars
35 mins | plus-8 | 13 pts | 4-12 FGs | 1-7 3Ps | 4-4 FTs | 7 rebs | 5 asts | 0 TOs
January has not been kind to Lord Threeza. After he hit 47 percent of his 3-point shots in December, his January has been a disappointment: 26 percent on 3-pointers this month, and 1-for-7 from distance against the Sixers. So why am I still in love with Ariza’s game? First, he guarantees at least one Octodad contortion per game on a layup attempt. Second, to counteract his cool shooting, his rebounds are up, turnovers are down, and he is gambling less (although he’s still gambling … think of it like cutting out bets on Top Chef but still playing a weekly poker game).
Ultimately, Trevor will have to regain his rhythm. The tapout he punched (which led to a Wizards second-chance basket) once the starters were re-inserted was an indirect dagger, but the Wizards need him as a shooter (he’s one of only three on the entire team), and games like this will hurt the Wizards against quality opponents. —C. Dirks
2.5 out of 5 stars
23 mins | plus-7 | 7 pts | 1-5 FGs | 5-8 FTs | 5 rebs | 2 asts | 2 stls
Before the game, in the Wizards locker room, while media was lurking… OK, so I was just standing there hoping to ask Marcin Gortat about his pregame music… Nene walked by, said a kind but tame ‘hello’ and then gave a smile as if to affirm: ‘You know, young white man, the good Lord created sunshine.’
Also, I’m older than Nene by a full two years but have never, ever felt that I was anything less than four-to-ten years Nene’s junior.
The old-spirited Brazilian threw his bones around against Philly, wasn’t particularly effective, but he didn’t exactly need to be, especially while Spencer Hawes was jacking, and missing, 3-pointers (1-7), and as both Nene and his coach aimed to limit his exposure to Thaddeus Young, “essentially a small forward,” according to Wittman. So Nene got 23 game minutes of pounding exercise and otherwise was afforded rest. Starting tomorrow, the Wizards will play five games in the next eight days, four of them on the road. #Pray4Nene. —K. Weidie
4 out of 5 stars
23 mins | plus-14 | 19 pts | 7-11 FGs | 5-8 FTs | 11 rebs | 4 blks | 2 TOs
Gortat’s four blocks paced the Wizards to their highest team total of blocks (11) on the season. It’s a little deceptive because Marcin’s Wizards still allowed 54 paint points, and rim protection and blocks can be mutually exclusive. Three of Gortat’s four blocks led directly to Washington fast breaks, though, so someone tell JaVale McGee that it still counts if you send the block in the general direction of a teammate instead of out of bounds.
While Spencer Hawes was creating an invisible kinetic energy vortex by running around in (literal) circles looking for shots, Gortat was making his money in the traditional way: high-percentage shots around the basket.
*insert “Marcin Gortat’s humble, well-watered garden” shotchart* —C. Dirks
1 out of 5 stars
31 mins | plus-9 | 8 pts | 2-7 FGs | 1-6 3Ps | 3-3 FTs | 3 rebs | 2 asts
Thirty-one not-so-great minutes of basketball from Martell, who was his normal entertaining self post-game, but had enough self-recognition to take partial blame for the Wizards’ bench being unable to hang on to the lead. Webster’s poor shooting night had a lot to do with this (2-7), but it was his decision-making that really hurt the Wizards down the stretch. It doesn’t matter how much the Wizards are up by on an opponent, I never ever want to see Webster attempt to throw down an alley-oop from Otto Porter ever again. —S. Fagan
3 out of 5 stars
19 mins | plus-14 | 6 pts | 3-5 FGs | 0-0 FTs | 4 rebs | 1 blk
Jan is an angel. Don’t you dare touch a hair on his Czech head!
Top 3 ‘Jans’ from Monday: 1) That dunk (as seen above) … I think it killed a kitten a hundred miles away. (OK, so maybe Jan isn’t an angel; 2) He didn’t have to shoot any free throws; and 3) His hustle almost killed a lady sitting courtside early in the second quarter. (Angel in theory.) —K. Weidie
1 out of 5 stars
18 mins | minus-5 | 0 pts | 0-2 FGS | 1 reb | 2 asts | 2 TOs | 5 PFs
Temple’s rating isn’t his fault, it was more his inability to keep any of the other bench players from freelancing or running around like their heads had been struck off by an axe. Otto Porter and Chris Singleton are not Temple’s “responsibility” per se, but after the second ill-advised Otto Porter’s jump shot it would have been nice if Temple had told Porter to pull his head out of his ass. —S. Fagan
3.5 out of 5 stars
23 mins | minus-3 | 16 pts | 6-10 FGs | 4-4 FTs | 7 rebs | 1 ast | 1 blk | 2 TOs
Hey, 2012 Kevin Seraphin! How you been, man? Just livin’? Oh, not “just.” You have a third-person name for your own life? I see. Anyone ever told you that you look a bit like an American bullfrog when you’re jumping? Well, it’s working for you. —C. Dirks