D.C. Council Game 37: Wizards 114 vs Heat 97: Miami Vice, Coast-to-Coast
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. 37: Wizards vs Heat; contributors: John Converse Townsend and Conor Dirks from the Verizon Center, and Arish Narayen from the DMV.
Washington Wizards 114 vs Miami Heat 97
Twin monkeys sat perched on the backs of the Wizards before they took the floor against Miami. The first monkey wore a ribbon that said “Can’t win at home.” The second monkey wore a ribbon that said “Can’t beat good teams.” They both wore hideous, toothy smiles. Where are those monkeys now? Hopefully released into their natural habitat (via respect for animals), but because they were bucked at the Verizon Center, probably just tormenting some intern and eating executive nachos.
After kissing the sky in the first half, the Wizards came down surely as the sun sets, while the Miami Heat rolled into the party like a slow, toxic fog of bandwagon mouthbreath. The Heat, again and again, depleted the Wizards’ lead to single digits.
With 4:45 remaining, LeBron James re-entered the game, and the Heat prepared to make their final run. Washington loyalists in Verizon Center tried their best to pretend their hearts weren’t inadvertently choking them from within their throats.
John Wall went on to control both the pace, and the scoring, of the crucial minutes that followed. He drew two consecutive fouls on Norris Cole, knocked down all of his free throws, found a baseline-cutting Martell Webster for a slam (after the game, Martell explained the paranormal synergy by saying “80 percent of communication is non-verbal! He didn’t have to say anything, I saw it in his eyes…”), zipped it to Nene for a vicious dunk over James, and finally capped it off with two jump shots of his own to put the Wizards up 112-95 with 54 seconds remaining. Who says this kid can’t manage a game?
—Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks)
The Miami Heat were 5.5-point favorites at the Verizon Center on Wednesday night, the Washington Wizards entered the game 1-14 against teams with winning records. The Heat went to the White House on Tuesday, where President Obama made a joke at Mario Chalmer’s expense. This evidence points to an unnamed degenerate gambler betting their mortgage on Miami, ‘because the defending champions won’t lose three in a row.’ But, That’s Why They Play The Games, Folks™.
The Wizards scored 43 points in the first quarter, the most this season, and 69 points by halftime. The 69 points were the second-most first-half points allowed by the Heat during the ‘Big 3’ era. The Wizards even held a 34 point lead during the second quarter, largely quietening the partisan crowd before the Heat came back in the second half.
Washington’s scoring was balanced, as seven players reached double-figures, the most notable player being John Wall. Wall scored 25 points, dished nine assists, got to the line eight times, and provided the game-sealing sequence: finding Nene for a dunk and icing it with a 25-footer with less than a minute left. When Wall makes five of his 20-plus-foot shots, the pressure on opposing defenses increases ten-fold.
We often bend the rules in this section, and we will again: Washington’s third-quarter offensive execution was the “LVP”. During those fateful third-quarter minutes, the Wizards committed nine of their 12 total turnovers: three each by Webster (two charges and a goaltend) and Wall (read, then react), and two by Ariza (consider the bounce pass sometime). That carelessness with the ball led directly to 15 Heat points, eight scored in transition. Spoelstra’s squad roared back with a 19-4 run.
—John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend)
Trevor Booker, occasional starter and part of the much-maligned Wizards’ bench, filled in admirably when Nene went to the bench. Booker scored 13 points on five shots, tallied 11 rebounds (most of either team), and generally was rewarded for his availability near the basket, as he made only one shot from more than four feet from the basket. Booker also did an excellent job containing LeBron on a couple crucial, late-game defensive possessions. Now flex those muscles…
That session was … a franchise-changing moment?
Probably not. But as Bossman Weidie pointed in his piece yesterday comparing the 2000s era Thunder to this year’s Wizards (which you should read—click here):
“If Washington wants to make an impression on the league and show that a third team in the East does want to separate itself from the pack (while still lagging eons behind the Heat and Pacers), now is as good of a time as ever to wanna to be startin’ somethin’.”
The Wizards’ win broke a streak of Heat wins again Southeast Division opponents that began in December 2012. It was also the Heat’s third consecutive loss this season, their only three-loss streak, and it was the first time they’d lost three in a row since January 2012.
Wall said after the game he noticed the Wizards were stopping the ball less, which kept the Heat defense turning their hips. In the first half, Wall & Co. scored 19 points in transition—they had been averaging 15.8 per game—and finished with 28 total. The Wizards led by as many as 34 points, the second-largest sinkhole Miami has faced with James, Wade and Bosh on the roster. The Wiz also made more free throws (22) than they average per game (21.2), and even Bradley Beal was attacking the rim, finally looking willing to take the hoop with some harm.
“I think we really took a toll on them,” Webster said in the winning locker room. “In the fourth quarter, they didn’t have anything left. Then we pulled away.”
Oh. That franchise-changing moment? It was a strong statement win, the team’s best win of the season. THEY PLAYED THE RIGHT WAY!
Spoelstra said the Heat had “to own it,” adding “You can’t just slide this one under the rug.” That might just be CoachSpeak from the two-time champs, but for the Wizards, this victory will surely be a part of their identity. They’ll still be the Wizards, so don’t get too excited. But when Witt can get away with only calling on eight, they can be pretty great.
—John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend)
About four and a half minutes into Randy Wittman’s postgame presser, the Washington Post’s Mike Wise began a question with “I know the postseason’s a long way off…” and Coach Wittman, always jocular after a win, looked away and said “Alright, next question.” Undeterred, Wise made the perfunctory “Can you see this as a playoff preview?” inquiry. Randy kinda-sorta appropriately dodged the question, but in his dodging, provided a more interesting look into the psyche of his Wizards:
“I hope not. I don’t know, they’re going to be in the playoffs, so you hope—yeah, you run into them. Where? Who knows? But like I said we kinda knew we had to stay focused, we knew they were going to put a push on somehow, in some manner, and they came out and really pressured us, we took for granted some entry passes that we made in the first half and they kinda got aggressive. But the thing that was really good to see was I didn’t see that look of far off, that look of ‘Oh gosh, here it comes,’ and that was good.”
The Wizards have lost a lot of leads, and a lot of close games. They’re 2-4 in overtime games and 1-3 in games decided by 3 points or less. No lead has been safe, and no Wizard has been immune from what looks, from afar, like dread. Obviously, it’s not just the Comcast broadcast, and Wittman has picked up on the doom and gloom associated with games that become unexpectedly close. The team might have a poker face now, but only repeated exposure will make it stick.
—Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks)
5 out of 5 stars
37 mins | plus-11 | 25 pts | 7-14 FGs | 3-6 3Ps | 8-8 FTs | 5 rebs | 9 asts | 1 blk | 4 TOs
John Wall made a 30-foot 3-point shot with approximately three minutes left in the first quarter against the Heat. After all the pixels spent on ‘whether John Wall’s shooting mechanics were fixable,’ let that fleeting moment of glee sink in. The third year guard is rapidly making his case to be a member of the Eastern All-Stars: his speed, handles and athleticism has never been in question, but rather his shooting abilities and decision-making which have been doubted. He has improved his 3-point field goal percentage to .313, slightly below the League average, but significantly better than last season’s 0.9 attempts per game at a 26.7 percent clip. Further, he’s at a career-high in points (19.6) and assists (8.6) per game. He is an All-Star. —A. Narayen
4 out of 5 stars
29 mins | plus-16 | 19 pts | 7-13 FGs | 2-5 3Ps | 3-3 FTs | 5 rebs | 4 asts
Bradley Beal was the MVP of the avalanche first quarter, a period of basketball veritably burgeoning with Wizards buckets. Part of what made Beal, and the Wizards, so difficult to stop in the first quarter was a commitment to dictating where he was going to get his points: not just getting good looks, or what the defense was willing to give him, but fashioning an identity around driving for a look at the hoop with the option of kicking it to a man in the corner. Beal did double duty as the man barreling at the hoop and the man lurking in the shadows of the corner, and as the shot chart below will show, he performed both roles with stately aplomb. Oh, and Dwyane Wade scored eight points. No big deal. —C. Dirks
4 out of 5 stars
35 mins | plus-11 | 10 pts | 4-7 FGs | 2-4 3Ps | 4 rebs | 5 asts | 2 stls | 2 TOs
Ariza barely played in the fourth quarter (3:51 of action), but in the first three periods, he scored all 10 of his points, adding five assists and three rebounds, and played the passing lanes to perfection to force two steals. There was no fear in the glazed eyes of Sir Hookah, no sir. Not even under the burn of a 102-degree fever and staring down LeBron. Gutsy. —J.C. Townsend
4.5 out of 5 stars
34 mins | plus-18 | 19 pts | 6-15 FGs | 7-9 FTs | 4 rebs | 9 asts | 2 stls | 3 blks | 1 TO
What did Nene have to say about setting a career-high (9) in assists?
“It’s hard to find big men that like to pass.”
It is! So humble. What about that angry, semi-derisive dunk on LeBron at the end of the game?
“No emotion. It was a moment.”
I’m sure the rim’s spouse won’t be as calm when the rim comes home from work black-and-blue again, having felt the wrath of a #NeneHands dunk rattle every fiber of its being. Nene didn’t shoot very well on the night, but he forced himself on the Heat, and on the game, by going back to the paint over and over like he couldn’t decide on a color, and by getting to the line nine times. Parabéns, Nene. —C. Dirks
3.5 out of 5 stars
31 mins | plus-7 | 12 pts | 6-11 FGs | 9 rebs | 3 blks | 1 TO
Before the game, Gortat was working on his offense in the paint: lefty hook, righty hook, turnaround J in ya face! That extra work may have paid off. Gortat opened the scoring with a running, left-handed hook shot and would make two other just like it during the game—opportunities that were the result of staying active, running the baseline, and not settling for jump shots when matched up against a smaller Miami Heat lineup. Gortat’s rating would be higher, but the he failed to get to the free throw line for the fourth time in nine games in 2014. Wittman also sat him for the entirety of the fourth quarter. His two-handed #HammerTime jam early in the first quarter can only count for so much. —J.C. Townsend
4 out of 5 stars
31 mins | plus-7 | 11 pts | 4-8 FGs | 3-7 3Ps | 2 rebs | 1 stl
Webster is making a name for himself as an inexpensive wing who can spread the floor with his 3-point shooting. He loves to shoot 3s from the corners, largely considered by the NBA blogosphere to be the most efficient shot in basketball (next to layups, dunks, and non-Howard/DeAndre Jordan free throws)… ESPN.com’s shot chart bears this out (clearly, sort by M. Webster). Webster provides a nice option for Wittman when shots are not falling for the other gunners. He also evidently provides a nice option for John Wall’s dagger alley-oops. —A. Narayen
4 out of 5 stars
29 mins | plus-9 | 13 pts | 5-5 FGs | 3-4 FTs | 11 rebs | 2 asts | 1 stl
After the game, Martell Webster complimented Booker’s supreme effort on the boards, and his admirable, if range-bound success defending LeBron. After seeing his minutes decrease in the wake of the return of full-go Nene to the starting lineup, Trevor Booker did what every coach hopes his bench players will do: he hit all five of his shots, rebounded the ball well, and didn’t force anything. In other words, he made the most of his time on the floor. On a day that saw Jordan Crawford, the human avatar of “bench disinterest,” traded to his fourth team in four years, Booker provided a nice contrast to certain Wizards of yore. Trevor also capped off a 20-0 Washington run with a nice move under the basket and a lay-in off of the glass after catching a bullet pass from Wall. —C. Dirks
4 out of 5 stars
11 mins | plus-6 | 3 pts | 1-1 FG | 1-2 FTs | 1 reb | 1 ast | 1 stl | 1 TO
Temple probably played his best game as a Wizard, but you wouldn’t know it from the box score. He blocked Wade on an alley-oop attempt, interrupted another (called for a foul, though) and even locked down LeBron James on a handful of occasions—fighting under screens, crowding the “King” and even poking the ball away with the precision of a professional Jenga player to force turnovers with. It wasn’t perfect a perfect performance (he once let Norris Cole beat baseline him for a layup, which cut the lead to seven), but it was better than anyone could have expected:
“He defended, made a big shot, I thought, when we took John out in that fourth quarter to get him a couple minutes break,” Wittman said post-game. “He was big.” —J.C. Townsend
Greg Oden (Heat)
Golden Star of Participation
8 mins | plus-4 | 6 pts | 2-3 FGs | 2-2 FTs | 2 rebs
Greg Oden is ‘very happy.’ —Arish Narayen
Heat Ain’t Hot.