D.C. Council Game 38: Wizards 96 vs Bulls 93: Ringmaster Wall Leads the D, Hits Circus Shot
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. 38: Wizards vs Bulls; contributors: Kyle Weidie and Rashad Mobley from the Verizon Center, and Adam McGinnis from Mt. Pleasant, or somewhere thereabouts.
Washington Wizards 96 vs Chicago Bulls 93
Poland. Cali. French Guiana. Wizards.
Just over halfway into the third quarter, Chicago had built an eight-point lead and it was getting very #SoWizards on Twitter. Joakim Noah, center, was allowed to grab a rebound and push the ball the length of the court, unimpeded, to find Carlos Boozer for a bucket, 70-62 Chicago. Wizards timeout, after which John Wall got blocked by Kirk Hinrich and then bricked a 3-pointer.
But then—whatever happened—Washington turned up the defense and got four straight defensive stops, and it started with Wall:
- Wall pressured Hinrich into dribbling away seconds on the shot clock, and Martell Webster checked Mike Dunleavy into an awkwardly missed running hook shot-floater thing. (Meanwhile, a Trevor Booker offensive board gave the Wizards a second chance, and Wall made a jumper.) Wizards down six.
- Wall kept a close gap in chasing D.J. Augustin around a screen and deflected a pass with active hands. (Meanwhile, the Wizards got the steal and Wall hit his crazy circus shot, with the and-1.) Wizards down 3.
- Marcin Gortat crowded Boozer on the perimeter, moved his feet on the defense, and blocked Boozer at the rim. (Meanwhile, Wall found Webster for 3.) Tie ball game.
- After a Bulls timeout, Dunleavy just lost the ball against Trevor Ariza and the Wizards picked up the steal. (Meanwhile, Booker was so very Booker, once again rebounding a missed Wall jumper which later allowed Wall to drive the lane for a layup.) Wizards up 72-70.
Nene’s game-sealing block: beloved. Wall’s wacky, lucky shot: Timeless. Those four straight defensive stops: things that make Randy Wittman smile first thing after putting on his glasses in the morning.
—Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)
Ever since John Wall burst on to the national scene as a teenager, analysis of his game came with an asterisk: his jumper. It was always the same refrain: the North Carolina product was a freak athlete with blazing speed, who could not shoot. And although Wall impressively filled up the stat sheet over his first few seasons in the NBA, the wins did not come for Washington, and his inconsistent jumper bared the brunt of the finger pointing. There was meat to the criticism. Wall’s shot was funky, it had a hitch. Opposing defenders always went under screens against Wall, and he was often baited into uncomfortable looks.
Well, times have changed in the nation’s capital. Wall has put in the work and has become a legitimate outside threat. The fruits of his hard work were displayed on Friday night versus the Bulls. On shots outside the paint, Wall was 4-for-9. In the past three wins, Wall has gone 15-for-32 on shots beyond 15-feet. His confidence is beaming and those once painful fade aways now have a calming fluidity to them. The best part for the Wizards is that Wall’s normal strengths have not faded. He continues to be a one-man fast break who creates shots for teammates—those beautiful blind passes to corner are taken for granted—and he easily gets to the rim. The Bulls struggled to stay in front of him all evening. Wall’s miraculous circus shot sparked his team in the third quarter and ignited the home crowd. The SportsCenter Top 10 highlight will be the main take away from this contest. However, the accompanying win now makes a shining gold star, instead of another damn asterisk.
—Adam McGinnis (@AdamMcGinnis)
It is time to re-visit the low-hanging fruit named Eric Maynor, because he is once again the game’s least valuable player. With Derrick Rose out for the season once again, the Bulls are forced to rely on two backup guards to run the team: Kirk Hinrich, who spent 48 games (29 as a starter) in a Wizards uniform, and D.J. Augustin, who was waived by the Raptors on December 9 of last year, only to be re-signed by the Bulls on December 13.
In Chicago’s loss to the Wizards on Friday night, Hinrich had 18 points, five assists, five rebounds, and three blocked shots, and he did a decent job at crowding John Wall and preventing repeated fast break points. Augustin had 16 points, 12 of which came from the 3-point line. Maynor, who has not appeared in a game since December 28, 2013, and hasn’t scored in a game since December 6, sat on the bench and watched Garrett Temple (who is not a pure point guard), accumulate six points and five assists in just 14 minutes of play. At this point, if Ernie Grunfeld were asked to comment on the signing of Maynor in hindsight, he’d probably say…
—Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20)
For the second consecutive game, Trevor Booker made a substantial contribution off the bench, mostly coming in the first half of play. He was perfect from the field (5-for-5) with 10 points, a steal, and two rebounds. He scored on jumpers and strong takes to the basket, and most importantly, there was no indecision while the balls was in his hands. In past games against formidable opposing post players, Booker was a guy who disappeared and had little-to-no impact on the game. Against Nazr Muhmmad, Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, he was the exact opposite.
—Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20)
That session was … a much needed, gritty home victory.
In a season marked by ups and downs, the Wizards were finally able to hold home court against a decent squad to improve their season record to .500 (19-19). Unfortunately, climbing back to even is never easy for these Wiz Kids.
Washington shot a high percentage for majority of the game, but their sloppy turnovers allowed the Bulls to stay close and eventually pull ahead by double-digits in the third quarter. Washington answered the Bulls’ 14-2 run with a 14-2 run of their own and set up a close battle down the stretch. Unlike the recent loss to the Rockets, the Wizards made the needed stops in crunch time to pull out the win. [Ed. Note: Houston has a Harden, Chicago has no Rose—but superstars. -Kyle W.]
The franchise came out with a promotional flyer at the game to hype a case for John Wall to be an All-Star. One of the headlines read: “Far From Average” in listing his season statistics. Ironically, the Wizards are now exactly average with same number of wins and losses. Three winnable games remain on this home stand before the team heads out on a West Coast road trip. There is potential for a long winning streak and success that Wiz fans have not experienced since George W. Bush was President. Stay tuned……..
—Adam McGinnis (@AdamMcGinnis)
Randy Wittman opened the door to face the media after the game. They were glad that he wasn’t pissed, and he was probably glad that he wasn’t pissed—the Wizards won. But, alas, he was still Randy. And when Randy got to his table for a seat, he didn’t have a chair to sit in. “They make it hard around here,” he muttered as he grabbed a chair that was off to the side against a wall. Wittman then sat, took a sip of water, organized his desk, and started…
“Well, it wasn’t our most prettiest win, but it was a gutty one.”
“Wasn’t real pleased, again, coming out of halftime… We didn’t have intensity in those first five minutes. And we’ve got to figure that out what we’re doing in the locker room, maybe get some Red Bulls in there or something … I don’t know… Coffee, as I used to do.”
“As I tell our team all the time, you’re not going to play a good game every night. But are we good enough to win on your bad nights? … That’s what I want this team to start thinking, we just don’t win games when we play good games.”
“That’s what a lot of these games boil down to… We lost a couple games where the other team made the plays coming down the stretch, and we didn’t. We got to learn to continue to do that. I was really pleased defensively after that first five minute stretch of the third quarter. I think, according to you, it’s because I’ve gone to an 8-man rotation. You must be coaching AAU basketball now on the side [to a reporter], but the third quarter was really the only stretch there where we didn’t have intensity. “
—Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)
The Following Block.
4.5 out of 5 stars
34 mins | plus-7 | 23 pts | 9-15 FGs | 0-1 3Ps | 5-6 FTs | 4 rebs | 11 asts | 4 TOs
John Wall, Game Manager.
In simply thinking about the false stigmas that have attached themselves to John Wall’s game, via the media, it’s even more comforting seeing Wall now push the reality even further toward the truth and away from the perception. John Wall was never a shoot-first point guard, he has long loved the assist. Too many to name have felt otherwise. And while Wall hasn’t always been a good decision-maker, in particular when it comes to shot selection, his court vision and passing skills have always been just a small step behind his unmatchable speed.
The assist of game management to Gortat below, which put the Wizards up five with 2:45 left, was a thing of beauty. Wall is still an unfinished product, and it may have taken him longer to get to an All-Star level than some contemporaries, but it’s year four in the league and Wall is here now. Watching his continued growth as a true point guard is going to be fun. (It’s also nice that he hits crazy, blazing circus shots to change the momentum in his team’s favor.)
3 out of 5 stars
23 mins | plus-1 | 14 pts | 6-10 FGs | 2-2 3Ps | 0-0 FTs | 2 rebs | 0 asts | 2 stls
Beal was saddled with foul trouble through the first three quarters, and was limited to just five points and four personal fouls. But he kept his head up and hit the Washington’s first shot of the fourth quarter. He scored nine points in the final period and was the go-to Wizard. Said Bulls Coach Tom Thibodeau after the game about the fourth quarter:
“There were a couple things. When we broke the [starting] lineup at the end of the third, I think they went 8-0. Then in the fourth, when Beal came back in he got loose on us.”
1.5 out of 5 stars
33 mins | plus-6 | 4 pts | 2-5 FGs | 0-2 3Ps | 8 rebs | 3 asts | 2 stls | 1 blk | 2 TOs
It was a rough night offensively for our favorite Hookah smoker, who never seemed to get into any rhythm. He did knock down a big bucket with four minutes remaining in the game. Ariza was still able to contribute on the defensive end and had a huge hustle steal during Washington’s late third-quarter run. —A. McGinnis
[Ed Note: Ariza is also just getting over the flu, so puffs in the air for him toughing it out.]
3.5 out of 5 stars
35 mins | minus-10 | 10 pts | 3-15 FGs | 4-6 FTs | 7 rebs | 4 asts | 2 blks | 4 TOs
On Washington’s first offensive possession, they nicely ran a fluid play to get the ball in Nene’s hands at the right elbow with Marcin Gortat diving down the lane to the left. This play was executed to perfection against one of the league’s top defenses and Gortat ended up with a dunk. So who doesn’t like Randy Wittman’s offense?
But more praise is due to Washington’s second-best passer: #NeneHands. He didn’t have a great night offensively—Joakim Noah is one of the best at protecting the paint, and he and Boozer played some zone on a couple possessions in the third, seemingly aimed to combat Nene specifically. But, when you are smart enough on defense to be able to switch onto Jimmy Butler and block his game-tying, 3-point attempt at the buzzer, you are more valuable than mere points. —K. Weidie
2.5 out of 5 stars
35 mins | plus-4 | 13 pts | 6-12 FGs | 1-1 FTs | 6 rebs | 3 blks | 2 TOs
Gortat did the majority of his damage in the first quarter when seemingly all of his eight points came in his sweet spots—the same sweet spots Gortat complained about not getting the ball in earlier this year. He scored on two layups rolling toward or around the basket, and he was also able to convert on two wide-open jumpers. He was quiet the remainder of the game until the fourth quarter when he converted two layups courtesy of John Wall’s adept passing. —R. Mobley
3.5 out of 5 stars
36 mins | even-0 | 14 pts | 5-8 FGs | 4-5 3Ps | 1 reb | 3 asts | 2 stls | 1 TO
Due to Bradley Beal battling foul trouble, Webster was given more burn and took advantage of his increased playing time by drilling five clutch 3-pointers. He would have had six, but his foot was on the line on one attempt. Webster displayed his veteran savvy at end of first half when he got the rock after a loose ball scramble. He easily could have taken an open 3-pointer (a la JR Smith), but there was still time left on the clock and he gave it up to Wall to run out the clock. Wall ended up making a long 2-pointer at end of the buzzer. These type of heady plays that good teams execute that often go overlooked in the box score. —A. McGinnis
4 out of 5 stars
26 mins | plus-10 | 12 pts | 6-9 FGs | 7 rebs | 1 stl | 1 TO | 1 PF
Booker has before proven that his ego doesn’t care whether he starts or not. He just wants to get into the mix, and lately he’s been cooking in the kitchen with a food mixer, baking cakes for all opponents unwilling to match his aggression. He still will have some brain farts on defense, but when he’s hitting his jumper with confidence while flying onto your screen for rebounds, it’s not hard for Wittman to rely on him for quality minutes. In 2014, Booker is shooting 12-for-23 from midrange (52.2%) and no other Wizard is shooting better.
While his teammates didn’t even want to think about going over .500, Booker was honest about what it would mean after beating Chicago:
“It would mean a lot, but it’s going to be tough, especially coming off a back-to-back. But we’re up for the challenge. The guys who’ve been here for the last three or four years, it would mean a lot for us to be over .500.”
2 out of 5 stars
14 mins | minus-4 | 6 pts | 3-5 FGs | 5 asts | 1 blk | 0 TOs
It’s the little things that propel teams in close games, and that’s a concept Garrett Temple seems to understand. He didn’t do the best job of preventing D.J. Augustin from scoring, but he ran the offense effectively in (5 assists) in just 14 minutes of play. More importantly, Temple’s strong play allowed Coach Wittman to limit John Wall to just 33 minutes of play, which is key considering the Wizards play the second of a back-to-back against the Pistons on Saturday. —R. Mobley
5 mins | minus-1 | 0-0 FGs | 1 TO | all zeros otherwise
He probably got some exercise. —K. Weidie
From The Other Side: What Happened on the Final Play
“Right on all accounts. Wall didn’t lose the inbounder, nice & necessary switch w Nene, & Nene didn’t jump on Butler’s pump fake. Very nice.”
The Bulls ended up on the wrong end of Nene’s game-ending blocked shot of Jimmy Butler, and here’s what they had to say:
“I thought we had a good screening action. Executed well. Didn’t get a good shot. On the catch he’s [Mike Dunleavy] got to make a split second decision. Is he open to shoot, or are you try to make the extra pass. I have to see the play again but I thought they had good separation to start the play.”
“I got open, but unfortunately, the inbounders were a little bit too close to the sideline and the inbounder’s guy jumped to me and I didn’t have a shot so I passed it to Jimmy [Butler] and unfortunately, we weren’t able to get a good enough shot. With 10 seconds left it’s different from having two or three where you just want to get a good look. Ten seconds is a good amount of time, you can get a two there. I just wouldn’t want to chuck one up.”
“John [Wall] went and trapped Mike and then he threw the ball to me and I was caught off guard with it … I think everybody was, so you just learn from it.”
Casualties of a Gutty Win.
LA’s Loss, DC’s Gain
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