D.C. Council Game 31: Wizards 96 vs Warriors 112: #WittmanFace Frontrunners ‘Zapped’ by Lacking Energy
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. 31: Wizards vs Warriors; contributors: Kyle Weidie and Rashad Mobley from blogger row at the Verizon Center and Sean Fagan from Brooklyn.
Washington Wizards 96 vs Golden State Warriors 112
The Opening Wittman…
In the third quarter of Friday night’s loss to the Toronto Raptors, the Wizards were outscored 36-16 and shot 18 percent from the floor. Randy Wittman said he was “shocked” to see his team play that selfish brand of basketball, and Nene agreed by saying his fellow teammates “did not play the right way.” Conventional wisdom says that after a performance like that, the coaches would coach up their players, the team leaders would lead, and everyone would work together to ensure that type of effort would not be repeated, especially not against a well-coached, sharp shooting team like the Golden State Warriors. But it happened again, and it was ugly.
The Wizards scored just 15 points in the quarter against Golden State—in stark contrast to the 36 they scored in the first quarter—and shot 28.6 percent; John Wall was the only starter to score. All five starters fell in love with their outside shots, and the ball movement that served as the catalyst for the efficient offense in the first quarter was non-existent. Defensively, Trevor Booker and Marcin Gortat were slow to close out on Andrew Bogut and David Lee, John Wall allowed Steph Curry to get into the lane, and Bradley Beal could not keep up with Klay Thompson. Gortat managed to anger both Wittman and Wall with his uninspired play early in the third and was benched with 8:27 left in the period. He did not play the remainder of the game (Wittman somehow attributed that to the Warriors sizable lead in his post-game conference).
Said Warriors coach Mark Jackson after the game:
“I got a group of guys that when you come in at halftime, they know what I’m about to say, they’re experienced, I got a veteran basketball team, and they know what we do right and what we do wrong. They are ready and prepared and they hold themselves accountable, and they did a great job of responding in that third quarter.”
The Wizards seem to be the very opposite of what Jackson described. Wittman doesn’t know why his team doesn’t respond in crucial situations, the veterans don’t know why the team isn’t playing the right way, and the youngsters don’t believe there’s an issue. There’s no shame in losing to the Warriors—they’ve won nine straight games, including five on the road, and figure to go deep in the Western Conference playoffs. But the Wizards should feel a bit of shame for allowing a second consecutive third-quarter disappearance, one which left their fans booing. And to think a few days ago, the talk of breaking .500 was all the rave.
—Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20)
Via process of elimination: Jan Vesely.
All 15 of Jan Vesely’s minutes came in the second half. Whatever it was that got Marcin Gortat benched after the 8:27 mark of the third quarter was to Honza’s benefit. Sure, he got son’d by David Lee immediately upon his entry into the fray (six points in a span of two minutes). But Jan kept his chin up and fought back. He racked up blocks (including one on a Stephen Curry jumper to end the third), he hit a jumper (on the baseline from 19 feet!), and he, of course, dunked.
Vesely being ready to play regardless of the situation is a positive step. Now where this will go, via his own play and succumbing to lineup rotations, is anyone’s guess.
—Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)
2014 (thus far).
The 2013-14 Washington Wizards resemble that over-sugared kid you see at the playground. They run up the stairs of a slide, immediately zip down and spend about three to four seconds looking shocked about the entire episode. The child then repeats this process repeatedly until you grow nauseated just from viewing the spectacle. So it goes with the Wizards, who laboriously work their way back to .500 only to immediately zip down and put themselves in another hole. You would say that it was inconsistent if it wasn’t so consistent, and almost expected at this juncture.
2014 has started with none of the Wizards keeping to their New Year’s resolutions. Three bad losses against teams of varying ability with the only straight line through the narrative being that the Wizards have no idea who is going to show up on a given night. A New Year’s day loss is to be expected considering that the team is young and (ahem) might not of yet have grasped how not to chase the night. However, the loss to the Raptors and Sunday night’s performance against the Warriors brings to the surface a worrying trend that refuses to fade away. When the Wizards get in a funk, the entire team plays a lifeless style of basketball and allows itself to get buried by teams that execute better and can concentrate for intervals longer than eight seconds. To get out of the funk, it normally takes a Herculean effort by one of the Wizards’ stars, which the team then feeds off for the next few games. The problem with this is now that the Wizards seem headed to the playoffs by default (injuries to Al Horford, the collapse of the Knicks and Nets, etc.), consistency is the key if they want to make any noise in the first round and not just receive a seed for “not suck” as much as the rest of the East. It is one thing to play decent ball with an identity and make the playoffs on your own laurels. It is another to back into the playoffs through being less hurt than the majority of your opposition.
—Sean Fagan (@McCarrick)
The lineup of Garrett Temple, Martell Webster, Nene, Jan Vesely and Otto Porter. After the starters’ dismal third-quarter performance, this lineup was forced to do damage control against the Warriors bench (a bench that ESPN TrueHoop’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss did not have high praise for). They immediately went on a 6-0 run to cut the Golden State lead to 13 points. Vesely had two blocked shots, two rebounds, two points, and an assist; Webster had two points; and Nene hit two free throws. In fact, this lineup performed so well in the 2:16 they were on the court that Randy Wittman decided the game was winnable again, and he brought John Wall and Bradley Beal back to the court. Two and a half minutes later, the Warriors lead was back to 18 points, and the game was effectively out of reach. Some coaches are wont to leave in the hot lineup, and perhaps if Wittman were that type of coach, the game’s final outcome would have been different.
—Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20)
That Session Was … A Third Quarter Nap, or Nap-mare.
Once again the Wizards put up a stinker in the third quarter after emerging from the comforts of their own locker room. Between the Toronto and the Golden State games, Washington has been out-scored 70-31 in the third over the past two contests. What happened on Sunday evening?
Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat, and then John Wall each took turns trying to break the ice themselves with jumpers (well, Gortat missed from a foot away, too). Gortat at one point threw up a heavily-contested airball from the baseline; Wittman subbed him out soon thereafter and he never saw the court again.
John Wall finally scored at the 7:38 mark of the third, keeping the deficit to 10 after the game was tied, 58-all, at halftime. But by then Golden State had gained too much confidence and the Wizards were content with sleep-walking their ‘woe is me’ troubles away, losing the quarter 34-15 and the game by 16 points.
—Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)
So um, yeah … here you go.
“Until we can learn to play through missed shots and not zap your own energy and the energy of your teammates, we’re going to play like that. We’re too much, right now, of a team of front-runners, where if things are going good, our energy level is really high. And when we don’t make shots, the energy just zaps from our bodies. It has to be almost the other way around. It almost has to be, you’ve got to energize yourself through bad play. This game’s a game of mistakes. The team that can play through mistakes, and then obviously limit them, but play through them, usually wins.”
Key words to that make you pause in this statement: front runners, energy, mistakes. Now I don’t believe that Wittman is passing blame on to his team, but these are three things that the coaching staff can address and has failed to get through to the team for the entire season. Holding players accountable, getting them fired up, helping limit unforced errors, these issues continue to plague the Wizards and plague Wittman’s tenure over the team. There isn’t a magic bullet to turn the Wizards into a team that consistently shows up to play, but some part of the message isn’t working right now and needs to be modulated.
—Sean Fagan (@McCarrick)
According to John Wall…
3 out of 5 stars
38 mins | minus-31 | 14 pts | 4-11 FGs | 2-3 3Ps | 4-4 FTs | 3 rebs | 10 asts | 3 stls | 2 TOs
For one half, John Wall was the most impactful player on the court. Steph Curry could not keep him out of the lane, and Wall exploited that with 11 points (four coming from the free throw line), and six assists (made possible by his decision to keep his dribble alive, rather than prematurely shooting or throwing jump passes). But in the pivotal third quarter, he settled for jump shots, he missed layups, and his teammates went cold from the field. Conversely, Steph Curry, who struggled in the first half, played his best in the third quarter at Wall’s expense, with seven point and four assists. Wall wants to be the best point guard in the league, and the Wizards seem to be in the midst of major push to send Wall to New Orleans, but right now, he’s just a struggling player on a 14-17 team. —R. Mobley
1 out of 5 stars
24 mins | minus-24 | 9 pts | 4-15 FGs | 1-2 3Ps | 0-0 FTs | 2 rebs | 3 asts | 2 TOs | 3 PFs
Beal started hot, going 4-for-6 in the first quarter, but also letting Klay Thompson too easily get the best of him on a couple occasions. Then, Beal absolutely disappeared. Andre Igoudala guarded him more, shut him down (Beal went 0-for-9 over the rest of the game after the first quarter), and all that was left was frustrated, pouty body language. —K. Weidie
1 out of 5 stars
27 mins | minus-23 | 4 pts | 1-7 FGs | 0-5 3Ps | 5 rebs | 2 TOs
Ruh roh. It appears that over the holidays, Santa replaced “contract year” Trevor Ariza with last year’s “I’m getting paid” Ariza, and no one has of yet realized the switch or that the warranty has expired. Instead of the frenetic play that characterized Ariza’s 2013, we are instead greeting the new year with a passive jump shooter who looks ill-inclined to motivate himself if the Wizards go down by more than 10 points. Remember, Trevor, the new contract with a West Coast team isn’t inked yet, you still have to play out the season. —S. Fagan
1 out of 5 stars
24 mins | minus-18 | 8 pts | 4-6 FGs | 6 rebs | 4 PFs
Booker put up OK numbers for his time spent on the court, but his defensive awareness was generally overwhelmed by the ball movement of the Warriors and David Lee in the early going. He saw just under 10 minutes in the second half and didn’t snag a rebound. It’s not that surprising that Booker disappeared a little bit after his recent solid play, and it’s not a surprise that Wittman looked in other directions with the Wizards getting blown out. —K. Weidie
1.5 out of 5 stars
20 mins | minus-17 | 10 pts | 5-9 FGs | 0-0 FTs | 6 rebs | 1 ast | 1 stl
Like the rest of his Wizards teammates, Gortat had a split personality against the Warriors. In the first half, his inability to guard David Lee or Andrew Bogut was hidden by Gortat and John Wall’s ability to work the two-man game to perfection. He had 10 points and five rebounds, and seemed on pace for a productive game. But in the first two minutes of the third quarter, he missed a jump shot, a layup, and a defensive assignment, which led to a wide open jump shot by Bogut. Wall was mad at him, Wittman yelled at him, and he did not play a minute more. —R. Mobley
1.5 out of 5 stars
31 mins | minus-2 | 11 pts | 4-10 FGs | 1-5 3Ps | 5 rebs | 2 stls
If the problem with Trevor Ariza was passivity, then Webster failed the night by trying to do too much by himself on the offensive end. With his shot off all evening, Webster kept on throwing it up, despite having ample opportunity to rotate the ball or get the ball to a lukewarm hand. The will was there, but the flesh was weak. —S. Fagan
2.5 out of 5 stars
25 mins | plus-1 | 14 pts | 6-9 FGs | 2-2 FTs | 4 rebs | 4 asts | 4 TOs
Nene’s minutes limit has never been more frustrating than it was last night. In 25 minutes, he was efficient from the field (6-for-9), he was an active passer (four assists), and he did OK on the boards (four rebounds). Unfortunately, Marreese Speights worked him over in the second quarter (seven points) and Nene turned the ball over four times. Still, if Nene were in the starting lineup over Booker, it is hard to believe that Gortat would have played as bad as he did, or that Bogut and Lee would have been as prolific as they were. —R. Mobley
3 out of 5 stars
10 mins | plus-15 | 7 pts | 2-5 FGs | 1-3 3Ps | 2-2 FTs | 2 asts | 0 TOs
Temple once again put in a solid, relatively mistake-free effort. One time he finished at the rim, another time he didn’t. Garrett Temple is, well, Garrett Temple. In 34 minutes over the past three games in 2014, Temple is plus-22 in plus/minus. Remember when the bench was the problem? —K. Weidie
3 out of 5 stars
8 mins | plus-6 | 7 pts | 2-3 FGs | 1-1 3Ps | 2-2 FTs| 1 reb | 1 blk
Chris Singleton has played so infrequently this season (he’s played in 10 of the Wizards’ 31 games) that Kyle Weidie and I spent two minutes speculating why Coach Wittman subbed him in the game last night. I suggested that perhaps Singleton had a strong practice recently, while Kyle hypothesized that Wittman just occasionally buries players on the bench, and then brings them back for no apparent reason (but noting that the Warriors were, in theory, a better matchup for Singleton). Singleton had an immediate impact by hitting a 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter to up the Wizards lead to eight points, and then by blocking Warriors forward Draymond Green’s first shot at the start of the second quarter. The rest of his points were scored during the meaningless fourth quarter, but perhaps Singleton’s brief lemons-to-lemonade trick will earn him more playing time during the Wizards’ three-game road trip —R. Mobley
0.5 out of 5 stars
16 mins | plus-16 | 4 pts | 1-4 FGs | 0-1 3Ps | 2-2 FTs | 3 rebs | 1 ast | 1 stl
Completing the trifecta of ineffective small forwards we have young Mr. Porter who was … there on Sunday night. Yes, he had a nice Jan Vesely “little things” night with his activity and his sterling (team-high) plus-16 in plus/minus, but one has to wonder how many inches Otto has waded out in to the ocean that is the NBA. Is he still dipping his toe and testing the temperature? Is he ankle deep? Or is a big wave about to come crashing in and knock him back to the bench? —S. Fagan
3.5 out of 5 stars
16 mins | minus-3 | 8 pts | 4-7 FGs | 0-0 FTs | 6 rebs | 2 asts | 3 blks | 2 TOs
Still somewhat baffled over the fact of having to do it, Jan Vesely was named the “Council Chair,” or the M.VP. of the night. Not saying much in such a loss. Still, perhaps it was Jan’s confidence to wear a thin-cut dark suit with thick white pinstripes—a get-up that Martell Webster called, “Nightmare Before Christmas”—to the game which helped his “readiness” of the pine. Good for Honza, the Wizards need it. —K. Weidie
End Note: Trevor Ariza Post-Game Chillinterview.
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