D.C. Council Game 47: Wizards 100 vs Trail Blazers 90: Final Fantasy .511
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. 47: Wizards vs Trail Blazers; contributors: Conor Dirks, Adam McGinnis and John Converse Townsend, all from the Verizon Center, Captain Planet-style.
Washington Wizards 100 vs Portland Trail Blazers 90
Hurry up, they comin’.
Catharsis. While some of the veteran Wizards were careful to understate the emotional release provided by becoming a winning team, John Wall and Kevin Seraphin were not. Both John and Kevin (along with Trevor Booker, who missed the game for personal reasons), have been with the team since 2010 and, more than any other Wizards, have witnessed the at-times excruciating metamorphosis of this team since it was taken apart in 2010.
Wall, Seraphin and Booker were there to see a dejected, suddenly bearded Gilbert Arenas lie to coaches about an injury so that Nick Young could play undeserved minutes. They were there to watch an agonizingly apathetic and broken down Rashard Lewis run the worst fast-break in basketball history. They were there for “Can’t Say I Do” and for “Lap Dance Tuesday.” They heard the boos rain down on Andray Blatche. They shook their heads in solidarity when JaVale ran the wrong way on the court. They saw four former “pieces” (Young, Blatche, McGee, Crawford) run out of town and right under the bus. They were in the locker room for each of Washington’s historic 12 opening losses just last season. They saw their coach cry in frustration. They witnessed John Wall’s triumphant return only to be blindsided by Emeka Okafor’s season-ending injury before their 2013-14 playoff campaign began.
You can understand, then, that being a winning team (however trivial the margin over .500) means something to these guys. And you won’t be surprised to find that Wall and Seraphin, when asked in the locker room about how it felt to be over .500, described the feeling the same way: “great.”
Wall: “It’s great. A humbling experience. You give credit to the young guys that have been here for a while for how hard they work and trying to get better. … It also starts with being here as a family. We all trust each other.”
Seraphin: “It feels great. It feels great with everything we have been through. We’ve had a lot of losing and stuff like that, and now we start winning. We start to really be a great team and now we are .500. It really feels great. This winning feeling feels great.”
How did they do it? By beating two Western Conference elites (Thunder on Saturday, Blazers on Monday), and by beating them soundly. Against the Blazers, the Wizards used the last four minutes of the third quarter to stretch a tenuous lead into a commanding one (82-69), working for eight consecutive points (a Gortat fadeaway, a Wall slam, and four points by Kevin Seraphin) while forcing three turnovers and holding the Blazers scoreless.
It’s long been the white whale of a frequently mocked organization re-building around a once-misunderstood and deeply intelligent point guard with a Raleigh accent, but the Wizards should finally have what they’ve lacked for the last four years: respect. This team, humble as its 2014 goals may be, has earned it. Time to tune in.
—Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks)
The “Game Changer” validated his nickname by controlling most of the contest with timely play-making skills. Wall’s steady ball-handling was responsible for the Wizards having a season-low six turnovers. The Blazers put Nicloas Batum on Wall, but not even the Frenchman’s length could contain the Wizards point guard. Wall’s assist total would have been much higher if Nene and Beal didn’t combine to miss 21 shots.
Washington finished the first half off on a 9-0 run to take a one-point halftime lead. Wall had six points and created Ariza’s successful 3-pointer in this key sequence. He stalked the passing lanes and his off-the-ball defense has noticeably improved over the past month.
The Wizards have deposed of two elite squads, Oklahoma City and Portland, since Wall was named an All-Star for the first time. In both wins, the franchise point guard has led the way, further justifying his selection to play in New Orleans. Oh, special shout out to Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski for not adding Wall to the 28-man Team USA roster of players eligible for international competition in 2014 and 2016. Wall has been in a beast-mode ever since, and his team is now 4-2 since the snub.
—Adam McGinnis (@AdamMcGinnis)
Forty-five seconds of Jan Vesely in the second quarter.
To the game book, with commentary, because the box score never tells the whole story!
10:06: Wesley Matthews bad pass (Jan Vesely steals)
Vesely stepped in front of Thomas Robinson to deflect Matthews’ entry pass, then, just before the ball bounced out of bounds, Honza slapped the ball back to Martell Webster. Nice play, his only one of the game, and he should have quit while he was ahead.
9:53: Thomas Robinson blocks Jan Vesely’s layup
Vesely was isolated in the post against C.J. McCollum, but the rookie held his ground and blew up Vesely’s shot attempt (because he has no back-to-the basket game, at all) before Robinson punched the ball into the backboard.
9:37: Jan Vesely defensive rebound
McCollum nearly snapped Vesely’s ankles, and found himself free for a scoop layup, but missed. Vesely grabbed the board after sending the crowd into a panic by nearly tipping the ball into his own basket.
9:22: Joel Freeland blocks Jan Vesely’s layup
Vesely was uncovered at the elbow, and dove to the hoop, but by the time he gathered Webster’s pass, Joel Freeland was at the rim, ready to host an impromptu block party. Airwolf? More like Error-wolf, amirite?
—John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend)
Trevor Ariza. The apparent choice would be the bench scoring of Seraphin, but it is hard to overlook the contributions of “Chill” Ariza. Trevor followed up his stellar outing against the Thunder with another monster performance. Ariza played the most minutes (39) and tied Gortat for the highest plus/minus rating (plus-23). He made four 3-pointers and also had two excellent and-1 plays. Ariza also finished with zero turnovers.
Some media outlets have been manufacturing debate about what to do with Ariza since he is in the final year of his contract. The Wizards’ success largely depends on Ariza and the choice to keep him is a no-brainer. Webster’s defense has slipped and Otto Porter is clearly not ready for a larger role just yet. Whatever supposed “value” there is to be had in moving Ariza is worth more than Washington’s chance at a playoff run. Also, why would management and the coaching staff, under a winning mandate from ownership, trade away their best perimeter defender and 3-point shooter? So everyone relax with some slow jams and take in the Hookah smoke….
—Adam McGinnis (@AdamMcGinnis)
That session was … surprisingly convincing.
I was at the game, as a fan, and expected a win. That said, I was surprised time and time again to see the Wizards ahead of the Blazers. With LaMarcus Aldridge tossing in 20-footers like so many socks into a hamper, and Nic Batum getting busy from 3-point land, it was hard to believe the game was as close as it was after 20-odd minutes.
Then all of a sudden, Trevor Ariza and John Wall combined for 11 unanswered points between the last two minutes of the second quarter and the first 30 seconds of the third. That run gave the Wizards a three point advantage, 58-55. They played with a lead for the rest of the game, winning the second half 44-35.
John Wall on the win:
“We didn’t let them get into transition, we didn’t let them get too many easy passes, just taking care of the ball and making sure we get a shot up every time. Even if it’s a good shot or a bad shot. It’s better that they have to rebound the ball instead of just getting out into the open court.”
—John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend)
“You know what, it’s been proven over and over time, and I’ll be long dead and gone and it’s still gonna be proven over and over that in this league any team can beat you.”
Long after Wittman is dead and gone, when synthetic mechano-humanoids have usurped the throne as the dominant species on our planet, and all of the major sports leagues are administered in Blood Bowl-style as yet another tactic to keep the humans without hope of opposing their fizzcrank overlords, the President of the Machines will sit with the mechano-Commissioner of the NBA in a luxury suite, watching two teams armed with spiked maces attempting to survive the brutal skirmish. And as the Washington Bullets (name changed in 2168, which led anti-firearm activists to introduce a computer virus onto the ever-net and paralyzed the U.S. Government long enough for the machines to strike), ten-death underdogs, beat their last opponent into submission, all the while crying, the President of the Machines will say, in the voice of Male Siri, “In this league, any team can beat you.” Two dolphinoid (they grew thumbs, finally) agents will smile as they meet eyes, standing in furtive silence behind the two robot oppressors, moments before they sever their targets’ central processor systems with coral knives forged in the last reef.
“You’re damn right they can,” one will say to the other. Dolphin high-flipper-five.
Back to the present day, where Randy Wittman has coached the Washington Wizards back into the defensive elite (currently ranked 8th overall in the NBA). Wittman has been criticized by bloggers, tweeters, and national observers alike for his “take-what-the-defense-gives-you” offense, and the criticism may very well be just (the Wizards currently sport the NBA’s 21st most efficient offense). After the game against the Blazers, Wittman praised his team for taking what the defense gave them (code for off-screen jump shots), but also observed that aggressive defense in the second half (a conscious adjustment, per Wittman) had much to do with Washington holding the Blazers to just 35 points in the second half.
Wittman’s spirits are often gauged in the number of times he joyfully interrupts a question to flip the question back on the reporter, or to verbally roll his eyes before inserting his own version of the question. By that measure, he was critically close to tripping the light fantastic. But what does Randy really want?
“I don’t want them to focus on a number, I want them to focus on the act of why you’re 24-23. And that’s where you keep it going. That’s where you get on a run. I want this team to get on a run. They’ve never been on a run where you run off games. That’s how you do it, each and every night the same way. We’re not changing. We’re playing one way. This way’s the way we’ve got to play. And that’s when you get to be able to really take off. That’s what I want.”
If you’ve got the means, I’d suggest investing nine minutes in the video below. Nine minutes in Wittman Heaven.
—Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks)
First All-Star since ’08, First over .500 since ’09.
4.5 out of 5 stars
37 mins | plus-10 | 22 pts | 7-15 FGs | 2-4 3Ps | 6-6 FTs | 5 rebs | 5 asts | 3 stls | 2 TOs
John Wall led his team in scoring in the first half, had 18 points after the third, and played a mistake-free fourth quarter to secure the win. The second-smallest home crowd of the season #blessed the Game Changer with the “M-V-P” chant, an honor typically reserved for bona fide superstars and verified winners. Wall, now the face of a .511 basketball team, is a step closer to becoming both. —J.C. Townsend
2.5 out of 5 stars
35 mins | minus-5 | 13 pts | 5-16 FGs | 2-3 FTs | 3 rebs | 6 asts | 0 stl | 0 blks | 0 TOs
Bao Bao’s shot is off and he is still forcing things somewhat. However, Beal was able to contribute in other ways other than scoring (six assists and three rebounds), and his maturation continues to be a bright spot. One time late in the game, Bradley got switched onto Damain Lillard and he impressively forced him into a bad shot. —A. McGinnis
4.5 out of 5 stars
39 mins | plus-23 | 20 pts | 7-12 FGs | 4-7 3Ps | 2-2 FTs | 5 rebs | 4 asts
Say this out loud: No-no-no-no-YEAH! You just described Ariza’s perimeter game perfectly. But while the points are great (he’s scored 38 points and shot 7-for-14 from 3 in the last two games), it’s his defense that has his coach tickled:
“Uncanny. Can’t teach it. I wish I could say I taught him everything he knows. I can’t. He’s got that quality of reading eyes is really what it looks like to me. I just watch him. He reads eyes. A lot of times the eyes will tell you where the ball is going. And he’s got long arms, he’s long-bodied and it fools you sometimes when actually those arms do come out … it’s uncanny. It’s been great. He’s been fabulous.”
3 out of 5 stars
30 mins | plus-12 | 13 pts | 5-15 FGs | 3-4 FTs | 7 rebs | 1 ast | 2 stl | 1 blk
After laboring all game against Portland’s imposing frontcourt, Nene’s hands (or #NeneHands) held the dagger: a pick-and-pop jumper on a pass from Bradley Beal to put the Wizards up 98-90 with 53 seconds remaining.
In the third quarter, when the Wizards were skittering around the floor up 70-63, testing above the legal limit for BWJC (blood #WittmanJava content), and Martell Webster was standing up at the Wizards bench imploring the crowd to make noise for a Washington defensive possession, Nene picked off a float-pass from Nicolas Batum and almost took it full-court-JaVale before pulling back and initiating the Wizards’ halfcourt offense.
Knock on all your woods, but Nene has been back in the starting lineup for the last 12 games, and the Wizards, playing a slew of elite teams (including the Heat, Warriors, Thunder, and Blazers) have gone 8-4. —C. Dirks
3 out of 5 stars
35 mins | plus-23 | 6 pts | 3-7 FGs | 11 rebs | 5 asts | 1 stl
Don’t judge Gortat’s game against the Blazers by its cover. Because the cover, illustrated by Edvard Munch, screams “outplayed.” Both Robin Lopez and LaMarcus Aldridge shot over 50 percent (75.0% for Lopez and 55.6% for Aldridge) on their way to 32 combined points. Gortat, meanwhile, took seven shots, and converted just three of them. But don’t yet decry this Hammer, for he collected more offensive rebounds (4) and total rebounds (11) than any other player. He also leads the NBA in post-bucket celebrations that evoke the selection screen from Nintendo 64 wrestling games.
After playing the entirety of the third quarter, Gortat (team-high plus-23) watched from the sidelines as Kevin Seraphin leap-frogged into relevancy as if he had suddenly grown cuisses de grenouilles. When Seraphin (team-low minus-7) exhausted himself and could barely leave his feet to contest rebounds (he was still sweating forty minutes later), Randy Wittman put Gortat back in the game to close it out. —C. Dirks
1 out of 5 stars
23 mins | plus-2 | 5 pts | 2-6 FGs | 1-1 FTs | 1 rebs | 0 asts | 0 stl | 0 blks | 0 TOs
Not a strong outing for Martell, as he was just kinda out there and was unable to connect on any 3-point attempts. He was still excited about his hometown Seattle Seahawks winning the Super Bowl, though, and proudly wore his Seahawks stocking cap after the game. —A. McGinnis
2.5 out of 5 stars
12 mins | plus-2 | 2 pts | 1-1 FGs | 0-0 3Ps | 0 ast | 1 rebs | 3 stl | 3 TOs
After the game, when I asked what Garrett Temple had been doing to earn extended minutes (Wall wasn’t re-inserted into the game until there were six minutes remaining in the second quarter), John Wall had this to say about his unplanned, unheralded backup:
“He’s doing great. I’m used to just relaxing, chilling, my minutes off getting longer and longer. Garrett’s a competitor, he’s going to put pressure on the ball, and he does a great job running our team, and he’s doing a better job being a little bit more aggressive on offense and taking open shots and making them.”
We are living in an age where John Wall can be replaced by Garrett Temple for 12 minutes and the Wizards can outscore their opponent during that time. Progress? Maybe. Dry land, at least.
4 out of 5 stars
23mins | minus-7 | 19 pts | 7-10 FGs | 5-6 FTs | 5 rebs | 0 asts | 0 stl | 0 blks | 0 TOs
Coaches and players always talk about a bench guy “staying ready” when his number is called. To the credit of Kevin, he has done just that almost every time he has seen significant burn. Portland Coach Terry Stotts called Seraphin “the X-factor of the game.” Not too shabby, non?
Seraphin showcased hook shots, spin moves, jumpers and a soft touch around the rim. He appeared in the right spots on defense and was hustling after rebounds. After a nice jump ball tie up with Blazers center Lopez, Seraphin let out a loud scream. This type of emotion has rarely been seen out of Kevin and it is a wonderful indicator of how locked in he is right now. —A. McGinnis
0 out of 5 stars
7 mins | minus-10 | 0 pts | 0-2 FGs | 1 reb | 1 stl | 1 ast
Zero impact, but also zero personal fouls. Neuvěřitelné! —J.C. Townsend