D.C. Council Game 46: Wizards 96 vs Thunder 81: Thunderstruck by #HookahArms
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. 46: Wizards vs Thunder; contributors: Kyle Weidie and John Converse Townsend from the Verizon Center, and Rashad Mobley from his home in the District.
Washington Wizards 96 vs Oklahoma City Thunder 81
Last night, the perfectly average Wizards played the game of their 2014 lives, ended the Thunder’s 10-game winning streak, and got the girl.
If the game were “(500) Days of Summer,” the Wiz Kids would be “perfectly adequate” Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the oddball, red-hot Thunder would be Summer (Zooey Deschanel), and the surprising 15-point win would most certainly be Autumn (Minka Kelly).
Fifteen points?! How’d it happen? It was the result of either sloppy basketball or a sleepy start for the Thunder—actually, it was probably both. The Wizards forced the Thunder into 10 team turnovers in the first quarter (Wall had four steals), and just 27 percent shooting, which allowed the Wizards to get out in transition.
“We’ve been a lot better with the turnovers, but tonight it got away from us,” said Thunder boss Scott Brooks after the game. “Turnovers gave them opportunities to score in transition, and didn’t give us a chance to get in a rhythm offensively.”
“You gotta give them credit,” he added. “They’ve been playing much better. They’re a very good basketball team.”
There was only a four-point difference in fast-break points at the end (15-11, Wizards), but Washington’s nine transition points in the first 12 minutes set the tone, let them find easy buckets in the paint, and jump out to an early lead—one they would not surrender.
—John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend)
As good of a game John Wall had—17 points, 15 assists, six steals, four rebounds and just two turnovers in 34 minutes of play—this M.V.P. award must go to Trevor Ariza.
Before the game, coach Randy Wittman stressed that a player of Kevin Durant’s caliber could not be slowed down, and the key to beating Oklahoma City lied in stopping the talented players around him. Thunder guard Reggie Jackson scored 12 points, but shot 6-for-17 to do so (and committed eight turnovers), and Serge Ibaka—one night after scoring 25 points on 12-for-12 shooting from the floor—was held to 14 points on 6-for-12 shooting. From that standpoint, the Wizards fulfilled Wittman’s wish, and that was one of the keys to victory. But Ariza’s defense of Durant was the main reason the Thunder’s win streak stopped at 10 games
Durant scored 26 points, but he did not hit a 3-point shot (0-for-6), and he had to take 21 shots to get those 26 points. Ariza was physical with Durant in the post, he poked the ball away from Durant off the dribble, he got a hand in Durant’s face, and Ariza even got Durant to smile after committing fouls. In boxing, when one fighter can make another fighter feign being oblivious to pain by smiling, they have they have the mental advantage. Tonight, when Ariza had Durant smiling at the fouls he was committing, it was evident that Ariza and his defensive tactics had some type of effect on the torrid pace Durant had been on in the month of January. Durant scored his points in a disjointed fashion, but he was never able to establish time or rhythm he so frequently found during the Thunder’s win streak. Ariza rubbed salt in Durant’s room by scoring 18 points of his own—nine of those points came from the 3-point line.
Coach Wittman had this to say after the game:
“As you saw, it was like a mirror. Whenever Durant was on the floor, Trevor was on the floor, so he busted his tail tonight. Really great effort, there wasn’t any let up in his intensity.”
—Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20)
John Wall, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Trevor Booker, and Nene at the 4:52 mark of the fourth quarter.
Beal did not shoot well (3-for-12), and he was the only Wizards starter who did not break the double-figures threshold (seven points), but even the best of shooters will have off nights occasionally (see Kevin Durant’s performance). But what the aforementioned Wizards’ lineup did is inexcusable, and flat out embarrassing.
After John Wall turned the ball over with 4:57 left in the fourth, the Oklahoma City Thunder got the steal and then proceeded to keep the ball for 22 seconds. During that 22 second span, the Thunder had four shots, three offensive rebounds and two points (a Jeremy Lamb layup). None of the Wizards demonstrated any interest in boxing out or running to the ball, which allowed Steven Adams (two rebounds) and Thabo Sefolosha (one rebound) to keep the possession alive. Each time the Thunder grabbed another rebound, Coach Wittman could be seen going frantic on the sideline, while calling for Gortat to sub in for the inept Booker.
It didn’t cost the Wizards the game, and the Thunder never made a significant dent in the lead after that point since Scott Brooks had already thrown in the towel (benching Durant and Ibaka), but it demonstrated a lack of hustle and effort by the Wizards—something a perpetually on-or-below .500 team can ill-afford to do on a nightly basis.
—Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20)
John Wall and Marcin sitting in a tree, talking b-ball strategy… First come picks, then come rolls, then the big man takes it to the hole!
Four of Wall’s 15 assists went to Marcin Gortat. Three of those Gortat makes came in the third quarter, including a reverse finish, which kept the Wizards lead around double-digits. Timely.
Gortat was also part of the Wizards’ best play of the game: With about nine minutes to play, Bradley Beal passed to Trevor Booker near the elbow, who took a dribble before zipping the ball to Garrett Temple on the right wing, who touch-passed it to Gortat. The result? #Watergate. Gortat’s jumper made it a 17-point game, which put the game out of reach.
The Polish Whatever-You-Want-To-Call-Him has 17 double-doubles this season, tied for the team lead with John Wall.
—John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend)
That session … the arrival of consistency.
Was it the most complete defensive effort of the season (especially against such a marquee opponent)?
Nene wasn’t ready to call it that after the game. “Maybe for the year,” he said of 2014.
John Wall paused to think about other recent marquee victories. He seem think about the Heat game, but recalled how they allowed Miami to come back.
“We had other games like that,” Wall said, “but it’s very rare that we do it on both sides of the ball, playing defense that way and making it tough for the opposing team and also sharing the ball offensively.”
Kevin Durant & Co. had their runs—a 14-0 run in the second quarter to get within one point, 34-35, and a 10-2 run midway through the third to take a one point lead, 55-54.
But the Wizards started the game strong with both a 12-0 and 7-0 run in the first quarter, and countered the Thunder (and their third quarter demons) with an 18-4 run toward the end of the period to take a 15-point lead.
Washington was only up 12 points to start the fourth quarter—anything can happen in a game against a team like the Thunder. But Garrett Temple, of all people, led the charge. Midway through the period, Washington built its lead to 17. Four different Wizards had scored five field goals via four assists. Temple, guiding the offensive ship well, had two of the buckets, scoring one via an unassisted step-back jumper that must’ve signaled to Scott Brooks that the game was over.
Wall’s big dunk to put the Wizards up 17 happened only 21 seconds after he’d checked into the fourth quarter for Temple. It was the icing on the cake. After that, Durant sat down for the rest of the night.
—Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)
“To have all guys in double-figure shot attempts means you’re moving the ball.”
Randy Wittman was clearly a comforted soul as the stepped to face the media post-game.
Talking to the press is for the most part a pain in the ass but part of the job at this level, just as managing locker room personalities. (At least coaches have help from assistants, front office personnel, and veterans with that.)
But speaking to the media after big wins like the one against Oklahoma City can also be therapeutic (even if still a pain in the ass), one would assume.
Give a sly smile, a shit-eating grin, and ask away, you two-faced vultures. I’ll answer your questions, but in a win, I own the narrative—and I might even actually answer your question.
Take it away, Randy, philosopher…
—Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)
The Dunk that Sat Durant Down.
5 out of 5 stars
35 mins | plus-13 | 17 pts | 7-18 FGs | 0-2 3Ps | 3-4 FTs | 4 rebs | 15 asts | 6 stls | 2 TOs
Before the game, NBA TV’s David Aldridge asked Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks about three things that impressed him the most about Kevin Durant during their 10-game win streak. He cited Durant’s leadership, his defense, and his passing as the impressive factors. John Wall did not attend Brooks’ presser, but he sure as hell played as if he did.
Defensively, Wall made a point to swipe at the ball and flash in the passing lanes, which led to his six steals, and more importantly contributed to the Thunder’s 21 turnovers. As a leader, as Wall indicated after the game, he made a concerted effort to be more aggressive in the second half of play (he went 0-for-7 from the field in the first half). Wall had 15 assists, which represented the part of his game that was the most consistent against the Thunder. No wonder he’s an All-Star. —R. Mobley
1 out of 5 stars
34 mins | minus-3 | 7 pts | 3-12 FGs | 1-6 3Ps | 1 reb | 4 asts | 2 TOs
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: When Bradley Beal doesn’t have his shooting touch, he’s a non-factor… What’s that? You have heard this before? Moving on then.
(Do note that the Wizards tried to hide Beal on defense on several occasions, matching him up against Derek “Father Time” Fisher, as if Jeremy Lamb were too hot to handle for baby panda paws.) —J.C. Townsend
5 out of 5 stars
39 mins | plus-16 | 18 pts | 7-15 FGs | 3-7 3Ps | 1-1 FTs | 6 rebs | 2 asts | 2 stls | 1 blk
“It was like a mirror. Whenever Durant was on the floor, Trevor [Ariza] was on the floor,” said Randy Wittman after the game. But even Ariza admitted that stopping Durant wasn’t a one-man show (as did Wittman). He had plenty of help from Nene, Gortat, and Booker in keeping the Thunder from doing too much damage in the paint. The Wizards didn’t double Durant a ton and Trevor was always the first line of defense. But as important as his D was Ariza’s offense. For the first points of the game, he drove baseline on Durant, bumped him out of the way, and scored the tough layup. He also saved two of his 3-pointers for crucial moments in the second half. That Trevor Ariza, all hookah smoke and mirrors. —K. Weidie
4 out of 5 stars
27 mins | minus-4 | 17 pts | 8-12 FGs | 1-1 3Ps | 0-2 FTs | 5 rebs | 1 ast | 1 stl | 3 TOs
Il Divo opened the action with his best Katy Perry impression—he started off with a roar, scoring six of the Wizards’ first 10 points, which forced the Thunder into an early timeout. Hair back, chest out.
After checking in midway through the second quarter, he immediately found space under the hoop for an easy rim-rattling dunk. But then he picked up his second and third fouls on moving screens, then picked up his fourth on a Derek Fisher 3-pointer (the shot was good, but free throw was not), and wasn’t seen again until late in the fourth quarter … where he buried a 3-pointer, because why not?
Nene has started the last 11 games and the Wizards have gone 7-4. —J.C. Townsend
4 out of 5 stars
36 mins | plus-18 | 14 pts | 7-13 FGs | 14 rebs | 2 asts | 3 PFs
No slack for Gortat. At least never by #WizardsTwitter. Every single missed bunny… they notice.
But Gortat’s game is too well-rounded to get dragged down by a lacking ability to punish opponents, and the rim. You often don’t see him finish through contact, instead he often aims to craftily score around it.
But that semi-athletic ability is also what allows Gortat to move his feet well on defense, and his veteran experience allows him to always stay in it. After Washington’s poor offensive first half, Gortat was instrumental in the third, scoring eight points and grabbing five rebounds in the period. Kendrick Perkins, who? —K. Weidie
3.5 out of 5 stars
23 mins | plus-10 | 2 pts | 1-4 FGs | 6 rebs | 1 ast | 2 TOs
Booker wasn’t huge in the stat book, but he quietly stepped up nicely on defense and is certainly showing that his awareness of team defensive concepts is improving. Randy Wittman got plenty of help from his starters, but replace Nene with Booker and Beal with Webster, and that next most-played unit (5 minutes) finished plus-16 in plus/minus. Early in the fourth quarter, Booker grabbed a tough rebound against Durant, who knocked Booker to the floor drawing a whistle. The players jawed at each other but the Cook Book was able to sport a smile as he got up, as his Wizards were stealing Kevin’s Thunder. —K. Weidie
2 out of 5 stars
22 mins | plus-16 | 10 pts | 3-9 FGs | 2-7 3Ps | 2-2 FTs | 3 rebs | 1 ast
Webster’s job was to maintain the first quarter momentum built by Marcin Gortat, Nene and John Wall, and he answered that call by scoring six points in four minutes. He did not do much else the remainder of the night, but thanks to Wall’s big third quarter, the copious amount of Thunder turnovers, not much else was required of him. —R. Mobley
3 out of 5 stars
14 mins | plus-3 | 7 pts | 3-4 FGs | 1-1 3Ps | 0-0 FTs | 2 rebs | 2 ast | 0 TOs
Temple did what Russell Wilson will be asked to do during the Super Bowl. He was neither flashy, nor fancy, and he did not try to do anything that would cost his team the victory. Temple just hit open (and tough) shots, and successfully ran the point against the veteran Derek Fisher. During one 57-second stretch in the fourth quarter, Temple hit a jumper, got a defensive rebound to end a Thunder possession, then grabbed an offensive rebound to extend a Wizards’ possession. —R. Mobley
2.5 out of 5 stars
9 mins | plus-6 | 4 pts | 2-2 FGs | 2 rebs | 1 PF
Scouting report: Seraphin only shoots when he has the ball. He’s averaging 24 seconds of possession per game this season, so when he twice found himself around the basket with the rock … well, the obvious happened: he looked for his offense. The surprising part, I suppose, is that he made both attempts. —J.C. Townsend