D.C. Council 79: Wizards 96 at Magic 86: Wiz Find Enough Elixir to End Sluggish Spell
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. 79: Wizards at Magic, featuring Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) and Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks) from the nation’s capital.
Stats probably via the normal places, Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com/stats.
Washington Wizards 96 at Orlando Magic 86
Chilliza Got This… #HookahArms.
Stats of the Game.
Home court advantage? The Wizards are now 21-19 on the road. With a 20-19 home record, the Wizards become the NBA’s only team with more road wins than home wins.
For perspective, the Atlanta Hawks are 13-27 on the road, but 23-16 at home. The Orlando Magic are 4-35 on the road, but a fairly robust (for an awful team) 19-21 at home. In the Western Conference, the current 12th seed, the New Orleans Pelicans, have as many home wins (20) as the Washington Wizards.
The New York Knicks are the closest to joining the Wizards on this currently one-team list: the Knicks are 17-23 on the road, and 17-23 at home.
—Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks)
A movable force met a willingly malleable object, and this was far from a handy win. The vast majority of elapsed minutes were spent in an attempt to first catch, and then pull in front of, an Orlando Magic team that more resembles the Wizards of 2011-12 than the Wizards of today.
The 3-pointers (2-for-19) were only barely plural, the first-half defense smelled quite a bit like the old mayonnaise sandwich the Wizards hastily prepared during the game against Charlotte, and late in the third quarter Jameer Nelson burned John Wall. While Wall was lamenting his overcookedness, Nelson calmly dropped in back-to-back layups, having approached the rim with all the chutzpah of a seasoned lothario.
When an immovable force meets a willingly malleable object … why waste time? Yes, they’re all professionals, this is an NBA team, these guys have pride, etc. But Randy Wittman’s pre-game coffee has been decaffeinated lately, and if it isn’t, then the third-quarter coffee is decaffeinated, and if it isn’t, then the fourth-quarter coffee is decaffeinated. Mining a consistent effort, and keeping his team motivated, as pointed out by Kyle Weidie after the loss to Charlotte, may be Wittman’s greatest failure this season.
Finally, with just four minutes remaining in the game, up 83-82 on the ostensibly tanking Orlando Magic, the Wizards woke up. In three minutes of play, Wall assisted three out of four Washington baskets (he finished the game with 12 assists and just one turnover), and young Otto Porter tipped in a hustlebound. Wall looked every bit the magisterial “young king” he has casually claimed to be. (Sidenote: One does not simply claim to be, and become, a king. There are … battles involved.)
Wall found Gortat for a dunk, and then forced Jameer Nelson into a bad 27-foot shot. After Otto tipped in a Gortat miss, and Bradley Beal went to the line (hitting 1-of-2, per the Wizards contract with mediocrity), Wall found Ariza on an alley-oop, blocked a Jameer Nelson attempt, and then pushed the ball to Booker for a layup.
Against Orlando, that was enough. And after the game, the Wizards received a boon in the form of a Charlotte loss to Boston, meaning that Washington is now back as the 6 seed. If that wasn’t enough, Indiana also lost, meaning that the Wizards would face the Pacers, rather than the Heat, if should they fall back to the 7 seed, and if the status quo is maintained at the top of the conference.
But they’re not worried about all that. I’m sure.
—Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks)
Is it because he knows he’s a security blanket? Is it because he’s uncertain of his own situation and getting healthy? Is it because he wants to be the calm amidst the back-pedaling into the postseason? Is it because he knows focus must, and will, shift on a bigger stage and that he should reserve his parental advice for then?
Now, Nene won’t let his stoicism keep him from sharing portions of Portuguese from the mind with referees, but there is an un-factored calm in his return to the court while the Wizards are still seemingly trying to find themselves. And perhaps that’s it… Nene is the spirit. Nene is their spirit.
Forty-five days passed between Nene’s appearances on the court as a Wizard. During his absence, Washington went 12-9 (tied with the Knicks and Timberwolves for the 13th-best NBA record during that span). Such results were not completely expected when Nene went down (even if the schedule was fairly light), and the Wizards should certainly be commended for such.
And the most encouraging part is that Nene seems like he hasn’t lost one step—aside from some rustiness on his jumper; and he’s even missing free throws like his old self (3-for-6 in Orlando). Nene shot an efficient 7-for-11 against the Magic and seven of those attempts came at the rim, where he made five. He looked as agile as he can be, as spry as he wants to be, and ready to be a pillar in uncertain times.
Without Nene, the Wizards are just ‘OK’—they have the talent to compete, but not the bandwidth, size, and security that Nene offers. With Nene, the Wizards are dangerous. Nene is stoic so Wizards fans don’t have to be (especially through nerve-racking knee bumps like the encounter with Victor Oladipo in this game).
Now let’s bow our heads and… #Pray4Nene.
—Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)
Something awful’s in the air, or the water, or the brains, but definitely in the 3-point stroke of Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza. After hitting just one 3-pointer in the game against Charlotte, the Wizards delayed (hopefully) the eventual enactment of the law of averages by shooting 2-for-19 (good for a hearty 10.5 percent).
It’s the first time this season the Wizards have managed to win while only making two or fewer 3-pointers. It’s also only the 22nd time this season that any NBA team has won a game while hitting two or fewer 3-pointers.
While Trevor Ariza’s flu virus is parked in a top-down convertible at the summit of what used to be Ariza’s immune system, both middle fingers up and eyes closed in a moment of purest satisfaction, having worked the utter deterioration of it’s host’s offensive game (Ariza was an unhealthy (oh, I know) 0-for-4 from the 3-point line), Martell Webster’s ailment is of a more insidious nature.
It’s three parts an undisclosed but somewhat evident injury, two parts underachievement, and one part solemnity. These three unfavorable ingredients are all somewhat reliant on each other’s existence, but the injury seems more of a wellspring for Webster’s less jocular persona than the decreased role. Otto Porter’s career-tying almost-single-double, and attendant 26 minutes, meant that Webster, normally Wittman’s wing in waiting, only played eight minutes, and ended the game with one point.
—Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks)
Having suffered through a seemingly perfunctory devolution from ecstasy to abomination following the erection of Bradley Beal’s Biannual Beal With It Memorial Clutch Sculpture after last Friday’s game-winner against the Knicks in Madison Square Garden, a decent game against the Bulls, and an awful performance in a loss to Charlotte, Beal was not brilliant against Orlando. He missed all three of his mid-range jumpers (and was 4-for-7 on 3-pointers and shots in the paint, but who’s counting?). Brad’s totals were humble, but they were also hungry (via “humble and hungry”): 16 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 big steals offset poor free-throw shooting (6-of-10).
Beal is probably the second cog in the Wizards offense at the moment (his 15.8 attempts per game is second on the team behind Wall). If we’re being honest with each other, though, Beal should be fourth (behind Wall, Gortat, and Ariza, not to mention a rounding-into-form Nene), but we were all born anew into Beal’s palm-frond pillow cocoon when he was drafted by the Wizards two summers ago. For the foreseeable future, he is going to get his. Again, Beal was not brilliant against the Magic. And that’s beside the point. He doesn’t need to be brilliant.
Due to the volume of Beal’s shots, his performances have a disparate impact on the game compared to Washington’s other shooters. In wins, Beal shooters 44.4 percent. In losses, he shoots 37.9 percent. His 3-point shooting seemingly correlates even closer with the outcome of the game: Beal shoots 44.3 percent on 3-pointers in wins, and 35.2 percent on 3-pointers in losses. So, the kid doesn’t need to be perfect. Or brilliant, or a budding superstar. He just needs to be reliable, something better than awful, something more than going through the motions.
At least for now. In a year or two, the organization will want the world, and brilliant is exactly what Beal will need to be.
—Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks)
That session was … Just to Get By.
John Wall and Trevor Ariza combined to go 6-for-20 from the field and 0-for-9 from the 3-point line. Did the Wizards win?
Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat combined for 8-for-22 shooting, 10 rebounds, four assists, four turnovers, and seven fouls. Did the Wizards win?
The Wizards shot 2-for-19 from deep, making them 3-for-34 on 3-pointers over the last two games (.088), 6-for-50 on 3-pointers over the last three games (.120), and 11-for-69 on 3-pointers over the last four games (.159)—you see, it gets better if you travel back in time. Against Orlando, for just the second time in franchise history, the Wizards attempted 19 or more 3s and made two or less. Did the Wizards win?
Orlando led 29-17 after the first quarter, and they led by a game-high 14 points early in the second. Coming off a day’s rest and two straight crucial losses, that’s how the Wizards started against a team that was just one game under .500 at home going into the night. Did the Wizards win?
Yep, the Wizards won. Look, I know you probably don’t want to hear how the Wizards ‘gutted out another win’ and how ‘shots weren’t falling’ but they ‘found other ways to find other ways’… It’s an old tale—perhaps from the Book of Corinthians—that we’ve heard too often.
“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” —verse 11
The Wizards speak through the mouths of babes—Wall and Beal—and as the regular season exists, they are still children. In the playoffs, they will become men. At least that’s the hope.
Did the Wizards win in Orlando? Yes, they did. Was their performance as an entire team lacking composure? Was their team-wide effort sophomoric? You bet. While some squads are rounding into form as the post-season approaches, the Wizards are just getting by … still trying to grow up over the last five games of the season. Still a bit childish. Still a bit Wizards. So be it.
—Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)
After the Wizards clinched a playoff spot against the Boston Celtics, Marcin Gortat said:
“There’s opportunity for younger guys now to play, because probably we’re going to get more … you know, young guys going to get some playing time maybe, and it’s opportunity for them now.”
Maybe the word Gortat didn’t get to was ‘rest’ … now replaced by ellipses. So perhaps resulting from that, perhaps resulting out of necessity, you’ll notice Gortat played 31 minutes, Ariza (still feeling flu effects) played 27, and Webster (one big nagging injury at this point, but he’s playing through it all) played under eight minutes.
Surface: a freed Otto Porter. Otto got that chance against the Magic that people seem to always anxiously think he’ll never get again. And he’ll get more chances. And more. (As people hopefully understand that being the third overall pick doesn’t simply entitle one to playing time—they won’t.) But this time on this night in this situation, Otto took advantage of it with a career-high nine points and a career-high nine rebounds. He looked comfortable on the court. He got his first NBA dunk (an alley-oop from Andre Miller). His balls finally dropped a little bit lower.
But don’t read into the tea leaves too much and suddenly think that Ottoman, Slenderman Porter is now etched in stone to become a playoff rotation contributor. He could play, mind you. Just don’t expect it.
A similar warning should be handed out to anyone trying to play Randy Wittman’s rotation game at this point. It’s a silly exercise because even Randy does not know.
Most old-school NBA coaches will tell you that the NBA, and especially the NBA playoffs, is predicated on matchups. And when the Wizards don’t yet know their postseason opponent, how can you pre-determine matchups? Within three days the Wizards went from being lined up to face the Raptors, to the Heat, and now, the Bulls (with the Pacers still in the realm of possibility; Brooklyn, however, seems like a long shot).
So it’s not ‘Will Trevor Booker or Drew Gooden or Al Harrington be out of the rotation?’ The fact is that Wittman, even though in the past he’s expressed a flexible 8-to-9 number when discussing his ‘ideal’ rotation, is not as regimented in the ‘who’ as people assume. Hell, the ‘who’ of a rotation might even change over the course of a playoff series, as teams continually adjust between games.
Otherwise, these Wizards do seem less concerned about playoff seeding, perhaps in a sense of already-achieved accomplishment, and perhaps also in coaching philosophy. Maybe Wittman is experimenting with new offensive sets as the slate closes out. Maybe he’s seeing which young guys might want to be thrown a bone. Maybe he’s trying to make sure the veterans upon which he’ll rely in the playoffs are healthy and rested. Maybe he’s still trying to figure out what works, especially with the return of Nene.
These last games are important and worthy of scrutiny, but these last games are also a conduit of preparation as the Wizards know they have been promised games that will be more important in the near future. At least it makes sense to tell ourselves such.
—Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)
It wasn’t always pretty…
But good things did happen…