Opening Statements: Wizards vs Pacers, Playoff Game 6–Emails & Vines from the Abyss
Some news: PlayoffStatus.com gives the Wizards a 49 percent of winning Game 6 on their home court and a 15 percent chance of winning the series. Meanwhile, the L.A. Clippers, also down 3-2 and facing the Thunder in Game 6 at the Staples Center tonight, are given a 57 percent chance to push the series to seven games and 21 percent chance to advance.
Maybe it’s the last day of a stellar season, maybe it ain’t. Just know that the 2014 NBA Draft Lottery is five days away and you should not give a damn, ’cause for the first time since 2008, the Wizards won’t have to send some sad sap to represent luck at a podium with other bad NBA franchises. Yes, exciting.
Teams: Wizards vs Pacers
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Chinatown, Washington, D.C.
Radio: WFED-AM 1500
Spread: Wizards favored by 4.5 points; Over/Under: 181.5
Wizards tickets … anyone?
Click to get them served up for cheap via TiqIQ and TAI.
May 14, 4:08 p.m.
Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace):
Is this how the playoffs are supposed to feel? It’s like riding a roller-coaster in pitch black darkness. You cannot even brace yourself for the highs and lows that are coming. I received the following two texts from a friend over a 48-hour period—the first after Game 4 and the second after Game 5:
F**k!!!!!! At least we don’t have to worry about signing Gortat bc he’s useless and gets dominated by the top 15 centers in the league. And Ariza is one dimensional. And Beal sucks vs. aggressive pick and roll defense. And Webster was a waste of $$. And Nene can’t finish around the rim. And Booker can’t get off the bench. And Wall is a terrible ball handler and an even worse defender. We suuuuuuck!!!!!! I’m done with DC sports if we roll over and lose by 20 on Tuesday.
Fast forward 48 hours:
HOLY F**KING SH#T!!!!!! That’s why you stay with a team for 35 years!!!! Wow… What a performance!!!!!! Stunned!!!! So pumped. Really proud of these guys for tonight.
Can an entire fan base be diagnosed as bi-polar? How do you explain the wild swings from both teams from game to game? Can the masses survive what is coming on Thursday?
May 15, 9:14 a.m.
Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It):
I mean, I get why coaches preach to players about not getting too high off the sweet, sticky-icky smoke of winning and not too down in the dumps upon devastating losses.
But what, exactly, are fans supposed to do? Players get to take out their emotions on the court. Fans can only watch and discuss with incomplete information—we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. Meanwhile, bloggers pixel for pennies while the team owner chuckles at the boon in coverage of his team.
How do I explain? Perhaps it can only be explained in the staunch limitations of brief-case “analysts” like Dave Berri (of Wages of Wins fame). Berri has seemingly had it in for John Wall ever since he suggested (“analyzed“) that Evan Turner, Wesley Johnson, Derrick Favors, and DeMarcus Cousins would have been better options for the Wizards in 2010. (Also, he and TAI have somewhat of a history.)
Now, even after becoming a better leader, a better point guard, a better shooter (albeit not so much in the playoffs), and leading his team to the post-season, Wall can’t do any right in the eyes of Berri. Just check these tweets:
Berri even seemingly has it out for Beal now:
To think that his set of limited numbers actually puts him more in touch with reality conveys a bit of arrogance. And not to poop on the numbers or Berri the person—as I believe in data used wisely and with context, and I don’t know the guy from Adam—but when the weak correlations of Berri’s sad science that’s just as much ideology (Free Darko’s charge) fails to hold itself culpable for when the analysis is wrong and rather only focuses on predictive regulation as if the current set of numbers is perfect and accounts for absolutely everything.
I don’t see him going hard at Evan Turner for being a crappy basketball player, but surely he can excuse that away while continuing to attack Wall with reckless abandon.
Wait, where were we again? I’m totally lost. Oh yea, sports. Thank the basketball gods that it’s regulated by the bounce of the ball, muscle repetition, the human body’s nervous system, and of course, numbers that define our unknown world … instead of some dude with a leather briefcase and pleated pants.
And so that’s how you explain the wild swings in this series.
#1. Where would the Wizards be without Drew Gooden?
#3. Do you think, aside from Game 2 against the Pacers and a small handful of other instances, that John Wall has kept the shot-jacking in check this postseason while being a better point guard (as he fights through the newness and uncertainty of how to perform at this level)?
May 15, 11:41 a.m.
Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace):
Going all the way back to Wall’s rookie year, the thing that impressed me most was that he got more excited for an assist than when he scored a basket. So I dismissed those critics pretty early who called him selfish or compared him to Tyreke Evans. Sure, he had issues (which have been discussed at length for years). But to judge Wall solely on his effective field goal percentage, as Berri does, misses his many contributions as the leader on the floor.
To answer your last question first, Wall certainly has cut down his shots. But to mixed reviews—at least from me. In the Chicago series it was great. He strolled past Hinrich and Augustin into the lane and found open shooters. Against Indiana, not so much. He is still getting into the lane, but once he gets there, his immediate instinct is to turn his back to the basket and drop the ball off to the first teammate who can bail him out. His penetration has not resulted in better shots for teammates. That’s the biggest difference. If Indiana is going to pack the paint and cut off Wall’s drives to the rim, Wall may actually be a better point guard by shooting rather than passing.
Gooden has made North Bethesda—err, South Rockville—proud. With only three playable big men on the roster (Nene, Gortat, and Booker) Drew’s resurgence has been a god-send. Although I do wonder whether Booker could provide the same spark this series if given the chance. Gooden has not been hitting his outside shot. He has done it all with hustle. And hustle is Trevor’s middle name. There have been a few stretches this series where Indiana dominates the offensive glass and gets easy baskets and David West starts hitting wide-open jumpers. I think Booker has the mobility to close out on West and also crash the glass.
The Nene/Gortat duo has not been as effective this series but I think that has to do with matchups. Indiana is packing the paint on defense and that makes it more difficult for Nene and Gortat to play off each other will interior passing. When Nene catches the ball in the high post, his first instinct is to put his head down and drive to the rim on Hibbert. Against Chicago, he looked to bring Noah away from the rim and find open cutters.
What do you make of Gortat’s comment that he is disappointed that they have to play Game 6 at home?
What has to happen for Washington to force a Game 7? Can you even have a “keys to the game” for this team when someone different steps up every night?
May 15, 12:55 p.m.
Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It):
Regarding the use of Gooden vs Booker… I know the numbers (numbers!? pfft…) showed that Booker struggled against the Pacers’ size (mainly, David West) in regular season meetings. Booker is generously listed at 6-foot-7, 240 lbs. (probably closer to 6-foot-6), and when his undersized stature as a PF is exposed, it’s usually against teams like the Pacers (even against the 6-foot-9 Luis Scola).
I know this didn’t exactly happen versus the Bulls, but Carlos Boozer is Carlos Boozer. However, it’s not like Booker hasn’t overcome his height before—he does so more than not—but I still think his team defensive awareness is still not to be totally trusted (even though he has improved and even though Gooden’s defense is nothing to brag about).
Gooden is listed at 6-foot-10, 230 lbs., and West is listed at 6-foot-9, 240 lbs., but when I observed the two next to each other prior to Game 3, West’s barrel chest dwarfed Gooden’s. Thus, even the encyclopedia-like Cook Book is also reduced to a quick-hitting recipe cutout from a magazine against West. Plus, per 36 minutes during the playoffs, Gooden has averaged one more offensive rebound than Booker. I think there’s a lot to that, but could be wrong.
Gortat’s comment: I don’t make much of it. Probably one of those Gortat-isms that can sound worse if you keep listening … similar to his “50 percent of Nene is sometimes better than 100 percent of other guys on this team” quote (paraphrased) from earlier this season. Although… Dammit, why can’t the Wizards play better at home?
Answer: they will. Now that Monday’s rescheduled Lady Gaga concert (which was supposed to be in D.C. tonight) is over, and since the Wizards won on Tuesday, I think the good ju-ju will be felt tonight in the Verizon Center. Although, hopefully that won’t be undone by Ted Leonsis bragging that he will make more money off Game 6 than all local blogs will ever cumulatively make in their puny little lives. Otherwise, pay attention to those pre-game fortune cookies, kids, they might come in handy (although I’m not sure how…).
Side Note: Gaga’s fans are called “Little Monsters,” but originally, that was a 1989 movie featuring Fred Savage and Daniel Stern. Stern starred in “Celtic Pride, which featured a cameo appearance by Larry Bird, playing himself. Bird, of course, is the current GM of the Pacers and will be in the District tonight. What does it all mean? It means Kevin Bacon is missing—he and Stern co-starred in 1982’s “Diner,” which featured Steve Guttenberg, who, of course, starred alongside Bubba Smith in the Police Academy franchise. Little known fact: the Baltimore Bullets drafted Smith in the 11th round of the 1967 NBA Draft (114th overall) out of Michigan State. Smith, however, was also drafted into the NFL first overall by the Baltimore Colts; he chose football.
For the Wizards to force a Game 7 there are two keys: 1) Trevor Ariza continuing to bother Paul George, which he has done for the entire series save for Game 4; and 2) Being aggressive with Roy Hibbert on both ends of the floor—attack him, draw fouls, get under his skin.
Otherwise, what’s your key(s)?
And what do you make of the Wittman-Vogel coaching matchup? Wittman countered a gut punch in Game 4 with a strong jab Game 5. So will Frank have the recipe tonight?
Also, did you read Mike Wise’s column supporting #TeamWitt this morning in the Washington Post?
May 15, 2:56 p.m.
Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace):
My keys are simple. It’s really only one key: John Wall must continue to turn the corner on pick-and-rolls and go to the rim (or pull up for the right elbow jumper if it is there). Once Hibbert is forced to leave his comfort zone to hedge the pick-and-roll (instead of lingering in the paint) the whole offensive playbook opens up. Suddenly Gortat is diving to the rim for uncontested layups. George and Stephenson are forced to cheat off of Ariza and Beal leaving them wide open behind the arc.
Fine, I’ll read Wise’s column. Give me a second… I’m back. Here’s the problem. Wise’s argument in favor of retaining Wittman is based entirely on Abe Pollin-era logic. This quote says it all:
“I don’t know if he can draw up the perfect play with five seconds left or summon the right halftime adjustment in a Game 7 to get his team to the next round.
I don’t even know if he is the perfect coach to ensure the development of Wall and Beal into perennial all-stars and title contenders.
I do know he has earned the right to see if he can become that coach with this team.”
Those are exactly the reasons why Wittman should not be Washington’s coach. When a “real” team with “real” aspirations to win a title interviews coaching candidates, those are exactly the questions they ask. Can this guy draw up a play in the final seconds to win a crucial playoff game? Can he make the right adjustments to win a Game 7? If the answer is “I don’t know,” then you don’t hire the guy.
Instead, Wise plays the old Abe Pollin “loyalty” card. Listen, I’m not saying Wittman should be replaced or that he could never take this team to the Finals, but he should only be extended if the front office affirmatively believes—unlike Wise—that Wittman can take this team to the next level. Because if that is not the case, then he has not “earned the right” to coach this team for the next two years just to see if he happens to turn into a top-tier coach.
Alright. Tip-off is rapidly approaching. Washington is minus-4.5. Are you surprised? Would you give the points?
Have you ever been this nervous/excited for a game before?
My answers: Yes, Yes (but would be terrified), No.
May 15, 3:26 pm
Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It):
I’m on #TeamWitt at the moment and usually have been in the coach’s corner throughout the process. And while I won’t prognosticate about what the coach can/could/would/will/or won’t be, I do think he has earned a chance to show us, and the franchise. Gregg Popovich had zero NBA head coaching experience when he, as VP of basketball operations of the Spurs, fired Bob Hill (who’d won 62 and 59 games in the prior two seasons and was dealing with an injury to David Robinson that season), and replaced him with himself about quarter of the way through the 1996-97 season. Yes, a very different situation … hindsight, and all of that.
Otherwise… No, not surprised by the spread (the home team has consistently gotten around 4, 4.5 points through both Washington’s first and second round series. And yes, I’d give those points to Indy.
Third question: No, and yes. I’m not sure what nerves are anymore and have only struggled in measuring after-the-fact emotion. That said, I’m glad I’m not playing. But also, I’m apparently not nervous enough to pick a 96-90 Wizards win (even though I don’t feel that confident about it).
So this is what playoff basketball is about…
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