Key Legislature: Wizards 96 vs Pacers 94 — Old Wizards, New Wizards, These Wizards | Wizards Blog Truth About

Key Legislature: Wizards 96 vs Pacers 94 — Old Wizards, New Wizards, These Wizards

Updated: November 6, 2014


Truth About’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment for the Washington Wizards’ fourth straight win, a 96-94 overtime slugfest against the Indiana Pacers, from Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks).

DC Council Key Legislature

by Conor Dirks.

Relief implies a previous tension, and when Roy Hibbert squared up for a game-winning 3-pointer, an arena that had been fumigated with unease all game was seized with thousands of too-sharp inhalations. The shot, as several Wizards would say after the game, looked good. But it missed. Seconds later, after an off-target and too-late follow by Chris Copeland, the game had ended. Conversations resumed, celebratory music blared, and most everyone went home.

These are the kinds of nights that, just one year ago, ended in frustration. A familiar frustration that bordered on resignation, but generated local indignity nonetheless.

The saying goes, and it was certainly proffered as a primer by many members of the media after the game, that “good teams find a way to win the close ones.” That might be true, but good teams do a lot of things, and win a lot of different ways. Tracing similarities between every good team’s every win and now attaching those attributes to these Wizards wins, or attributing close wins over bad teams to some form of new-found understanding of how winning teams operate seems premature. The season is only five games young, after all.

Asked if last year’s Wizards team would have lost the game, Marcin Gortat politely dodged the question:

“Well listen, we’re making steps forward, becoming a better team. I think after … for the second game in a row, first in New York and now this was the second, we came out in the third quarter really strong and threw the first punch.”

Pressed, Gortat still resisted making the comparison:

“It’s too early, it’s too early. Obviously we’re happy, but it’s too early. There are still so many things we’ve got to figure out. You know, we have a few players on the bench that we want … them to get better. We need Kris Humphries to get in shape, get in the basketball rhythm. He’s a player we need, and we’ve got to help him out.”

But not everyone was so unwilling. John Wall said he believed that last year’s team would have lost a game like this one.

“Definitely. I think last year we wouldn’t have had the competitive edge to come out there the next five minutes [in overtime] and compete and play, and usually we’d let our defense get bad in those overtime situations. And even they took a lead at some point, they went up one, I think, and we came down and made big shots and got big stops… It’s just our leadership and guys knowing what situation we were in during the playoffs and knowing we don’t want to go through those same circumstances again.”

Washington’s schedule has, with the exception of the opener against Miami (the team’s sole loss), been flush with subpar opponents, none of whom are expected to be in contention in February, much less by the time the playoffs come around. But when Randy Wittman was asked by the Washington Post‘s Mike Wise whether he thought the team’s four wins had been legitimate, he deconstructed the question beautifully. If the team were to lose four straight down the road, Wittman countered, would those be legitimate losses? The answer (which was never given) is yes, of course. The result’s effect on the standings is the only legitimization each win or loss needs. Wins are not all that matters, as Wittman and Leonsis reminded D.C. fans on many occasions in down years, but no win in the NBA needs an asterisk.

Comparing this team to last year’s team, or wondering whether those less battle-tested Wizards of yore would have given this game away, says far more about the 2013-14 Wizards than it does about the team that now stands atop the Eastern Conference alongside the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors. This may or may not be a brand new Wizards teams, less vulnerable in their (imputed) knowledge of victory to the type of lapses that keep teams in the middle of the pack, rather than at the top of the conference. After five games, not much can be said with certainty.

But one thing is clear: John Wall is capable of some pretty incredible things. His 31 points (on 21 shots), 10 assists, six rebounds, and three steals were tangible contributions beyond the benefit of four years of NBA experience, and his points all seemed to come when the team needed them most. Most notably, Wall scored six straight points in overtime, bringing the Wizards back from one point down to five points ahead of the Pacers. It was a lead that the Wizards would cling to like grim death, despite the appearance of one of Washington’s most notorious loss-bringers: the late-game freestyle play that ends with a long, contested, isolation jump shot.

Error is not relapse, and growth does not preclude mistakes. The 2014-15 Wizards are 4-1. In the rush to make it all mean something, it’s difficult to remember that this team will be many things over the course of 82 games. Every loss will not signify a regression to the “old Wizards” and every win, close or blowout, will not be another example of the “new Wizards.”

But be relieved. That expanding pit of doubt that spreads during close games, from the gut all the way to the fulcrum of the throat, has been massaged into the cozy levity of validation by another Wizards win and another star performance from the face of the franchise. On Friday, we do it all over again.


The Bullets.

  • Marcin Gortat benefited from the presence of some distinguished guests. Both a former prime minister of Poland and the Polish Ambassador to the United States, Ryszard Schnepf, were in attendance. Gortat told me after the game that the team went 4-1 last season when Ambassador Schnepf was in attendance. Tonight’s win brought the dignitary’s record at Verizon Center to 5-1. “He just started a four-year campaign, I just signed a five-year deal, so we’re good for the next few years. We’re gonna get some wins.”
  • Gortat’s reaction to Roy Hibbert’s shot was predictably priceless: “Uh, well I just realized that he really got big balls to take that. What was the play? I was really surprised that he took that 3… I don’t think he scored from the field and then he took that 3. I’m glad just that he didn’t make it.”
  • John Wall, on Hibbert’s shot, was funny in its own right: “I didn’t want nobody taking that shot. I wanted them to lose the ball and have it go out of bounds so we didn’t have to worry about it. It would have been tough if Hibbert had hit a 3.”
  • More Gortat, on Cleveland being 1-3: “That’s awesome. Who cares about Cleveland now? They can be 40-40, and they’re gonna be in the eighth spot in the playoffs and they’re gonna beat us. Who cares about their 40-40 or 1-3 now? We don’t care.”
  • There’s been a lot of talk in the last few days about Paul Pierce’s age. If you haven’t already, check out Michael Wallace’s piece. It’s excellent. After the game, Pierce jokingly told the media that if he could, he’d play every other game: “It’s tough when you play so many 82 games. You come home, you land at 2 o’clock, people say you’re getting eight hours rest, but a lot of us, we eat when we land, we’re up for a couple hours … you wake up, go to practice, gotta play the next night, it’s tough. Everybody has to do it, but it’s tough on your body, especially the older you get.” Pierce went on to suggest that the NBA preseason should be shortened to four games, which (given the injury to Bradley Beal and the suspensions to Nene and Blair) doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.
  • John Wall was 11-for-21 from the field. Eight of those shots came at the rim, where he was 7-for-8.
  • Garrett Temple started very strong, and nailed four of his seven 3-point attempts. He may have evolved, Pokemon-style, into Bradley Beal. In the fourth quarter, though, Temple struggled (along with John Wall) to stay in front of Indiana’s Donald Sloan, who scored a career-high 31 points.
  • Paul Pierce scored his first Verizon Center bucket (he was ejected before making a shot in the first home game) on a buzzer-beating jump shot to end the first half.



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Conor Dirks
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
Conor has been with TAI since 2012, and aids in the seamless editorial process that brings you the kind of high-octane blogging you have come to expect from this rad website. The Wizards have been an assiduous companion throughout his years on the cosmic waiver wire. He lives in D.C. and is day-to-day.