DC Council 27: Wizards vs Bulls — Out-Muscled Inside, Ignored from a Distance | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

DC Council 27: Wizards vs Bulls — Out-Muscled Inside, Ignored from a Distance

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Updated: December 24, 2014

Truth About It.net’s D.C. Council:
Grading Washington players from Game No. 27: Wizards vs. Bulls in D.C.;
Contributor: Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It), from the Verizon Center.

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As we’ve seen the Washington Wizards progress from the stuff you find under doormats, to actual doormats, to rebuilders, to playoff contenders, they are constantly trying to prove something. And along the way, they have. Prove they can win games, plural. Prove they can win on the road. Prove they can take care of business at home. Prove they can handle lower-rung teams. Prove they can compete with the big boys. And that’s where we’ll stop.

Over the last two contests the Wizards have hit a wall in two straight home losses to better teams, the Suns on Sunday and the Bulls on Tuesday. Washington beat a vulnerable Cleveland team 10 games into the season and an overrated L.A. Clippers team in Game 22. They’ve been otherwise left with ruffled hair on heads after big brothers Dallas, Chicago, and Phoenix came to town, watching them skirt off with maturity-induced freedom while sitting on the doorstep. Washington has also been manhandled by Toronto, that same Cavaliers team in Cleveland, and Atlanta (which is a loss that doesn’t look so bad now—the Hawks have won 14 out of their last 15, including their last five straight over the likes of Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Dallas, and as of Tuesday evening, the Clippers).

Instead of proving anything, the Wizards have now pivoted into having one thing to disprove: the sense that they are pretenders, or soft. Over the past two games they been the apathetic, doughy parking enforcement officer, perfectly willing to listen to you complain, perfectly able to not care.

OK, treading on going overboard with the hyperbole here. Only a third of the season has passed and the Wizards are 19-8. Roadblocks are natural. The progression of this franchise is on the best course its been in a half century. But those 19-8 Wizards are teetering on fourth in the East and looking the 5-seed Cavs in the eyeball before facing six out of the next seven games on the road. To date, Washington has played the absolute easiest schedule in the NBA, according to the Strength of Schedule metric from Basketball-Reference.com. Zero is the league average, and the Wizards are minus-1.42. The Dallas Mavericks have had the sixth-easiest schedule (-0.81). For what it’s worth, the upstart Hawks have had the second-easiest schedule (-1.11) and the Raptors are third (-0.94).

We’ll conclude with one final laying of the land before getting into player reviews and grades from Tuesday night’s 91-99 loss to Chicago. The Wizards attempted nine 3-pointers (five makes) to 89 total field goal attempts against the Bulls. Washington was also a mere 1-for-2 on 3-pointers at halftime. The 9-to-89 ratio (.101, the Wizards’ 3-point attempt rate) is the lowest output in a single game since January 27, 2012, a loss to the Houston Rockets in which Washington went 1-for-8 from deep and 32-for-88 from the field overall. The Wizards have played 238 games since. Furthermore, the Wizards allow opponents to score 37.7 points in the paint per game (second-lowest in the NBA). Against Chicago they gave up 50 points in the paint with 28 coming in the second half.

Muscle, hustle, and the long ball—somewhere amongst those qualifiers is a team that Randy Wittman wants to date, he’s just got to come up with a better plan for courtship.


Chicago Bulls

99

Final

Box Score

Washington Wizards

91

Kris Humphries, PF

21 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | -2

Humphries came alive with jumpers in the second half, hitting from 15, 19, and 18 feet (all assisted). But aside from a nice but precarious finish off a John Wall hustle-steal in the first quarter, that’s all he did. He was the only starter in the negative (-2) and for the third game in a row he visibly got out-muscled on the glass (eight rebounds total in 54 minutes over three games). Chicago took advantage of Humphries’ inability to protect the rim and the icing on the cake was the near-basket runner he tried, and missed, with momentum toward the rim and Joakim Noah in his way. Sure, he’s a great defender, but not exactly the best tone to set in a big game.


Paul Pierce, SF

29 MIN | 4-10 FG | 2-5 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | +4

Pierce went mostly unnoticed in the first half—two points, two shots, two boards, two fouls. “He must’ve gotten mad at half, said something,” remarked Conor Dirks seated next to me early in the third quarter. He doubled the Wizards’ 3-point total with a long distance shot 47 seconds into the third and the next several possessions seemed to be his. He missed his next couple of shots and two free throws, but kept at it and scored eight points on six shots in the third while also switching onto Jimmy Butler and holding him to 1-for-4 shooting. Pierce didn’t have much gas in the fourth quarter, but still rebounded and did other veteran, 37-year-old tokens of appreciation and led the team with plus-9 in plus/minus differential.


Marcin Gortat, C

38 MIN | 5-15 FG | 4-4 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 3 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTS | -4

Per mostly normal, the first possession was run through almost in full to get Gortat a look on the left block—Derrick Rose read the play and almost got a steal. Otherwise, the 14-10 stat line is deceiving. He missed jumper after jumper after jumper—six of them to the sum of 84 total feet. Gortat did work to get tips at the rim and played honest one-on-one defense when his shot wasn’t falling, but he was also a portion of the generally confused Wizards defense that was run over by Chicago in the second half.


John Wall, PG

37 MIN | 9-16 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 9 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 18 PTS | +3

It was an amazing 10 points in less than two minutes. John Wall absolutely took the game over, bringing Washington from a nine-point deficit to a one-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. But if Derrick Rose turned out to be the alpha dog on this night, Wall must stay in B-list territory.

Wall started the game early with diving-on-the-floor aggressive defense. It was just the tone the Wizards needed to set, even if it was ultimately drowned out by loud-cheering Bulls fans in the Verizon Center. The battle between Wall and Rose was fun, for sure, but there were often times when Wall was not aggressive enough in looking for his shot—he didn’t earn one trip to the free throw line. Wall also failed to get on the same defensive page as his big men and was not always ready for Rose’s quick hesitation moves and floaters. (So many floaters.) Wall could only tip his big-brimmed Smokey the Bear hat in Rose’s direction in the end:

“I think he made some tough shots. Some tough floaters, but that is what he is capable of doing when he gets off two feet. I think we were going back and forth for a minute, but they made the big shots down at the end, and we missed some easy ones that we usually make, and you give them credit for coming in and winning.”


Bradley Beal, SG

37 MIN | 6-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 15 PTS | -1

Early offense focused on off-ball movement for Bradley Beal—make counterpart Jimmy Butler work on defense. He also looked more comfortable, measured with the ball in his hands than he has in a while. So it’s no surprise that he scored 12 points on eight shots in the first half. In the second half he had to retreat to the locker room for a spell because he caught a Taj Gibson elbow to the head. He later returned to the game and actually ended up playing two more minutes in the second half than he did in the first half, but scored just three points on 1-for-4 shooting. After the game, per reports, Beal evidently went through the concussion protocol.


Nene Hilario, PF

22 MIN | 3-10 FG | 2-3 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | -9

Nene put a coin over each of Nikola Mirotic’s eyes and sent him on his way. Otherwise, the Brazilian went a deathly 3-for-10 from the field, making him 4-for-18 of the last two games, when he was 27-for-41 over the previous five games, all wins. Start Nene, keep him on the bench? There’s not a right answer right now but the question is likely to be so persistent that there’s only one conclusion. I’m going to give Nene a B-minus for the attempted strong man effort. But, the cohesion wasn’t there, and his one-legged step-back jumpers and one-armed, slowly developing potential scoop-pass forays into the fray isn’t going to cut it against top-notch teams like Chicago.


Otto Porter Jr., SF

8 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -8

Young Otto was on the court long enough in the first half to play him even less in the second half. Mostly as invisible as his glasses are clear, Otto once dribbled for a while before hitting his only field goal attempt, a jumper. Reminder: weight room.


Rasual Butler, SF

25 MIN | 1-7 FG | 1-1 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -9

Can’t be amazing on every night, and Rasual Butler wasn’t. He found his way to one 3-pointer to keep the Wizards within eight points with 7:33 left in the fourth quarter; a second would have been big. Bradley Beal used moves and measure to beautifully set up Butler with a good look from the corner that would’ve kept Washington within two points with two minutes left. But he missed, and Derrick Rose hit a pull-up jumper on the other end, skipping off the court as his Bulls held a commanding seven-point lead.


Kevin Seraphin, C

10 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-1 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -4

Ten minutes of ‘Kevin Seraphin Life’ was more than enough. His defense got eaten like feeding time for Snakey (or Snakey, Jr.) and he was scared as a mouse to use his big butt against Taj Gibson.


Andre Miller, PG

15 MIN | 4-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | -10

The Professor continues to teach lessons but over the last two games he’s been absolutely schooled. Having to play more minutes than usual with John Wall in foul trouble, Miller did score eight points doing Andre Miller things—from post work to midrange baseline pull-up ATO jumpers. The schooling came from Derrick Rose, Aaron Brooks, E’Twaun Moore most likely, and perhaps when we weren’t looking, Tom Thibodeau. In Miller’s 14:30, the Bulls were 10 points better. Wittman did pair Miller and Wall together on the court late for four minutes, which at least quadrupled their previous time on the court together this season. On this evening, they were plus-1, which is like a sheet-less waterbed upon which Wittman’s uncomfortably content heart rests.

Parting Joakim.

 

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.