Key Legislature: Washington 105 at Miami 103 – Heat Stay Hot but Wizards Too Cool | Wizards Blog Truth About

Key Legislature: Washington 105 at Miami 103 – Heat Stay Hot but Wizards Too Cool

Updated: December 20, 2014

Truth About’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s) for Washington Wizards contest No. 25 versus the Heat in Miami, via Chris Thompson (@MadBastardsAll) from the District.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Chris Thompson.

Through much of the first half, Friday’s game in Miami had a particular look, and it’s not one Wizards fans are very familiar with: the Heat couldn’t miss, and every loose ball and long rebound seemed to find their hands (this part may be all too familiar). But, where previous frisky-but-underpowered Wizards teams might have staggered under such a barrage, these Wizards coolly hit back, methodically playing their game and steadily building a respectable lead. If this is a stage of being good in the NBA—the ability to take the opposing home team’s best punch in stride and calmly parry it away—it is a stage of profound newness to followers of Washington hoops.

Broadly speaking, that was the shape of the game—Miami rained hellfire from the floor and the Wizards stuck around peskily until the tide finally turned. But there was a stretch there, one we’ll helpfully call the entire second quarter, when Miami’s outrageously hot shooting crossed a line into the absurd, the downright unfair. The Heat went 12-for-15 from the floor in the period and might have turned the game into an ugly blowout had they not also turned the ball over seven times, mercifully limiting their offensive output to 15 measly field goal attempts in a quarter in which the Wizards hoisted up 20.

The Wizards did themselves plenty of favors—they did win the game, after all—but they also hindered themselves in odd, unexpected ways. Bradley Beal was brutally cold from the floor for most of the night, supplementing his normal poor midrange shooting with an unexpectedly ghastly 1-for-5 effort from deep—on mostly open looks. And he wasn’t the only Wizard who just didn’t have the stroke, as steady everyman Kris Humphries used a handful of midrange bricks to build Randy Wittman a nice doghouse, into which Humphries was subsequently sequestered for all but 5:36 of the second half.

Which brings us tidily to two relatively minor points of concern for these happy-go-lucky Wizards, the first of which is the ongoing state of Washington’s lousy shot distribution. A good NBA team should strive to create an offense that can score plenty of points by shooting right around league average from those spots on the floor where their offense creates shots. So, for example, if a team shoots league average from the restricted area and league average from the 3-point arc, the right volume of shots from those areas will yield an offense that is more productive than an offense that takes fewer shots from those areas but makes a marginally higher rate of shots from the dreaded midrange. The Wizards are sort of the opposite of this model: they shoot better than league average on 3s and in the restricted area, shoot right around league average from the midrange, and don’t do a whole lot of scoring. The last thing you want to be is a team that shoots 49.4 percent from the floor, gets 13 offensive rebounds, only turns the ball over nine times, and puts up just 105 points in 48 minutes, as the Wizards did on Friday night.

The other concern is Randy Wittman’s incomprehensible rotations. He’s had a persistent habit of stretching his second unit out a minute or more too long for as long as he’s been the coach here. And, God love him, he favors a rotation that dips deep into the bench, which is great fun if you’re the sort of person who eagerly looks forward to seeing what kind of shape Drew Gooden is in every eight days or so. But it tends to be teeth-grindingly frustrating when the lineup on the floor looks desperately out of synch, and Gooden is dribbling his way into a step-back 20-footer. Which, you know, is a thing that happened against the Heat. While Humphries and Marcin Gortat combined for just 35 minutes of action, Wittman doled out 13 minutes of mostly not-pretty burn to Great Uncle Drew. Someday mankind will gain the necessary perspective to see that, all along, Randy Wittman was using the distribution of minutes to communicate vital sequencing for a mathematical equation by which mankind will discover a means of escaping a post-apocalyptic earth once and for all. Probably. That will be a swell moment for our descendents. In the meantime, Wittman’s refusal to settle on dependable lineups for understandable minutes will continue to age Wizards fans prematurely.

These and other circumstances—Udonis Haslem briefly transforming into LaMarcus Aldridge, for example—set the Wizards back, and as the third quarter ticked away, a one-point halftime deficit ballooned to eight and the Heat were threatening to break the game open. And here is where Nene helpfully illuminated some small kernel of wisdom in the zany non-euclidean geometry of Randy Wittman’s offensive philosophy: when the Wizards desperately needed something, anything to swing momentum, however gently, it came in the hulking form of the wonderful Brazilian, popping to the right elbow for 15-foot midrange jumpers. In those moments, it was possible to articulate a sincere gratitude that the Wizards were capable of making the wretched shots they’re intent upon taking. By the time he launched the third one, anxiety over whether it was the right shot was washed away by a certainty that, right shot or wrong shot, by God that thing is going in. Nene took a break from bulldozing defenders and rattling the rim to pour home a series of three momentum-grabbing jumpers, forcing Erik Spoelstra to spend a timeout.

And that was the turning point, right there, a two-minute sequence in which John Wall repeatedly fed Nene at the right elbow, and Nene calmly delivered buckets. The second make came with the score at 65-73, and from that point on the Wizards outscored Miami 40-30, steadily and confidently bearing down on a Miami team that never did cool off very much. Dwyane Wade hit a pair of unlikely 3-pointers and a dramatic, loping Euro-step layup in the game’s final two minutes, but by then the contest already was what it would ultimately be—that broad-stroke picture of a better team absorbing the best the opponent can muster before easily and methodically cutting them down.

There will be nights when there are no bunnies left in the Wizards’ midrange magic hat, or when they’ll be burned by Wittman’s mad scientist minutes allocations, but it’s encouraging to know, in the meantime, that they can go on the road, get next to nada from several key players, stare down a team whose hot hand makes NBA Jam’s excesses look downright vanilla, and walk out a winner.

It wasn’t a night when everything went right. It wasn’t even a night when half of everything went right. That’s just who the Wizards are these days, a team who cruises by a frisky division foe even on their best night. I suppose we’ll all just have to get used to it.

The Vines.


Chris Thompson