Key Legislature: Wizards 101 vs Celtics 88 — Still Out-Running Human Nature | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 101 vs Celtics 88 — Still Out-Running Human Nature

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Updated: December 29, 2014

Truth About It.net’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s) for Washington Wizards contest No. 29 versus the Boston Celtics in the District, via Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) from the Verizon Center.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Kyle Weidie.

“Well, we didn’t, actually, never allow it to be close … in your terms,” said Washington Wizards coach Randy Wittman to the reporter’s first question.

His team had just beat the Boston Celtics, 101-88, in a wire-to-wire victory with a final margin that seemed closer than how the game actually played. But looks can be deceiving, just like Wittman’s opening remark.

There was one tie, 2-2, no lead changes, and Washington at one time led by 24 points. The Wizards got up by double-digits less than 3:30 into the game and, aside from 22 brief seconds followed by a Paul Pierce 3-pointer that put them up 12 with 5:38 left in the first quarter, Boston would never get within single digits at any other point. Pierce burned his Celtics with 11 points in the first quarter (17 on the night), but that was just the icing on the cake.

“We really came out focused from the start, we moved the ball,” Wittman diagnosed.

“The first quarter, the ball movement was good, and I thought our pressure from a defensive standpoint got them out [of it],” the coach proclaimed, proud that his team was able to disrupt the Celtics—a “rhythm team,” he called them. We can probably consider that a synonym for youth. Boston coach Brad Stevens started rookie Marcus Smart at the point alongside fifth-year player Avery Bradley, known for his defense but not so much for his offense, especially when not playing next to Rajon Rondo.

While some of Boston’s eight first-quarter turnovers seemed unforced, the imposing combination John Wall and Bradley Beal’s perimeter defense served as lead for Wittman’s remarks. Beal, while still learning the ropes of NBA defense (susceptible against larger players and not as agile in comparison to John Wall), is nonetheless disciplined on the perimeter and follows coaching instruction. He knows when and when not to gamble. Wall’s 360 spin move? It was Beal’s discipline, jump of Jameer Nelson’s passing lane, and subsequent push up the court which allowed Wall to cover all degrees.

On average, offensive players shoot 16.8 percent better than they normally do when Beal is guarding them within six feet of the basket, according to player tracking data from NBA.com. But at the 3-point line with Beal defending, players shoot 7.5 percent worse than they normally do; and 3.1 percent worse beyond 15 feet. Overall, however, players shoot 0.7 percent better versus Beal’s defense.

In comparison, players defended by John Wall shoot an overall 4.5 percent worse than they do normally. Within six feet of the rim versus Wall’s defense, 8.4 percent better; 5.3 percent worse at the 3-point line; and 6 percent worse beyond 15 feet. Worth noting that 2-guards can be tougher to defend than point guards since they often are expected to carry the offensive load; that said, there are numerous offensive-minded point guards in the NBA, or at least threats to get offense cooking, like John Wall.

A further comparison reveals that NBA players shoot 2 percent better than they normally do when Kyrie Irving is guarding them.

The point is that on Saturday night, Boston’s starting backcourt of Smart and Bradley was held to five points, 1-for-6 shooting, four assists, and six turnovers (in 37 total minutes—Stevens spread the minutes around).

Wall and Beal didn’t put up dazzling offensive numbers in the first quarter, or on the night (12 points on 13 shots for Wall, 9 points on 11 shots for Beal), but they intimidated and made the Celtics panic by zooming ahead on offense after every give-away. The Wizards scored 11 points off Boston’s eight first-quarter turnovers and jumped out to an early 30-12 lead, helped by a hot start from Pierce an the brute force of Nene, Marcin Gortat and Kris Humphries. For the game, Wall and Beal totaled five steals and the other starters plus Humphries off the bench totaled six; the rest of the roster didn’t resister a takeaway.

Good thing Washington flexed early, because after building an 18-point lead after one quarter, they were outscored by Boston the rest of the way, 76-71. The Wizards coughed up 14 turnovers to the tune of 17 Celtics points from the second quarter on. Andre Miller, Kevin Seraphin and Garrett Temple committed three turnovers each—Temple played less than three minutes late in the fourth. And that’s what Randy Wittman meant by: ‘Well, we didn’t, actually, never allow it to be close.’

Washington continues to win while not necessarily winning. It’s not always the bench, but often it can be.

“We tend to lose sight when we get a big lead, human nature I guess and stuff … of not moving [the ball],” said Wittman, knowing that his team is just as capable of escaping from themselves as they are a close margin. “Again, 18 turnovers is not what we want to look at.”

“When we got away from ball movement and got stagnant, they started making plays,” said Wall about how Boston stayed within a small stone’s throw of the Wizards, even if the lead was 16.4 points on average throughout the game.

The Wizards are a lucky team, suddenly with the luxury of being able to deflate less experienced opponents during key moments that leave them gasping for wind.

The Wizards are a top defensive team, always a threat to make a stop with guards who can press or veterans (especially with Nene in the starting lineup) who simply know where to be. And with those defensive stops comes the threat to run, the train perpetually pulling away from the station, leaving opponents with sweat, baggage and dust. Game planning must account for that, and so opponents must give up certain things in exchange. Advantage, Wizards.

Washington’s strengths were not lost on Phoenix Sun coach Jeff Hornacek when he visited town:

“You have good young players like they have in John and Bradley who put a lot of pressure on guys, and then you have some smart veteran guys who kind of know where to go and how to move and where plays are going to end up, and they can read the situation.”

The Wizards, a team Paul Pierce says is “definitely” a contender for the NBA Finals, now leave the comforts of home for their biggest stretch of the season. Washington carries a 21-8 record with them on their trip midwest, having played 62 percent of their games in the Verizon Center and having overall feasted upon opponents below .500 (13-2).

“This is key for us. This is an early start to let them know our identity of this team, see where we rank against some of the best teams in the league,” said John Wall, stating more than the obvious but also setting a baseline goal of returning 3-2 after running the gauntlet of Houston and Dallas on Monday and Tuesday, Oklahoma City and San Antonio on Friday and Saturday to open the New Year, and New Orleans on Monday, January 5 before returning home to face the restless Knicks.

“Got some great competition … the Western Conference is very tough and we have some tough games back-to-back,” said Wall.

Success is partially contingent on the Wizards removing themselves from the “competition” equation. They can’t compete against themselves, whether it be turnovers or offensive malaise. Against top competition the Wizards usually buck inconsistency, which makes statements from Wall and Beal even more important over the next five games and moving forward. Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley pose winnable challenges, but the likes of MVP candidate James Harden, Patrick Beverly, Rajon Rondo, Monta Ellis, Tony Parker, Gregg Popovich, and Russell Westbrook are roadblocks, not speed bumps. (Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday will also pose losable challenges if you are wondering.)

If the Wizards are going to make that move, Wall must continue to lash out at the league, and Beal must function more like a co-head of the snake instead of just another cute panda in the corner.

 

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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.