Key Legislature: Wizards 109 vs Timberwolves 95 — Game Changer Goes Dog Whisperer | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 109 vs Timberwolves 95 — Game Changer Goes Dog Whisperer

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Updated: December 17, 2014

Truth About It.net’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s) for Washington Wizards contest No. 24 versus the Minnesota Timberwolves in D.C., via Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) from the Verizon Center.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Kyle Weidie.

Start strong, finish strong. In between? Any sort of cheese you want to squeeze between two solid crackers for one person’s version of a sandwich. That was the feast of the Washington Wizards in a 109-95 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night.

Washington put together a 14-0 run in the first five minutes of the game. Early in the fourth quarter, the Wizards had a 13-4 run versus Minnesota; later in the fourth, an 18-7 run. For all of the game action in between those runs (about 36 minutes), the Wizards never scored more than five straight points without the Timberwolves responding. For their part, Minnesota never put together anything better than a 6-0 run versus Washington. There was one lead change, one tie, the Wizards once led by 20 points, and the Timberwolves once led by 2 (at the start of the night).

While there is seemingly no rhyme or reason to explain Washington’s spurts of play in the minus (in particular when the Wizards clearly have more talent and cohesion than the other side), the team’s play is starting to fit a pattern. One that the Wizards need to be wary of, but also one which everyone touched by the franchise must learn to truly appreciate.

There is a slowly building belief that these Wizards will prevail, regardless of circumstance. They’ll get the key defensive stop, they’ll go to a number of capable players for a big bucket. All maneuvers need not come in clutch time (which is, as a baseline, defined as possessions within the last five minutes of a game with no team ahead by more than five points). Sometimes the Wizards punch early, sometimes a hot streak mid-game. Against Utah, separate 10-2 and 8-2 runs in the third quarter gave them a nine-point cushion. The third quarter against the Clippers yielded separate 10-3 and 8-2 runs (and an 18-point lead).

In fact, the Wizards overall aren’t even that great in the clutch—they get outscored by opponents by 6.3 points per 100 possessions during that time. Seven Wizards have played 24 or more minutes of clutch time; only Nene (+3) and Butler (+12) are in the positive of plus-minus.

Yet, this team has found ways to win. Washington has a 9-4 record when faced with clutch-time situations, the seventh-best winning percentage in the NBA.


[*According to the #WittmanJava Science, the 3rd quarter is Washington’s best quarter—7.3 points better than opponents per 100 possessions (NetRtg), ranked 8th-best in the NBA. Net Rating for other quarters: 1st (7.2), 2nd (5.8), 4th (2.0), OT (7.6).

In 2013-14, the Wizards had a NetRtg of plus-3.2 in 3rd quarters, which was still good enough for 10th in the league. Stay caffeinated.]


What’s lurking in the weeds is that this Wizards team, like most teams learning how to sustain winning, must learn how to stay uncomfortable. They can’t simply rely on newfound confidence and a will-to-win, when sometimes all they need to do is stay awake and make the simple plays.

Sometimes it’s Gortat falling for pump fakes from a non-shooter (as Adam Rubin described in the D.C. Council). But damn the big man can run the court. Sometimes it’s Bradley Beal not seeking the right shots (which are also not falling). But, look, he kept his head up—two of his three assists versus Minnesota came in the fourth quarter. Sometimes Paul Pierce is out with a sore big toe. But Rasual Butler exploded off the bench to score 23 points (18 in the fourth); Nene marked his territory by punishing the rim; and the guy who started for Pierce, young Otto Porter, bounced back with an all-around effort. Sometimes Kevin Seraphin is comme ci comme ça. But when you need offense, you need offense—better Seraphin than Jordan Crawford.

And then there’s John Wall, driver of Ted Leonsis’ rear view mirror-less Ferrari. (Look behind you, John, there’s a trailer at the 3-point line!) He’s got shades (at the movies). He’s got the leather driving gloves (and other fashion). He is what steers the indescribable and unfamiliar confidence that leads the Wizards to believe that they just might, in spite of themselves, win the game (at least against less talented but scrappy teams).

Wall is becoming amazing before our eyes. Intangibles, parables, hyperbole, and the Gospel of the Game Changer. There’s always a next step to believe in, and Wall is showing basketball fans in D.C. the way. Wall’s Wizards have proven themselves as competitors with top-notch talent, now they need to make consistent effort more of a habit.

Wall dazzled on Tuesday, duping T-wolves transition D like a savvy QB running a screen pass. He got Zach LaVine’s stick-figure legs dancing with shimmies. Wall spun Mo Williams into an endless hover within Flip Saunders’ hyperbolic paraboloid transitional floating zone. He touched the ball 101 times, passed the ball 74 times, and collected 17 traditional assists, four hockey assists, and two free throw assists; Wall shot the ball 17 times and turned it over just three times.

Not a “true” point guard, Gary Payton? As, if.

There was a play against Minnesota that epitomizes what Wall has become. Sure, the game plan of most coaches will continue to dictate that they’d rather let Wall beat them with his jumper. But Minny gave him a ton of space, like, much more than usual, like Gheorghe Muresan could have laid down in that space. From his very first game in the league, Wall had to get used to defenders going under screens, and he had to learn how to counter that in more ways than just improving his jump shot. That play:

‘Want to go around screen, Zach LaVine? Please do. Why don’t you keep moving, let Gortat use his footwork to craftily spin and reset the screen? Maybe even try to go over the top this time, isolate me toward the sideline. I’ll drive, got my gloves on. I’ll tap the breaks, only need a millisecond of hesitation in the paint from Gorgui Deng—and the spacing with Gortat is nice. Do I throw the lob to Marcin? Toss the floater softly off the top of the glass? Doesn’t matter, I got you anyway.’ —J.W.

[Stats via NBA.com/stats; PopcornMachine.net]


 

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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 currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.