Key Legislature: Wizards 91 at Magic 89 — Lob, Buzzer, Beal, Dagger | Wizards Blog Truth About

Key Legislature: Wizards 91 at Magic 89 — Lob, Buzzer, Beal, Dagger

Updated: December 11, 2014

Truth About’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s) for Washington Wizards contest No. 21 versus the Magic in Orlando, via Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) from D.C.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Kyle Weidie.

The defining moment from a game gripped from the grasp of another type of hocus-pocus need not be outlined. Randy Wittman drew it up, Andre Miller conducted it, Bradley Beal executed it. Fire was made from nothing, after hours of rubbing sticks. Naked and afraid in Orlando and trying to find a path to consistent greatness (or goodness, or just clothing), the Washington Wizards fueled their buzzer-beating resiliency on more ‘hey, we are seeing this happen’ moments from John Wall.

How did we even get here? Here being a 91-89 win by the hair of eight-tenths of a second. Up by just one point at halftime against the Magic (now 2-6 at home)—#WittmanJava* be damned—the Wizards got punched in the mouth and lost the third quarter, 22-31. Out of the locker room Washington lost discipline on defense, biting on pump fakes and allowing Orlando to force switches to the point where even Comcast’s Steve Buckhantz and Phil Chenier couldn’t hold their tongue over the television broadcast. Victor Oladipo did most of the damage (17 points on the evening, nine points in the third quarter), as Wall and Kris Humphries, primarily, lacked full chemistry and communication on pick-and-roll defense. And even though Wall’s jets weren’t fully activated for as many defensive possessions as ideal, he countered Oladipo’s third quarter with seven points and four assists of his own. He also made a clutch shot with five seconds left in the period to keep the damage minimal … before fouling Willie Green, as he was shooting, at the buzzer; Green made one of two free throws.

Down eight points to start the fourth, the Wizards mostly treaded water with a lineup of Andre Miller, Otto Porter, Rasual Butler, Kevin Seraphin, and Nene. With 6:40 left, Randy Wittman went small by sending Wall, Beal, and Paul Pierce to the court for Miller, Porter, and Seraphin. Nearly two minutes after that, Humphries spelled Nene, who is not yet back to full health. This wasn’t, however, before Nene threw down a vicious dunk on one Victor Oladipo that had teammates just as shook, but in a good way. After the yam, Nene surveyed the scene around him, unsure of whether to shame opponents by basking in his own physicality or prepare to fend off ninjas encroaching in a circle formation.

Hard to argue with the results, the small ball Wizards out-scored Orlando 16-8 over the rest of the fourth quarter. There was a trade-off, however, as several times the Magic pulled the lone big man out to the perimeter to guard pick-and-roll action, Humphries in this late-game instance—he struggled no more than any other Wizards big could have. Orlando getting penetration against Washington’s defense at times led to there being no secondary help at the rim, other times an offensive rebound was allowed. Guarding Oladipo in perimeter screening action with a shooter like Channing Frye can be tricky, and the Wizards are thanking their lucky stars that Frye missed a 3-pointer that would’ve put the Magic up six points with 1:38 left. Or not. Tobias Harris secured the small-ball rebound and putback bucket, giving his team a cushion of five points instead of six.

That’s when the only player on the court with legit (and developing) credentials and capabilities to put a team on his back did just that. John Wall set up Elfrid Payton with power dribbles and stutter steps to the left, and in one Tony Parker-esque motion, he spun into the lane past a statuesque Frye and finished with his right hand, drawing the foul (but missing the free throw). Pierce got the rebound off Wall’s free throw miss but had an old man moment and turned the ball over. The guy in the No. 2 jersey who was called the real leader by that same old man, Pierce, bailed the veteran out by causing a Magic turnover. Wall, while not always perfect with defensive positioning on the perimeter, makes great defensive plays. He drew a charge against Harris and followed that a tight, nine-foot shot off the glass. The fluidity is what made it appear so routine. With 32 seconds left, Wall had just cut to a deficit teetering on increased questions about a team’s desire to take care of business (and a coach’s ability to inspire good offense) to a single point. Wall’s 21 points on 17 shots (1-1 3P, 0-1 FTs) to go with 11 assists, two turnovers, and six rebounds for the game almost seems too clean.

Washington was able to eke out another defensive stop versus Oladipo and small-ball Rasual Butler secured the rebound, drew a foul (the Magic were in the penalty), and made just one of two free throws. The game was tied at 89. The last shot apparently would go to the Magic with exactly 16 seconds left. Similar to the defensive scheme versus Evan Turner when he had a chance to win in double-overtime on Monday, Beal was guarding the ball handler: Oladipo. Willie Green came to give a side screen, which didn’t provide much resistance to Beal going over the top. Oladipo dribbled to the wide right wing, far elbow extended, and rose in the air to shoot. Beal fairly contested the step-back pull-up, a miss. Humphries secured the rebound, and Wittman was Johnny-on-the-spot—in the referee’s ear like a large, tie-wearing, old school mosquito, begging for a timeout.

Washington’s history of seemingly running the wrong play or screwing up the right play didn’t bode well. But with overtime being the worst that could happen, why not go for the gusto? The clock saying 0.8 is enough time to catch and shoot a midrange 2-pointer, but why not kiss a little rim and go for the lob? Beal, who needed a bounce-back game and his spirits lifted in the worst way, became the unexpected gusto. He started the game well—3-for-3, seven points, two assists, two rebounds in the first quarter—but over his next 27 minutes and 13.2 seconds he went 0-for-4 from the field with one assist and one rebound. Then the kid got to be the hero.

Wittman was as coy as one sporting a shit-eating grin can be when asked after the game if the final play was drawn up for Beal—”I’m not telling you,” with a dash of smile and spoonful of sugar. In his post-game interview, Beal admitted that the Wizards were initially going to see if the Magic were going to switch on defense (often you do so on last-second possessions). Oladipo and Harris didn’t switch (which they seemed to disagree about after the game), and Beal went from the ball-side corner and curled around a high screen. Rasual Butler crossed from high to low with Wall, went down the middle of the lane, and filled the corner previously inhabited by Beal (clearing out his own defender as potential help in the process). Add suspiciously perfect timing to the fact that Andre Miller, the best lob passer in the game today (or in history, according to David Aldridge), was taking the ball out of bounds, and it’s easy to see that Wittman knew exactly what sort of opportunity the play was creating.

“Everybody has a play like that in their book,” was Miller’s matter-of-fact assessment afterward. You win some, you lose some, and sometimes the play works—partially due to luck, a blunder by the other team, or both.

The Wizards once again escaped themselves. Thrilling basketball plus a shining star in Wall go a long way toward masking inefficiencies that will undoubtedly come back to bite Washington against better competition. Teams on a path to something better find ways to turn the mundane into the spectacular. At 15-6 Washington is currently tied with the Atlanta Hawks for the second-best record in the East; both teams are a half-game out from the first place Toronto Raptors. In town this Friday night: the 16-5 Los Angeles Clippers, fresh off a dismantling of the Indiana Pacers. The Washington Wizards are out to prove something you say? Don’t you worry, they’ll get their chance.

* Need a reminder about what #WittmanJava is? 

Well, once, after a win in which his players came out lagging after halftime, Wizards coach Randy Wittman said:

“Wasn’t real pleased, again, coming out of halftime… We didn’t have intensity in those first five minutes. And we’ve got to figure that out what we’re doing in the locker room, maybe get some Red Bulls in there or something … I don’t know… Coffee, as I used to do.”

And thus, the #WittmanJava hashtag was born. TAI’s Conor Dirks once further explained:

In days of yore, when he was a player, he used to consume the finely ground beans of coffea arabica, filtered into liquid java, at halftime. You never saw Randy loafing about in the third quarter. And now, he says, maybe the Wizards should have access to the same tarry caffeinated beverage that had him grinding his teeth as an Atlanta Hawk.  Or maybe they should have Red Bulls. But mostly: #WittmanJava.

Now you know.

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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.