Key Legislature: Washington 92 vs Suns 104 — Punchless Wiz Get Socked | Wizards Blog Truth About

Key Legislature: Washington 92 vs Suns 104 — Punchless Wiz Get Socked

Updated: December 22, 2014

Truth About’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s) for Washington Wizards contest No. 26 versus the Phoenix Suns in Washington, via Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) from the District.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Kyle Weidie.

It was a consensus amongst the Wizards: they got punched in the mouth by Phoenix. Or hit in other areas, literally—Nene departed with a swollen and puffy eye after catching an elbow from a Morris twin; Paul Pierce hobbled on his bothersome big toe; even John Wall looked to be a step slow in putting on his fashion afterwards.

From Randy Wittman to the scene in the locker room, the feeling of getting shoved aside by a deft, agile team like Phoenix seemed more matter-of-fact than that of dejection. The Wizards know they’ll be playing the rival Chicago Bulls on Tuesday, so they don’t have much time to lick their wounds. Considering the number of escape wins that composed Washington’s now-defunct six-game winning streak—Boston, Orlando, and Miami, at least—on top of Pierce calling his teammates out for bad habits after Friday’s win versus the Heat, one would think that the Wizards are looking at themselves more intensely than eyes-wide-shut. We won’t know until late Tuesday evening if Sunday’s 92-104 loss to the Suns was an eye-opener or just a sign of more crust in the corners.

Washington jumped out to a 6-0 (or, 8-2) lead early against Phoenix with aggressive ball pressure that’s become a hallmark to start games. Even the bigs were out pressuring other bigs at the 3-point line, trying to force turnovers. But the Wizards soon found out that they could not simply trap strong guards like Eric Bledsoe off screens, not if Markieff Morris was hitting shots, which he did over the course of the night—17 points, 7-for-14 on field goal attempts. Marcin Gortat was another issue. For the second straight game, he and Kris Humphries looked ill-equipped as a combo. Gortat also missed a bunny at the basket, could not secure a lob pass, and got out-worked overall—often he just can’t hold any sort of position when he has the ball and his back to the basket. Neither Humphries nor Gortat played in the fourth quarter when the Wizards trotted out a small lineup or John Wall, Bradley Beal, Rasual Butler, Pierce, and … Kevin Seraphin.

“When we go small we just run a lot of pick-and-rolls and try to get into the paint and find guys and shooters,” said Wall. “Give those guys a lot of credit, they did a lot of switching and taking stuff away from us. Also, we didn’t make shots. But we lost this game because they were the most physical team.”

The story goes that Washington only had 11 team assists on the night, Wall collected eight, and none of the other starters raised their tally past zero. So it’s no surprise that in their best scoring quarter, the second quarter (27 points), the Wizards shot the ball 21 times, made nine, and only two of those were assisted. Washington went 4-for-8 in the paint in the period (3-for-6 in the restricted area) and 5-for-12 from midrange and beyond. Nene missing a step-back jumper off one leg, Andre Miller getting toasted by Isaiah Thomas, and Gerald Green providing an eight-point spark in the second quarter gave Phoenix all the reasons that they needed to know they could win the game going into halftime.

Washington held a 14-0 advantage in fastbreak points at the intermission. That quickly changed in the third quarter when the Suns scored nine points on the break. A 50-50 halftime tie became a 61-54 Suns lead around four minutes into the third when Wittman called a timeout in an attempt to stop the bleeding. Beal, beset by foul trouble, continued to struggle with guarding Goran Dragic, who scored 12 of his 16 total points in the period. Washington was also just 1-for-3 on 3-pointers at halftime (Pierce 1-for-2 and Wall 0-for-1). They didn’t make their second 3-pointer until Butler broke the seal with 34 seconds left in the third, but Washington still went 1-for-5 from deep in the quarter and 3-for-14 on the night.

If you are looking for that game-defining moment, Wall has it for you. The Wizards thought—stress on ‘thought’—they were making a run, according to Wall, when Dragic hit back-to-back 3-pointers with a Seraphin hook shot squeezed in between; a nine-point deficit was extended to 13 with two minutes left in the third. Dragic’s first 3 came in Seraphin’s grill after Phoenix forced him to switch with Butler. The second also came with Butler and Seraphin trying to maneuver on defense, which brings to question whether they were the right personnel to be handling the situation in the first place.

“We just didn’t listen to our coverages. We were supposed to go with like a tight concept and fight over the top, and we kept going underneath. And when you have a guy that’s able to knock down shots, he just stops behind the screen,” said Wall about what happened.

The Wizards would climb to within six points at the start of the fourth quarter and would still be in a six-point striking distance with 2:40 left, but that’s all they had. Departing fans and chagrin on Twitter made it appear as if the Wizards were totally out of it. Others, such as yours truly, figured the team could muster will from somewhere as they’ve done several times before this season; I was wrong. After Pierce kept Washington within six, 89-95, the Suns then went on a 9-0 run over the next two minutes to lead 104-89 with less than 60 seconds left. Markieff Morris hit an isolation jumper on Seraphin; no one picked up Bledsoe on the break so he hit a jumper, too; Bledsoe then blew past Wall to score a layup without any help defense hindering; and the final insult: after a Seraphin midrange miss, Phoenix beat a barely jogging Wizards team back with Bledsoe scoring a layup, and-1.

Back to reality go the Wizards. Good enough to tie the best start in franchise history, but not good enough to set a new mark— but with a franchise that’s been historically bad, what does this really say and who really cares? Washington is said to be 8-5 against opponents above .500, but only two of those wins have come against contenders, and likely fringe contenders at that in the L.A. Clippers and Cleveland Cavaliers—yea, I said it, the Cavs are a fringe contender right now.

At this point, it’s harder to tell what’s the bigger concern: that Washington is highly-reliant on more consistent efforts from Bradley Beal since they still don’t have anyone past Wall who can create off the dribble (and defend); or that the team’s frontcourt depth has been shrinking in the moment as of late. Issues are not unexpected from any team. In some respects one can take comfort in minor speed bumps arising now because they will ultimately (and ideally) mean a more cohesive unit down the road. Knowing the developing rivalry between Chicago and Washington, you could not ask for a more ideal opponent next on the calendar—the Wizards need all the chances they can get to see what they are made of this season.

Ending Wall.


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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.