Key Legislature: Wizards 93 at Celtics 101 — Small Ball Comeback Falls Short | Wizards Blog Truth About

Key Legislature: Wizards 93 at Celtics 101 — Small Ball Comeback Falls Short

Updated: December 7, 2014

Truth About’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s) for Washington Wizards contest No. 19 versus the Boston Celtics in Massachusetts, via Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks) from his apartment in D.C.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Conor Dirks.

Washington opened its first loss to a bad team with all the focus and effectiveness of a tranquilized bear covered in hot honey. That stickiness showed immediately, and even a late caffeine power shower was not enough to avoid the loss. Trailing by 18 points after three quarters, the Wizards got within one point twice in the final three minutes. But turnovers by Pierce and Wall with chances to tie or take the lead on subsequent possessions killed any chance to clutch victory from the plaque-riddled maw of defeat.

Before we dig in, let’s bust some myths. Jeff Green (25 points) had to put on his basketball shorts and take the court at 1 p.m. on a Sunday just like every hardworking Wizard. Although the game slows down with experience, time moves at the same pace for every professional basketball player. An excuse for poor play due to the unusual start time is convenient for everyone who makes use of it.

Bad starts happen, and answers aren’t as easy, or as crisp, as the play of the small-ball unit that almost brought the Wizards all the way back.

Two small lineups of Wall, Beal, Butler, Pierce and Humphries and Wall, Butler Porter, Pierce, and Nene were as aggressive, 3-point happy (11 of the team’s 27 3-point attempts), and ball-hawking (forced eight of the 15 Boston turnovers) as you might expect. It’s the first extended run of the season with Pierce at the 4, and it worked like gangbusters. If nothing else, this game is proof that such a lineup can be effective. Wittman, who has seemed reluctant to deploy Pierce in a non-traditional way, may want to consider further experimentation depending on the team’s matchup. Washington won the fourth quarter 34-24, even accounting for the late-game freebie foul shots granted to Boston by way of strategic desperation.

Pierce has played four percent of Washington’s minutes at the 4 this season. For reference, Andre Miller, who averages just 13 minutes per game, has averaged 26 percent of Washington’s minutes at the point. The mid-game Band-Aid small ball application should be used in the future as a lunge, rather than a parry. It can be an effective tool for Washington, even if it’s not sustainable (or even practical) to make it a primary feature, due to Washington’s capable, and excellent, roster of bigs.

The final frame was a flurry of Rasual Butler 3-pointers. Butler, 35 years old, has one of the quickest releases on the team, making him an ideal button-pusher for John Wall’s patented 3-point printer. Butler opened the quarter with back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers, all assisted by Wall.

Wall played the entire second half, and while the signs of that body taxation weren’t apparent, Wall’s game-sealing turnover, a jump-pass to no one in particular after a rather pointless drive towards the outer bounds of the basketball court, looked like a play made by a man with too many miles on his legs.

That turnover led to a 3-on-1 fast break opportunity for the Celtics, which they converted by way of a 3-pointer by Avery Bradley to put Boston up four points with 37 seconds left. It’s worth noting that Jeff Green may have gotten away with a travel call, and an offensive foul, on the play.

Fatal turnover aside, Wall rebounded from a poor start to the game to end with 17 points, 14 assists, eight rebounds, three steals and three blocks. His six turnovers leave a black smudge on the stat line, but Wall, unlike several other Wizards, found ways to make his presence a positive one. Bradley Beal (4-for-18) and Marcin Gortat (3-for-12) struggled all night. Beal shot an uncharacteristic 25 percent on uncontested shots, and even worse on those contested (20%). He was 1-for-8 on midrange jumpers, and 1-for-4 near the basket.

Gortat, for his part, was frustrated by a Boston defense that seemed to know what he planned before he executed it. Celtics defenders stood almost stock still in a half-circle around the restricted area, forcing the Wizards to shoot themselves out of the game without the benefit of one of its best plays, the Wall-to-Gortat pick and roll. Unable to force the team’s will on the Celtics, Wittman abandoned his starter in favor of more range-capable centers in Nene and Humphries.

According to the Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo, Randy Wittman said after the game that the Wizards “came out as a bunch of individuals.” Selfishness is a common Wittman scapegoat, but with all due respect to the head coach, it may not be the culprit (in fairness, no one is expecting him to deliver the postgame analysis equivalent of Sagan’s Varieties of Scientific Experience). The Wizards only had three assists (compared to Boston’s four) in the first quarter, but their passing was no less frequent than that of the opposing team (294 passes total compared to 298 by the Celtics), and only slightly less frequent than in the blowout victory over the Nuggets (309). The truth probably shades closer to poor shooting. After three quarters, the Wizards were shooting 32.8 percent, missing on assisted and unassisted types alike.

Wizards shooting: Quarters 1-3.

Wizards shooting: Quarters 1-3.

Tomorrow brings another chance, magnified due to the familiarity of the opponent. The Celtics, a rebuilding team, come to D.C. free of the baggage of expectation. The Wizards, burdened by the memory of a bad loss, will need the eternal sunshine of a spotless mind to rediscover the formula that allowed them to put away so many less talented teams at the beginning of the season.


Conor Dirks on EmailConor Dirks on FacebookConor Dirks on GoogleConor Dirks on InstagramConor Dirks on LinkedinConor Dirks on Twitter
Conor Dirks
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
Conor has been with TAI since 2012, and aids in the seamless editorial process that brings you the kind of high-octane blogging you have come to expect from this rad website. The Wizards have been an assiduous companion throughout his years on the cosmic waiver wire. He lives in D.C. and is day-to-day.