Key Legislature: Wizards 101 vs Spurs 93 — Celebrated at White House, Taken Down in Phone Booth | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 101 vs Spurs 93 — Celebrated at White House, Taken Down in Phone Booth

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Updated: January 14, 2015

Truth About It.net’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s) for Washington Wizards contest No. 38 versus the San Antonio Spurs in Washington, D.C., via Kyle Weidie from the Verizon Center.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Kyle Weidie.

In the moment of the game, I wasn’t even aware that a battle was going on. Call it assumptions, call it history. Call it the Washington Wizards versus the San Antonio Spurs. Did one NBA team really beat another NBA team 17 straight times? Even if just facing each other twice a year (in non-lockout years). Wow.

It’s hard to consume that streak in its entirety, safer to rely on its existence, chewing slowly. So while Washington’s 101-93 win over the Spurs, the first since 2005, appeared to be snatching victory from the jaws of defeat—thanks to a bouncy, smiley kid from French Guiana, fresh with a curl saved in his head and French accent—it wasn’t.

It was trading slugs, back and forth, with a slew of veterans, some systemic youngsters, and a championship stalwart versus a wanna-be.

Nene, the bruiser, began the night making you wonder if he wanted to bruise, or even prod with midrange arrows. One was left wondering early in the night if the Wizards really could manufacture another 3-pointer (or just a better look) instead of the drab, cold settlement of a hand-off screen from Nene to John Wall for a crumbling midrange structure from 17 feet. (Boy, if Washington’s starting 4-man could trail a play with intent and threaten with range past the 3-point line, that would do wonders for Washington’s ability to counter retreating defenses against John Wall’s speed.)

Lo and behold, the Wizards did punch back, with 3-pointers of all things … at least in the first quarter. Washington didn’t really do anything special in jumping out to a 31-24 lead after one period—contested most reasonable shots from San Antonio, especially on secondary help—but they did hit their 3s. Wall even managed to make back-to-back treys, and the Wizards shot 5-for-6 from deep after 12 minutes while the Spurs shot 2-for-8. The gloves weren’t off but they were getting worn.

One hallmark of a slugfest is that previously suspected concerns still exist. Is the sweet scientist susceptible to a left hook?

Assembled parts from Washington’s bench continued to be defensive liabilities. The poor big men will often get the blame for the inability of Rasual Butler, Paul Pierce, or Andre Miller to stop the dribble (Martell Webster, too, and often Otto Porter). The poor big men are also rich owners of a responsibility to protect the paint. It comes with the territory, and at least they out-rebounded opponents in their territory on this night—40 to 26 on the glass as a team, Washington was; each team grabbed eight offensive boards.

Randy Wittman countered trends by taking Bradley Beal out of the game earlier in the first quarter than normal. Beal normally averages 9.4 minutes per first quarter but was exchanged for Rasual Butler at the six-minute mark. Perhaps partially to add Beal’s offensive potential off-the-dribble to a mix of second unit guys, perhaps to get Butler playing time with Wall in order to consecrate more 3s. Butler went 1-for-2 from deep in the first quarter and, of course, Wall got the assist on the make.

But then the punches changed notes en route to the final stanza. The Wizards shot just 1-for-6 from 3-point land over quarters two and three—pre-existing concerns. (In the final period, Washington didn’t even attempt a single 3-pointer.) San Antonio methodically grinded opportunities at the rim, outscoring the Wizards 10-2 in second chance points and 20-10 in the paint in the second and third quarters. The Spurs attempted 12 more field goals and 10 of that advantage came at the 3-point line.

Washington, during this time, unleashed a barrage of covering fire, earning 17 trips to the free throw line and making 15. Kevin Seraphin and Nene combined to go 7-for-7 from the line (8-for-8 on the night, five from Kevin and three from Mr. Hilario). Read those pixels again.

Per Wittman’s tinkering, Beal handled the ball more in the spirit of creation during the second quarter. Not much success was achieved, but it was certainly good to get him continued experience that might once again pay off in the playoffs. Wall, upon his reentry into the game, picked his team up with floaters. And not the ones you’d expect Randy Wittman’s college pals to joke about. The play-by-play credits Wall with five made “floating jump shots” throughout the night—from 11, 13, 3, 16, and 11 feet. After the game, media would ask Wall about his new toy like me to the kid who brought his new Sega Game Gear to school in 1991. For good measure against the on-looking Spurs, Wall added extra game with post moves versus Tony Parker and more spin-dribble deception with the ball.

Oh, and remember that Nene guy from earlier? After missing his first six shots of the game (four of them within three feet), the Brazilian finally crushed mint in the bottom of the glass with a running layup and free throw harm that gave Washington a 67-61 lead midway through the third quarter. He charged like a bull on the break and John Wall found him. A growing chorus might insist that we are currently seeing the most engaged Nene season of all the Nene seasons, even if the stats (which are more for media and agents, according to one Randy Wittman) don’t provide the support. His mere presence often does wonders that can’t be considered enough when it comes to opening the lane for a pup like Beal or simply keeping defensive assignments and passing lanes on a string.

But nothing seemed at hand for the Wizards. Definitely not when they led 75-72 heading into the fourth quarter. That seemed just as far away as a 10-point deficit, or as far away as when San Antonio continued to body shot its way to a one-point lead with six minutes left in the game. Boris Diaw was asserting a will that not Kris Humphries, nor any other Wizard could handle. And usually when that happens, falling shots aren’t too far behind for San Antonio. (Facts are facts and the Wizards are somewhat lucky. According to player tracking stats via NBA.com, the Spurs shot 42.6 percent on contested shots (20-47) and 36.7 percent on uncontested shots (18-49).)

Then the dazzle of that French-speaking kid. Already in a rhythm scoring-wise (it happens), Wittman left Seraphin in the game to pair with Nene for the closing stretch—the Wizards ended the game, and the book on 17 straight defeats at the hands of Black and Silver, on a 15-6 run. Seraphin added four points to his bounce while six different Wizards scored. Fourteen of the team’s 15 final points came in the paint (and one from the free throw line).

Washington won the game, 101-93.

Later on the locker room, Seraphin happily jumped up to be the first victim of media scrutiny. Eleven of Seraphin’s 17 points and five of his eight rebounds off the bench came in the fourth quarter.

“You ain’t going to run out on the media today, huh?” blurted out Paul Pierce for the audience as he exited the shower.

“I just play, I just play basketball,” Seraphin had just finished saying to the scrum, as he continued to field questions.

“Hell naw!” added someone else from the peanut gallery.

“Guess one of them days, huh?” chimed in Andre Miller.

“Going to stay and talk a long time tonight, huh?” Pierce continued. “French AND Spanish.”

The locker room was rolling, and Seraphin couldn’t help but flash a smile. How could he even hold back? But Kevin Seraphin’s life was merely the shiny belt on Washington’s final use of the hands to win the title of the night.

“I thought the last five minutes of the game we were pretty locked-in defensively,” staked Wittman’s claim after the game. “It was night and day from Atlanta to here, in our ball movement and our player movement all game. We’ve got to understand that’s our best and really only way to play with how we’re made up. And when you do that, it’s really nice to watch.”

Must’ve been. The Wizards coach had his own demons to fight against the Spurs, and more namely, Gregg Popovich, the unquestioned best active (and perhaps all-time), modern era NBA coach—if you buy into the philosophy of convenience when judging Phil Jackson.

“Thanks. You’re a bearer of always bad news…” Wittman retorted when I opened about the Wizards breaking their futility against the Spurs after the game. He would’ve said that to anyone mentioning some sort of anti-accolade.

“Listen, I’m already moving on to Chicago. They’re a quality team. Anytime you can beat this team. They did win the championship last year. And they’ve got, what, five or six of them?”

Wittman himself had only beaten Gregg Popovich once in his career heading into Tuesday night. That came in February 2000, when his Cleveland Cavaliers—led by Lamond Murray’s 27 points, Shawn Kemp’s 14 points, and of course, Andre Miller’s 20 points off the bench—beat the Spurs in Cleveland, 92-81. Tim Duncan and David Robinson combined for 41 points.

Otherwise, it’s been a 1-15 record (now 2-15) for Wittman against Popovich. He was 0-6 while heading the Minnesota Timberwolves and previously 0-6 as head coach of the Wizards. Before joining Washington (and getting canned from Minny 19 games into the 2008-09 season) Wittman and the Wolves suffered a devastating double-overtime loss to San Antonio at home. Mike Miller and Al Jefferson combined for 55 points, Tony Parker scored 55 all by himself.

“I told Pop before the game, I think he’s got a wing at the White House now,” said Wittman, envious, about San Antonio’s visit to celebrate their championship with President Barack Obama on Tuesday afternoon. “He’s been at the White House so many daggone times, I said I hope you got a room over there now.”

Through a night of slugging it out with an NBA champ, and after a low blow in Atlanta, the coach—only until a 10:20 pm flight to Chicago—could crack a joke as dry as any other. His strategy, and more importantly, troops, held fast against some of the NBA’s best. Finally.

Quotes.

Paul Pierce on focus:

“I said [something] I said this morning. It was kind of like, a little bit of laughing in the locker room—it was only a couple guys in here—and I told them, ’Guys, y’all don’t know we just lost by 30? We need to get more focused.’

Didn’t tell everybody, but it was two or three guys that heard it, and I thought we were really in tune this morning in shoot-around.”

Wall on Pierce:

“I think some people… we didn’t understand. What he (Paul Pierce) said was perfect. It was a team (Atlanta) that came out and wanted to leave a statement against us, let us know that they’re the best team in the East right now and that’s how they’re playing. And we was right there with them until the fourth quarter, but we didn’t do a great job of not turning the ball over and not executing and moving the ball offensively. So we watched film on that and broke it down and went in and made out fixes and what we needed to do and came out and adjusted tonight.”

Post-Game Truth.

Post-Game #KSLife.

 

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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.