Key Legislature: Wizards 102 at Thunder 109 – Durant Teaches, Leaves Wiz with an Identity Crisis | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 102 at Thunder 109 – Durant Teaches, Leaves Wiz with an Identity Crisis

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Updated: January 3, 2015

Truth About It.net’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s) for Washington Wizards contest No. 32 versus the Thunder in Oklahoma City, via Rashad Mobley (@rashad20) from the District of Columbia.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Rashad Mobley.

The good news for the Wizards is that Tuesday night’s blowout loss to the Mavericks was truly an anomaly. In getting beat by 27 points in Dallas, they turned the ball over 23 times, they weren’t competitive after the second quarter, and the starters did not figure in the final outcome of the game. Against the Thunder on Friday night, they still lost, but it was close (seven points), the Wizards had every opportunity to win in the fourth quarter, and Bradley Beal and John Wall seemed to discover the mojo that was sorely missing in Dallas. The bad news is the 22-10 Wizards may not be quite as good as their record suggests, and a yeoman’s performance by possible-future-Wizard Kevin Durant, along wih indecisive substitution patterns by Randy Wittman, may have cost Washington the game.

The second quarter belonged to 38-year-old Andre Miller. When he checked into the game in the first quarter, he watched helplessly as Russell Westbrook drove by him and rose for a dunk. Luckily for Miller, the basketball gods intervened and caused Westbrook to miss a wide-open attack. From that moment on, Miller outplayed the younger Westbrook and got the Wizards a lead. With 7:43 left in the second quarter, Coach Wittman summoned Wall off the bench to spell the wily veteran, and he responded by making a layup at close range to cut the Thunder lead to two—Wittman promptly sent Wall back to the bench. The next time down the court, Miller hit a 3-pointer to bring the Wizards within one point.

When Wall finally entered the game for Rasual Butler with 4:46 before halftime, the Wizards led 45-42. Miller had just assisted on consecutive baskets—dunks—from Nene, which brought a smile to Randy Wittman’s face. Miller was not visibly winded and he had the game, the Wizards’ reserves, and the Thunder under complete control when he ceded control to Wall.

Wall did not lose the momentum created by Miller, but he did not create any of his own, either, and the Wizards led by one basket at halftime, 57-55.

Despite the strong second-quarter play of Miller, Wittman opted to play Wall and Beal the entire third quarter. For the first 11 minutes that move paid off. Beal had five points, two assists, and five rebounds in the third quarter. After hitting a running bank shot, Wall had 10 points to go along with three assists, and the Wizards led by eight points, 82-74. Then Durant woke up and, in the words of former Wizard Jordan Crawford, decided to show the Wizards, ‘what it was.’

Durant had six points and two rebounds in a 40-second span, while Beal and Wall missed three shots between them, and the Thunder and the Wizads were tied after three quarters.

In the fourth quarter, Wittman went to Wall, Beal and Miller but they were not able to recreate the magic. Miller shot just 1-for-4 with two points, three rebounds, no assists, and none of the offensive mojo he had in the second quarter. Beal took just two shots the entire quarter, and actually ended up playing 1:16 less than Miller, despite leading the team with 18 points, nine rebounds, and five assists through three quarters. Wall had five assists in the fourth quarter, but he scored just two points, and cost the Wizards a chance to win late with a turnover (his first of the game) and an ill-advised 3-pointer.

On the other side of the floor, Durant scored nine points in the fourth quarter and Westbrook, despite playing the majority of the last quarter with foul trouble, had six points. The Wizards winning formula during their strong 22-8 start had been Wall leading the way with contributions from Rasual Butler, Paul Pierce, Nene, and Kris Humphries. Against Dallas on Tuesday night, and against the Thunder last night, the Wizards seemed to have no set offensive identity and it cost them a winnable game.

Randy Wittman had this to say after the game:

“We made a couple of tough turnovers down the stretch and they turned them into points, I think that’s kind of what it boils down to. We did a nice job fighting … but they made more plays than we did down the stretch and that kind of made the difference.”

The loss leaves the Wizards with a 1-2 record on this Western Conference road trip with two more games against the Spurs and the Pelicans—teams that know exactly where their identity lies. The Spurs will be without Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker and will be forced to rely on veterans Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. The Pelicans depend on the versatile talents of MVP candidate Anthony Davis to win them games. The Wizards will have to determine who they are, and what or who it will take for them to get two tough road victories if they expect to return to Washington with a confidence-building 3-2 record on the challenging trip.

 

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.