Key Legislature: Wizards 103 vs Thunder 105 — Westbrook Ponies Up in Overtime | Wizards Blog Truth About

Key Legislature: Wizards 103 vs Thunder 105 — Westbrook Ponies Up in Overtime

Updated: January 22, 2015

Truth About’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s) for Washington Wizards contest No. 43 versus the Thunder in D.C., via Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks) from the Verizon Center.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Conor Dirks.

With just under four seconds remaining in overtime of an incredibly competitive game, the Thunder inbounded the ball to Russell Westbrook. The plan, according to John Wall, was to deny the inbound pass just enough so that Westbrook had to catch the ball moving away from the basket and toward halfcourt. But Bradley Beal was overzealous and came out too far, enough that Anthony Morrow, the passer, initially looked for another recipient for the inbound. Morrow faked a pass toward the basket and away from Beal and Westbrook’s positioning battle. Beal froze for just a second, Westbrook looped back around towards Morrow, and caught the inbounds on the run with Beal already left for dead in his wake. Westbrook sped past a sealed-off Paul Pierce (and the other three reaching Wizards), and converted the layup with relative ease. He then rode an imaginary pony past the Wizards bench while Marcin Gortat gripped the sides of his own face in a suddenly familiar agony.

Everyone had their own take, all without the benefit of a second look:

Randy Wittman: “I don’t know if Brad went for a steal or lost his balance, I don’t know. Westbrook jumped into the backcourt, which is fine, but now you got to make him catch the ball in the backcourt. I don’t know for sure, like I said, I haven’t looked back on the tape yet, but somehow he got free and Brad was on him. He had a full head of steam to the basket.”

Paul Pierce: “Truthfully, I am not even sure. We are playing so fast right now. I just saw Westbrook coming down the middle. I was the guy right there. I had an opportunity to step up. I felt a little push (from Steven Adams) but there are no excuses. Maybe I could have fouled him or prevented him.”

John Wall: “We tried to deny them the ball, and had the opportunity where we denied them too far to half court. We have to try and make them catch the ball out and come back to the basket.”

Russell Westbrook: Just get a shot. Try to find a way to get a shot in. My job is to try to attack the basket and that is what I tried to do.”

Kevin Durant: “I was going to try and end the game myself, Coach Brooks drew up a great play—Russ ran to the halfcourt line and they threw two at him and he was able to get free. Coach said whoever catches the ball be aggressive, so it wasn’t just a play for me, it was a team play and Russ made a phenomenal move, and Steve cleared the lane for him as well. Big win for us.”

Now that we’ve raked the moment over the coals of a soggy, amateur campfire, it’s time to move on. This game was ugly, but not as ugly as ESPN analyst Hubie Brown indicated. The two teams combined to go 13-for-59 on 3-pointers. The Wizards alone went 1-for-7 in the first quarter. And, aside from Gortat’s 3-point attempt, that was … encouraging? Yes, encouraging  (as an airball can be). Pierce and Beal both missed wide-open looks, and they looked to the naked eye like they were attempts that could, if the need should arise, be replicated.

As surly as you like, Randy Wittman asserted after the game that while the Wizards have to be better at getting to the line “especially when we aren’t shooting the ball well.” He was, as evidenced by his strong reaction to a fair question about Wall drawing more free throws, only speaking generally, and definitely not about John Wall on the ill-fated, barely worth mentioning final “possession” of overtime, in which Wall caught the ball far from the basket with 0.8 seconds remaining and fired up a desperation shot.

Part of it is getting to the line, but free throws are a symptom of the greater virtue of driving to the basket with more regularity. The Wizards don’t have many capable ballhandlers, and even secondary ballhandler Bradley Beal doesn’t have a great handle, yet. It’s a weakness, but an aspect of the game that has to be remedied come playoff-time, when the ability to get to the hoop for an easier look (also a great way to open up shooters from 3) could be the only way to break down a playoff defense.

The long road to those rocky final seconds started off smoothly enough. Nene specifically was brilliant. Early in the game, the Brazilian backed down Serge Ibaka once, twice, faked a shot, and while Ibaka was up in the air, Nene tucked neatly underneath, stretching his arm to the hoop for a layup while Ibaka crashed clumsily down to make the basket an and-1. After the first quarter, though, the offense flatlined, with Wizards whiffing on layup and long-ball alike. Spectacular plays died on the table with a fumble or a failure to keep concentration long enough to finish through contact. With the Wizards in a supreme slump, some timely Paul Pierce layups in the third quarter (by way of his typically crafty footwork) kept them resembling an NBA offense.

Down seven points with under five minutes remaining, Wall and Pierce connected to go 4-for-7, with two of those 3-point answers by Pierce. Wall had a chance to win the game in regulation, but the final play was another quiet disaster, a snow globe of a play, where Wall and his defender were hermetically sealed off from the rest of the court. They swayed left, they swayed right, and an isolation shot was taken with two seconds left in the fourth quarter—air ball. These deflating plays rarely work, don’t feature any movement by Wall’s teammates, and feel expressly like giving up.

But as Topper Shutt, local weatherman, pointed to a photo of Kevin Durant in a Wizards jersey and made the universal signal for “I beg you” during a schtick on the arena’s big screen, and the discomforting cheers crashed into the pixels making up Shutt’s face, I realized that nothing even mattered anymore.

I called on the Earthmother, and bid her welcome me into the soil, far from the devices and buzzing of modern life. The Wizards played on, but they played on in a world changed. A world where the idea of ‘Topper’ begging Durant to “join us,” to essentially “run home, Jack!”* all over the Thunder in the middle of a professional** basketball game exists. The image was burned so far beyond my retinas that it may have created additional neon circuitry to a brain in an already overburdened corpus begging to just sleep already. And in that sleep of death, what wins may come!

Things will get better, though. The season marches on. But hot damn, that Kevin Durant is a hell of a player.

*”Hook” is a good movie.

**At least, it had been professional up to that point.



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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.