Key Legislature: Wizards 98 at Suns 106 — Freeze-Dried in the Desert | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 98 at Suns 106 — Freeze-Dried in the Desert

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Updated: January 29, 2015

Truth About It.net’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s) for Washington Wizards contest No. 47 versus the Suns in Phoenix, via John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend) from Brooklyn, NY.

DC Council Key Legislature

by John Converse Townsend.

The Washington Wizards touched down in Arizona to play their fourth road game in five nights. The official report from the beat back East was that the team was “exhausted,” and as night enveloped the Western Hemisphere, it became clear that the midnight oil in Wizards Nation burned with excuses and resignation. “A schedule loss,” some said.

It was comfortable. Convenient. Familiar.

Over the past decade, the Wizards, on the last day of a four-plus-game road run, have won less than a third of their games. And while these Wizards, the 2014-15 version, perform honorably with no days rest (compiling their second best record*), surviving on the other side of the Mississippi River is never easy. The basketball gods in the wild, Western Territory owe them nothing.

Nene, the squad’s heartbeat, was faint, sidelined with a sore foot. A bad omen, a damaging reality. The Wizards, coming into the game, were 25-47 (.347) without him since he joined the team.

BOOK ONE

There was plenty o’ good, for sure. Bradley Beal was dunking, Gortat was dunking, Kris Humphries grabbed half a dozen rebounds. But there was also some bad. Turnovers (4), weird spacing (Humphries and Gortat practically ran into each other, at least once), and Drew Gooden being asked to play in an NBA game.

There were 10 lead changes in the first eight minutes. The Wizards were surviving the blitz with second-chance opportunities. Second-unit (and second-rate) Wizards checked into the game as reinforcements and … well, reinforced little other than the feeling that Washington was going to get run out of the Talking Stick Resort Arena. They scored just two points in the final four minutes of the first quarter and trailed the white-hot Suns, 17-29.

BOOK TWO

More Gooden. Kevin Seraphin, Otto Porter, Bradley Beal, and Andre Miller, too. That five-man unit played the Suns pretty even—living on midrange prayers and put-backs, mostly. Gooden and Beal combined to go 2-for-9 in their second stint.

There were other warning signs: Prof. Miller tried his patented backdown move on Isaiah Thomas, generously listed at 5-foot-9, and got redirected, stuffed.

The starters, minus The Truth, checked back into the game earlier than usual. Gortat missed a hook shot, Wall was hollering for foul calls on midrange jump shots (seriously?). Otto was unable to create enough separation for a clean look and was getting caught on every off-ball screen. The Suns, at one point, led by 22.

John Wall scored his first points of the game with three minutes to play in the second quarter: on a full-court sprint during which he stepped through Thomas, a Morris twin, and Alex Len for a left-handed scoop. That cut the lead to 16 points.

Beal answered a Goran Dragic 3 with 13.9 seconds to play. The Wizards trailed by 17 at halftime.

“We let our inefficiency from an offensive standpoint drain our energy in the first half,” Wittman said post-game.

BOOK THREE

Badabing. John Wall jump shot. Badabang. Phoenix shot clock turnover. Badaboom. Paul Pierce trey ball. Timeout, Suns.

Wittman must have served espresso at halftime.

Out of the timeout, the Wizards kept firing from—surprise!—beyond the arc. The Wizards had attempted six 3s in the first 24 minutes, making two, but went 3-for-5 on 3s in the first 5:30 of the third quarter. The Suns’ 17-point lead was down to just five.

Then Eric Bledsoe scored on a driving reverse layup. A minute later, the lead was back to 10 points. Next, Bledsoe, who was left alone above the break all night, turned down two looks from 3, exploded into the paint, and made the easy pass to Dragic in the left corner. Swish.

Not even a batty, hypnotizing John Wall Vine-fest takeover could bring the Wizards back. Because for all the fancy, behind-the-back, soaring, reaching, impossible layups Wall was making, the Suns would quickly inbound the ball, make a pass or two, and bury a spot-up 3. They led by 14 at the end of three quarters.

BOOK FOUR

Wittman went to Garrett Temple—flanked by Otto, Martell Webster, Gooden (yes, more Gooden), and Seraphin—to start the fourth quarter.

Sandwiched between two made 3s from P.J. Tucker was a Temple jump shot. A minute later, Temple properly reintroduced himself to the world with a Eurostep bucket between two Phoenix defenders. Seraphin got busy, hook shots and jumpers. Otto swished a 3.

Suns Coach Jeff Hornacek wanted time. It was an 11-point game.

The ragamuffin comeback was represented best by Webster going full Derek Fisher: arms flailing, legs spread, body crashing to the floor after minimal contact to earn three shots from the free throw line.

After a Tucker free throw to make it a five-point game, Wittman called for a full timeout. He decided to change absolutely nothing and ride the “hot hand,” the stuff of legends. (Doing so is totally his prerogative, but Wittman seems to get those calls wrong more often than he does right.) Tucker then made the second of two free throws and over the next 76 seconds—with John Wall and Bradley Beal watching from the scorer’s table—Markieff Morris and Dragic hit jump shots to put the Suns up 10.

Wittman called a 20-second timeout to get his star guards back into the game.

Out of nowhere, Otto Porter began playing with the type of confidence a boy gets after his very first kiss. Debutant basketball. Yung Limbs scored eight points in just over a minute and a half—a free throw, a fadeaway J, a tip-in, a 3 that barely moved the net—to cut the lead to four.

Hornacek wanted to talk about it. Seventy-seven seconds left on the clock.

Chief ‘Kieff Morris hit a high-arcing stepback midrange jumper to make it a six-point game with 23.9 seconds to play. DAGGER. There was really nothing the defense could do: Kris Humphries was all over him.

For all the improbable heroics, and the unexpected third-quarter barrage from 3-point land, the Wizards never got within four points of the Suns after the first quarter, when they let the lead slip away. Perhaps more accurately, the Suns dictated the pace of play as they so often do and ran circles around the Wizards—with and without the ball—scrambling Wittman’s defense like so many eggs at classic diners in the Sonoran Desert.

The Suns took what the Wizards defense gave them—3-pointers—attempting 29 and making 11. The Wizards, quite frankly, were lucky that Tucker, Dragic, Thomas, and the rest of the gang didn’t make more. They were free and clear on the other side of the Efficiency state line all night long.

“It was our fourth game in five nights and we were playing teams that were pretty fast—Denver and L.A. and now them, so it was tough,” John Wall said after the game.

“I’m not looking for excuses but we definitely didn’t have the same energy as we usually do.”

The Wizards are now in third place in the East: 31-16 with 35 games to play. There’s plenty of time to rise from the ashes, but something must change—the style, the philosophy, the inconsistency.

But when you play with excuses, you tend to not learn from your mistakes. You live with them. And on some nights, you get burnt.

 


*Wizards record by days off

18-7 after 1 day rest
8-4 after 0 days
4-3 after 2 days
1-1 after 3 days
0-1 after 6+ days (first game of the season)


Randy Wittman …

… on his decision to roll with the second unit (a tad too long)

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John Converse Townsend
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
John has been part of the editorial team at TAI since 2010. He likes: pocket passes, chase-down blocks, 3-pointers. He dislikes: typos, turnovers, midrange jump shots.