DC Council 52: Wizards vs Nets — Don't Call It A Comeback | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

DC Council 52: Wizards vs Nets — Don’t Call It A Comeback

Updated: February 8, 2015

Truth About It.net’s D.C. Council:
Grading Wizards players from Game No. 52: Wizards versus Nets in D.C.
Contributor: Rashad Mobley from the Verizon Center


Coach Randy Wittman was crystal clear about what he wanted to see from his team against the Brooklyn Nets:

Coach Wittman preached some version of that same speech many times during the five-game losing streak, and when the Wizards failed to carry out their marching orders, Wittman had no qualms about admonishing his team. That was not the case against Brooklyn. The Wizards did as they were told, they put their foot on the collective necks of the hapless Nets, and by the eight minute mark of the third quarter, the atmosphere was festive, the lead was 27, and Wizards’ domination was complete.

Before the game, Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins warned the media that the Wizards were not as bad as their five-game losing streak was making them look, and he added that every team goes through a dry spell during the long, 82-game season. After the game, he was complimentary of the Wizards’ handiwork:

“They were more aggressive, they made buckets, they got offensive rebounds, and we had no resistance, we had no energy, and I kind of sensed it in the locker room before the game. They were just more physical, they attacked the glass, they went inside … it was sort of the same game we played in the second game of the back-to-back after we won here, so they used the same formula and it worked.”

The Orlando Magic, up next, will not lay down like the Nets—even without a head coach. And it’s hard to say whether the stench caused by the five-game losing streak is truly gone. But for now, let’s be polite and give out some good grades.


Brooklyn Nets



Box Score

Washington Wizards


Nene Hilario, PF

20 MIN | 4-7 FG | 2-4 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | +14 +/-

Nene started off deferential in the first half with assists to Otto Porter and, more importantly, Marcin Gortat. It was almost as if he knew that his points were ripe for the plucking at any point and thought it necessary to give Gortat some confidence due to his inconsistent playing during the five-game losing streak. At the start of the third quarter, Nene decided to pepper in a little offense to go along with his unselfish play: he scored six points (including one bucket on an impressive, Michael Jordan-like move) and dished four assists in a 16-9 Wizards run. He accomplished all of this while battling a physical, feisty Mason Plumlee.

Paul Pierce, SF

22 MIN | 1-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | +10 +/-

Pierce’s old teammate Kevin Garnett sat out of last night’s game because he needed rest. Pierce may as well have done the same thing. He had an impressive block on Mason Plumlee, but otherwise scored just two points and never really figured in the outcome of the game after an early assist to Wall, followed by a layup to make the score 10-2. To his credit, he was an active cheerleader on the sidelines while the reserves were in, and seemed to be visibly disappointed (or maybe he was laughing) when Martell Webster failed miserably on a dunk attempt.

Marcin Gortat, C

17 MIN | 5-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | +8 +/-

Simply stated, Gortat was the MVP of last night’s game. No other Wizards player struggled as mightily as Gortat had during the losing streak. It had gotten so bad that after Thursday night’s loss to the Hornets, a baffled Gortat said, “I don’t know what to tell you right now. We’re supposed to win a game here.”

Last night, there was no doubt that Nene and John Wall were determined to get Gortat some confidence via easy buckets, and Gortat rose to the occasion. He dunked home the first points of the game via a pass from Wall, and he later would score on a screen-and-roll and a beautiful interior pass by Nene. Nene was in the lane, and probably could have scored himself, but he correctly chose to get Gortat yet another bucket. He only finished with 11 points and eight rebounds, but in the Wizards’ mission statement of a first quarter, the Polish Machine had nine points, four rebound and enough swagger to fill the entire Verizon Center.

After the game the frustration of the losing streak was gone and replaced with his more familiar sense of humor. When asked about the win over the Nets he said, “At the end of the day, it’s Brooklyn. We can’t get too excited.”

John Wall, PG

26 MIN | 6-12 FG | 2-3 FT | 2 REB | 7 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 5 TO | 17 PTS | +15 +/-

Gortat and the energy he brought with him made the difference in last night’s blowout win, but John Wall—as usual—was the George Lucas of it all. He shed his barely connecting beard hoping that a new look would bring new luck, then the basketball gods delivered a lethargic Nets team to the Verizon Center doorstep and Wall took full advantage. The result? Everybody not named Paul Pierce ate well. Gortat received pocket passes, Nene got the ball inside, Otto Porter was confident, as were Rasual Butler and Garrett Temple. And when Wall needed to do some scoring of his own, he did that by shooting 50 percent from the field, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range. He turned the ball over five times, but the Nets—specifically Jarrett Jack and Deron Williams—were never in any position to exploit Wall’s mistakes. Wall only played 26 minutes, partly because of the lopsided score, but mainly because Andre Miller and the second unit finally gave him the support that had desperately missing during the five-game malaise.

Martell Webster, SF

6 MIN | 1-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +5 +/-

After the game, Coach Lionel Hollins said he kept Deron Williams in the game even during the blowout, because it was important for him to get reps, minutes and full contact as he recovered from injury. Coach Wittman doesn’t necessarily have the luxury of doing that, given that the Wizards have high aspirations and a set rotation (kind of), but it was clear last night that Martell needs more reps. He missed a dunk in the fourth quarter and he still lacks decisiveness when the basketball is in his hands.

Kris Humphries, PF

21 MIN | 4-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 11 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | +20 +/-

Humphries was the offensive anchor of the second team in the second quarter, when the Wizards effectively ended the game. He scored nine points and did not miss a shot from the field. He also showed off his (limited) ball handling skills by going coast-to-coast for any easy layup. It was that kind of night.

Otto Porter Jr., SF

21 MIN | 5-8 FG | 1-1 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | +16 +/-

About 30 minutes before tipoff it was announced that Otto Porter would make his fourth start of the season, and given the urgency surrounding the Wizards after losing five straight, this was arguably the most important start of his young career.

Porter, just like all of the Wizards, was given the “be aggressive” directive from Coach Wittman before the game, but as he has been wont to do during his career, Porter let the game come to him. His first shot was a runner in the lane and he completed the three-point play after being fouled by Anthony Anderson. His second basket was a wide-open 19-footer which came in the flow of the offense and his sixth and seventh points came via a put-back dunk. Defensively, he had an improbable block on Brook Lopez, he picked off a bad Jarrett Jack pass, and his activeness suggested that he was feeding off his confident performance on the offensive side of the ball. He wasn’t great nor was he Bradley Beal, but he didn’t need to be. Porter was not at all overwhelmed by the moment, and he was aggressive when he needed to be.

Coach Wittman gave him nothing but tough love afterwards, when asked if he thought Porter played better with the starters, “That’s a poor excuse if that is. It actually should be the other way around. Usually, a guy that’s playing on the bench doesn’t want to screw up being a starter. So I hope not. He’s got to play that way all the time.”

Rasual Butler, SF

23 MIN | 6-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 15 PTS | +19 +/-

Everyone not named John Wall was in a slump prior to last night’s game against the Nets, but Rasual Butler regained his touch during the abysmal loss to the Hornets on Thursday night. Butler continued his hot shooting against the Nets, and he hit two big 3-pointers early in the second quarter as the Wizards began to get some separation.

DeJuan Blair, C

6 MIN | 2-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +5 +/-

This is not the Dejuan Blair that Gregg Popovich had. I suppose it isn’t his fault he only played in garbage time, but given his performance in non-garbage time minutes against Charlotte, perhaps his late-game appearance was appropriate.

Garrett Temple, SG

24 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 7 PTS | +22 +/-

Temple had been Coach Wittman’s security blanket in Bradley Beal’s absence, so it rather surprising to see Porter in the starting lineup, instead of his doppelgänger. But in that magical second quarter, Temple was his usual tenacious self on defense and added in a touch of offensive spirit.

Kevin Seraphin, C

25 MIN | 5-9 FG | 3-3 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | +24 +/-

Otto Porter was not the only bench player who got a little taste of what its like to play significant minutes with the starters. When Gortat picked up his fourth foul with 9:14 left in the third, Seraphin was called in for duty and went to work immediately. He fearlessly took the ball directly to both Mason Plumlee and Brook Lopez, and there rarely any indecision in what he was going to do with the ball. Most of this was done while the Wizards had 20-plus-point lead, but that did not diminish the significance of Seraphin seamlessly blending in with the starting five.

Andre Miller, PG

22 MIN | 1-2 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 6 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | +22 +/-

During last year’s magical playoff run when Andre Miller’s nickname, “The Professor,” was justifiably bandied about his job was simple: stabilize the second unit, maintain or increase the lead, and give John Wall some rest. During the five-game losing streak, Miller barely played, because Coach Wittman simply lost confidence in his ability to do his three duties. As Coach Hollins said before last night’s game that very few players are given the opportunity to play their way out of a slump, Miller fell into that very few category.

He checked in towards the end of the first quarter and played a nondescript minute and change. But in the second quarter, he appeared to shake off the doldrums and he ran the team like a backup point guard should—even a 39-year-old one. There weren’t lots of points in that quarter (two) for Miller and he wasn’t an assist machine (three), but he ran the offense and allowed the other role players to comfortably cruise. Gone was the point guard by committee rule which had been in effect in Beal’s absence against Charlotte, and it was replaced by Miller’s steady hands. When Miller checked into the game the Wizards led by 10, and when Wall subbed in for him with five minutes left in the second quarter, the lead was 22. To dismiss this accomplishment by saying it was just the Nets is an easy route to take, but confidence is confidence, and appears as if Miller has it again.

Randy Wittman 

Coach Wittman said he wanted his players to be aggressive and they were, but he also said that during the five-game losing streak, so he does not deserve total credit for the rebound. He also was gift-wrapped a KG-less Nets team that lacked a pulse, a sense of urgency and a shooting touch, so Wittman doesn’t get full credit for the impressive margin of victory either. But given the beating that Wittman has taken (on this site and others) for his erratic, seemingly baseless substitution pattern, he deserves 100 percent of the credit for what he did in the first quarter. John Wall, Marcin Gortat and the rest of the starters were playing confident and free during the first 10 minutes, the ball was moving, the pace and the tempo were to Wittman’s liking, and there aggressiveness galore.

At three different points during the first quarter—almost out of habit—Wittman called Garrett Temple, Kris Humphries and Rasual Butler to the scorer’s table to spell the starters despite how well they were playing. Each time, one of the starters would make a solid basketball play to excite the crowd and extend the lead, and each time Wittman would send them back to the bench. He wasn’t imposing his will on the game by getting in his subs regardless of the consequences, but rather he coached by feel and the starters rewarded that line of thought. It wasn’t until the 2:12 mark of the first quarter that Coach Wittman brought in the second unit, and the starters by then had built a comfortable 26-16 lead—a lead the reserves doubled in the second quarter. That move, along with freeing of Andre Miller from the doghouse, made the difference in the game. And Wittman deserves credit for deviating from his annoying norm.



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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.