Key Legislature: Cavs 127 vs Wizards 89 — The Wizards Should Blame It On The… | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Cavs 127 vs Wizards 89 — The Wizards Should Blame It On The…

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Updated: February 21, 2015

Truth About It.net’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s)
for Washington Wizards contest No. 55 versus the Cavaliers in D.C,
via Rashad Mobley (@rashad20) from the Verizon Center.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Rashad Mobley.

In hindsight, it was rather fitting that the Verizon Center P.A. announcer loudly recognized the presence of Jamie Foxx (who sat next to an exuberant Ted Leonsis) during the Cavaliers’ drubbing of the Wizards on Friday night (it was the largest margin of victory for a road team over a home team this season). Back in 2008, Foxx (along with T-Pain) had a hit song, “Blame It,” and in the chorus he listed reasons why the mutual attraction between he and a certain young lady was seemingly amplified:

Blame it on the [Grey] Goose, gotcha feeling loose
Blame it on the ‘Trón [Patron], catch me in a zone
Blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol
Blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol
Blame it on the vodka, blame it on the Henny
Blame it on the blue tap, got you feeling dizzy
Blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol
Blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol

The Wizards’ post-game press scrums were much too depressing to realistically expect the players to produce any sort of melodic listing of hypotheses related to the 38-point loss. However, there were plenty of valid reasons to expect some sort of post All-Star Break letdown.

This NBA is experimenting with a extended All-Star break (a minimum of eight days), and the Wizards had not played since February 11, when they narrowly lost to the Toronto Raptors. Washington also continues to play without Bradley Beal, who is scheduled to resume basketball-related activities today, due to a stress reaction in his right fibula. Andre Miller was traded on Thursday, and despite the declining quality of his play in recent days, when he was on, he would both provide John Wall with rest and be a calming influence for the second unit. With him gone, and the newly-acquired Ramon Sessions limited due to his unfamiliarity with the offense, the Wizards would be shorthanded. Kevin Seraphin was also out with “flu-like symptoms.” And rounding out the list of excuses for last night’s drubbing was the fact that the Cleveland Cavaliers had won 13 out of their last 15 games, including a 12-game winning streak, making them one of the hottest teams in the NBA.

(Life is hard for the Washington Wizards, the only NBA team forced to take a break for All-Star weekend. And to have to deal with injuries and absences and questionable game plans.)

Again, that list of excuses is nowhere near as glamorous as the one Mr. Foxx presented, but if the Wizards were to issue a mea culpa, they certainly would have carte blanche in the excuse department.

Prior to the game, when asked how or if the extended break would assist the Wizards against the Cavaliers, coach Randy Wittman was cautiously optimistic and focused on the bigger picture:

“You never know, honestly, until we get out here tonight. I think this was the most games—and I’ve been in the league 31 years—this is the most games I’ve played pre-All Star break. Coming out of the break there are only 28 games left, so I want our guys to focus. Twenty-eight games is going to go by fast, that’s basically eight weeks … and in the blink of an eye it’s going to be over. That focus has got to be there, having that understanding that each night is really critical and important for us to play the way we’re capable of.”

When the game began, it was clear the Wizards were lacking in the focus department. They shot 54 percent (Cleveland shot 50%), and Nene and Wall (eight points apiece) were in a rhythm offensively, but the team committed five turnovers, and only a series of missed wide-open shots by the Cavs prevented them from taking full advantage of the Wizards’ poor rotations and slow closeouts on defense. The Wizards allowed the Cavs to score 35 points in the opening quarter, but they only trailed by nine, and there was no need to panic just yet.

Then the first four minutes of the second quarter happened.

Since Wall needed rest, Andre Miller was traded, and Ramon Sessions was sitting and learning from the Wizards’ assistant coaches, Wittman was forced to send out the point guard-less lineup of Garrett Temple, Rasual Butler, Martell Webster, Kris Humphries, and Marcin Gortat. Cavaliers Coach David Blatt decided to let LeBron James play point guard with his second unit—it was as if James noticed the Wizards’ lack of organization and continuity and decided to pounce.

The Cavaliers went on 17-4 run over the first four minutes of the second quarter. During that span James had five points, two assists, and a steal to help the Cavs extend their lead to 22 points. Temple could not get the second unit into any semblance of an offensive set, the shooters (Butler and Webster) did not have enough space to get the confidence-building, wide-open shots they needed, and Humphries and Gortat were out-hustled on defense and invisible on offense. It is easy and borderline lazy to say that Sessions and the departed Miller would have engineered a different opening four minutes of the quarter, but it was crystal clear that no one not named John Wall could prevent the scoring avalanche from Cleveland.

Coach Wittman was forced to prematurely insert Nene, Paul Pierce, and Wall back into the game at the 8:23 mark of the second, but Coach Blatt countered a minute later by re-inserting the fresh legs of Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith. The Cavs’ lead hovered around 20 points until the last two minutes of the second quarter, when the Wizards went on an 8-2 run to cut their deficit to 14 points.

Washington maintained that hopeful, positive momentum in the third quarter, and two Otto Porter free throws cut the Cavs’ lead to 11 points with 9:16 left. Then, much like he did in the second quarter, LeBron woke up and played like a man who had no intentions of running fourth-quarter minutes. First he found J.R. Smith for yet another wide open 3-pointer, then he hit two in a row of his own, then Smith got in on the act once again. Wall (eight points) and Nene (six points) were once again carrying the Wizards as best they could, but Pierce and Gortat went scoreless and Porter’s two free throws were his only offerings.

There may have been a list of valid excuses for Washington to lose to Cleveland prior to the game, but during the contest they looked disinterested on defense and disjointed on offense. There were no coaching adjustments and no new acquisition was going to help. The fourth quarter was just extended garbage time.

As TAI’s Chris Thompson alluded to in his Opening Statements post, even though a win put Cleveland ahead of the Wizards in the Eastern Conference standings, and it was on national TV, it is still just one damn game. However, there were two post-game comments by Wittman and Gortat which suggested that the blame games may not be an isolated to last night.

First, Wittman indicated that he has some disgruntled players:

“We’re sending nothing but bad vibes right now and we have to get back to working hard, putting more time in. We have 15 guys and I have guys complaining about playing time all the time. Well, here it is. What are you going to do with it? Show me you deserve to play. Right now I’m looking for that. I’m looking for that, obviously with Bradley [Beal] being out. Opportunities are there and guys have got to step up and give me more than they’re giving me.”

Then Gortat accused his teammates of laziness on defense:

“You just gotta man up and play defense, one of us has to step in and play one-on-one defense, simple as that. Stop the guy in front of you. You can’t rely constantly on help, and help and help, you just gotta man up and play defense and whatever it takes to win your matchup.”

This could be knee-jerk post-game emotion after a loss, or these could be endemic issues brought on by the frustration of going just 14-16 in the last 30 games after such a quick start (against a cupcake schedule). The list of factors to blame for Friday’s debacle is seemingly endless.

But it’s just one damn game, right? Perhaps the best coping mechanism is to simply laugh it off:

 

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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.