Key Legislature: Wizards 95 vs Hawks 106 — Comeback Falls Short (Again) | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 95 vs Hawks 106 — Comeback Falls Short (Again)

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Updated: February 5, 2015

Truth About It.net’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s) for Washington Wizards contest No. 50 versus the Hawks in Atlanta.

 

DC Council Key Legislature

by Troy Haliburton.

Most of us have a hard time believing that this is really happening. Left visibly dejected and confused after Wednesday night’s 106-95 loss in Atlanta, this Wizards team is fully submerged in the stage of denial and the only way to begin the healing process is through admission.

Starting from the top, Coach Randy Wittman has to come to the harsh reality that the Wizards offense has not been very good, and he might need to take some ownership. Wittman’s outlook on the game of basketball, that it should be “simple”—one doesn’t need to be in “some lab” or have a degree to play this game—comes off as prehistoric after watching Washington stumble against smarter teams. He would need to look no further than last night’s opponent to see a reason why. The Atlanta Hawks have used advanced basketball metrics, a selfless system, and quality player personnel decisions to take a commanding 10-game lead over Washington in the Southeastern division race. Whatever lab or degree the Hawks are matriculating towards, the Wizards need to register, even if late registration carries a fine.

Just before tip-off the NBA announced that the  Hawks’ starting five were jointly named Eastern Conference Player of the Month. Then the Hawks began to show the offensive flow that allowed them to go undefeated during the month of January. The first half was full of missed, or too-eager, defensive rotations by the Wizards as they watched the Hawks pass the ball from side to side, leading to six first quarter Atlanta 3-pointers. The Hawks built a 59-46 halftime lead, and the signs of frustration were written all over the Wizards players’ faces when they went into the locker room.

The Wizards took a longer-than-normal halftime break, and whatever WittmanJava or words uttered in that locker room must have motivated the team because they came out with a competitive fire that they simply did not have in the first half.

Gortat picked up his energy level and scored eight of his 14 points in the first four minutes of the third quarter, which was the catalyst that sparked the Wizards’ comeback effort. This game, however, was lost later in the third quarter, when the Wizards failed to capitalize on the offensive end despite finally stringing together a few stops on defense.

The Wizards got within one point, 72-73 at the 3:25 mark in the third quarter, after a Bradley Beal and-1, but squandered their next seven possessions on offense, never really taking control of the game. Two minutes later, a pair of John Wall free throws finally put the Wiz in front. But it was agonizingly temporary, and that was the last time they would have the lead in the game. 

There were some positive takeaways. Wall played a pretty impressive overall game (24 points, 9 assists, and 7 rebounds), but was matched by fellow All-Star Jeff Teague, who finished with 26 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field. Bradley Beal could not find his shooting stroke from 3, going 0-for-4 on his attempts, but he did create a few nice driving lanes with his ball handling, and even got a little pick-and-roll action that we have not seen executed at a high level since last year’s playoff series against Chicago.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The Wizards got down by double digits, led a ferocious comeback, only to come up short in the end.

This has been the same script for the last four losses and it’s increasingly tiresome. The current state of the Wizards is that they are good at beating up on bad teams (21-6 vs. teams under .500) while struggling mightily against elite talent (2-8 vs. the top 8 NBA teams and a combined 0-5 vs. the Hawks and Raptors). Struggles on offense can most likely be attributed to an offensive system that does not stress the importance of shot selection or the “simple” mathematical benefit of the 3-point shot. Coach Wittman seems content to allow his players to take long 2-point attempts, wasting points on every non-3-pointer taken. The Wizards rank in the top 5 of 3-point FG % at .377 but for some reason rank in the bottom 5 in 3-point field goals attempted with just 16 per game. The long ball had a direct impact on the outcome of last night’s game as the Hawks shot 11-for-25 from deep while the Wizards shot 4-for-16. Watching the Hawks whip the ball around the perimeter was a thing of beauty to a basketball purist, and even the most staunch Wiz supporters had to be impressed.

The Wizards got almost no production from their bench last night and were outscored 27-14 by the Hawks reserves. Kris Humphries had his first off night in awhile, going 0-for-4 from the field, but the main culprits were Otto Porter and Garrett Temple. Porter shot 1-for-7 from the field, missing a few open looks during that critical late third quarter stretch, and Temple seemed to be in the wrong place on defense all night, even though he’s heralded and praised as a defensive stopper. Bless Garrett Temple’s heart for giving maximum effort, but he is not a backup point guard. The Hawks bench, on the other hand, received major contributions from backups Dennis Schroeder (10 points, 4 assists), Pero Antic (9 points, 6 rebounds), and one amazing highlight dunk from Mike Scott.

According to The Five Stages of Grief, the next stage after denial is anger, and this Wizards team has yet to show the passion and fire seen so often in teams at the upper echelon of the Association. The alleged tough and “dirty” practice on Tuesday might need to be a more frequent occurrence going forward for a team that clearly lacks a mental toughness … and a physical toughness … and a tough phsyicality … and all the toughnesses and physicalities in between.

The Wizards have four more games before the much-needed All-Star break and will have ample time to bounce back from this mid-season swoon with 32 games remaining on the schedule. They’ll need to re-establish their defensive identity and, for the first time, establish some offensive consistency before they end up in the final stage of grief: acceptance that this was no more than the season that could have been.

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
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Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. Bylines on bylines on bylines.

Will write for food.