Key Legislature: Wizards 114 vs Nets 77 — Just a Splash of Water to Quench Dry Mouth | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 114 vs Nets 77 — Just a Splash of Water to Quench Dry Mouth

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Updated: February 9, 2015

Truth About It.net’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s) for
Washington Wizards contest No. 52 versus the Brooklyn Nets in Chinatown, D.C.,
via Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) from the District.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Kyle Weidie.

The Washington Wizards, for most of the 2014-15 season, have had dry mouth. The type of lip-defeating dryness that ChapStick won’t help. They’ve occasionally taken sips of water from a paper cup sized for handing out free alcohol samples. Sometimes they’ve chugged from a gallon H20 jug.

Compared to years past, dry mouth is nice. Better than crawling through the desert. You can still breathe and lick your lips when ever so slightly parched. But to know any level of thirst is to know there’s a better state to yearn for. The recent five-game losing streak was the thirstiest the Wizards have been all season—two inexplicable (inexcusable to some) losses to the Hornets; three convincing enough losses to the Suns, Raptors, and Hawks that further drove into the ground the stakes of Washington’s tent on the outside of the castle amongst the have-nots. 

Saturday night’s win against the Brooklyn Nets was another sip from the Dixie cup. The Wizards once again proved that, when focused, they do have the talent to easily beat little brother into submission. But the 37-point win—a wholehearted gesture to make up for sad sack losing—still doesn’t prove that the Wizards aren’t the middle brother and second in line to borrow the car from the eldest sibling.

The first plays of the first quarter were obvious responses to Randy Wittman’s rhetorical questioning of a nonfunctional record player. Maybe the kids just don’t quite know how to put the needle to vinyl. Maybe someone needs to get Wittman an MP3, make points 3s.

John Wall attacked and found Marcin Gortat for a dunk 15 seconds after the jump. Wall ran a simple handoff to start, circled the floor off the ball, received it back on the other side while moving, and jetted past Jarrett Jack. Gortat didn’t really set a pick and Wall didn’t really use it, so it wasn’t methodical action, it was Wall using his speed and Gortat diving into a can of paint after him. The Nets didn’t prove to be resistors, and the Polish Hammer jammed.

On the very next possession, Wall after waiting for the ball too long while Nene dribbled a rebound, showed continued realization that a pass is, in fact, faster than he is. He kicked the ball up to Otto Porter as the Nets sauntered back. Shoestring Otto used a shoulder that most did not realize he had to slash and create space from the retreating Alan Anderson. Porter hit the crafty baseline fader after the contact and earned a trip to the free throw line.

The tone continued to be set by disciplined defensive attention to passing lanes, lazy Brooklyn ball movement, and a Wizards team that does actually like to push the pace. The Pace statistic, an “estimate” of possessions per 48 minutes, isn’t necessarily a good indicator of teams that can threaten in transition. Washington averages 93.5 possessions per 48 minutes, ranked 18th and below the NBA league average of 93.7. The Wizards have played 25 games at league average or above in Pace, they are 14-11 in those game. In the 27 games below league average, the Wizards are 18-9 (8-2 in the 10 “slowest” games of the year). The Pace of the Nets game was measured at 90.9, Washington’s 14th-slowest game of the year. But much of that was affected by how the game ended, with the guys at the end of the bench mopping the floor, as Brooklyn never put up a fight.

Eight assists on 12 field goals for Washington in the first quarter became nine assists on 12 field goals in the second quarter. At halftime, the Wizards were up by 20 points on the scoreboard, by 20 points in the paint, and by 18 points on the break. All 10 Wizards who played in the first half scored and eight of them tallied assists—Wall four, Nene and Gortat totaled four, and aged cheeses Rasual Butler and Andre Miller each with three. 

The first half (and the game overall) was not without sloppy moments for the Wizards that should be pointed out in the film room, but if the coach were to hand out gold stars, it would be for a play that most exemplified something that would melt the oil in the heart of a CoachSpeak bot. Six passes led to a four-foot Kris Humphries jumper that put Washington up 51-28 with 4:27 left in the second quarter. All five Wizards touched the ball, two twice. The sequence from out of bounds passer to finisher went like so: Porter > Humphries > Wall > Butler > Porter > Seraphin > Humphries. That’s right, Kevin Seraphin got the assist. You can view the play on NBA.com here, but the player movement tracking graphics are fun to watch, too. 

The third quarter was the closest quarter; the Wizards won it by eight points. Wall took it upon himself to test the 3-point line, making 2-of-3 in the period, and even Garrett Temple and Porter got in on the action from deep. Maybe Wall should take more 3s. He’s averaging 1.2 less 3-point attempts per game from last season and is shooting 32.1 percent (3% down from 2013-14). Over the past 15 games, however, Wall is shooting 37 percent from deep (17-46). He’s been better at driving this season, but more than not, teams are inviting at the 3-point line as the Nets were on Saturday. When that happened, Wall did an excellent job of getting his feet set and staying true to his mechanics (he was 3-for-5 on 3s for the night). Washington finished 4-for-7 on 3s in the third (3-for-8 in the first half), and 9-for-20 for the game (45%). The Wizards are 15-7 when they make seven or more 3-pointers, a .682 winning percentage slightly better than their current .615, which is tied with the Chicago Bulls for the third best record in the East and a half-game up on Cleveland.

I’m not sure if anyone has considered this, written about it, thought about it, expressed befuddlement over it, fielded questions from a guy at the bar who barely pays attention to the Wizards about it, but one wonders—sometimes on the Internet, sometimes to their neighbor, sometimes to themselves, sometimes to no one in particular—why don’t the Wizards shoot more 3-pointers? Something to consider, in any case. 

For one night, the thirst was quenched. Washington doused the Nets with strong inside play and flexing from more dominant guards—former All-Star Deron Williams looked like he’d rather be picking conch fritters out of his beard in Turks and Caicos instead of shooting a disinterested 0-for-8 off the bench; the Wizards didn’t even need future Hall of Famer Paul Pierce (1-for-8). Gortat and Nene combined for 21 points and 13 rebounds in all of the 37 total minutes that they were needed for; Butler and Humphries regained their shooting touches; Porter and Temple looked competent (and no longer just like each other); and even Martell Webster, Drew Gooden, and DeJuan Blair got exercise. Water wasn’t tuned into wine via 31 team assists on 44 made field goals, all 13 Wizards who played scoring, and a 34-point advantage in paint points, but it certainly tasted somewhat like a delicious Arnold Palmer.

Onward Wittman’s team plods. A little less thirsty, but with the same parched feeling that keeps the team collectively running their tongue the inside of mouth to relief dryness like a nurse making the hospital rounds with pain medication. The Wizards are 19-3 when collecting 26 or more assists, 13-0 when the total is 28 or more. Seems quenching. Washington is 3-0 this season versus Monday’s visiting Orlando Magic, but those wins came by margins of seven, five, and two points. The Magic are 1-1 under interim coach James Borrego, beating the Lakers to end a 10-game losing streak on Friday and losing to the Bulls by one point on Sunday. The Wizards certainly can’t get caught looking ahead to big brother Toronto, which will be their last game before the All-Star break. Every game counts. As does every roster spot. With one position open as Washington stares down the barrel of the last 30 games of the season, will they make what matters count? And more importantly, will they find water in the barrel?

 

[Thirsty for winning, Randy Wittman.]

[Thirsty for winning, Randy Wittman.]

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.