Key Legislature: Wizards 87 at Hornets 94 — The Ship Be Sinking | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 87 at Hornets 94 — The Ship Be Sinking

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Updated: February 7, 2015

Truth About It.net’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s) for
Washington Wizards contest No. 51 versus the Charlotte Hornets in North Carolina,
via Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20) from the District.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Rashad Mobley.

With 7:06 left in the third quarter, after Garrett Temple slammed home an alley-oop from John Wall, the Wizards led the Hornets 62-51. Thanks to stifling team and individual defense by Washington, Charlotte was only able to muster a Gerald Henderson 17-footer in the first five minutes of the second half, while the Wizards reeled off eight straight points.

Both the victory and the accompanying narrative seemed like shoo-ins. A win and an end to the four-game losing streak seemed imminent, and both the bench and the starters were getting in on the act.

Bradley Beal, who had dared to call he and his fellow teammates “soft,” took himself out of the game with a sore toe, but the Wizards were feisty and competitive in his absence. Even Rasual Butler and Dejaun Blair, who had been relative non-factors in 2015, made meaningful contributions to the 11-point lead. Butler regained his shooting touch and shot 3-for-6 (1-2 from the 3-point line) for seven points in the first half, while Dejuan Blair scored four points, grabbed four rebounds, and set several bone-chilling picks (and we know this because Steve Buckhantz simply could not stop singing his praises).

That winning formula along with the momentum came to a screeching halt at the end of the third quarter, however, when the Hornets finally were able to piece together a run. First, Henderson hit a 16-footer, then Marvin Williams hit a 3-pointer, and finally Brian Roberts pulled a mini-Reggie Miller by scoring five points in 40 seconds. The 11-point lead the Wizards held at one point was now down to just five points, 74-69.

Butler opened the fourth quarter with a jumper to stretch the Wizards’ leads to 76-69, and then they went as cold as the Hornets had gone to begin the third quarter. The lineup of Butler, Temple, Kris Humphries, Blair, and Otto Porter went exactly three minutes without scoring. The shots weren’t falling, there was no point guard on the floor who could get easy, close-range baskets, and no one—not even the hot(ter) shooting Butler—could stretch the awakened Hornets defense. Randy Wittman watched this sham of an offensive performance until the 8:43 mark, when he inserted Wall and Nene for Humphries and Temple. The game was tied at 76 at that point, and, unfortunately for the Wizards, the momentum pendulum had already swung substantially in favor of Charlotte.

Wall’s return did initially give the Wizards a slight boost on offense, as both Nene (a jumper) and Porter (a 3-pointer) were beneficiaries of the improved ball movement. Nene’s bank shot made it 83-80, Wizards, despite the fact that Marcin Gortat and Paul Pierce were inexplicably on the bench in favor of Blair and Porter. Blair was no longer giving the yeoman effort he had given in the first half (he had no points and two fouls in the fourth quarter), and Porter, who did hit a key shot in the period, simply cannot be trusted in the clutch the way Pierce can. The result of Wittman’s mysterious pattern was yet another Wizards’ cold spell and the awakening of Al Jefferson from his game-long hibernation.

The Wizards shot (and missed) twice during the next 1:11 span, which allowed the Hornets to take back the lead, 84-83. At the 4:17 mark, Coach Wittman decided this second offensive drought warranted the insertion of Gortat and Pierce (for Temple and Blair), but for the second time, it was simply too late. Jefferson, who had four points and three rebounds in a minute span before Gortat and Pierce returned, scored yet another layup to give the Hornets an 86-83 lead. The Wizards went scoreless for another three minutes until Pierce hit a 3-pointer with 1:23 left. The score was 90-86, but the damage was already done. Charlotte grabbed two offensive boards inside the last 66 seconds to ice the game.

Washington’s offense scored just 13 fourth-quarter points, but only four of those points were scored in the last five crucial minutes. Wall and Gortat went scoreless, Nene and Pierce combined for just five points, and the softness Beal spoke of earlier in the week reared its tender head on the defensive end of the floor. The Wizards allowed a Kemba Walker-less Hornets team to score 25 fourth-quarter points, which came via the inside play of Jefferson, the hustle of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and perimeter play of both Henderson and Roberts. The narrative went from “They are about to to break this streak” to ” Damn, they lost again?”

This was easily the worst of the five consecutive losses.

After the game, the explanations were filled with the vague platitudes of struggling team. Wittman blamed yet another defeat on his team’s “selfishness,” but did not explain his odd substitution patterns in the fourth quarter. The injured Beal mentioned that the Wizards needed to have more fun and play freely, but had no clue how to get there. Wall said, “I’m calling the plays, we’re moving the ball,” but was baffled at why the execution wasn’t there.

The most honest postgame assessment came from a frustrated Gortat, who simply said, “I don’t know what to tell you right now. We’re supposed to win a game here.”

There are no answers, no visible adjustments on the horizon, and possibly no Beal going into the next game against a plucky Brooklyn Nets team. To quote a former Nets player Michael Ray Richardson, “The ship be sinking.”

 

 

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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.