Key Legislature: Wizards 96 vs Magic 80 — Dashing, Dishing and Dunking in D.C. | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 96 vs Magic 80 — Dashing, Dishing and Dunking in D.C.

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Updated: February 10, 2015

Truth About It.net’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s) for Washington Wizards contest No. 53 versus the Magic in D.C., via Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur) from the Verizon Center.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Troy Haliburton.

This game was mostly decided before it even started, given the Magic had dropped 11 of their previous 12 before arriving in D.C. And after the first 2:11 of action, which included two rim-rocking #NeneJams, it looked as if the Wizards would coast in a dress rehearsal for the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, but alas this Wizards team is content with making life difficult for themselves.

Down 6-0, Magic interim head coach James Borrega called a full timeout, and at that point the Wizards must have assumed the game was already over. It was not. The Magic clearly started the game flat—perhaps because they were coming off a grueling back-to-back game the previous evening against the Chicago Bulls.

Borrega, on if Sunday had an effect on Monday:

“Back-to-backs are always challenging. It’s part of the league. It’s not an excuse for us. We should have been more prepared, especially that first group to start the game. We just weren’t mentally or physically ready to start the game. We got to be better in that area.”

Washington proceeded to play the rest of the first half on cruise control, amassing 12 turnovers and shooting 0-for-7 from 3-point range, allowing the Magic to climb to within a two-point margin, 37-35, with 2:27 left in the half. Luckily for the Wiz, the Magic were shooting even worse—0-for-11 from 3-point range—and finished the rest of the half scoreless, allowing Washington to go into intermission with a 43-35 lead.

This game was won in the first 2:23 of the third quarter when the Wizards, after committing their 13th turnover of the game on a shot-clock violation, proceeded to hit three straight 3-pointers, swelling the lead up to 15. This was the point were the Wizards regained their focus and put their collective blue foot on the gas pedal, never looking back on a team that, quite frankly, should have never been keeping pace to begin with.

This Magic team is fractured after the firing of head coach Jacque Vaughn last week, but they continue to give a valiant effort on a nightly basis. Any team that has Victor Oladipo and Nikola Vucevic on its roster is going to compete, but the ancillary pieces are just not there for this Orlando team. Oladipo, an Upper Marlboro, Maryland, native was a key focus for this Wizards coming into this game, so much so that coach Randy Wittman switched Garrett Temple into the starting lineup for Otto Porter specifically so that he could matchup with Oladipo.

Nikola Vucevic was quietly kept in check by Marcin Gortat in what was probably the most important matchup of the game. Coach Wittman on the Washington bigs playing inside out:

“I thought Marcin [Gortat] and Nene got us off to a great start tonight at both ends of the floor. Nene more from an offensive standpoint and March from the defensive, I thought that in that first quarter he [Gortat] really made it difficult for [Nikola] Vucevic to get any clean looks. That kid is a walking double-double every night. I think there were a lot of coaches that voted for him on the All-Star team. I thought March took the challenge early to not let him get any kind of rhythm and holding him to 14 tonight was a start for us from the inside. Winning the battle of the boards 53-33 is always important of us.”

Gortat, who had been struggling mightily over the course of the five-game losing streak, has put together good outings in consecutive matches, leading the Wizards with a stronger defensive presence that allows the wing players to play more comfortable on the outside. (The Wizards still surrendered more dribble penetration to the rim than you’d like to see.) Vucevic was held to just eight rebounds, more than three less than his average of 11.2. Gortat finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds, and a game high plus-minus of plus-27 to Vucevic’s minus-14.

But the unsung hero for the Wizards’ victory has to be Drew Gooden. “Drizzle” finished the game with 10 points in 23 minutes of game action, the most he’s played since the season opener in Miami (when he started for a suspended Nene). Gooden found himself in the position of having to help his team out after Kris Humphries left the game in the first quarter following a hard fall on a loose-ball foul from Orlando Center Dwayne Dedmon.

Gooden on Humphries leaving the game:

“You hate for one of your teammates to go down. [Coach] Witt had faith in me to step in there and pick off of what Hump’s been doing all year, just bringing energy and doing the little things out there for us. Unfortunately we lost him but I was able to step in.”

With the quick turnaround having to face the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night, it would be a stretch to assume that Humphries will be available for that game. This should provide a valuable opportunity for Gooden, and maybe even DeJuan Blair, to help anchor a Wizards bench that is coming into its own over the last two games, scoring 108 points. When asked about the key to the production form the bench, coach Randy Wittman had a simple answer: “Good coaching.”

With the 96-88 win over the Magic, the Wizards climbed a half game in the Eastern Conference standings over the Chicago Bulls, putting them in third place. Washington did what they were supposed to do, blowing out two bad teams at the Phone Booth who were teed up on the schedule like homecoming opponents. With the nagging injuries piling up (Beal, Humphries, Pierce and, as always, Nene), this Wizards team could use a nice long break to get ready for the home-stretch. Ideally, Monday’s victory will be the confidence builder this team needs heading into a critical matchup in Toronto. The lights will shine bright in Toronto, and hopefully the Wiz are ready for showtime.

#NeneJams to get you through the day.

 

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
Writer
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.