DC Council 61: Wizards at Bulls — Serenity Now | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

DC Council 61: Wizards at Bulls — Serenity Now

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Updated: March 4, 2015

Truth About It.net’s D.C. Council:
Grading Wizards players from Game No. 61: Wizards versus Bulls in Chicago.
Contributor: Chris Thompson from Old Dominion.

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It’s hard to get very worked up about Washington’s narrow Tuesday night loss to the Bulls in Chicago. Even without the services of Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler, a credible argument can be made that the Bulls had two of the three best players in the game in Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol. Hell, I would even entertain the argument that, in Nikola Mirotic, they had another of the top four players in the game.

My point, here, is that the Bulls are very good, and, because they’ve got difference-making talent integrated into a system that utilizes their strengths, they’re just in a different place than the Wizards.

I’ve done the thing where I’ve raged against the dying of the light, and I’ve done the thing where I’ve called for the heads of those responsible. Now I am at peace with the Wizards. I am the Zen Master of bad Wizards basketball. Come, let us heal together by the warm, benevolent glow of my beatific, transcendent wisdom.

Let us speak gently and mercifully of our basketball men. How they toil away for our enjoyment! Let us smile condescendingly in admiration and forgive them for their shortcomings. Join me, won’t you?


Chicago Bulls

97

Final

Box Score

Washington Wizards

92

Nene, PF

20 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -11 

Nene rebounded from a crummy, foul-plagued outing against the Sixers with a strong performance in the win over Detroit. The Wizards sure could have used the latter version of Nene Tuesday night, when, instead, they got the former. It’s maybe time to maybe wonder a little whether maybe maybe maybe Nene is getting a little tired and worn down as the season drags on: through January 17, Nene was averaging just over two fouls per game and hadn’t fouled out even once; since then, he’s fouled out twice and averaged about 3.5 fouls per game, while his minutes per game have mostly stayed flat. It’s a small sample size, but worth watching.

In any case, the whole world was expecting Nene to show up huge for this game—to whatever extent there actually is a fierce rivalry between the Wizards and Bulls, Nene is basically its burning core. That he couldn’t score, committed several cheap fouls, and in basically all other ways failed to make a positive impact on the game was disappointing.


Paul Pierce, SF

32 MIN | 6-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | +2 

This is fairly close to the upper limit of what anyone has any right to reasonably expect from old man Paul Pierce these days, which makes it a successful outing. His knockdown 3-point shooting was absolutely key to keeping the score close. Pierce was mostly a non-factor in the first half, but he drilled 4-of-5 attempts in the second half, all 3-pointers, and registered a game-high plus-14 after halftime. If Paul Pierce doesn’t find his stroke in the second half, this game is not close.



Marcin Gortat, C

33 MIN | 6-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 12 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | -7 

Gortat did nearly all of his scoring in the first half, and took one horribly ill-advised fading turnaround jumper from the post in the third quarter, after the Wizards had grabbed consecutive offensive rebounds, and with a chance to cut the lead to single digits.

There’s a way of thinking of this as “the bad” that a team should happily take with all the good Gortat does on the court. But that’s a compromise the Wizards wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) have to make if they’d just stop feeding Gortat backdown post touches and convert those chances to pick-and-rolls. Since that ship has evidently sailed, isn’t tacking back anytime soon, and I’m mostly just shouting into the void about this, I suppose we’ll have to hold Gortat accountable for his shot selection the same way we would with, oh, Bradley Beal.

Beyond that, Gortat got some burn in the fourth quarter (always a nice sign) and rebounded well, but finished with the the worst defensive rating of anyone not named Garrett Temple or Drew Gooden. It was an uneven performance.


John Wall, PG

39 MIN | 8-20 FG | 4-7 FT | 4 REB | 11 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 6 TO | 21 PTS | 0

The raw numbers aren’t too shabby, but John Wall’s problem has never been accumulating good numbers. The turnovers hurt, as they always do, and it seems like we’re starting to see a version of Wall that more resembles the recklessly willful feast-or-famine player of early, talent-starved Wizards teams. It’s not a full-blown regression, but he’s averaging more than five turnovers per game in his last five games and shooting a miserable 37.5 percent from the floor. It’s hard to know how much of this to blame on Wall and how much is the inevitable product of a broken offense, but, anyway, he shot less than 50 percent from the restricted area, hit 2-of-7 from the midrange, and missed three free throws, points which certainly would have helped as the game tightened up in the fourth quarter.

There’s also the fact that he seemed to play pesky little Aaron Brooks to a draw, and repeatedly left his defensive help in a lurch by letting Brooks get by him and into the lane. Brooks is a quick waterbug of a ball-handler, and that kind of assignment has always been tricky for Wall, but anyone would expect him to decisively win that matchup. It didn’t happen Tuesday night.


Bradley Beal, SG

35 MIN | 6-18 FG | 1-1 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 13 PTS | -2 

Yikes. Beal just doesn’t look right. His jumper was way, way off, alarmingly off, at times hitting parts of the rim that don’t see a lot of action outside of pickup games between fourth graders. His shot chart is … well, it’s not good:

Shotchart_1425489057161

The couple of steals are nice, sure, but Beal has got to be a scorer in order for the Wizards to scrape together a respectable offense, and Tuesday night he just didn’t look anything like a scorer. The trajectory on his shot was just all over the place, and more than once he was unable to drive past Nikola Mirotic. With the way defenders typically close out on Beal, he should have no problem whatsoever blowing by a lumbering guy like Mirotic, sending the defense into scramble mode. That tentativeness off the dribble, combined with a desperately cold jumper, turned Beal into a volume-shooting version of Garrett Temple, and that’s … that’s a disaster.


Drew Gooden, PF

12 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +1

Drew Gooden was pressed back into service as the primary sub for Nene while Kris Humphries continues to rest his injured groin. On a normal night, behind normal Nene, that’s no big deal—Gooden can slide in for a few minutes here and there, pump up a few perimeter jumpers, tap in or out a few rebounds, and generally be something other than a calamity. And it’s not like he was a calamity Tuesday night, either, though he was mostly a non-factor when the Wizards sure could have used a factor. Coach Wittman made the right decision down the stretch and elected to go small, even against Chicago’s physical frontcourt. On a night when Nene only gave the team 20 minutes of run, Gooden could only be trusted with 12 minutes of fill-in duty. That’s as it should be, but also not much help.


Otto Porter Jr., SF

30 MIN | 3-5 FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | -1 

Sigh. Poor fuckin’ Otto. This was mostly a really, really positive night for Yung Limbs—he knocked down two important first-half 3s, he generated free throws by playing through contact, he put the ball on the floor and showed another of his tricky Inspector Gadget in-between shots, and he even threw in a pair of impressive blocks. Coach Wittman rewarded him, in a rare show of non-rigid roster management, with extended crunch-time burn in the second half, and Otto returned the favor with refreshingly assertive play at both ends. This was good! This was development! This was a crucial step forward in the meaningful integration of youth into the Wizards’ basketball product!

And then, when all the Wizards needed was a single defensive stop to get the ball back with enough time to give themselves a chance to tie the game, it happened. Otto got caught ball-watching on the weak-side, spent several seconds alone and stock-still for the world to see, and required the panicked calls of his teammates and coach to summon his attention, by which time his man, Tony Snell, had sprung completely free on the opposite wing. Otto’s lapse forced Gortat to close-out and contest Snell’s 3-point shot, surrendering key rebounding position. When the shot missed, it inevitably fell into the waiting arms of Pau Gasol, and that was that.

It would be wildly incorrect to say that this play cost the Wizards the game. On the other hand, the result of that play, from start to finish, ended any last-second chance the Wizards might have otherwise had at completing their comeback. The worst part of all, though, is Otto’s reputation will be saddled with this event, which has now circled the internet (as such things must). Yung Limbs is generally an active, attentive defender. He fell asleep on the weak-side. It happens. If it had happened at nearly any other point in the game, it is probable that no one would have noticed. If the Wizards had corralled the rebound, it is likely no one would have cared. Instead, it happened with the game on the line, the Wizards did not get the rebound, and that’s that.

Get ’em next time, young fella.


Rasual Butler, SF

3 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | -2

Butler’s few minutes of burn came midway through the fourth quarter, when patient ball movement and a nice drive-and-kick pass from Ramon Sessions delivered him an open look from the top of the key, which he buried.

In general, I am hugely in favor of the streamlining of lineups that Randy Wittman seems to have embraced in the last few days. Beyond that, and despite all his early-season success, I’m not sure Rasual Butler should have much more of a regular role on a playoff team than spot minutes as a catch-and-shoot option. That said, it was encouraging that he confidently stepped into and knocked down a key 3-pointer during an important stretch of play.


Kevin Seraphin, C

15 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | +3

This was such a typical Kevin Seraphin game, it’s hard to muster up much to say about it. His few buckets were helpful to an offense that was otherwise mostly clueless. He also missed more than half his shots. He also took eight shots in 15 minutes. His couple of blocks were useful. He also committed four fouls in 15 minutes and recorded his nine-kajillionth unforced turnover, on a travel. There is nothing to make of this. His minutes were neither a net good nor a net bad. He just was.


Ramon Sessions, PG

15 MIN | 1-6 FG | 6-7 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | -5

Sessions, bless his heart, penetrated the defense, initiated contact, got to the free throw line, and made most of his free throws. It has to be said, though, that for all his skill and determination at breaking down the defense, he is a hilariously bad finisher. I mean, this is nothing new. But witnessing it in real-time, when each drive into the lane offers so much promise, when you can just start to believe, in a flash of knee-jerk optimism, that surely he can find a way to roll this one in, and then it clangs off the rim or cruelly spins away—that is never not a moment of bitter disappointment. Or, maybe it will eventually become charming. Either way, it is reliable. The man cannot finish at the rim. I’d feel better about it if he’d knocked down any of his looks outside of the lane, but the numbers speak for themselves.


Garrett Temple, SG

6 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -3

It was a big ol’ nothingburger of a performance from Garrett Temple. A nice assist to Gortat in the lane, a couple of fouls, not much else. This is probably the appropriate use of Temple these days, but it’s hard to grade him out much, one way or another. No one was maimed or killed during his minutes.


Randy Wittman

I’ll say this for Randy Wittman: he has very clearly not solved the team’s miserable offensive shortcomings and bad habits, but there was a detectable semblance of order and decisiveness to his allocation of minutes against the Bulls. He was hampered by Nene’s foul trouble, of course, but the decision to go small and stick with it down the stretch was welcome, if for no other reason than that it represents some willingness to break free of the same old tried-and-not-especially-true. And it nearly worked! The defense mostly held together, and the Wizards staged something of a comeback. If Beal knocks down a couple of his jumpers, if Johnny hits a couple more of his free throws, if Sessions finds the bottom of the net on any of his adorable forays into the paint, maybe the Wizards escape with an encouraging win. I’m willing and happy to give Wittman credit for the tactical flexibility he showed Tuesday night. It didn’t deliver a victory, but, look: the Wizards are not the team we’d hoped they were earlier in the season, sitting at 19-6 and looking like the toast of the Eastern Conference. Once you’ve reconciled your expectations with that reality, it becomes a lot easier to see the simple silver linings. The Wizards went small when they should have, things mostly held together, I’ll take it.


Chris Thompson