DC Council 67: Wizards vs Trail Blazers — A Reasonable Ideal of Wizards | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

DC Council 67: Wizards vs Trail Blazers — A Reasonable Ideal of Wizards

Updated: March 17, 2015

Truth About It.net’s D.C. Council:
Grading Wizards players from Game No. 67: Washington Wizards
versus the Portland Trail Blazers in Washington.
Contributor: Kyle Weidie from D.C.


The term “wizard” can bring about an array of images dancing in one’s head. You can keep your Harry Potter, I’ll take the version of Merlin from the animated Disney movie “The Sword in the Stone” (released in 1963 but totally relevant and entertaining to an ’80s baby like me).

The Disney version of Merlin was more a theologian, an educator—as opposed to merely a sorcerer. He was also an entertaining old coot, susceptible to emotions and whimsy. (Merlin blasted himself to Bermuda in a fit when Arthur, the boy protagonist, revealed that he was going to go back to being a squire for his brother instead of continuing with his education as a wizard-in-training.)

The term “Washington Wizard” can also bring about an array of subjective images and ideals—many unideal when it comes to basketball. Just last night the game show “Jeopardy,” inaccurately, featured Gilbert Arenas as part of the “answer” in one category. The fact is that Arenas never “drew” a gun on a teammate. (But that teammate, Javaris Crittenton, did load real bullets in a real gun as part of a sequence that, thankfully, never transpired in violence; Arenas merely laid his “collector’s” guns on a chair with a note that said “Pick one.”)

We’re not here to digress but rather focus on the NBA’s Wizards of this season. If you asked someone back in October ’14 what they imagined this Wizards team could be (and do), it would be the team that beat the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night. Strong starting unit, weak bench unit, and ready to climb as high as John Wall (and Bradley Beal) want to take the offense … or as sink as low as the duo is capable of taking them by settling for bad, inefficient, contested, pull-up jump shots with as much hubris as young, 20-year-old millionaires can muster.

Despite the system, and despite roster needs, the Wizards can compete with anyone in the NBA, and can sometimes on rare occasions blow them out. The Wizards can also, at levels with more dire implications, compete against themselves. And thus the Wizards, with a strong starting five, built a 25-point lead at home against Portland—only to later allow the Blazers to get within three points. It was still, possibly, Washington’s best win all season, coming at the exact time late in the schedule when they needed to re-prove that they can beat a quality opponent instead of a convenient patsy.

The NBA is also quite crazy in terms of what can happen from game-to-game, making it hard to infer much from any one capture. The Wizards could very well lose, or win, three out of four on their upcoming four-game, West Coast swing. The film of Monday night’s game and why Portland was able to come back won’t lie, but who cares? It’s about how truthful the Wizards are to their ideal image going forward.


Portland Trail Blazers


Box Score

Washington Wizards


Nene Hilario, PF

31 MIN | 5-13 FG | 2-4 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 12 PTS | +3 +/-

Nene threw around his body like he had two games off and like the pride-hurt Wizards desperately needed a win versus a high-quality team. He hit an early baseline jumper via Bradley Beal’s creation and soon after ripped a rebound from Robin Lopez and scored at the basket. Nene frustrating Lopez seemed to be a general theme, and if we didn’t know better, the Brazilian took a certain pleasure in watching Robin’s unkempt hair bob with anger.

Nene threw his body less, only slightly, as the game wore on. The Verizon Center held its collective breath late in the third when Nene took off in transition, somehow caught a long pass from Paul Pierce like a behemoth NFL tight end who once dabbled in college basketball, and somehow had legs young (and rested) enough to finish on the other side of the rim with a slam—you don’t get that in soccer, folks.

And, as usual, Nene’s greatest impact might have been on defense, where he nicely executed the scheme to front LaMarcus Aldridge while not making it easy to pass over the top.

Paul Pierce, SF

32 MIN | 4-9 FG | 6-8 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 16 PTS | +5 +/-

Pierce got off to a subtle start—six points, 1-for-4 field goals, some fancy footwork, not generally doing a ton in guarding Nic Batum, and taking a supporting role to Nene in frustrating Robin Lopez in the first half. It seems like lately Pierce takes a backseat to others to start the game, part to conserve energy, part to ensure his teammates get going … like a second point guard to Wall.

Pierce caught heat in the second half (10 points), cutting across the lane to receive a great pass from Wall for points, and with two minutes left, serving the corner 3 icing to John Wall’s cake to put Washington up 99-90.

Marcin Gortat, C

38 MIN | 8-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 16 PTS | +3 +/-

Gortat wasn’t spectacular. Solid was all that was needed. He did a great job executing the plan to leave Robin Lopez early to help Nene double Aldridge—not too many big men Gortat’s size can do such without lumbering. When he had to match-up straight versus LMA, however, Gortat didn’t have as much success, getting beat on a back cut once and giving up precious position another time or two. He and Wall seemed to click more than usual in the pick-and-roll game, even if it sometimes didn’t directly lead to points for Gortat. All of such seems to be more under Wall’s control, which makes you wonder why the star point guard didn’t go to the Polish well more when the Wizards decided to start settling for jumpers late in the third quarter and into the fourth.

John Wall, PG

41 MIN | 10-23 FG | 1-2 FT | 9 REB | 11 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 21 PTS | +2 +/-

Wall patiently navigated the paint from the start, a telltale sign of maturity. You know he always wants to battle cats like Damian Lillard with points but he’s grown to tackle other tasks first. Snaking an ‘S’ around screens, with Portland’s defense not playing tight, Wall found Gortat for an early jumper. It didn’t always work out, but Wall generally made the defense give him what he wanted. But also, he mostly turned on the jets. Lillard may also be unfairly quick but his body’s no match for Wall’s in the open court. Wall’s most consistent actions all night were frustrating Lillard into 5-of-18 shooting (3-12 with Wall in defending range)—striping him, blocking him, even perhaps goal-tending him.

But as goes Wall, so go the Wizards. After two nice drives to the basket midway through the third quarter he started settling for jumpers—misses from 13-feet, 19, 18, and 13 again. He then started the fourth with two missed layups, then a missed 19-footer. Wall finally broke the ice of seven straight missed shots with, you guessed it, a 20-foot jumper that put Washington up six with 5:30 left in the game. He then missed two more 17-footers and later sealed the game with crazed chasing of arebound and a rocket-boosted trip to the other end for a dunk that put Washington eight points with 13 seconds left. Wall didn’t necessarily facilitate when struggling from the field in the latter half of the third quarter, but he did drop five dimes in the fourth quarter.

Man, imagine when he gets good, like really good.

Bradley Beal, SG

39 MIN | 8-13 FG | 3-6 FT | 4 REB | 7 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 23 PTS | +19 +/-

Beal curled around a screen and almost got to the rim on the game’s first play. He missed a close runner and almost got his own rebound. Even though his initial foray wasn’t successful, the Portland defense indicated that it was wary of Beal’s ability to shoot from distance and his penchant for the midrange, thus making the paint available if Beal wanted to get aggressive. And so he was, navigating the lane and finding teammates more than usual.

Beal briefly was on the losing end of a battle with Arron Afflalo in the third quarter, and not every shot the #BigPanda wanted to eat was a good one, but the overall signs pointed in one direction: the Wizards’ ceiling is much higher when Beal is on his game.

Additional good news from the zoo: Beal’s legs looked more under him on his 3-point shot (4-4), and he admitted as much afterward.

Drew Gooden, PF

21 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | +3 +/-

Drew Gooden was Captain of the Long 2 Brigade, hitting from 21, 20, and 21-feet before finally hitting a corner 3-pointer, the latter two coming on back-to-back assists from Ramon Sessions over a 22-second span early in the second quarter. Gooden missed from 2, 7, and much later on, 20-feet. He threw around his weight and didn’t do anything too stupid (he was once late in doubling LaMarcus Aldridge, but also baited Kaman into a traveling call).

Also, I think Drew Gooden and Bradley Beal were meant for each other.

Rasual Butler, SF

16 MIN | 2-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | -5 +/-

Butler had a vicious ‘remember me?’ jam on Dorell Wright that Leonard Meyers also wanted no part of. Later he hit a winding, driving attack of the basket versus LaMarcus Aldridge. The confidence to slash to the rim could go a long way to a full (or close to full) jump shot recovery for Butler leading up to the playoffs.

Why didn’t Otto Porter play? Because right now, even considering Butler’s shooting slump, Rasual is simply better than Porter, and you play the better players when it really counts. A statement win versus the Blazers qualifies.

Kevin Seraphin, C

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

We weren’t too far along in the second quarter before Chris Kaman easily scored on #KSLife. Thanks for playing, Chief.

Ramon Sessions, PG

16 MIN | 0-0 FG | 3-4 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | +4 +/-

Sessions didn’t attempt a shot but had one of his better games as a Wizard. He had some nice attacks of the rim and earned four free throw attempts (making three). Much like Andre Miller used to do, Sessions concentrated on assists and rebounds. Unlike Andre Miller, Sessions proved capable of playing some solid defense against Damian Lillard late as part of a lineup that featured Wall, Beal, Nene, and Gortat (3 minutes, +3).




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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 currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.