Key Legislature: Wizards vs Grizzlies — Washington Fair Catches Memphis' Punt | Wizards Blog Truth About

Key Legislature: Wizards vs Grizzlies — Washington Fair Catches Memphis’ Punt

Updated: March 13, 2015

Truth About’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s)
for Washington Wizards contest No. 65 versus the Memphis Grizzlies in Washington.
via Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) from Virginia.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Kyle Weidie.

It was a throwaway game. Players still played, fans still cheered, free chicken sandwiches were won. It was even broadcast over national television.

The Memphis Grizzlies rested their four best players in Washington last Thursday night, with all due respect to Jeff Green, usual Wizards killer. Coach David Joerger believably insisted that it was long ago predetermined to sit Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol. Losing in Boston the night before and truly banged up (at least Conley and Gasol were), the Popovichian move in front of TNT’s audience was certainly understandable. Randy Wittman afterward admitted that he would more consider resting players at some point—”You want to be fresh, but you also want to get into a little bit of a rhythm as well coming down the stretch.”

Still, the Wizards players were none too pleased, disrespected even, that Memphis cared not for how important the game was to them.

“I don’t care. We’ve got to play the game. We played against another five NBA players,” said Marcin Gortat. Gortat dominated Memphis’ starting center, one Kosta Koufos. The Greek led Memphis with 10 points at half, and then he didn’t score again, but only finished four points from leading the Grizzlies in scoring for the game. It was that kind of night for Joerger’s team—three players in double figures; 13, 13, and 10; JaMychal Green, rookie Jarnell Stokes, and Koufos.

The Pole paced the Wizards with 22 points, nine rebounds, and the most minutes (almost 40) he’s played since Nov. 29, 2015. The rebounds did come with fury, mostly early; later Gortat just pushed Koufos around, performing some sort of resistance training as if Gasol or Randolph were there instead.

Pierce scored 17 points, 11 coming in the second quarter on 3-of-4 3-pointers. All three makes came in primary or secondary transition action—an assist each from John Wall, Ramon Sessions, and Gortat—and the miss came after a tip-out rebound by Otto Porter. Pierce’s first 3 tied the game at 41 and the rest were part of a 25-6 run Washington went on to end the half up 60-47.

The Wizards came out flat and out-of-sync, from Wall turning the ball over thinking Drew Gooden would be in Nene range instead of Gooden range, to Gortat and Pierce struggling to align on defense against Jeff Green early, to Wittman flapping his arms like he wanted to hop on Southwest Airlines and get away after Beal, in early foul trouble, committed an unfortunate error sending Courtney Lee to the line.

“It was kind of embarrassing to us,” said Paul Pierce about the nine-point lead the depleted Grizzlies had built 10 minutes into the game. “So we really picked it up, saddled into our defensive ways and never looked back.”

Paul Pierce answered the call with 17 points, 11 coming in the second quarter on 3-of-4 3-pointers. All three makes came in primary or secondary transition action—an assist each from John Wall, Ramon Sessions, and Gortat—and the miss came after a tip-out rebound by Otto Porter. Pierce’s first 3 tied the game at 41 and the rest were part of a 25-6 run Washington went on to end the half up 60-47.

“We had 12 deflections in the second quarter alone,” exclaimed Randy Wittman, also studying the traditional box score, printed on two pages instead of one, not double-sided, proudly citing his team’s advantage in fastbreak points. He was later asked about a small lineup that helped ignite his Wizards; Wittman had one specific response: “Again, score points off your defense.”

That small-ball lineup was Washington’s second most used on the night: seven minutes of Wall, Sessions, Porter, Pierce, and Gortat essentially won the game to the tune of plus-14.

Top NBA offenses will score against you, anyway, and Washington is often inconsistent in its ability to match. Memphis, without its full deck, only made 15-of-37 contested shots versus the Wizards (40.5%)—Courtney Lee went 2-for-7 and Nick Calathes went 0-for-5. Washington made 27-of-45 contested shots (60%) and had the talent to do it—Gortat went 9-for-13 and Wall went 5-for-7 with defenders contesting within 3.5 feet (1).

“They sit them and I don’t know the reason why. I think we’re a team that’s on the rise and teams respect us now. I guess they don’t respect us,” claimed John Wall, “and we went out there and played basketball the right way and tried to get a win no matter what.”

Bold words from the leader of a team which has been disrespected countless times since the All-Star break (and before), including back-to-back losses giving two previous 12-win teams their lucky 13th (Minnesota and Philadelphia).

Wall, in a word, was brilliant in a game versus Memphis that was, in a word, clumsy. He broke the ice and soothed an exasperated Wittman by scoring 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting in the first quarter—baseline jumpers, midrange jumpers, and long range jumpers. He took it upon himself to do what was needed right up until the first quarter buzzer when he used his dribble to toy with Nick Calathes while Gortat was unsure of whether to reset a screen and then: splash, buzzer, the bleeding was limited to a seven-point deficit heading into the second quarter, when Pierce took over.

It was still thanks to Wall’s speed, his pace, that the Wizards were able to take the lead. When Memphis got sloppy (five turnovers in the last five minutes of the half), the Wizards ran, scoring after four of them, three times from close range (twice by Wall, once assisted by Wall), and once from deep (Gortat to Pierce).

“He looks fresh, his legs had a bounce to them.” Wittman on Wall. The star point guard has recently admitted re-focusing his game, his body, and his speed since he came out of the All-Star break like an over-fatigued (much self-inflicted) star-in-training.

Washington only outscored Memphis by seven points in the second half (19-0 Wizards in fastbreak points over the first half; 11-4 Grizzlies over the second half), but hammered away with long 2-pointers (4-7 in the second half), and sometimes hammered away quite literally—a hard and unnecessary Kevin Seraphin flagrant foul versus Jon Leuer got him ejected. On the lighter side, Drew Gooden once pump-faked Beno Udrih into dust and scored on a nine-foot running jumper.

Otto Porter, DeJuan Blair, Ramon Sessions, and Martell Webster went a combined 0-for-9 from the field over 36 total second half minutes. On a positive side, even though he still isn’t shooting well (4-11 on FGs versus Memphis, 0-3 from deep, 1-2 on FTs), Bradley Beal is showing signs of bouncing back to form (looking particularly springy going for rebounds). Newcomer Toure’ Murry also scored his first points as a Wizard on a nice slash to the basket.

Memphis punted the game for their greater good. (Related: Warriors coach Steve Kerr recently cited “science” in resting Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson against the Nuggets.) As an observer of this individual game, however, I certainly felt disrespected. Prolonged national television commercials stretched the anticlimactic contest into boring one. The Wizards came out acting like they didn’t care (also frustrating). Later, everyone bought into the slop fest once the game was determined by Washington’s stars, who happened to be good enough to do something about the perception of disrespect.

It’s a good thing that a few Wizards felt disrespected, too, and helped their team wake up from an ever-lurking slumber. Gortat led the way with 22 points on 16 shots, Wall with 21 on 11 shots, and Pierce with 17 on seven shots. And then Gooden led the Wizards in free throw attempts (6) and makes (5).

No one will blame Wittman’s team for eating what’s available to kill. Washington has now won five-of-seven games, taking advantage of a lackluster Pistons team, the depleted Heat, Hornets, and Grizzlies, and on Saturday night a spent Kings team (after the Wizards were DOA in the first half).

“Glad We Got The Win, Are You?” wondered team owner Ted Leonsis on his blog about the Grizzlies game, adding:

“We played short handed last night with Nene, Kris Humphries and Garrett Temple all not available. Memphis was short handed as well.”

After a big comeback victory became a blowout on over Sacramento on Saturday, Leonsis blogged:

“Go figure. We trailed at half time by 18 and won by 16. According to league stats, that hadn’t happened since 1948. A sold out crowd saw something quite rare and unique.

“The tale of the tape would show that we played much more aggressive defense in the second half, and that we won the game by shooting 50 percent from the 3 point arc going 13 for 26.

“And our best player really stepped up, John Wall took the team on his back and turned the game around.”

He also added: “I wont bother to link to tweets from some of the bloggers that cover our team.”

Big Brother is observing; no narrative is safe. Everyone will be watching the Wizards over the next five games, including themselves (players and coaches on the front lines), self-reflectively. The third best team in the Western Conference, the Portland Trail Blazers, comes to town on Monday before Washington embarks on a four-game, six-night West Coast trip versus the surging Jazz, strong Clippers, revenge-seeking Kings, and intimidating Warriors.

Opportunity won’t be short for Washington heading down the stretch. It sure is tempting to judge the Wizards at every turn—we either must decide if every game is important or not. If they are able to show true growth when it counts, then no one will care about the time Washington picked on opponents they’ve proven capable of picking on, when convenient.

Washington’s offense is sometimes left adrift (just as long as the defense flies over in its cargo plane, dropping timely rations)—i.e., the offense will take care of itself. Pixels about an inconsistent and offensively inefficient team trying to find the chutzpah to overcome what’s against them are the same. If the Wizards win, the words will take care of themselves.

  1. Per player tracking stats.
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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.