Key Legislature: Wizards 92 vs Bulls 97 — Old Habits Die Hard | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 92 vs Bulls 97 — Old Habits Die Hard

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Updated: March 5, 2015

Truth About It.net’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s)
for Washington Wizards contest No. 61 versus the Bulls in Chicago.,
via Rashad Mobley (@rashad20) from his home in D.C.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Rashad Mobley.

Apparently, the good folks over at Monumental Sports and Entertainment Network aren’t the only ones with a split personality.

In their victory over the Detroit Pistons last Saturday night, the Wizards played like it was December, when the schedule was easy, the shots were falling, and injuries were not a hindrance. They led by as many as 21 points with eight minutes left in the third quarter, then there were lapses on defense, rushed and bad shots, and the Washington’s lead was whittled down to three points midway through the fourth quarter. The Wizards ultimately prevailed and won by six points, but afterwards Coach Randy Wittman clearly had some concerns about the Jekyll and Hyde nature of his team:

“We got the win. We came out as good as we’ve come out both defensively and offensively. It starts with me and I have to figure it out. I can’t explain it to you, how you play one half and then as soon as a team makes any kind of run we stop playing. That’s what we do, we stop playing. I have to figure out how to help these guys overcome that.”

Monday night’s loss to the Chicago Bulls was not quite as simple. The Wizards started fast, faded in the middle, and then held on at the end, but still fell short: each quarter featured a portion of strong team basketball, followed by extended stretches of the Bulls repeatedly exploiting their size mismatches.

The Wizards started the game trailing 9-2 with four minutes elapsed, after missing eight of their first nine shots from the field (the lone score came via a Marcin Gortat tip), while allowing the Bulls to score with ease inside and out. After Wittman called a timeout, John Wall scored a quick four points, and Bradley Beal and Paul Pierce also hit jumpers and the Wizards were right back in the game. Later in the quarter, first Nene (who was arguably too physical), then Gortat, repeatedly allowed Pau Gasol to shoot without a hand in his face. At the end of the quarter, the Wizards trailed 24-22, but without the slow start and the defense lapses on Gasol—who had 10 of the Bulls’ 24 points—they could have easily been winning.

The Wizards reserves, who have struggled to maintain leads gained by the starters this season, started the second quarter. Thanks to Beal (the only starter on the floor), Kevin Seraphin, and Ramon Sessions, they were able to take two-point deficit and turn it into a three-point lead. Then the starters entered the game and decided to reprise the old role of the reserves. The Wizards allowed Aaron Brooks and Nikola Mirotic to score at will from anywhere on the court, and they compounded those defensive mistakes by missing four layups in the final five minutes of the second quarter which all but killed the momentum built by the bench players.

Their second consecutive quarter of inconsistent play left them trailing 51-44 at halftime.

But it was not until the third quarter that the Wizards’ inability to put a cohesive stretch of basketball together actually cost them the game. They began the third quarter trailing by seven points, and erasing that deficit became even more difficult when Nene (whose Dennis Rodman-like stat line of zero points, six fouls, six rebounds and two steals and two assists was both impressive and offensive) picked up his fourth foul, forcing Seraphin to check in much earlier than usual. But the four Wizards starters and Seraphin started to click offensively by moving the ball and hitting the same open shots that they’d missed so horribly earlier in the game. Brooks and Gasol still had their way offensively but the Wizards managed to cut the lead to 65-62 after a Wall layup with 5:09 left.

Then the bottom fell out.

Over the last five minutes of the third quarter, the Wizards stopped scoring, stopped defending, and had one of those dreaded lapses that Wittman spoke about after the Detroit game. They trailed by as many as ten points and only a quarter-ending 25-footer by Wall kept the Wizards within reach, trailing 67-74.

The Wizards predictably mounted a mini-comeback in the fourth quarter, but they fell short. As TAI’s Chris Thompson pointed out in his DC Council post, this wasn’t your traditional shorthanded Bulls team, because Gasol, Joakim Noah, Brooks, and the emerging Mirotic have enough firepower to make life difficult for any team. Still, the Wizards beat this same team with Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson back on January 17, yet they were unable to put away a scrappy but lesser version on Tuesday.

So many writers and bloggers alike blame the recent Wizards’ skid on the tough schedule they are playing now in relation to the one they ran through earlier in the season. But during this slide, the Wizards have lost to the lowly 76ers, the Pistons, the Timberwolves, and now a Bulls team that is missing three major contributors. The end-of-2014 version of the Wizards would have won those games handily, in all likelihood, but this current incarnation of the team, despite a narrow victory last Saturday, is struggling to find and maintain an identity.

The Monumental Sports and Entertainment Network has already released an apology for the Black History-themed split screen display. Who will take the fall for the seven losses in eight games slide?

 

Nene vs. Noah

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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.