Key Legislature: Wizards 99 vs Heat 97 — Washington Win Bakes Misery in Memory | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 99 vs Heat 97 — Washington Win Bakes Misery in Memory

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Updated: March 7, 2015

Truth About It.net’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s)
for Washington Wizards contest No. 62 versus the Miami Heat in D.C.,
via Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks) from the Verizon Center.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Conor Dirks.

“Hold the ball, hold the ball, hold the ball, as the clock is going down,” said Randy Wittman, describing his team’s inaction in the second half of Friday’s game against the Heat.

Augustine of Hippo once wrote that only God was “outside of time,” in a kind of eternal present. Essentially, time only exists within the “created” universe. Through motion and change within the cosmic cage that contained all near and distant galaxies, he argued, time became measurable, or at least discernible. It’s what creates the variables that allow for memory. So, for example, when a basketball team scores 40 points in the first quarter, and leads 67-39 at halftime, but then goes on to score just 32 points in the entire second half and comes within inches (on a Henry Walker 3-pointer) of losing, what should be an exultant moment of victory is imbued with the adrenaline flush of nervous relief.

In Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, the Tralfamadorians, two-foot green aliens shaped “like a plumber’s friend,” experience past, present, and future all at once, seeing all points in time simultaneously. Through the Tralfamadorian lens, a painful, embarrassing blown lead and 99-97 victory is experienced without any modicum of anxiety. It has already happened, is happening, and will happen. If you know where to look, the result is clear. The order of a sequence of events no longer matters.

Unfortunately, human lives do not bend to eternalism, and even if the B-theory of time is true and time is tenseless, the illusion we live mimics reality to such an extent that we will never know the difference.

Wittman, having spent weeks in the crosshairs of the NBA basketball-watching nation, would have been excused for being as surly as he normally is after Washington’s collapse. It looks more likely by the day that there is no fireable offense this season for Wittman, but this one would have been uncomfortable, as the Heat were without three of their four best players to start the game (Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Luol Deng) and lost newly-acquired Goran Dragic for the fourth quarter after Dragic collided mid-flight with Drew Gooden and landed hard on his tailbone.

And while he still fought back against specificity in his crusade to keep cliché alive on one occasion, Wittman was as amiable as he’s been all season:

“Listen, I’ve seen a 50 point turnaround in this league. Seen it first hand. Up 20 to get beat by 30 in a game. Told them they were only 15 away from the most I ever saw.”

That really puts it in perspective, doesn’t it? Well, not really. It’s a nice story though.

The Wizards finished the first quarter up 40-18. As Wittman would go on to say, “the ball just moved.” That ball movement led to open shooters on the wing, and 11 3-point attempts (four makes) opened the floor up wide, allowing Washington’s post players to go wild against Miami’s outmatched front line while help defenders stuck to Washington’s suddenly prolific outside shooters. Marcin Gortat, Nene, and Drew Gooden finished the first quarter 9-for-12 from the field.

In the second quarter, the Wizards managed 29 shot attempts to Miami’s 14, an almost unthinkable difference in opportunity helped along by Miami’s six turnovers and Washington’s four offensive rebounds. And while the Wizards slowed down considerably on the 3-point attempts (5 compared to 11 in the first quarter), by halftime they had reached their season average of 16 3-point attempts per game. Yes, “the ball just moved.”

Wittman described it further: “One or two dribbles, and it moved on. One, two, three cutters. Players moving, which opens up the post area.”

So what happened? According to the coach, the Wizards stopped moving the ball: “Second half, we had no cutters. We stood there, and watched the guy with the ball. And that allows the defense to shrink the floor, which eliminates a lot of options for our post men.”

On one occasion, with a minute and a half remaining, and the Wizards up just 98-95, Wittman could be seen wildly winding his hand in the universal signal for “speed it up” while Wall dribbled up the court. What transpired next was one of the major reasons why this Wizards team is so frustrating to watch in halfcourt sets. When Wall arrived at the 3-point line, the Wizards went through the perfunctory motions of a group that has no idea what they are producing. Then with 12 seconds left on the shot clock and with absolutely no progress toward a productive possession having been made, the entire team spread out in the most unsubtle foreshadowing of “isolation play” imaginable, and Wall swayed, dribbled in the unbearably casual largo of a metronome as the shot clock ticked down. A contested 20-foot jump shot would result, and it would have no chance of going in. This is what it looked like as the Wizards strapped into their pajamas.

movement

“I think we just…whether it’s relax, lose focus, I don’t know what…we just gotta play the same way,” Wittman lamented. “I think the coach always wants to keep the pedal down. I do. I don’t believe in coasting and letting up on an opponent. I’ve been on the other end of it, where that hasn’t happened. They don’t let up, and that’s the way you should play the game.”

Ah, here we are. Familiar territory. We’re “coasting” through a Wittman diagnosis. But coasting, in this case, is too charitable a term. The Wizards crashed without burning. Have you ever seen the movie Flight? I don’t think I’m spoiling anything (since the only good scene of the movie also served as the trailer) when I say that it stars Denzel Washington, an alcoholic and a drug addict that goes to work one day just hours after consuming a leviathan’s share of cocaine and booze. Only problem is that he’s an airplane pilot. The plane, coasting along, malfunctions and goes into a dive.

It is, like the Wizards were on Friday night, in the process of crashing. But Denzel, with his innate understanding of physics and familiarity with aircraft machinery, performs a miraculous maneuver, flips the plane upside down long enough to slow and level the descent, and most of the passengers are saved when the plane crash lands in a field. Imagine that all of that happened, but while the plane was being miraculously saved by the troubled genius of Denzel’s character, Henry Walker lined up near the crash site and fired a 3-pointer at the hull five seconds before impact. Luckily, he missed, because contact would have disrupted the fragile physics of the situation and the plane would have burned, man. It would have burned.

If the book isn’t out on the Wizards, it’s at least available for pre-order. Go small, and the Wizards will be indecisive enough (1) to let you make a run. If the Wizards stay big, they’re not well equipped enough to defend opposing big men that stretch to the 3-point line, and if the Wizards go small, the average quality of the player on the floor for them drops drastically, as either Otto Porter or Garrett Temple (neither of whom are particularly capable defenders) will enter for Nene or Marcin Gortat as Pierce slides over to the 4.

“That’s what a lot of teams do in this league now anyways. They’re putting their 4 man at the 5, and either they’re going to double team the post every time if we keep our bigs in, and then on the offensive end they’re just trying to space us out on pick-and-rolls, and that’s a tough coverage to guard, and a lot of teams just start switching,” Wall said after the game.

Asked whether it would be smarter to just leave the bigs in and go with the Wizards’ strength, Wall continued: “I think so, but then it’s tough. You’ve got your big men kind of not in position and not really being able to be on the 3-point line trying to guard those guys and switching pick-and-rolls and those guys attacking.”2

The Wizards have issues, and they are writ large for the league to see. With incredibly meager offerings on the table for the 15th roster spot that remains unfilled, a savoir isn’t walking through that door. Salvaging the season means changing the way the team plays, or layering additional options into the shallow refried bean paste that passes for an offense in D.C., not using the same shitty recipe at tomorrow’s party.

With narrow wins against Detroit and a Miami team playing with a bare cupboard, the Wizards don’t look like a group that can compete with the better teams in their conference. In fact, it’s increasingly difficult to tell who isn’t better. As David Aldridge suggested in the game’s closing moments last night, it doesn’t matter that the Wizards won. People have long memories, time is experienced sequentially, and this game was embarrassing.

  1. Wall mentioned after the game that the players made the decision after the Heat went small to switch their coverage to compensate, which precipitated Wittman to insert Pierce at the 4 when the bleeding didn’t stop.
  2. Michael Beasley and Henry Walker torched Washington’s bigs while manning the 4 and 5 for Miami. Nene, especially, struggled to keep up with Beasley when the Heat went small. Beasley missed the last shot, or didn’t get it off in time, looking for a better shot on the dribble with 1.6 seconds left and firing too late.
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Conor Dirks
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
Conor has been with TAI since 2012, and aids in the seamless editorial process that brings you the kind of high-octane blogging you have come to expect from this rad website. The Wizards have been an assiduous companion throughout his years on the cosmic waiver wire. He lives in D.C. and is day-to-day.