Key Legislature: Wizards 106 vs 76ers 93 — Rolling with Wall, Gortat and Beal | Wizards Blog Truth About

Key Legislature: Wizards 106 vs 76ers 93 — Rolling with Wall, Gortat and Beal

Updated: April 2, 2015

Truth About’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s)
for Washington Wizards contest No. 75 versus the Philadelphia 76ers in D.C.
via Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It), covering it live from the Phone Booth.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Kyle Weidie.

The turning point of the game, the ‘key’ moment, the few seconds that decided 48 whole minutes… It’s somewhere in there, somewhere in a contest where Washington led by 31 points after three quarters and then almost let Philadelphia creep back to cover the 10.5-point spread—got as close as a toe-on-the-3-point line shot attempt that was air-balled with less than 24 seconds left. The Wizards scored 13 points in the final period (getting outscored by 18 points in the quarter) and still managed to win by 13 points, 106-93, on Wednesday night.

As easy as it is to focus on the ‘How’d that happen, yet again?’ narrative—comebacks from large deficits sometimes seem par for the course in the NBA, perhaps a hair under par for the Wizards—it is, perhaps, even easier to understand how Washington found themselves up by as much as 34 points in the first place.

The contest started, stubbornly enough, with an offensive set that featured Nene 22-or-so feet from the basket, near-desperately holding the ball above his head and away from the defender while tracking his mark, a teammate. That teammate happened to be Otto Porter, against all the wind resistance his gangly limbs could offer, trying, within close proximity of Nene, to lose his defender (one JaKarr Sampson) and receive a hand-off pass. Otto never did, the Wizards’ offense sputtered, Nene ambled toward the basket, and missed a four-foot shot. But there young Porter was, gathering the offensive rebound and putting back a whole-hearted attempt. The next time down the court Otto used momentum and a sharp shoulder to buck Sampson away and toward the basket before burying a step-back jumper from 18 feet. And that’s how the first four points of the game were scored. Did I mention that the Wizards were playing the Philadelphia 76ers?

Those Sixers, granted, should not be taken for granted. In recent weeks they’ve cast aside jokes about tanking and have ascended to a Top 10 NBA defensive team (according to DefRtg; technically they are tied with the Pacers for 10th with 101.5 points allowed per 100 possessions). Philadelphia still has the dishonor of being the worst offensive team in the NBA, but nonetheless handed the Wizards an embarrassing loss on the Sixers’ home court in late-February in perhaps the low point of Washington’s season thus far. And there you have it, folks, the game-defining moment: Philadelphia merely traveling to D.C. to take the court against the still-salty Wizards.

Sixers coach Brett Brown put it rather succinctly after his team lost:

“If you connect the dots with what’s going on now … so, they have not been playing well. They are now going into the playoffs. We had just beat them on our home court not that long ago and they are good. They go to the second round of the conference playoffs last year and so they are trying to find this rejuvenation and this energy trying to get ready for the playoffs. We got jumped. I think this is a fantastic experience for our guys.”

And perhaps the Wizards are still, still salty. Well, at least Marcin Gortat seemed that way after the game. He led the way with 23 points on 10-for-11 shooting to go with 14 rebounds (three offensive), three assists, and two blocked shots in 31 minutes. It was nothing particularly new, mind you. Gortat has been relatively short-answered with the media, highly unusual for him, for the last three-to-six weeks, or more.

“It’s just one game, it’s just one game. We’ve been through this story already for 70 … a couple games,” said Gortat after enacting what he called ‘revenge’ on the 76ers, the NBA’s third-worst team. “Let’s win another one, let’s build something, and then we’ll see. But right now it’s just one game, that’s it. I’ve been saying this 10 times already to you guys, it’s just one game. We’ll see.”

And then he was done. The first-worst New York Knicks come to town on Friday.

“Well, rolling to the basket instead of floating a little bit, that was really good. He’s got great hands, he can get to the basket, that was as good as he’s had, from a standpoint of rolling,” said Randy Wittman, head coach, when asked about what appeared to be an increased amount of success Gortat had in the offensive pick-and-roll game.

Gortat wouldn’t necessarily admit to doing anything differently. “Uh, they were passing the ball.” A reporter then pressed for more insight. “Yea, they were passing the ball. I was doing the same thing I’m doing every single game, and they were just passing the ball,” said Gortat, bluntly. It was part statement, part venting, part imploring for more of the same.

When asked what helps determine whether he rolls to the basket or pops out for a shot, under the context of Wittman’s praise for his rolling to the basket on this night, Gortat said, “It’s hard to answer that question, because I’m quite sure I’m rolling every time.”

“That’s when I think he’s at his best, not posting-up so much, but just setting good screens, rolling, getting the ball, and finishing and making plays,” assessed Wall. He was also asked about Gortat’s ‘they just passed’ comment as a follow-up and chuckled, sending his own message while gathering himself diplomatically.

“I basically said it as simple as it is,” started Wall. “A lot of our plays are for post-ups, a lot of our plays are for 2 guards, and a lot of our plays are for me, so we have the opportunity to get the ball. It’s just when you get ‘em (plays, passes, and/or shots), you have to deliver. Some nights when I get the ball and I’m not making shots, it’s frustrating, know what I mean? So I think when he gets the touches, he has to make them, but when he’s not, we still look for him. I think he did a great job of sealing today. That’s when you look at Marc(h), most of the games he had good games is, we penetrate and we dish it to him, or he’s getting seals over the top and he’s setting good screens. And when the guards get a couple shots, he’s going to get himself open. I think sometimes when you don’t do that, you’re not committing yourself on both ends, it’s frustrating. It happens to a lot of us on the team, not just him.”

I know, quite the lengthy quote, but Wall is great about opening up and talking to the media about the game of basketball. He doesn’t get enough credit for being insightful—he really knows the X’s and O’s—so the full answer was worth it.

Bradley Beal, however, was more brief when asked about Gortat’s pick-and-roll prowess: “He has to realize that’s what he did all last year, and finished, whenever we threw him the ball. He has to continue to do that, stay mellow, stay level-headed.”

No one would need to be convinced that, psychologically, one—NBA players—will believe in the default confidence that one—veterans—should have when lined up versus skinny rookies and second-year players, and Ish Smith, on a team going nowhere for now. And that mere belief, which could be personal blasphemy not to acknowledge, is strong enough to make it a reality. So regardless of how much you want to credit Philadelphia’s true resistance, the Wizards played better because, well, what other choice did they have?

It wasn’t Gortat just getting passes (off action set up by Wall—15 assists, 6 turnovers; 7 and 3 in the first quarter), but Gortat was taking those dimes from Flip Saunders’ point guard heaven dweller and turning them into not manna but baskets. Bradley Beal followed Gortat’s 23 points with 20 of his own. He did not make a 3-pointer (0-3) and went just 2-for-4 on free throws, but he went 9-for-18 from the field, 5-for-10 from #PandaRange (that’s midrange to the nonsensical hashtag illiterate), and 4-for-5 at the rim. Sure, sometimes Beal settled for mid-to-long 2-pointers, but sometimes he did so after an investigatory drive.

“I know teams aren’t going to let me get an open 3, and I’m not going to come off a screen and shoot a 3. My shot’s not … I’m not Steph Curry coming off a 3 like that,” said Beal in a moment of honesty when asked if he thought that he should shoot more 3-pointers before continuing on with his mantra: “I just take what the defense gives me and get the shot that I want.”

Beal’s offensive philosophy is one thing (no one expects him to be Stephen Curry, maybe a little more Ray Allen), but all seems to come together when he’s doing other things, mainly rebounding and assisting, of which he had five and five versus Philly. His block of Luc Mbah a Moute at the 3-point line in the second quarter, the subsequent rebound, and the dash to the other end for a dunk didn’t hurt. A mis-dribble with his left hand and near turnover in the second half conveyed what we already know. And if you look carefully, not all midrange shots on the move are bad, especially if Beal’s uses a Gortat screen, is able to check how the defense chases him, and pulls up at the free throw line for a basket.

“Just really kind of depends on what mood I’m in, do I want to get hit, or…,” said Beal when asked if he’s trying to balance attacking the basket more, as opposed to pulling up on the move from the midrange. “Naw, I’m just kidding,” he quickly followed up as a member of the PR team abruptly declared that it was the last question mid-answer. “I try to balance it out, keep the defense off guard. Attack the basket, especially if we’re in the bonus, I try to get to the rim as much as possible. If not, if you’re going to back off of me, I’m definitely going to shoot.”

More honesty if you’re looking for it, and that’s OK.

“I thought our main eight guys that played…” diagnosed Randy Wittman afterward, initially denying any major discontent with how the Wizards allowed Philadelphia to make a meaningless fourth-quarter run. “I thought we were focused right from the start, third quarter as well. Guys that, you know, are looking for opportunities [inaudible mumbles] … we’ve got to continue playing the way we did,” finished the coach, alluding to anyone from Gortat to Otto Porter.

The Wizards didn’t need Paul Pierce, who got the night off, and really, Nene, who made a token appearance in the first and third quarters to keep up his figure, one would assume. Porter started in Pierce’s spot and did all he needed to do to get more playing time while on a learning curve. Porter cut (endlessly), rebounded (7), and scored (15) his way further into the hearts of those who have loved him unconditionally. He ran the court with the same zeal of a young child first exposed to full court, five-on-five basketball—just excited to sprint and not be told that walking is a requirement in busy public spaces.

“We shared the ball and moved the ball,” said Randy Wittman, with faint pride, about his more efficient halfcourt offense on the evening. “We took what they…,” the coach started. What the defense game them? Instead, he opted for: “If they wanted to trap the pick-and-roll, we got out of the trap right away.”

You can probably credit John Wall for that elevated decision-making. It’s still incumbent on the fifth-year player to keep the Wizards’ ship on course and away from screeching yet tempting sirens that can halt the the offensive ceiling they are currently forced to live under. It’s on Wall to get Gortat going, to make him want to roll; it’s on Wall to set the defensive tone (yes, he had some issues with small guards like Ish Smith and Isaiah Canaan, as usual); it’s on Wall to score as necessary but to also set an example that keeps others involved. On this night, he scored just 13 points on 11 shots (no trips to the free throw line) in just under 30 minutes, and it was exactly what was needed, including two coffin-sealing jumpers with about four minutes left in the fourth quarter.

The game’s defining moment? When John Wall stepped on the court.


Post-Game Comment & Roll.

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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 lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.