Key Legislature: Wizards 88 at Magic 87 — Opening Night Appearance From the Basketball Gods | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 88 at Magic 87 — Opening Night Appearance From the Basketball Gods

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Updated: October 29, 2015

TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards at Magic, Regular Season, Game 1, Oct. 28, 2015, by Rashad Mobley (@rashad20)

If Coach Flip Saunders were still alive and coaching the Washington Wizards, he surely would have made mention of those damn basketball gods.

The “Pace-and-Space” offense, which saw the Wizards rank first in points scored (112.3) during the preseason, was rendered non-existent by the hustling and disruptive defense of the Scott Skiles-led Orlando Magic. The Wizards did little to give themselves a fighting chance with 18 team turnovers on the night (to just 17 assists), a mere 12 points scored in the third quarter, and 33 percent shooting in the second half. Washington’s own defensive closeouts were sporadic, there were no signs of a breakout Otto Porter performance, and those pesky Magic youngsters simply would not agree to acquiesce.

Then again, neither would the Wizards.

At two different points in the fourth quarter—the 7:09 mark when they trailed by eight points and the two-minute mark when they trailed by five—it appeared as if the Wizards and their stagnant offense were going to fall short of a victory on opening night.

Midway through that final quarter, Bradley Beal and John Wall turned into Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook by outscoring the Magic, 12-0. Beal found the touch from the perimeter, while Wall went from doing his best Mark Eaton impression (five blocks in the game) to playing John Stockton, swiping two steals—one from Tobias Harris and another from Victor Oladipo. Five minutes later, the Wizards erased Orlando’s lead in the fourth quarter. It was more of a team effort. Wall’s handiwork was still evident, as he had a block, a rebound, and a tough one-hand runner over Nikola Vucevic. But Porter was also there to tip in a missed Gary Neal shot, and Marcin Gortat hit two clutch free throws. Then the basketball gods came into play.

The play seen above was initially called a goal tend since Gortat slapped the backboard. As the referees went to the monitors to review the play, Comcast SportsNet continued to run the replay, but it was difficult to glean anything decisive from it despite the various angles. At first glance, it looked like Beal touched the ball while it was still on the rim, meaning defensive goaltending would have to be called, which would have left the Wizards trailing by one point with just 3.5 seconds left. But from a different angle, it looked as if Vucevic could touched the ball on the rim first. The referees ultimately decided that goaltending was not the call. Instead, they opted to designate the Wizards’ faux pas a little something called “inappropriate touching,” which confused Randy Wittman and amused Comcast’s Phil Chenier and Ben Standig.

[Ed. Note:  The Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo has more on this confusing sequence of events]

After all of the confusion, the Magic had another opportunity to steal the game with 3.5 seconds left. Vucevic had a good look at a midrange jumper but was unable to convert (decent contest by Gortat). The Wizards, despite questionable late-game officiating but mostly uneven play, walked off the court 1-0.

The much ballyhooed small ball lineups did not so much factor into the win (as TAI’s Kyle Weidie pointed out), and neither did the revamped, experienced bench (just one second-half point). Both Otto Porter (7 points on 3-10 shooting) and stretch-4-in-training Kris Humphries (11 points, but 2 in the second half) struggled to boost team scoring. In the end, the Wizards’ first victory of the 2015-16 season boiled down to a favorable bounce here or there and a substantial helping of John “Game Changer” Wall (22 points, 6 assists, 7 rebounds, 5 blocks, 3 steals) and Bradley “Big Panda” Beal (24 points, 6 rebounds).

The Wizards last meaningful game ended unfavorably when Paul Pierce’s basket was waved off after it was determined that the ball left The Truth’s hand after time expired. The Wizards next game of consequence saw a mix-up on a controversial call and two men, Wall and Beal, who seemed to know how to properly close a game (presumably thanks to Pierce).

Lessons learned last night could be fleeting or running season-long motifs. But given the night began with a moving, big-screen tribute to Flip Saunders, it seems appropriate to simply genuflect to those damn basketball gods.

Bullets.

  • During Media Day, and in seemingly every pre- and post-game interview during the preseason, Coach Randy Wittman stressed that the small ball lineup was fine to discuss, but his team’s defense would be a true barometer of how successful his Wizards would be this season. The Wizards allowed 29 points (they scored 31) in the first quarter, and just 73 the remainder of the game. They were frequently late on defensive closeouts and allowed the Magic to shoot 54 percent in the first quarter, but they eventually tightened up enough to slow the Magic’s 120-point pace.
  • J. Michael of Comcast SportsNet is reporting that Martell Webster may need hip surgery, which could sideline him for the remainder of the season. Webster is going to exhaust all options which do not involve surgery, but it appears as if his season will end prematurely.
  • Nene‘s off-the-bench debut was uneventful (his only point came via the free throw line), but it was better than the “debuts” of Kelly Oubre and Jared Dudley, who did not sniff any time on the court in the season opener.

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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.