Setting Fire to the Third, One 3 at a Time — Washington at Milwaukee, DC Council 2 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Setting Fire to the Third, One 3 at a Time — Washington at Milwaukee, DC Council 2

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Updated: October 31, 2015

The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards at Bucks, Game 2, Oct. 30, 2015, via Sean Fagan (@McCarrick).

M.V.P.

There is nothing deadlier than an early season trip to Milwaukee. For years the Wizards have journeyed to Wisconsin in the months of October only to find themselves upended by a Bucks teams acclimated to the daily charms of life in the German Athens of America.

Bradley Beal, for all intents and purposes, appeared for three quarters like a man who had spent the previous night dining on brats and lager—forgetting the next day’s athletic endeavour. First there were the turnovers, myriad and baffling in their complexity. Beal (like his running mate John Wall) spent much of the first half sailing passes hither and yon as if the ball had been inflated past regulation weight. He stepped out of bounds while attempting a drive along the baseline and spent much of third quarter falling down—a development that should force him to renegotiate his sneaker deal. He even committed simplistic acts of hackery, picking up three early fouls that left him pinned to the bench for much of the second quarter. On an evening that appeared to be going down in the books as “one of those nights” (the Wizards trailed by as many as 11 late in the fourth quarter), the dreaded LVP could have been firmly affixed to Beal’s lapel—a sad boudiniere at the most depressing of Wisconsin proms.

Determined not to be the last man standing at the cheese factory, Beal instead exploded in the game’s final period executing Coach Randy Wittman’s new pace and space system to perfection and burying the young Bucks under a barrage of 3-pointers. The first came with 6:43 left in the fourth after a furious rally by the Wizards as Beal (assisted by new acquisition Jared Dudley) buried a 3 to give the Wizards their first lead since the opening moment of the game, 95-94. After a brief Bucks spurt, Beal fully took over the game, scoring 11 of the Wizards next 16 points and leaving the Bucks buried at 111-104. The dagger came with two minutes left to play, as Beal received the ball from a streaking Wall to sink another trey and the duo celebrated with an excited chest bump that had Milwaukee fans howling for an excessive celebration foul.

Beal’s final line will show that he scored 26 points on 9-for-16 shooting along with a pristine 5-for-6 from deep. But the lasting narrative will be of how unstoppable it all felt once the shots started going down. Much like a fixed game of NBA Jam, once Beal was “on fire,” there was little that the Bucks could do to stop the bleeding. It felt like every shot that Beal took was predetermined and you could hear the Bradley Center crowd groan in unison every time Beal received the ball behind the key. It’s this ability to break spirits (the vaunted MJ “killer instinct”) that will determine if Beal is truly making the leap this year. A few more fireballs hurled at up-and-coming teams would help cement that status.

L.V.P.

It was going to a difficult game for the Wizards big men against the Bucks front line but Marcin Gortat singled himself out with some remarkably dainty play on a night where ruggedness would have been the preferred modus operandi. Gortat looked lost on defense for almost the entirety of the evening as events appeared to spiral and swirl outside his realm of effectiveness. He bobbled entry passes from John Wall, was late to setting his picks, and most damningly the ball stuck in his hands. However, it was his defense on former Hoya Greg Monroe that needs to be singled out for particular scrutiny. Monroe (not the fleetest of foot) blew by Gortat on more than one occasion for easy layups, which would be forgivable if Gortat did not double down on his sins by repeatedly turning his back on Monroe while he was in the midst of shooting a jumper. Monroe could never be called dead-eyed but his midrange game is such that it needs to be respected with more that an occasional butt aimed in his direction.

X-Factor.

To get to the point where Beal was allowed to perform his fourth quarter theatrics, there are two players who should be singled out for steadying the ship in a game that appeared like it was going to get completely out of control in the first quarter.

Part 1: Nene

It is time to remove the forks planted in Nene’s back, at least for the time being, because he was the rock against which the Bucks offense crashed in the second quarter. Nene steadied the Wizards on the defensive end of the court, getting them organized into some semblance of a cohesive unit and slowing the frenetic Bucks pace down to a crawl. Nene also broke out his “wily old man” game, taking two key charges and absorbing and undue amount of punishment from the Bucks frontline. The results were not all positive—Nene was posterized in the second quarter by Giannis Antetokounmpo and like his counterpart Gortat was outmatched by Monroe, but for the most part he stopped the bleeding. On the offensive end it was a return to 2013 Nene with smart hockey passes and a flash of the court vision which appeared to have deserted him last year (he finished with four assists). Nene even left his feet in the fourth quarter to punctuate his “I’m not dead yet” game with a dunk off an assist from John Wall.

Someone check the body, because if definitely still has a pulse.

Part 2: Ramon Sessions

I’m not sure whether to love the exhibition that Ramon Sessions put on Friday night (20 points on 8-12 FGs), or cower in fear of what it might mean for the Wizards going forward. Sessions may not be the hero the Wizards wanted but he was the hero the Wizards deserved, almost single handedly pulling them back from a blowout in a second quarter when he cut time and time again to the basket for banked layups or lazy floaters that skated just over the fingertips of outstretched Bucks. There was a bit of improbable Antawn Jamison to Session’s game in the first half—all acute angles and quirky gyrations—but it baffled the Bucks, and the Wizards were able to bring the game within four points.

More edifying was Sessions’ play in the fourth where he acted as a perfect cog in the pace-and-space. While the plaudits will go to Beal, Sessions had caused enough damage on his own to draw away Bucks defenders and contributed with a 3-pointer of his own before Beal’s final missile struck. One can be leery of Ramon Sessions taking over games, but his value to demand defensive attention and free up Wall and Beal is apparent at this early juncture.

That game was … a lurching, spasmodic fun demon.

If you like the feeling of being seasick, then the Bucks-Wizards game was the one you wanted to watch. The game lurched from the sublime (the offensive production from both teams in the first half), to the comical (the Wizards kicked away the ball seven straight times to begin the 3rd quarter), and got itself together in the fourth to become a nice referendum on the effectiveness of the Wizards new system. Because overall, what this game had that past tilts in Milwaukee have missed was an element of fun, as both teams tried to oppose their identity upon the other. For too many years both the Wizards and Bucks have been amorphous blobs of transitional talent— this year you can see the narrative emerging for both teams and coalescing into something exciting.

Three things we saw.

  1. The effectiveness of Jared Dudley in a small-ball lineup. This is why the Wizards went out and got Dudley as his ability to move the ball (3 assists), shoot the ball (2-3 FGs, 1-1 3PT) and defend multiple positions gave the Bucks fits.
  2. Giannis ascendant. Antetokounmpo is simply put an oppositional nightmare. He finished the game with 27 points, nine rebounds, three steals and one huge stankface after dunking over every Wizard put in front of him. One only has to wonder if Coach Jason Kidd is forcing Giannis to carry too much of the offensive load as facilitator, as he also had six turnovers on the night.
  3. The return of the Al Thornton special. Garrett Temple is supposed to a great “pinch” defender. Instead, Temple created the most egregious of sins, fouling Khris Middleton on a 2-point attempt with 12 ticks on the clock, leading to a four point play and cutting the Wizards lead to three.

 

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Sean Fagan
Reporter / Writer/Gadfly at TAI
Based in Brooklyn, NY, Sean has contributed to TAI since the the dawn of Jan Vesely and has been on the Wizards beat since 2008. His work has been featured on ESPN, Yahoo and SI.com. He still believes that Mike Miller never got a fair shot.