Pace Is Temporary, But Wall’s Hangtime is Forever — Washington at Orlando, DC Council 1 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Pace Is Temporary, But Wall’s Hangtime is Forever — Washington at Orlando, DC Council 1

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Updated: October 29, 2015

The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards at Magic, Game 1, Oct. 28, 2015, via Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks).

M.V.P.

For the first time since John Wall was drafted, the Wizards won their first game of the season. The win was due, more than anything, to Wall carrying the distressingly disproportionate burden the team still needs him to carry. He was as guilty of sloppiness as any of his teammates (racking up a team-high 6 turnovers), but in at least one instance the turnover appeared to be a result of a botched anticipation pass, with Wall firing the ball to where he believed a teammate, Beal, ought to be. But let’s move on to why I’ve constructed this temporary pixel throne for Washington’s best and highest-paid player.

Wall scored or assisted on the first nine Wizards points of the season, showing a willingness to make Magic defenders pay for rotating late when he was beyond the 3-point line (Wall was 2-for-6 on 3-pointers, but his first basket was a 3). He paced the Wizards early and, more importantly, he stepped up late. Three of Wall’s five blocks came in the fourth. With just under eight minutes remaining in the game, Elfrid Payton drove the lane and rushed past a few Wizards en route to an open layup. That’s when Wall stepped up like a hockey player with his stick crossed in front of his body, met Payton in midair, and drove the ball away from the hoop like it was a stray dog.

Wall’s intensity didn’t wane. Later in the fourth quarter, he splayed out onto the hardwood in order to push a loose ball forward to Bradley Beal. Later still, he straight up pickpocketed Payton, shrugged off the ensuing collision, hit Victor Oladipo with a behind-the-back gather, and finished at the rim. In the final minute, with Tobias Harris under the basket and ready to put the game out of reach, Wall stuck with the ball, climbed the height and distance between the two, and drove the ball back down to the floor rather than chance a loss in the first game of the year.

All in all, Wall racked up 22 points, seven rebounds, six assists, three steals, and five blocks in a team-high 39 minutes of play. But temporal bias of late-game cognition as it is, my mind rests on the final basket of the night. Last season, and in seasons prior, Wall’s end-of-quarter, end-of-half, and end-of-game plays looked far more lateral than his game winner last night. Dribble right, dribble left, fire off a contested shot, or pass off to an unsuspecting teammate at the last possible minute. Not this night. Wall instead drove right towards the front of the rim, and when he saw that Nikola Vucevic was backpedaling, unable to properly contest a shot, he pulled up, recognized there wasn’t going to be a stray hand altering his intent at the last second, hung in the air for what seemed like an age while his eyes locked on the basket, and then buried the five foot floating jumper.

L.V.P.

LVP? Drew Gooden, but maybe that’s unfair. The aesthetic, where cross-court passes became 3-point shots which became buckets, broke down as a result of unfavorable result, or the results soured due to some barely discernible lag in the totality of the play. It’s all very inscrutable.

It’s difficult to pick too much on Gooden, who most know isn’t cut out for the kind of minutes he logged in this one. The problem, however, is that Gooden looked as unready in minute 1 as he did in minute 20. Randy Wittman is too committed to defense to let him carry on as such forever, and Jared Dudley or even Kelly Oubre could be waiting nearby in the wings, whatever those are.

X-Factor.

We shall rank three x-factorials of the basketball game:

  1. Otto Porter. Despite the shy wilted orchid missile he launched at the basket in the final minute of the game, Otto showed why he’s something of a darling in the hearts of many: he led the team in rebounds (along with Gortat—eight each), partially because he was willing to rip the ball from the unsuspecting hands of those competing for boards like some manic, sharp-elbowed wolf pup going straight for the gizzard. Otto’s je ne sais quoi is a mixture of the abstract notions of “presence” and “activity.” The kid has incredible spatial awareness. Several times during the game, Otto delivered passes at the absolute final moment he could, playing chicken with help defenders and eventually finding his teammates uncovered. There’s also his ability to surprise opposing players by showing up on the boards to steal your joy like an old friend that asks for your help moving into his new apartment on the one free weekend you’ve had in a month. Just ask Tobias Harris, Mario Hezonja, and Elfrid Payton, all of whom got their lunch nabbed by a suddenly very THERE Otto Porter flying in from the left corner, and watched as Porter tipped in a Gary Neal miss with 50 seconds remaining to pull the Wizards within one point of the Magic.
  2. The pace, bruh. The first quarter was fun to watch, if sloppy, because both teams seemed content to push the ball up the court rather than run through the checkdowns. But the game took a nap after that first period, and the Wizards, suddenly passing with more hope than intent and fumbling the ball away with the greatest of ease, grappled with a younger, less noticeably exhausted team. Gooden specifically looked like he couldn’t answer the bell when he caught almost 11 straight minutes of run in the first half. Even Wall and Bradley Beal, trick-or-treat-age as they are, seemed to struggle a bit to maintain the brisk pace of the first quarter. Also, it’s probably important to note that certain players are more capable and/or willing to fulfill the basic requirements of playing fast-paced basketball. While Nene was on the floor, the Wizards played at a pace of 90.17 possessions per 48 minutes, lowest on the team.
  3. In contrast, when Marcin Gortat was on the floor, the Wizards played at a pace of 104.94 possessions per minute, highest on the team. His 10 points (on six shots), eight rebounds, and two blocks don’t adequately express how much more functional the Wizards appeared when he was running the floor with Wall and Beal.

That Game Was [Blank].

Growing pains, hopefully, and the kind that prop up your belief that you’ll be taller than your enemies one day. Washington seemed to slide back into last year’s style of play as the game wore on and the 3-point well ran dry while briny turnovers flooded the box score. Perhaps in the amnion that is Scott Skiles’ brand-new grip on this Orlando Magic squad a defense is being developed. Skiles certainly has a reputation, much like one Randy Wittman, for motivating his teams to play tough defense. Neither team shot the 3-ball well (the Wizards at 25% actually topped the Magic at 19.2%), but I was encouraged to see the Wizards find time to attempt 28 3-pointers. John Wall is too good at creating open treys to sweat a 2-for-8 night from deep by team ace Bradley Beal.

Three Things We Saw.

  1. Jared Dudley didn’t play, and neither did Garrett Temple, Dejuan Blair, or Kelly Oubre Jr. Unlike Martell Webster and Alan Anderson, the previous four I mentioned were active but didn’t see a minute of court time. Blair and Temple will likely rack up more than their fair share of DNP-CD’s over the course of the season, and I can’t say I’m surprised that Wittman isn’t handing the keys to an early-season win to Oubre (especially given Wittman’s slow-buffering trust). Dudley has been viewed by many, in some ways justifiably, as the key to Washington’s small ball experiment. However, in the lead up to the season, I wondered whether Wittman would even consider playing Dudley in heavy minutes until the New Year. Wittman warms slowly, and seems to value the work the team does in the preseason when making decisions on early season rotations. Dudley, who had offseason back surgery, was only recently cleared to play. As a new Wizard, he may not have enough familiarity with Wittman or his teammates to justify minutes from the coach. The Wizards will need Jared Dudley, though, and hopefully zero minutes for Dudley is more of an aberration than the norm. [FWIW: The Wizards play three games in four nights to open the season, so perhaps Wittman is also thinking about saving guys a bit.]
  2. Drew Gooden stood out during the ides of this game as singularly unprepared. He was late rotating on defense, offered little to no resistance under the basket, tried desperately to act like he didn’t want to take another step in and fire up a long 2, and didn’t seem to have much or any chemistry with Nene, his de facto second unit frontcourt partner. Nene spent all of his 12 minutes playing the 5 next to Gooden’s 4, and the Wizards were minus-13 during this time.
  3. Plenty of midrange jumpers. As the great Dr. Ian Malcolm said in Jurassic Park: “John, the kind of control you’re attempting simply is … it’s not possible. If there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us it’s that life will not be contained. Life breaks free, it expands to new territories and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously, but, uh … well, there it is.”

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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.