Westbrook Rocks, Washington Rolls Over — Wizards vs Thunder, DC Council 7 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Westbrook Rocks, Washington Rolls Over — Wizards vs Thunder, DC Council 7

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Updated: November 11, 2015

The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Thunder at Wizards, Game 7, Nov. 10, 2015 at the Verizon Center, via Kyle Weidie (@truth_about_it).

Russell Westbrook Moutian Dew Kickstart

M.V.P.

Russell Westbrook showed up on the court, figuratively, in just a plain jeans and T-shirt combo. His shoes, pitch black, literally—not a speck of color, the presence of texture barely visible. It was basic. In the first quarter, he was a point guard dominating the matchup with known “point guard” John Wall. Westbrook dropped six assists to zero turnovers to go with his nine points and four rebounds in 10:43 of opening-period action. Pal Kevin Durant chipped in 10 points and the Thunder led 37 to 23.

The Verizon Center was already deflated by the absence of Bradley Beal, the prior day’s accusations of “disrespectfulness” from Durant, and, why not, the weather outside. It was a gray and rainy Tuesday in the District. There was no telekinetic emotion-generated electricity inside. A small but audible group of fans even booed Durant when he touched the ball early. Was it all mind games? Great players are celebrated 41 times per year, at least; find one who doesn’t relish being the villain on the road. The boos help that.

Meanwhile, Westbrook didn’t care. He was efficient, surgical, and knew when to pull the plug on the barely-clinging-to-life Wizards. By the 4:31 mark of the third quarter, he officially collected his triple-double with a dime—22, 11, and 11 over 28 non-fourth quarter minutes by the end of the evening. Four minutes into the second half Westbrook took a high screen set by Steven Adams, made Wall chase him in a loop, crossed the ball left to right around Marcin Gortat, froze Otto Porter attached to Kyle Singler in the adjacent corner, and gently laid the ball into the basket. At that point Oklahoma City held its greatest lead at 26 points. If the game wasn’t over before the ink was dry on the hashtag in the first place, that’s when it happened.

The green suit punctuation mark on the game came when a Ramon Sessions pick-and-roll attempt with DeJuan Blair went errant. Blair bobbled the ball and saved it from going out of bounds, but knocked it right to Andre Roberson, who shuttled it down the court to Westbrook for a booming dunk that, when captured by still cameras, would reveal one Garrett Temple in the background. It was the most elegant Rube Goldberg machine. On the next possession, Westbrook politely left a ship-wrecked Temple behind a screen (Blair put his teammate on an island), and nailed a 3-pointer. Westbrook’s last bucket kept the Thunder’s cushion at 24 and the suddenly fashionable sniper took the rest of the night off with 90 seconds left in the third period. Game, long after the game was really determined.

L.V.P.

The Wizards big man situation, especially without Nenê, who sat out with back spasms, the same ailment that kept Drew Gooden out of last Friday’s loss in Boston.

“Our bigs have got to get back into the paint,” Randy Wittman said before the Thunder game, when asked about stopping Westbrook when he’s in attack mode. The coach’s answer was in the context of transition defense and stopping anyone from Oklahoma City looking to get out and run.

“We’re facing a team tonight, we don’t have to worry about a stretch 4 or stretch 5 that’s going to stop at the 3-point line in transition. So we got to get our bigs back into the paint and form a wall.”

The transition wall defensive strategy is not unlike what’s often implemented against his own John Wall. Or so goes the #Coachspeak. But was this a slight to the 6-foot-10 Serge Ibaka, career 37 percent 3-point shooter? Could be seen that way. Ibaka hit all three of his 3-point attempts. Each, however, came from the corner territory and not necessarily as the trailer in transition. Still.

“This is a big, physical team. We’ve got to match that tonight,” challenged Wittman in the pre-game. “We’ve got to win the rebound battle, that’s number one,” he said before faintly recalling general big man stats in which Oklahoma ranked highly amongst the league. Give him this, Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, and even Mitch McGary (“kid from Michigan off the bench,” per Wittman) were a handful. Ibaka is even more imposing than stretchy.

No one rose to the challenge. Marcin Gortat pulled down one single defensive rebound in 27 minutes, which led to him being called out (in spirit if not in name) by Wittman in the postgame. Drew Gooden was active but a conniption on offensive; he started the third quarter in place of Kris Humphries for reasons unknown. Humphries had a nice drive to the hoop and went 1-for-2 from deep, but for defensive intensity reasons, one can only presume, was shown the pine. DeJuan Blair might as well have been playing on a court made of cardboard with a beach ball.

After the game, Wittman offered to suit up.

“We don’t get dirty, and that’s on me. We’ve got three days to find the guys to play that way,” followed the coach, who continued to question pride, levels of pissed off-edness from players on his roster, lack of manning-up, and how there wasn’t enough grit in his morning’s grits.

X-Factor.

Oh my gosh, it was Dion Waiters. It just had to be. The Yin to Bradley Beal sitting the game out with what the team called a sore left shoulder. It was the smart, precautionary move to sit him with Washington’s next game being on Saturday, which means nothing in light of Beal’s personal injury history. But Dion Waiters!

As the usual late-arriving crowd in D.C. (also known to cower in the face of a little bit of rain) became noticeably and decidedly dull past the midway point of the second quarter, Waiters hit a 3-pointer. It was his second in less than a four-minute span, the second 3 coming via assist from local basketball player Kevin Durant. He was the most un-Dion Waiters that I or anyone else has ever been served—a game-high 25 points on 10 field goal attempts. A feat of those proportions (>= 25 pts, =< 10 FGAs) only happened 19 previous times since Waiters entered the league in 2012. Waiters’ show last night was just the fifth time any player did it coming off the bench in that span. This x-factoring of Dion Waiters on a night hyped for so many other reasons could be classified and archived as #SoWizards, if one were doing such (and the Library of Congress is), so there’s that.

But since this is a Wizards blog, let’s mention Washington’s own special little guy: Kelly Oubre. Not a frozen doe going to rookie hell in a handbasket, Oubre calmly hit his first shot attempt, a 3-pointer dished by Ramon Sessions, like silk handkerchiefs in a handbag. Then made his second career 3-point attempt and finished 4-for-8 from the field overall, spiked an open-court dunk, and scored 11 points. Oubre picked up four fouls, showed some aggressive pressure defense (introduced himself to Kyle Singler), talked some trash to Ibaka, got 26 valuable minutes of on-the-job training, and sprouted exactly one new chin hair after the game.

That Game Was … Not About Kevin Durant.

Durant probably thinks all Carly Simon songs are about him. Unfortunately, he wasn’t in at the end of the game to find out. He sat the second half with a sore left hamstring, adding to the general chagrin of those who paid to see Beal, a home-grown season darling thus far, and Durant, a returning-home favorite son.

If we want to put that game in a pot and boil it—the famed “what it boils down to” Wittman phrase—then we would be graced with witnessing this remnant of a lineup (in the first quarter!): Ramon Sessions, Garrett Temple, Kelly Oubre, Drew Gooden, and DeJuan Blair. These lambs were sacrificed for about two minutes and were outscored by five points. The tragedy is that most of that court time came against OKC’s motley crew of DJ Augustin, Dion Waiters, Kyle Singler, Mitch McGary, and Enes Kanter. They played seven minutes on the evening to the tune of plus-1. Cool.

Three Things We Saw.

#1) Wittman before the game, speaking in generalities when asked about Gortat’s adjustment to a new style of play on the defensive end: “We all got to get better defensively. Again, that starts with offense, I think. That’s our main thing. Looking at our game in Atlanta, when we got them 5-on-5 in the half court, we were pretty good, defensively—4-on-2 we weren’t real good, 3-on-1 we weren’t really good. And that’s because we turned the ball over and gave them those opportunities, and that puts a lot of stress on your defense.” The Wizards turned it over just eight times versus the Thunder, and that’s where we’ll stop before getting into the irony of offense creating (good) defense when the oft-used refrain last season was the opposite.

#2) It’s far from time for Wizards fans to panic. The startlingly tepid arena for a prime matchup never got a chance to really show that it could outkick the coverage. But that has nothing to do with how Washington has given up 113 or more points in five of seven games on the season, going 2-3 in those games. They’re 1-2 in games in which opponents were held below 100 points. Point being: it’s a concern that the number one problem (post-convenient distraction of turnovers) is the defense, and that can be something hard to correct without the right personnel, but the Wizards should have the right personnel. “Should” being the operative word. With Nene out, which one can expect to be the norm from time to time to the point where Wittman can only shrug his shoulders in a way that would mime, ‘same shit, different day,’ only yoga mat Drew Gooden (age 34) and human waterbed DeJuan Blair (age 26 but more vertically challenged than Gooden) are available. That can’t be ideal.

#3) Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 21 rebounds in five total quarters of action (44.5 minutes). Kris Humphries, Marcin Gortat, and Drew Gooden combined for 13 rebounds in 57 total minutes. DeJuan Blair farted around and added nine rebounds in 17.5 minutes, but several of those came off his own misses—shots launched into the sky in the same way a child throws a gumball in the air, hoping to catch it in his mouth.

 

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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.