Wizards Show Up For Final Five Minutes, Get W — Wizards vs Magic, DC Council 8 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards Show Up For Final Five Minutes, Get W — Wizards vs Magic, DC Council 8

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Updated: November 15, 2015

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M.V.P.

Randy Wittman was asked about Kris Humphries’ 5-for-8 3-point shooting performance during his post-game press conference and the surly coach offered a rare olive branch to the assembled media. “He’s our best shooter,” Wittman said, facetiously hyperbolic or not. “You guys told me that in the beginning of the year. You guys were right.”

Humphries certainly was the team’s best shooter against Orlando in a game where they desperately needed a scoring punch. He finished with 23 points on 9-for-14 shooting, making all three of his long-distance attempts in the decisive final five minutes of the game when Washington erased a four-point deficit and pulled away with a 108-99 victory.

Humphries entered the game shooting a very respectable 40 percent from 3-point range (8-for-20) but was only attempting 2.9 per game. He tripled that number against Orlando. Defenses will continue to give Humphries open 3-point looks. It’s just a fact of life when you play alongside John Wall, Marcin Gortat and (hopefully very soon) Bradley Beal. If he can maintain his 40 percent accuracy while doubling his attempts to six per game, the Wizards may finally have a solution at power forward. Of course, there’s still a question of whether Humphries is dynamic enough to serve as the lynchpin for Washington’s pace-and-space offense. One game doesn’t change that.

Marcin Gortat was giddy afterward talking about the space that opens up for him when Humphries is hitting 3-pointers and how the game becomes easier for Wall and Beal as well. Driving lanes are much wider when the opposing big men have to remain a step closer to Humphries in the corner.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, Humphries cautioned after the game that not every performance will be so bountiful. “You go through ups and downs throughout the year, and you don’t expect to come out and do that every night,” he said. “But you’ve got to work through it when it’s not working out for you and enjoy it when it’s going for you.”

Even with all that great shooting, Humphries’ finest play of the game came on a weak-side block against Tobias Harris to protect Washington’s six-point lead with three minutes to play. Humphries jumped up and down repeatedly off of two feet while celebrating the rejection and admitted after the game that he could have grabbed the rebound but was just too excited.

L.V.P.

Energy—or lack thereof. Washington started the game like they were hungover from three days of rest. The Magic waltzed to a 15-5 lead and it looked like Orlando might pick up right where Oklahoma City left off the previous game.

It was a disturbing opening six minutes for a team that supposedly ate, drank and slept defense over the previous 72 hours. Ironically, Humphries suggested after the game that the team’s poor first quarter defense may have been caused by exhaustion from their focus on defense during the previous three off days. “We’ve been working so hard, I think a lot of guys were tired,” Humphries said.

Wittman did not seem too concerned by the slow start in his post-game comments—most likely because he knew how the story ended. Nevertheless, the team’s lackadaisical play remains a concern. Wall and his teammates made several lazy outlet passes that could have easily raised their turnover total above 11 and they only played five minutes of consistently good offense at the end of the game. While that effort proved sufficient to beat Orlando, it will not suffice on most nights.

X-Factor.

With Bradley Beal missing his second straight game, Wittman reached for his trusty utility man and inserted Garrett Temple into the starting lineup. “Starting him, both from an offensive standpoint and defensively, just gives us that energizer bunny that we need, and he let things come to him,” Wittman said.

Temple exceeded all expectations. Garrett did his best Big Panda imitation, hitting open 3-pointers and playing Robin to Wall’s Batman on fast breaks.

Temple’s 18 points on a very efficient 5-for-10 FGs (3-for-6 on 3-pointers) was exactly what the Wizards needed in Beal’s absence. Wittman leaned on Temple for 31 minutes and he almost certainly earned another start if Beal is not able to suit up versus Milwaukee on Tuesday.

It may not be a coincidence that Temple’s breakout game came with him in the starting lineup. Temple said after the game he plays better alongside Wall: “I work well with John because I know where he knows I am going to be in the corners and running the lane.”

That game was … an incremental defensive improvement.

Randy Wittman did not want to answer any questions about his team’s offense during his post-game press conference. He said he’s not concerned with the team’s scoring. Randy’s only goal was stopping the other team. Such narrow focus is understandable for a defensive-minded coach who watched his team give up 113 or more points in five of its first seven games. Wittman wanted his team to hold Orlando under 100 points and they did so, even if by the narrowest of margins. And Washington did its best defensive work when it counted most. After yielding an unimpressive 56 points in the first half, Washington held Orlando to 43 second-half points.

Some have suggested that the Wizards’ poor defensive start to the season could be attributed to the new-found offensive focus on “pace-and-space.” Ramon Sessions, speaking at shoot-around before the Orlando game, rejected that notion. “I don’t want to sit here and say the offense is making the defense bad. It’s the same guys as last year,” he said. “The stuff we got in the last few days we were able to practice a little bit, change a few things, I think it’s just more of locking down defensively.”

Both Humphries and Marcin Gortat also mentioned in their post-game interviews that the team re-focused its defensive efforts over the past few days and the results were evident on the court. It’s only one game, but, as Wittman explained in his post-game comments, “It’s a step in the right direction.”

Three Things We Saw.

  1. It won’t show in the box score (5-for-15 FG) but Elfrid Payton’s offensive game is much improved this year. He drove straight at John Wall and finished at the rim on several occasions.
  2. Alan Anderson has a lot of fun on the bench. He has orchestrated reactions to 3-point shots and encourages teammates throughout the game. In fact, Humphries credited Anderson with both of his two-handed dunks. “Alan Anderson was yelling at me, ‘Go to the rack, they can’t move their feet,’ so I was like, ‘OK, maybe I won’t settle,’ just put it down and go and I was able to get a couple dunks like that,” Humphries said.
  3. The Wizards displayed a French flag and played France’s national anthem before the game in response to the terrorist attacks in Paris. Orlando’s Evan Fournier was born in France and Scott Skiles, when asked before the game about Fournier playing during the tragedy, noted that he is “one of our toughest guys mentally.”

 

 

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Adam Rubin
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Adam grew up in the D.C. area and has been a Washington Bullets fan for over 25 years. He will not refer to the franchise as anything other than the Bullets unless required to do so by Truth About It editorial standards. Adam spent many nights at the Capital Centre in the ‘90s where he witnessed such things as Michael Jordan’s “LaBradford Smith game,” the inexcusable under-usage of Gheorghe Muresan’s unstoppable post moves, and the basketball stylings of Ledell Eackles.