A Quiet Death in Bluff City — Wizards Mauled by Grizzlies | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

A Quiet Death in Bluff City — Wizards Mauled by Grizzlies

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Updated: December 15, 2015

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For a majority of this season, the key moments of a Washington Wizards professional basketball game could be easily identified. Either an individual play marked a shift in the box score that put the Wizards ahead or behind of their opponents, or a play occurred that shifted momentum from one team toward another. Even in the Wizards’ worst performances of the season, such as their loss to the Boston Celtics, one could point to plays where Washington broke down so thoroughly and completely (e.g. Evan Turner’s outlet pass to Jared Sullinger) that failure could be summed up by one indelible moment to be digested and argued about the next day.

The Wizards’ loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday was a quiet sort of death, without the big “moment” that we have come to associate with the wins and losses that have taken place this season. The loss took place at a slow drumbeat, as the Wizards were put to rest at a rate that one might associate with water torture or being buried in the sand up to the neck in the desert and left to die.

If forced at gunpoint to call a time of death, one could point to Mike Conley’s icily-drained 3-pointer with 8:19 left in the second quarter which put the Grizzlies up 36-29. It was the fifth converted 3-pointer by a Memphis squad that would go 10-for-15 from behind the arc on the evening. It was a tiny moment, one that will be ignored by every highlight package dedicated to the evening’s proceedings. It was nevertheless one of the moments that summarized the Wizards’ overall futility to stop a Memphis team (notably one that has performed so far below expectations this season that Dave Joerger is coaching for his job) that relentlessly built its lead and never led by less than double-digits in the second half. It also built upon another theme of the season (pointed out by many pundits): how the Wizards are currently the worst professional basketball franchise at defending the 3-pointer, allowing a whopping 10.4 makes per game and allowing the NBA’s highest percentage to opponents, a historically generous 41.1 percent.

Or perhaps the key moment can be found in what the Wizards decided to do throughout the game—baffle their audience. John Wall, one of the few consistencies in an inconsistent season, took eleven shots on the evening with seven of them coming from behind the arc. Randy Wittman, for his part, threw his point guard under the bus following the game by stating that “anytime John Wall takes 11 shots and seven of them are 3s, that’s not who he is.” Wittman’s statement, taken at face value, is true and he then quickly went on to praise Wall’s recent play, but the need to single out Wall from the rest of the team is a confusing choice by a coach unable to summon a consistent level of play from his players.

Perhaps Wittman could have laid his criticism at the feet of Otto Porter (1-8 on FGs), who played for 27 minutes and was in large part an apparition. Or he could have turned his fiery gaze upon the rapidly decomposing Kris Humphries. The sad fact is that Wall is the only player of any caliber on the Wizards who is worth the scrutiny and ire of Wittman. If Wall shows up, the Wizards have a puncher’s chance of winning the game. Without his superheroics, the Wizards are not just an average team, they are one that appears bound for the lottery.

The one bright note for Washington is that they have now ratcheted expectations so low that any level of success in the New Year is going to be met with an unparalleled level of giddiness. Without the weight of being a “force” in the Eastern Conference, the Wizards can commit to finding their own identity (perhaps one with a more defensive bent) and not be shackled to their identity as a “new and improved” offensive juggernaut. Because having passed the quarter-mark of the season, it has become apparent that the “new look” Wizards are not a team on the verge of breaking through to the next level. Instead they are a team that has tumbled down several rungs on the Eastern Conference ladder. Only a “new, new” look Wizards team holds hope of escaping the mire of their current situation.

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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.