Key Legislature: Wizards 91 vs Clippers 108 — Dazed and Confused in DC | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 91 vs Clippers 108 — Dazed and Confused in DC

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Updated: December 29, 2015

TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards vs. Clippers, Regular Season Game 29, Dec. 28, 2015, by Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace) from the Verizon Center, D.C.

The clock struck midnight on Washington’s storybook four-game winning streak and the team turned once again into a sub-.500 pumpkin. The deciding moment of this game occurred long before the opening tip—way back in the Los Angeles Clippers pre-game coaches meeting. That’s where Doc Rivers, most likely aided by long-time Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell, devised a perfect antidote to the Wizards’ recent success.

Doc Rivers’ game plan was simple but effective: (i) keep all five defenders in front of John Wall at all times; (ii) switch every pick; and (iii) keep DeAndre near the rim. Rivers was especially intent on neutralizing the Wall-Marcin Gortat pick-and-roll that fueled the past four Wizards wins and helped earn Gortat Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors.

Every time Gortat approached Wall on the perimeter to set a pick, DeAndre Jordan backed away and hovered in the lane. With DeAndre clogging the paint, Gortat could not dive to the rim for easy layups, and Wall was forced to either shoot a jumper or pass back out to the perimeter.

Rivers was not content with simply stopping Wall’s penetration off Gortat’s picks. The Clippers switched on every screen, which made it difficult for Wall to find any daylight to drive to the rim and create open looks for teammates. And when Wall did have a clear path to the paint, DeAndre was waiting for him.

The result was an atrocious start to the game, highlighted by turnovers and missed jumpers.

“They did a great job confusing us,” Jared Dudley said afterward. “They put Mbah a Moute on me. They switched all screen and rolls, and having DJ back there anchoring really was an adjustment for us. They jumped on us early, kind of put us on our heels. And we didn’t do a good job adjusting.”

Los Angeles built a 15-point lead in the first seven minutes and Washington never recovered. Wall seemed frustrated by the lack of driving lanes throughout the game (he remarked on his way out of the locker room that DeAndre was sitting in the lane all night), and he kept trying to jump-shoot the Wizards back into it. For a moment early in the third quarter it seemed like it might work, as the Wizards scored nine quick points in under two minutes to cut the deficit from 19 to 10, but the Clippers responded with back-to-back 3-pointers and the game was never in doubt the rest of the way.

The good news, if there is any, is that the Clippers’ strategy is not a silver bullet that all future opponents can emulate. Dudley pointed out that it’s a lot easier to go small and switch every screen when you have someone like NBA All-Defensive First Teamer DeAndre Jordan patrolling the paint. The Wizards also will be better prepared the next time it happens. “We just didn’t do a great job of moving the ball and didn’t do a good of setting good screens,” Wall said.

The bad news, though, is that the game was not lost solely on the offensive end. As John Wall admitted after the game, it would not have mattered how many points Washington scored because the Clippers would just keep scoring themselves. Wall put it bluntly: “We didn’t play defense at all. … We never gave ourselves an opportunity to be in this game. Point blank. Period.”

It was not all doom and gloom in the Wizards post-game locker room, though. “Disappointed. I think we all should be disappointed,” Dudley said. “But guys are still upbeat in the sense that we are on the right path. We faced a good team that outplayed us. … Guys are in good spirits where we are at and we know that defensively we have to take the next step if we want to be in the playoffs.”

‘I Called Game’ Returns.

Not since Earl Boykins has a one-year player so captured the imagination of Washington fans. Paul Pierce will forever hold a special place in the hearts and minds of Wizards faithful and the feeling appears to be mutual. The media scrum for Pierce before the game was so large that he decided to move into the hallway where the head coach makes his pre-game remarks, instead of the cramped visiting locker room, to address the crowd.

Pierce talked positively about his time in D.C.: “This was one of my funnest years. Even though it was one year, I had a lot of fun being around these guys. They welcomed me with open arms. I embraced the city. They embraced me back.”

He also explained that his decision to return to his hometown of Los Angeles was mostly a family decision, although the lure of reuniting with Doc Rivers for a title run did not hurt. Pierce said he “thought” the Clippers had a chance to win a championship and some wondered whether his use of past tense signaled a change in his current opinion of Los Angeles’ title hopes.

Pierce also revealed that he is good friends with a lot of players on the Wizards (“we chat on the text”), and he still thinks Washington can make waves in the East. “I think once they get healthy you’re going to have to look out for them,” he said.

Since Pierce said he still follows the team; I asked how he thinks Otto Porter is playing and whether he thinks Otto could use another punch to get him going. “I’m really happy with his progress. This is his first year getting extended minutes. It’s about consistency. If he can just continue to put in the work and be consistent … the Otto Porter they need is the Otto Porter we had in the playoffs last year,” Pierce said. I think everyone can agree with that bit of The Truth.

As Pierce walked away from the media scrum, one reporter informed him that Marcin Gortat claims to have regularly beaten Pierce one-on-one. Paul was incredulous: “No way. No way. I hope I get a switch on him tonight. I’ll show you what I used to do to him.”

Pierce never got the chance to embarrass Gortat, but he did find himself isolated on defense against his former teammate John Wall. It did not go well, as the video below attests. Wall and Pierce shared a smile on the court and Wall added post-game, “He knew it was coming. It was just funny. He couldn’t move.”

Pierce played 17 minutes as a starter against his old team, scoring nine points on 4-for-7 shooting. His low minutes were a function of the lopsided score and, to hear his coach explain it, his old age. “He had to remind me of that [monitoring his minutes] the other night. I was messing with him I think in the first half and he did like this twice [pointing to his chest] and I was like, ‘You haven’t been playing all year.’ He says, ‘I’m 38.’ I said, ‘Oh, OK, I forgot.’ I guess I do have to monitor his minutes.”

Before Pierce exited the visitor’s locker room after the game, he was asked to compare John Wall and Chris Paul. What followed was a very Paul Pierce-like answer.

“I’ve had a tremendous opportunity to play with some great point guards, and it’s hard to distinguish one from the other. I’ve gone from [Rajon] Rondo, to John Wall, to Chris [Paul]. Every point guard I play with, I’m like, ‘He’s the best point guard in the league.’ I don’t know if it’s the Paul Pierce effect, though.”

 

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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.