Key Legislature: Wizards 104 vs Lakers 108 — Kobe, Kobe-Stans, and Wizards Fans | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 104 vs Lakers 108 — Kobe, Kobe-Stans, and Wizards Fans

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Updated: December 3, 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 Lakers, Regular Season Game 16, Dec. 2, 2015, by Kyle Weidie (@truth_about_it).

It wasn’t a basketball game, it was a circus (as Nick Swaggerlicious Preposterous Young might say). And it wasn’t a matchup between the home team Wizards and a road team, it was a relatively neutral crowd (1) of basketball fans (and Kobe-Stans) cheering one of the all-time greats on his last visit to the nation’s capital. But it was barely an NBA-caliber contest—the Wizards and Lakers combined for 40 turnovers. Somehow each team made it to the finish line with more than 100 points in tow, after they sloppily traded baskets for a close ending in a rather bizarre environment. The Lakers won by four points and the game-deciding basket came with 30 seconds left.

The Official Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour made its third stop in D.C. on Wednesday night. The prior night, it passed through Philadelphia where Kobe grew up, then where his idol—and longtime shadow caster—Michael Jordan ended his pro career. As fitting as narratives need it to be.

Kobe was the story. The index. The glossary. The book jacket—he’s looking up at the camera from a cushy chair. John Wall tried his hardest to overshadow Bryant’s rocking-chair-and-rolling around the court but—get ready to gasp—didn’t have the supporting cast to do it. Kobe did.

And Kobe somehow saved his best for the last contest in a four-game, five-night stretch for the Western Conference’s worst team against the fourth-worst team in the East. He scored a season-high 31 points on 24 shots; 12 on 11 shots in the fourth quarter. Wall countered with 15 fourth-quarter points on six shots in less than six minutes, but again, that supporting cast thing.

Before we attempt to digest just what went wrong for the Wizards versus the Lakers with adjectives that act as vague sports-industrial complex descriptors as well as encapsulators of the season-to-date, let us touch upon that bizarre environment that perplexes one’s ability to chew one of 82 but which was totally expected.

Quotes overheard in an attempt to explain:

  • “I’m from D.C. but Kobe has my heart.” —some possibly inebriated guy.
  • “We gotta make sure we get tickets to the Warriors game early.” —two Lakers fans in Laker-yellow jerseys outside of the Verizon Center.
  • “I mean, I paid a thousand dollars for this game…” —some young distraught girl in a Lakers jersey who was evidently done wrong by some stranger and, upon my passing, in the process of being consoled by another stranger.
  • “I like the Wizards, but I also like Kobe.” —some dude.

In essence: it was the lowest point for a Verizon Center home-away-from-home crowd, and it can never get lower. (But Kobe thought it was cool!) It was rock bottom, yet understandable. Kobe announced his retirement via a player-funded, media-maven massaged website in poetry form (which wasn’t actually poetry) which was then printed on bedazzled paper and distributed to Lakers fans. After that: bets were off, especially in a city where transients multiplied by pro basketball ineptitude equals infiltrating fans of other teams, or individuals, making an overwhelming amount of noise. It’s both sad and cool with me. Or maybe I just relent. Maybe I just concede. ESPN’s Zach Lowe recently called Kobe “one of the top 15 players ever,” which many could see as a slight, even if the proclamation minimizes the debate on Kobe’s place in history. (Hint: I agree! Top 15!)

Sports is a hot ticket and this game became the thing to do in D.C. And like him or not, Kobe deserved the farewell. I was never really a fan. Sports are about rooting for teams as much as it is rooting against others. Tell me you don’t root for some (but not necessarily all) villains in movies. I had my reasons that only mattered to me but will say that Kobe swung back from heel when he helped wrestle the gold medal back for the U.S. in the 2008 Beijing Olympics with his defense. Now, I think that Kobe enjoys being liked. He relishes this, he’s savoring it. Isn’t life funny? Good for him.

I’ve enjoyed rooting against him, despite his success. (I’ve enjoyed seeing the Lakers demise—YES KOBE JUST BEAT THE WIZARDS.) It’s getting awkward, how do we end this? Kobe Bryant: bless his heart, and good riddance.

The Game.

The game began with Kobe, guarded by Otto Porter, being doubled by Jared Dudley and sputtering the ball out of bounds in a pass attempt to Julius Randle. Turnover. But Kobe kept passing to teammates, saving energy, hitting jump shots on Wiz-pups Bradley Beal and Otto Porter. Beal was the defender on seven of Kobe’s shots, five of them went in—a Black Mamba stretches longer than a Big Panda. The Wizards punched first, taking a 14-7 lead, but then shot themselves in the foot with sloppy play, assimilating to the Lakers’ general brand of bad, inexperienced basketball aside from overlord Bryant. A 13-0 L.A. run that took about two minutes and 20 seconds midway through the period gave the Los Angelinos the confidence they needed (and a 20-14 lead). Bryant hit a 3-pointer, long 2, and a free throw. Jordan Clarkson chipped in two buckets. Kudos. John Wall and Bradley Beal, meanwhile, combined for four turnovers during the stretch (Wall 3) and Otto Porter missed two wide-open shots.

Wall continues to turn the ball over at concerning rates. He had four in the first quarter, but also five assists, as he once again made a concerted effort to get Marcin Gortat going. When Gortat (18 points, 10 rebounds) got the ball on the move, it was devastating to a porous Lakers defense, but when left to his own fading jumper and winding hook shot devices, Gortat was a disaster. He finished 6-for-8 at the rim, 10-for-13 in the paint, and 1-for-4 outside of the paint. Gortat’s rebounding was fair (10 boards on 24 chances), but he had little help from his teammates (31 boards on 66 chances).

As far as Wall, he recovered nicely and only committed one turnover to six assists after the first quarter. Unfortunately, that one turnover ended the Wizards’ night. Wall single-handedly dragged his “lackadaisical” team, according to Randy Wittman, back into a battle with Kobe and the Lakers down the stretch. Past his big, 15-point fourth quarter, he scored 34 points on 19 shots (3-6 3Ps, 9-12 FTs) to go with 11 assists, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, and 5 turnovers. But with less than 25 seconds left and the Lakers holding a two-point lead, Wall sucked the defense in with a drive but passed it to the wrong man: Lou Williams, who was shadowing Wall’s intended target, Bradley Beal.

Beal was a no-show—although his subpar numbers don’t exactly reflect how forgettable his performance was (11 points, 4-12 FGs, 1-4 3Ps, 2-2 FTs, 6 assists, 5 turnovers, 2 rebounds, and 2 steals in 38 minutes). He scored 24 or more points in each of Washington’s first five games but has only cracked the 20-point mark twice in eight games since (also missing three games with a bruised shoulder). Beal was handed the reins to run the team for spells, particularly in the second quarter, but could never really deliver. His rhythm in trying to form a two-man game with Gortat was off, he didn’t attack and was more shy than aggressive overall (Wittman diagnosed that he was turning down opportunities to shoot after the game), and in the end Beal just seemed meek trying to contest the shots of a future Hall of Famer.

Who’s left on the Wizards Shit List? Otto Porter. He just hasn’t been cutting it offensively over the last six games, five of which were losses for Washington. Porter is still doing glue guy things, interjecting his limbs into cracks, crevices, passing lanes, and projective paths. But his lack of strength continues to be a losing battle—although Porter is slowly gaining, you can see. Back to his offense: Porter is 14-for-48 (.344 eFG%) over this six-game stretch; his eFG% was .563 of the first 10 games of the season. A lull is understandable (Porter was 0-for-5 on uncontested field goals versus the Lakers, to note); he’s still at that streaky shooter stage. The concern lies somewhere between the urgency of Porter needing to show progress and how much the Wizards are relying on him to replace Paul Pierce (perhaps too much—also can’t help but think that Pierce would’ve made the 3-pointer that Jared Dudley missed with two minutes left and the Wizards down 95-96).

So the Wizards suffered their most embarrassing loss of the season Wednesday night—and the hometown fans were screaming for L.A. in what had to be a gut punch then a shin kick to players, anyone involved with the franchise, and Wizards faithful. It was L.A.’s fourth game in five nights—same for the Wizards. And somehow the Wizards, who beat the Cavs on Tuesday night, lost to the Lakers who lost to the then-winless 76ers that same Monday evening. It’s not the end of the world, but the Wizards have been doused with so many consecutive buckets of ice water as a wake-up call you wonder what actually will work, how it will be implemented, and who will be giving the message.

Five of Washington’s next eight games are on the road, seven are against Western Conference teams, and six are against 2015 playoff teams. Rounding out the next eight, with tough(er) rosters this season, are Miami and Phoenix. With only one-fifth of the season gone, there’s plenty of time to turn the tide, but it could quickly get overwhelming if the Wizards continue to act shell-shocked while bailing the water out of the dinghy.

Bullets.

  • Relative rookie Julius Randle son’d the Wizards with a 19-rebound night (7 offensive). The Wizards were super-sloppy (23 turnovers giving up 33 points), and not tough enough, giving up 16 total offensive rebounds. These are headcase statistics.
  • Lineups: Washington’s starters (Wall, Beal, Porter, Dudley, Gortat) finished an even-zero in 25 minutes. A unit featuring Sessions, Neal, Temple, Humphries, and Hollins (5 minutes, second-most) surprisingly finished plus-7. And a more rugged rebounding crew of Wall, Beal, Oubre, Humphries, and Gortat finished plus-10 in four minutes. But 10 other lineups played two minutes or less and only one of them finished in the positive (+1). That’s a lot of gut feelings from Randy Wittman.
  • Kelly Oubre got some burn … and was plus-9! Wittman gave him some experience guarding Kobe, he fell for a pump-fake, and he once attacked the basket but his dunk attempt was sent back to Oubre-land.
  • As expected, it was a packed house of media; Kobe was asked three or four questions in Spanish afterward. And of course, several Kobe-Stans infiltrated with media passes as well. Some guy with a media pass was sporting sweatpants and an indoor scarf and seemed to be covering nothing. Another took time to attempt to capture a “selfie” of him and a non-participatory Kobe as he exited. Michael Wilbon gave Kobe a big hug.


  1. I say “neutral” because, by my unofficial and non-technical estimate, the crowd was 50% Kobe fans, 30% Wizards fans, and 20% Lakers fans … with an unknown percentage of Kobe fans also being Wizards fans while a certain fraction was simply neutral basketball fans.
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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.