Avoiding the Pre-Holiday Hangover — Wizards vs Hornets, DC Council 25 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Avoiding the Pre-Holiday Hangover — Wizards vs Hornets, DC Council 25

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Updated: December 21, 2015

The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards vs Hornets, Game 25, Dec. 19, 2015, via Sean Fagan (@McCarrick).

M.V.P.

The natural inclination for a game that the Wizards had to positively, absolutely win to remain relevant within an Eastern Conference where the playoff field is starting to separate is to hand out the top accolade to the man who once again had to strap on his superman cape (or in this case, the debut of the new Wizards throwbacks) and lead his team to a desperately needed victory. But before we pin the M.V.P to John Wall, who was once again the best player on the court for the Wizards against Charlotte, we will let the man himself turn down the award on the basis that he lead the team with eight turnovers. Wall’s reasons of course were valid—he played a whopping 41 minutes on a team reduced to 10 dressed players, with Coach Randy Wittman running a playoff rotation of eight for the entire evening. “Yeah, I got a little tired,” said Wall. “I had some careless turnovers that almost cost us the game, but guys stepped up and made some big shots and big stops for us.”

If Wall’s fatigue and the resulting turnovers self-disqualify him from the M.V.P. then the question remains as to who was the most “valuable” Wizard outside of the obvious choice. Marcin Gortat, also logging an onerous 37 minutes, can be taken out of consideration for his first-quarter failings (starting 1-for-5 from the field and missing several bunnies), though he summoned enough reserve to team with Wall to put the game away after Hornets had clawed back from a 15-point deficit to cut the lead to one with 2:24 remaining in the game. One can also put aside Kelly Oubre for the honor, for while he did not embarrass himself by any measure, his performance was one of fits and starts.

Casting about, one’s eye is drawn to perhaps the most maligned Wizard on the squad. Garrett Temple is still residing in D.C. and Saturday night was reminiscent of the wave of #TempleFever that overtook Washington for a brief time during the fall of 2014. Temple clicked in with a career-high 21 pts (7-for-9 FGs), went 2-for-3 on 3-pointers and swiped the ball twice from unsuspecting Hornets. More importantly, he embodied the #EffortTalk that Wittman has been espousing during the Wizards’ recent run of woe:

“Having another guy go down on the road trip, and Otto being out, Gary Neal not being 100 percent. You know, we needed to be aggressive. I talked to Dudley before the game, and we got to fast break. That’s one thing we did a good job of last time we played these guys. We tried to get as many fast break points as we could. I wanted to get out and run, try to get [them] into foul trouble, and we were able to do that.”

Now, Garrett Temple is not the long-term solution to any problem, and each time he takes the court starting in the place of Bradley Beal it reminds one of what the Wizards may lose if Beal gets away this summer (however unlikely that may be). But there are still games where Temple reminds you that he’s earned an NBA roster spot for a reason, and that he is not holding down his post out of sympathy or some strange NBA version of dotage. Temple holds his spot because, despite what he cannot do, Wittman trusts him to not turn the entire game into a pig’s meal all the while praying for the once-in-a-blood-moon performance that Temple put on against the Hornets.

L.V.P.

Again, one must stay clear of the obvious choice in this category and go deeper into the game’s core to suss out who the worst performing Wizard was on Saturday. A cursory glance (at the boxscore or watching live) would have one point the finger at Gary Neal, who went 1-for-7 from the field; shake that finger disapprovingly; and call the case closed and adjourn for lunch. But Neal, fairly or not, receives a pass on the evening for a) playing hurt, and b) being one of the few Wizards in recent games to look entirely tuned in. So he escapes the gallows block for the moment, only to instead have put in his place…

Kris Humphries. Because when the Wizards moved to their pace-and-space system, it was perhaps unfair to think that Humphries was going to transform into a mad bomber overnight. But Saturday night’s game plan was predicated on defense and rebounding, two things Humphries previously excelled at but was for the most part absent. His fall from grace (and the starting unit) has been well-chronicled, but it was surprising to see a man returned to his element, only to thrash around as if he were lost with no compass to guide him home.

X-Factor.

The man who replaced Humphries, Jared Dudley, is not only a favorite of Wizards bloggers because of what he has allowed the team to do on the court (play small, communicate), but also because the depths at which he deconstructs the game following a win or a loss. It is always heartwarming to any reporter to hear a player talk about hedging on ball screens, rather than attributing results to intangibles such as heart and grit.

For Dudley’s part, he put enough tread on the tires, logging 41 minutes versus Charlotte. That number should probably be writ large in red at 104 point font, because it does seem rather unwise to put such a heavy workload on a man coming off back surgery. Yet Dudley’s presence was a necessity for each of those 41 minutes, as he acted as the defensive quarterback, constantly communicating with his teammates and getting them into proper position. Dudley’s emergence (alongside Wall’s continued transcendent play) is perhaps the finger in the dyke that’s keeping the season from turning into a complete disaster, as he has brought some degree of order and logic to a team that generally rejects analysis.

That game was … a throwback (and not just the jerseys).

For all the pablum that Randy Wittman will shovel at you about #Effort, the one truism amongst all noise is that the Wizards have not played with defensive attentiveness that has been the hallmark of Randy Wittman teams. If you have read the word “turnover” more than once when referencing this game, it is because that the Wizards activity on the defensive end can be seen as an aberration in the fall of 2015. Forcing 18 turnovers, while not the expected norm, and winning the possession battle is in keeping with a Wittman team that likes to keep it tidy. Most noticeably, the Hornets went 10-for-33 from behind the arc. With the Wizards setting records for allowing makes from that range in a “make-or-miss league,” more evenings like Saturday night where they channelled the defensive attentiveness of Wittman teams of yore will be needed in order for Washington to claw its way back to relevance.

 

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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.