Key Legislature: Wizards 95 at Grizzlies 112 — Sleepwalking in Memphis | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 95 at Grizzlies 112 — Sleepwalking in Memphis

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Updated: December 15, 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 at Grizzlies, Regular Season Game 23, Dec. 14, 2015, by Rashad Mobley (@rashad20).

During ESPN’s SportsCenter on Monday morning, Chris Broussard ran through a list of NBA head coaches on “the hot seat,” and he mentioned the names Dave Joerger and Randy Wittman. According to Broussard, Wittman’s job is 100 percent safe because Washington’s front office feels like injuries and the new quicker style of play—not head coach shortcomings—are to blame for the team’s mercurial start. Conversely, the Grizzlies front office blamed Joerger for their slow start (13-12 coming into last night’s game, good for 6th in the West). Also, according to Joerger’s “camp” (as Broussard put it), Memphis brass had not supplied him with enough 3-point shooters to keep up with the small ball, 3-point-focused trend which has taken the league by storm. Last night, the Wizards made liars of the entire Grizzlies organization.

Memphis came into the game averaging just five made 3-pointers per game. By halftime, not only had they met their average, they were also shooting a Steph Curry-like 71.4 percent from behind the arc and 61 percent overall. The Wizards were right there holding their own, shooting 5-for-1o from the 3-point line and 45 percent from the field. However, the Grizzlies had six of their seven players shooting over 50 percent, while Washington’s shooting numbers were being propped up in the first half by Gary Neal (15 points on 6-for-8 from the field) and Jared Dudley (9 points on 4-of-6 shooting).

John Wall had six points and five assists in the first half, but he had four of the Wizards’ 10 turnovers, which prevented any level of continuity in the hardwood office. Marcin Gortat dropped passes, missed point blank shots, mean-mugged the refs, and got torched by Marc Gasol. Otto Porter—after scoring a career-high 28 points in the previous game—had just two points at half. Despite the listless performance after 24 minutes of play, the Wizards were only down 11 points. All they needed was a passionate halftime speech from Randy Wittman, or Wall, or perhaps Dudley, to get them to reduce the turnovers and play some defense, as no one should mistake the Grizzlies for the Warriors.

But the intermission speeches (or the lack thereof) in the visiting locker room must have been as uninspiring, because at the start of the second half the Wizards managed to play even worse. On offense, Gortat missed a two-footer, Garrett Temple turned the ball over, and then Porter missed another open shot. In isolation, that sequence of events can be chalked up to the basketball gods just not being in the Wizards’ favor. But when that offensive play is combined with three wide open shots conceded to Memphis (including one 3-pointer), it is much less excusable. During one particular sequence, there was no defensive communication between Dudley (who is know for being chatty defensively) and Temple, which left Courtney Lee wide open in the corner:

Right after a Marc Gasol jumper from the free throw line—a jumper that Gortat actually contested—Wittman angrily called timeout, perhaps in an attempt to supplement a halftime speech which clearly did not take. That did not work, either.

The Wizards were outscored 26-15 in the third quarter, and while they cut down their turnovers to just three, they shot 28 percent from the field and allowed the Grizzlies to shoot 58 percent. The closeouts were late, there was constant miscommunication and unnecessary over-helping on defense—including another play where Temple and Dudley collided—and Wall, Porter, and Temple were held scoreless. During one sequence, Wall backed Mike Conley into the lane, but then threw a bad pass to Gortat, who struggled to handle it initially before attempting to pass the ball to Porter. Gortat thought Porter was going to shoot the 3, but Porter thought Gortat knew he was going to cut to the basket. The ball went out of bounds instead. “Usually, when your instincts are working, those passes are completed and converted easily,” Comcast SportsNet’s Phil Chenier observed. “When you’re a little bit detached from each other, those passes don’t work.” Through three quarters, the Wizards were detached, and nothing not called Gary Neal was working. The Wizards trailed 83-61 heading into the fourth quarter.

Washington’s last glimmer of hope came via the unlikeliest of lineups—although given the poor play of his starters, Wittman really had no choice. The five-man unit of Ramon Sessions, Neal, DeJuan Blair, Kelly Oubre, and Kris Humphries cut the Grizzlies’ lead from 22 to 11 points in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter. Neal cooled a bit from his earlier pace, but still hit a 3-pointer; Sessions penetrated into the paint; Blair was physical on both ends of the floor—particularly against poor Mike Conley—and got some easy baskets in the lane; and Oubre, with that effortless release of his, hit two 3-pointers of his own. The bulk of their comeback was done against Grizzlies’ starters, whose shooting percentage dropped to 44 percent. Most importantly, that Wizards lineup did not turn the ball over once. But in the end, the hole the Wizards’ starters dug in the third quarter was too much to overcome.  The starters, save for the two minutes that Temple (Bradley Beal’s replacement) played when the game was out of reach, spent the entire fourth quarter on the bench. Wall, who had averaged 26 points and 13 assists in his previous three games, was a non-factor with six points, nine assists, and four turnovers.

Dave Joerger’s seat is a little less hot after his team shot the lights out, leading for 47 minutes and 36 seconds of the game. “We played really hard and really well … we haven’t played from the lead a lot this year,” Joerger said after the game.

Wittman, who, again, doesn’t seem to be in danger of losing his job, had this to say afterward: “Until we get a commitment to defend, we’re going to be on this roller coaster.”

Even more damning than Wittman’s words were those of Gortat, who had just 10 points, nine rebounds, three turnovers, dropped passes, and missed shots from point-blank range: “They were shooting very well, they made a lot of 3s, so I have no explanation.”

Next up?  The San Antonio Spurs.

 

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.