Kobe Bean Ends Two-Win Dream — Wizards vs Lakers, DC Council 16 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Kobe Bean Ends Two-Win Dream — Wizards vs Lakers, DC Council 16

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Updated: December 3, 2015

The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards vs Lakers, Game 16, Dec. 2, 2015, via Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks).

M.V.P.

This is complicated. Appropriately so. Given that the crowd in attendance was condemned to an endless war with itself. Given that the lukewarm id of a city was laid out on the evening’s operating table. Given that Kobe fans appeared to at least match non-Kobe fans. And given that the number of D.C. fans who gave a shit enough to build a sea wall of boos against the rising tide of #respect was simply inadequate, this is complicated.

It’s also complicated because John Wall almost brought the Wizards back even after Kobe hit the snooze button on his departure from the game’s elite. As Kyle Weidie noted, Wall scored 15 points on six shots in under six fourth-quarter minutes. He also scored 34, assisted on 11, and grabbed 7 rebounds. But with 23 seconds remaining and the Wizards down 103-101, Wall turned the ball over in what looked, on the surface, to be a failure of vision.

As Wall explained that crucial play after the game, it was the same play they ran late in the win against San Antonio. But when Wall rose up against the Lakers, he saw Gortat blanketed down low, and saw a defender in his peripheral vision likely to highly contest or block his shot. Without a valid option, he tried to pass it to Beal on the perimeter. Lou Williams, smothering Beal, had a beat on the ball.

And so here we are: the Lakers won. The Wizards defense, and Beal in particular, couldn’t replicate the kind of solid positioning the team showed against Cleveland. The Wizards also, as Wall put it, “spotted them 33 points off turnovers.”

After the game, Gortat (who had a very nice game, all things considered) put the blame on himself: “He didn’t look like an old guy. … I said that a month ago and a week ago, it’s not about the Lakers’ lot of players, it’s about one guy who can get hot one out of a hundred games, and hopefully he’s not gonna get hot against us. I jinxed it.”

I’m really burying the lede here.

John Wall was the MVP, despite the five turnovers (only one of which occurred after the first quarter). He was more efficient than Bryant (10-for-24), played better defense (his 97.7 DefRtg was best amongst Wizards starters), created as many or more Lakers turnovers as he committed himself, and took the team on his back in the fourth quarter. With a little help from anyone other than Gortat, this is a Wizards win.

X-Factor.

I mentioned Gortat above, and I’d like to return to him now.

100 percent of Gortat’s makes last night were assisted by a teammate, and seven of his nine total makes were assisted by Wall. The pick-and-roll was varied and effective, with Wall finding Gortat on late rolls to the basket and firing threaded passes to the big man where no one could contest the layups and dunks that ensued. With Beal and Porter struggling to hit anything, Wall leaned on Gortat in an increasingly symbiotic relationship. Until the Wizards wings can work to get open and knock down the shots Wall provides them, Gortat is Washington’s safest scoring option.

When I asked Gortat about the increase in that action, he said that it wasn’t something they were really working on in practice, but just a play they had been increasingly implementing in games. It’s been working, and Gortat said that he and Wall needed to “get back to being the best duo in the NBA.” I assume he meant pick-and-roll duo, but you really never know.

There are two diagonal lines to an “x,” and there’s something else to say about Gortat. When he wasn’t catching a pass rolling to the basket from Wall, he was trying to make it on his own, stretching that one leg out like a kid at a mini-golf course, aiming at the cup but putting wide left. Gortat is one of the league’s best finishers at the rim, but his shots outside the restricted area hurt the team against the Lakers.

L.V.P.

Fuck this town. There was a guy in a Lakers jersey with the word “Cleveland” emblazoned on the back where a player’s name should be seated in the lower bowl at the game last night. Another guy in a Lakers jersey could be seen holding up his mobile phone, equipped with a Green Bay Packers protective case, while flexing for photos. Bammas behind blog row could be heard melodramatically groaning “Goodbye, Kobe” as the game ended and Bryant came out for a baseball-style final wave.

The story emerging from the game regarding fans booing Wall is a bit tortured, as they certainly were not Wizards fans (you could tell because they were wearing the jersey of the opposing team). But still, as the esteemed Mr. Kevin Draper pointed out over on Deadspin, “if the arena was so overrun by Lakers fans (and it sure sounds like it was) that they were booing Wall, well, that’s a damning indictment of Wizards fans just the same.”

How did the Wizards players feel? All of the players who spoke to the media (Dudley, Temple, Gortat, and Wall) last night indicated a level of resignation on the issue, ceding hometown support to the “historic” teams like Boston, New York, and Los Angeles.

But what’s that? A glimmer of hopefulness? #PositivePixels? When asked about the rabid Lakers crowd in his city, Wall said “Certain teams, we get that here. Road games. It’s not bad but our fans … we heard our fans when [Lakers fans] was starting to cheer.”

The Wizards, too, seemed to take the “road crowd” better, given Kobe’s stature among the league’s pantheon. Gortat said he was “fortunate enough to play during [Bryant’s] legacy.”

Wall described this season of Kobe as a bit different, a more pleasant version of the Black Mamba, and reported that when Bryant fouled him on a fast break, he told Wall “I couldn’t catch you ten years ago, and I can’t catch you today.” This in stark contrast to his reputation.

Said Wall: “A lot of people say that he’s … that he’s an asshole. But just from playing with him, when you step on the court, you shouldn’t have friends with nobody, you should want to try to rip somebody’s head off and be the best player on the floor and in the world. And that’s the mindset it’s been since he first came into the league when he was a young rookie.”

That Game Was…

An erasure of goodwill. I hesitate to call it a reality check, because I’m not yet sure what reality is relative to this Washington basketball team. Porter (2-for-8) and Beal (4-for-12) are a grape-milk nebula in a heavy universe of uncertainty. And while Beal is capable of looking like the gene-splice product of Ray Allen and Dwyane Wade on a good night, he’s also fully capable of looking like Dion Waiters on a bad night.

But the more important note here is that on a night when your best player scores 34 points and you are facing the second-or-first-worst team in the league, you should win.

Three Things We Saw.

#1) Young Millennial Kelly Oubre got called out by Ted Leonsis for being the Wizard most interested in adopting the STRIVR/Oculus Rift virtual reality technology the team showcased before the game. According to the Wizards, they’ve uploaded the team’s playbook to a program compatible with the hardware, which seems like a funny thing to do. (But more on the virtual reality tech, which is incredibly interesting and potentially very useful, to come in a separate post). Oubre got a chance to check Bryant during the game, and did pretty well absent falling hard for one of Bryant’s signature moves. He may very well be the last player on earth who bites for a Kobe head fake. After the play, Randy Wittman could be seen expressing his love-imbued disappointment with the rookie. Oubre was plus-9 on the night in plus/minus differential, and got a dunk rejected. Has anyone else noticed that Oubre still hasn’t figured out how to gauge whether he’ll be too hotly contested on a layup or dunk? He’ll get there. We all will.

#2) Bradley Beal was awful. This was a ghost of a game for Beal. His usage rate (19.8%) was lower than Gortat’s (20.5%), and only slightly higher than Otto Porter (16.4%). Beal shot a disappointing 2-for-9 (22.2%) on uncontested shots, and any significant contribution from him would have won the game for the Wizards. Beal’s two total free throw attempts probably aren’t enough given how far off his shot, which trended left all night, was.

#3) I saw a man wearing a retro orange Bullets Juan Dixon jersey. Like hot chocolate after getting back from the emergency room following a brutal sledding accident.


 

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Conor Dirks
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
Conor has been with TAI since 2012, and aids in the seamless editorial process that brings you the kind of high-octane blogging you have come to expect from this rad website. The Wizards have been an assiduous companion throughout his years on the cosmic waiver wire. He lives in D.C. and is day-to-day.