Key Legislature: Wizards 103 vs Magic 91 — Wizards Use Wings To Soar, Have No Use For Magic | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 103 vs Magic 91 — Wizards Use Wings To Soar, Have No Use For Magic

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Updated: January 2, 2016

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 Magic, Regular Season Game 31, Jan. 1, 2016, by Bryan Frantz (@BFrantz202).

“If I knew that a combination was gonna work, I’d be a hell of a coach.” —Randy Wittman

The Wizards of old (1) had no perimeter depth. From the 1 to the 3, the Wizards featured: John Wall, who was spelled by national treasure Andre Miller or still adjusting/generally ineffective Ramon Sessions; 60-game-star Bradley Beal, who was relieved by “defensive specialist” Garrett Temple; Paul Pierce/Otto Porter/(technically) Martell Webster; and a few charming cameos from the likes of Will Bynum, Toure’ Murry, and others.

While there was a decent chunk of overall talent there, that group became much less appealing when Beal inevitably went down with injury. Pierce and Porter were hit-or-miss throughout the season, Miller was useful on offense but a defensive disaster, Webster was perpetually sidelined, Sessions had his moments but struggled to develop a meaningful and consistent role off the bench, and Temple was just sort of there.

Now, things done changed. Washington, despite leading the league in owies and boo-boos, can fluidly cycle through versatile sub-7 footers such as Wall, Sessions (who has found a spot as the leader of the second unit, as well as in a complementary role alongside Wall), Porter (who has evolved into an adult professional basketballer), Temple (who learned how to offense), Jared Dudley (the hero D.C. deserves), highly athletic but visually impaired rookie Kelly Oubre, and future Hall of Famer Jarell Eddie. At full strength, they can add Beal, Gary Neal, and Alan Anderson to the mix, as well.

Friday night at the Verizon Center, the Wizards showed how valuable an adjustment of philosophy can be. Wall, Temple, Porter, Sessions, Dudley, and Oubre combined for 82 points, 28 rebounds, 23 assists, 10 steals, two steals, and just eight turnovers as the Wizards beat the Magic, for the 11th time in a row, by a score of 103-91.

“With [Oubre] out there, it gives us another lanky person who can play defense, and also can rebound for us. That’s something that we need,“ Porter said. He was specifically talking about he and Oubre meshing on the court, but it can be seen as a reflection of the team adapting to the modern game. Look at a team like, oh I don’t know, say the defending champions and possible future regular season wins record holders, the Golden State Warriors. More than two-thirds of their roster can play at least two positions comfortably, and many, such as Harrison Barnes, can play at least three. That’s due, in large part, to his lankiness, ability to play defense, and rebounding capabilities.

While the sample size is small, here are the per-36 minutes numbers for Barnes in 2014-15 and Oubre this year:

Barnes: 12.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.3 blocks, 1.4-for-3.3 from 3-point range

Oubre: 13.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.2 blocks, 2.0-for-4.5 from 3-point range

The rookie out of Kansas is just finally getting actual consideration for meaningful NBA minutes, though Randy Wittman, generally loathe to playing young talent, only got him into the lineup in the first place due to injuries to Porter, Beal, Neal, and Anderson. After he had a fair share of success and a much greater share of teachable moments, Oubre has earned about 35 total minutes over the two games since Porter returned to the starting lineup. Wittman called Friday night’s game the best defensive game of Oubre’s career; really, he was quite pleased with just about every aspect of the Wizards’ defensive effort against Orlando.

Wittman on Wizards: “I just thought, for 48 start to finish, defensively stayed in tune with what we had to do, and that paid off in the fourth quarter.”

Wittman on Kris Humphries: “He got it going. He got good movement, made a couple shots, defended—that’s what he’s got to do, even when they went back big with [Nikola Vucevic], I thought he did a heck of a job on him. You just ride that.”

Wittman on Oubre: “Kelly came in. It’s the best defensive game he’s had as a pro, tonight.”

Wittman on Drew Gooden: “Drew used four minutes to get four fouls, so he didn’t waste any.”

Wittman on Oubre, again: “I mean, he defended. With energy! He got his hands—deflections. Deflections are so huge.”

Wittman on loss to Toronto Raptors: “Our defense gave us an opportunity to win that game in Toronto.”

Wittman on locker room talking: “It’s nice to hear chatter in the locker room being about defense, and with no coaches around, and I’m starting to hear that.”

Ignoring the irony of that last quote, the point remains: As much as the Wizards have shifted their overall basketball philosophy, Wittman’s team will always focus on defense first, second, and fourth. Offense comes third and only third.

There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s some expression that rings true throughout sports (usually) about defense playing a substantial role in winning games. Defense spurred the Wizards run midway through the first quarter that put them up seven, and they maintained that lead for much of the game.

In an unusual twist, Wall was the first starter to head to the bench, doing so at the 6:12 mark of the first period with the Wizards down 9-6. Sessions took his spot and quickly knocked down a pair of layups and found Porter for a layup of his own to spur a quick 6-0 run. By the time Wall returned to the lineup, at the 2:57 mark, the Wiz had taken a 20-15 lead. A bit of controversy surrounded that substitution, as effective as it was. After the game, Wittman said he sensed Wall was tired and wanted to get his point guard some rest early, knowing he’d rack up plenty of minutes late.

“I knew we tried to space it out, he got a little winded,” Wittman explained. “The pace at the start of the game was really good, and I thought that’s a good time to do it. I usually wait a little longer, but I just thought I saw him winded a little bit, so why not do it then? He’s going to get 38 minutes or so, so just trying to get some [rest] early there.”

But when the Wall-Star was asked why he sat on the bench, foul-less, less than halfway through the first period, he had a much different story.

“I took myself out. I was tired,” Wall said with a laugh, noting the move was not planned ahead of time.

A curious development for sure, but because it came in the first quarter and not in the fourth with the game on the line—and the Wizards ended the game by marking a tally in the W column—no controversy is likely to stem from this contradiction.

Despite all the focus on defense, the Wizards offense was exceptional in the fourth quarter, when Washington put the game away. Washington hit 13 of its 22 attempts from the field, all four attempts from the line, and turned it over just one time. Led by THE Kris Humphries, who scored all 11 of his points in the final frame on 4-for-5 shooting, and Wall, who scored 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting in the period to go with five assists, the Wizards outscored the Magic 31-19 in the fourth. The late-game defense was solid, too; Washington had four steals in the final period, and it outrebounded Orlando 10-6. The two players who played the entire quarter for the Wiz: Oubre and Sessions, of course.

It is, of course, too early to be certain, but perhaps this is a sign of things to come for Wittman and the young Wizards. With the Wizards up by 10 and 4:21 showing on the clock—just enough time for a patented #WizCollapse—Porter was subbed back into the game. He took the spot of 30-year-old Jared Dudley, and 20-year-old Kelly Oubre was left to close out the game.

It was a reassuring sign for the future, and an indication that maybe Wittman is beginning to see the light, bestowing greater responsibility on the younger players with a nod toward the seasons ahead. Or maybe it was nothing, simply a measured action taken to give the (relatively) hot hand a bit more bump while resting the legs of the seasoned veteran.

Either way, the Wiz Kids finished out the game and got potentially valuable closing experience, something that should pay off down the road.

John Wall: Good at Basketballing.

  1. A season ago.
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Bryan Frantz
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Bryan is a D.C. native with a degree in something or other from UNC. He has important, interesting hobbies, but mostly he just weeps over D.C. sports teams. You can find him on the Metro, inevitably complaining about Red Line delays.