Key Legislature: Wizards 75 vs Heat 97 — Wall and Co. Freeze at Miami's Block Party | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 75 vs Heat 97 — Wall and Co. Freeze at Miami’s Block Party

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Updated: January 4, 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 Heat, Regular Season Game 32, Jan. 3, 2016, by Rashad Mobley (@rashad20).

There is no fancy to way to say this, so: The Wizards were blown out, whipped, molly-whopped, dominated, and flat-out beaten at the Verizon Center on Sunday night by the Miami Heat. They lost by 22 points—at one point in the fourth quarter they trailed by as many as 30 points—and their deficit stayed in double-figures after the 5:18 mark of the second quarter. Excluding the second quarter, the Wizards were only outscored 72-68, but this is not high school or college, where throwing out the lowest score is an acceptable analytical practice. The second period must be discussed.

In that putrid, punchless second-quarter performance, the Wizards scored just seven points to the Heat’s 25, and they shot 2-for-22 from the field, good for 9.1 percent (including 0-for-8 from the 3-point line). Ramon Sessions hit a 3-pointer but missed the rest of his four shots (he also airballed a free throw and a floater in the quarter). Jared Dudley took and made just one shot. The other seven Wizards who played during the second quarter went 0-for-16. That includes John Wall’s 0-for-8 effort from the field during that span.

It wasn’t just that the Wizards could not score, they were unable to get Wall and Marcin Gortat on track like the Wizards offense had succeeded in doing so many times over the previous month. More specifically, they weren’t able to pick apart the Heat defense the way they did in December (more on that later). Hassan Whiteside (6 of Miami’s 11 blocks) and the Heat were not letting Wall get in the lane to be disruptive, and Gortat, who hurt his ankle earlier in the quarter but showed no visible signs of being hampered, simply could not break free of Whiteside long enough to get an open look or a pass from Wall. When Gortat did, he was very often blocked at the rim. Comcast SportsNet’s Phil Chenier and Steve Buckhantz remarked that the Wizards needed the quick offense of Bradley Beal or Gary Neal.

Coach Erik Spoelstra attributed part of the Wizards’ struggles to the “whirling dervish” of rotations Wittman has had to use due to all the injuries, but he also credited the Heat’s defense. Chris Bosh embellished a bit:

“We did a good job scrambling. We just wanted to change coverages on John [Wall]. He’s one of the best at getting his guys involved and getting himself involved and you kinda want to play in between. We kind of wanted to trap him, we wanted to show him, we just wanted to give him a bunch of different coverages because he’s too good to just keep doing the same thing. He’ll eventually start lining you up. Hassan [Whiteside] did a great job, big fella did a great job, the guards did a fantastic job of getting through screens and getting back into plays and that allowed us to have better closeouts.”

The Wizards clearly needed more offensive firepower to compete with Miami, but their defense left much to be desired as well. At the start of the second quarter, when the Wizards trailed 25-24, Kelly Oubre did not clear the lane while trying to guard Beno Udrih and was called for a defensive three-second violation—the Heat’s Gerald Green hit the free throw. A few seconds later, Kris Humphries was late in his closeout of Bosh after preventing an Udrih drive, and Bosh drilled a 3-pointer to increase the lead to 29-24. After a missed Sessions layup, Miami quickly ran down the floor and hit their second consecutive 3-pointer when Oubre was a step slow on his closeout.

The Wizards’ poor level of play from the second quarter on was such a far cry from the brand of basketball they displayed in the opening 12 minutes. After falling behind 10-3 in the first three and a half minutes of the game, Wall went on a solo 5-o run with a pull-up jumper and a 3-pointer, and then Otto Porter and Gortat worked themselves into the mix. When Wall went to the bench, Sessions—as he did on New Year’s Day against the Magic—stepped right in and immediately went to the basket, and-1. The quarter ended when Garrett Temple effortlessly made a 30-foot 3 to make the score 25-24 in the Heat’s favor. Then Miami turned up the heat defensively, and the Wizards were unable to regain any modicum of offensive consistency.

Spoelstra stressed that key to the Heat’s smothering defense was the memory of their lack of defense down the stretch in their first meeting with the Wizardson December 9. Miami allowed the Wizards to score 114 points (the most they had allowed to that point and the most they’ve allowed all season) on 50 percent shooting from the field and the 3-point line. The game was actually tied at 101 with 2:54 left in the game that night, but the Wizards went on a 13-2 run to close it out. During that game-ending run, Washington scored via transition, in the lane, from the 3-point line, from midrange, and from the free throw line.

Spoelstra said after the game he took immediate action:

“One of the turning points [defensively] was our loss against Washington last time. it was a major storyline it was a lightning rod game the way it finished in the fourth quarter and the next day it was a 3 hour work day. There’s no pointing fingers, it was something that needed to be worked on and that doesn’t make it a bad thing in this league. we had a long film session, a long meeting and we worked and drilled it.”

The Wizards had similar back-to-basics practices and film sessions in November after giving up an average of 119 points in three straight losses. Coach Wittman was not thrilled with the offensive execution in the blowout lost to the Heat on Sunday, but he was not inclined to take such drastic measures to correction those ills either,

“We stopped moving people, our bodies, and we stopped moving the ball. One guy was dribbling it, holding it, and just as I told our guys, we’re not an isolation team. That’s not a knock, we’re just not made up that way. And when we hold the ball and let a defensive team like Miami have four guys standing there watching that guy in the half court do that, we just end up taking really bad shots or we just turn it over. Then we just couldn’t make a shot and we stopped looking to make shots and we over-dribbled. The combination, more-so, offensively it’s hard to judge the defense when your offense is [as] bad as it was.”

Next up for the Wizards? LeBron James, a healthy Kyrie Irving, and the Cleveland Cavaliers come to D.C. on Wednesday.

Chris Bosh’s Parting Shot.

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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.