Rocky Mountain Fried — Wizards vs Nuggets, DC Council 44 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Rocky Mountain Fried — Wizards vs Nuggets, DC Council 44

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Updated: January 29, 2016

The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards vs. Nuggets, Game 44, Jan. 28, 2016, via Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It), from the Verizon Center in D.C..

That Game Was … Unclear Clarity.

Where do we begin? At the beginning.

The Verizon Center was its usual dead self at the start. Worse: Deader than dead. But Wizards players should be used to that by now. The fans usually aren’t great in D.C., but when they are, they arrive late, and they get loud for good basketball. If the home team give them a reason, they will be a home crowd.

Then the starting starters. Randy Wittman once again rolled out ol’ reliable: John Wall, utility infielder Garrett Temple, gangly Otto Porter, Nene, and Marcin Gortat. Look, I have no major big with a two-big lineup—sometimes—but it’s also a relic. And Wittman is holding on to this relic like an apathetic parent who puts a pacifier back in a baby’s mouth after it fell into a street gutter without bothering to disinfect it. (Or something like that.)

And now, a brief history of the Nene-Gortat pairing:

  • 2013-14 Regular Season: 983 minutes (53 games, 25% of all team minutes) —
    Plus-10.5 per 48 minutes.
  • 2014 Playoffs: 226 minutes (10 games, 42% of all team minutes) —
    Minus-5.1 per 48.
  • 2014-15 Regular Season: 1,189 minutes (67 games, 30% of all team minutes) —
    Plus-6.1 per 48 minutes.
  • 2015 Playoffs: 139 minutes (10 games, 29% of all team minutes) —
    Minus-10.7 per 48.
  • 2015-16 Regular Season: 58 minutes (5 games, 3% of all team minutes) —
    Minus-15.0 per 48.

The moral of the story is that playing Nene and Gortat together more in 2016 is not the first, second, or seventh reason that the Wizards stink. But the pattern is that, as the NBA landscape has changed, Wittman and the Wizards have been slow to adapt. Such has gotten them by in the regular season, and perhaps made Wittman’s prowess as a defensive-minded coach better in theory than in reality, but in the playoffs the Wizards have suffered greatly, both on the court and not being able to adapt their style of play to one that better suits John Wall (instead of Wittman).

Now, in a desperate attempt to make the postseason if only to get swept once there, the coach has turned to what worked in the past but also that which does not serve the franchise well for the future. Wittman, however, will insist this is twin tower lineup is all about matchups and injuries. Whichever you choose to believe, any pattern or ‘identity’ that the Wizards players have been trying to establish since training camp has been thrown out of whack. The Wizards aren’t even good at defending when both Nene and Gortat play, which was really the only reason for playing them together in the first place.

Conclusion: the Wizards are clearly a mess right now, and it’s unclear if their coach—or maybe it’s very clear—knows what the hell he is doing.

Oh, by the way, the Wizards players had some sort of conversation, without the coaches, after the loss to Denver. Jared Dudley called it a “discussion.” Bradley Beal called it a “meeting.” Things are so clear now.

M.V.P.

Not John Wall, not all at. And really, only one Wizard qualifies. Although you could make devil’s advocate cases for Bradley Beal (7-14 for 17 points off the bench; team-high plus-2) or Drew Gooden (he hit some 3s; the floor spacing was noticeable!). Thursday night’s best in (horror) show award goes to team mouthpiece, Jared Dudley.

Dudley was the only Wizard who played with a bit of fire in the second half. He was a mere plus-1 on the court for the game but plus-12 over quarters three and four. With four minutes left in the third, the Wizards were down 18. Then came two Dudley free throws; a Wall steal; a Temple 3 (Dudley assist); a Dudley rebound; a Wall 3 (Temple assist); an amazing Wall block; and on the other end, a Dudley 3 (Wall assist). Suddenly the Wizards were down just nine points.

Dudley provided his team with a shot of #WittmanJava and the home crowd, most just settling into their seats after halftime intermission with Bud Light (or Bud heavy), popcorn, and Dippin’ Dots in tow, awoke with an alcohol/carb/sugar basketball rage. We almost had a basketball game. Team owner Ted Leonsis even live-tweeted this just as the spell was taking place.

Then Dudley missed 1-of-2 free throws; got beat baseline by Darrell Arthur (followed by a bad Gortat foul on Arthur); Wall missed a 3; Dudley lost Arthur on a cut and gave him an and-1; Ramon Sessions entered; Randy Wittman’s offense slowed to a creep; and Dudley missed a 3-pointer. The Wizards ended the third quarter down 12 points. These are the self-inflicted breaks. Dudley continued to play his ass off in the fourth quarter but his example-setting wasn’t enough.

After the game, Dudley would go on to opine on how the Wizards’ identity should be 3-point shooting and the what-not; proclaimed the team’s leaders to be himself, Wall, Alan Anderson, and Drew Gooden (you can do the math on who’s missing); and appeared to face some music that, yes, now the Wizards have to once again figure out how to play with both Nene and Gortat on the floor at the same time.

L.V.P.

According to NBA.com player tracking data, excluding fast breaks, John Wall drove toward the basket (1) on 10 occasions, above his season average of 7.8 drives per game. During a scorching December, Wall drove to the basket 9.4 times per game. In a poor November, it was 7.1 times per game. In January, Wall’s drives are back down to 6.7 times per game. On drives against Denver, Wall shot 1-for-2, earned two FTs (made both), and passed the ball four times (didn’t pick up an assist), and turned the ball over three times. That’s not good.

But, look, it’s not like Wall was terrible on Thursday—he damn near got a triple-double with 17 points (but 5-17 FGs, 1-7 3s), 7 rebounds, 9 assists, 4 steals, 2 blocks, and 3 turnovers. But Wall didn’t carry his team like an All-Star (he found out he was selected by the coaches just before the game). He didn’t appear overly frustrated as the game’s events unfolded, but maybe worse, he appeared resigned, tired. And he was especially passive late in the contest when the game was—well, actually—in the balance. Sure, Wall attempted four free throws in the fourth quarter (earning them after a steal on the break and on a drive after a timeout), and he made three of them. But otherwise, Wall attempted three fourth quarter shots, all were 3-pointers, and all were missed. The last one was an airball.

X-Factor.

There were a handful of gut-punches that you can imagine unfolding in rapid succession after a cut-away to an exclamatory statement rendered in cartoon-graphical form a là 1960s Adam West Batman.

POW! — 7:31 left in the third, Otto Porter went under a screen like a man licking the top of a yogurt left behind by a stranger. So Danilo Gallinari hit a 3-pointer, the Nuggets took a 10-point lead, and Randy Wittman called timeout.

WHAM! — Two minutes later, 5:34 in the third, Drew Gooden stripped and stole the ball from Gallinari, immediately passed the recovered ball to Otto Porter’s back, which the ball bounced off of, and so then Denver recovered the ball and Gallinari hit another 3. This time the Nuggets assumed a 15-point lead, and Wittman burned through another timeout.

BIZZOW! — Forty-five seconds left in the third quarter—and this was glossed over in the M.V.P. section above—but #RandyBall was looking for a way to validate cutting Denver’s lead from 18 to nine points over a span of two minutes before it quickly jumped back to 12. Wittman’s offense was initiated by Bradley Beal and Garrett Temple looping around the bay like rudderless dinghies on a windy day, wasting second after second as if in retirement, only for all that movement to result in zero gains. The ball ended up in John Wall’s hands for a desperation 3-point attempt, but it didn’t matter. The shot clock had expired.

BOOM! — 3:40 left in the game, the Wizards down 99-102 (since the 5:25 mark). Denver committed an offensive goaltending, feel asleep a bit on defense, and Washington took advantage by pushing the ball and finding Beal in the corner. But he missed what would have been a game-tying 3-pointer. Nene did get the offensive rebound, but John Wall soon after turned the ball over. I really think that Beal 3-pointer would’ve awoken the Wizards and propelled them to a win. A boy can dream.

DAGGAR! — 1:13 left, Beal drove hard to the basket—a great idea!—trying, albeit in vain, to keep the Wizards within two points. Instead: the Big Panda was consumed by the “Manimal,” Kenneth Faried, and then neither team scored until Beal was forced to foul Emmanuel Mudiay with 29 seconds left. Both free throws were made, giving the Nuggets all the six-point cushion that they would need.

  1. A drive is defined by when one starts at least 20 feet away from the hoop and drives the ball to within 10 feet of the hoop.
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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.