Groundhog Day on January 1st — Wizards vs Magic, DC Council 31 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Groundhog Day on January 1st — Wizards vs Magic, DC Council 31

Updated: January 2, 2016

The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards vs Magic, Game 31, Jan. 1, 2016, from the Verizon Center, via Rashad Mobley (@rashad20).


John Wall started his night with an assist and a layup, but he lacked his normal high energy. Orlando took advantage of that by scoring the game’s first three baskets. By the 6:12 mark, the Wizards had cut the lead to three, but Randy Wittman still was not pleased with what he saw out of Wall, so he sat him down in favor of Ramon Sessions. When asked why he removed Wall from the game unusually early, Coach Wittman said, “I usually wait a little longer [to get him that initial breather] but I saw him get a little winded, so why not do it then, because he was going to get 38 minutes. Just trying to get him some rest.”

Sessions (more on him later) led the Wizards on a 14-6 run while Wall was on the bench; the Wizards would lead by seven points. When Wall returned, that lead shrank to three points, and Wall still looked sluggish.

Wall continued to look withdrawn and not engaged, and then he received a little inspiration at Victor Oladipo’s expense:

Wall grabbed the rebound off the blocked shot, dribbled back down the court, and nailed a pullup jumper from 13 feet. As he ran back down the court, he had a scowl on his face, as if to say, “Here I come.”

A few minutes later, he stole a Mario Hezonja pass and finished with a two-handed jam. Two minutes after that, Wall drove the lane, hit Evan Fournier with a hesitation move, and slammed home yet another dunk. He was much more demonstrative as he ran back up the court, as were his teammates. The Wizards led by five at halftime, and in just one quarter, Wall went from being a liability on the court to the All-Star level point guard he had been during the month of December.

Oladipo got his revenge in the third quarter by scoring seven points and erasing what had been a 12-point Wizards lead. The score was tied at 72, and even during the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, the Magic refused to go away. With the game  was tied at 78, Wall came alive once again.

The Wizards went on a 15-3 run; Wall accounted for nine of those points. Oladipo and Fournier did their best to stay in front of Wall, but it was not to be. Either he was finding Kris Humphries (11 points in the fourth) for an open jumper, or he was running someone off a high screen for an open jumper. Yes, there were two failed alley-oop attempts to Kelly Oubre (which Wittman mocked after the game), but at that point, Wall had imposed his will on the Magic. Orlando forward Tobias Harris summed up Wall’s night perfectly when asked how to stop him:

“I wish I knew. The guy is super fast and he can hurt you many different ways. He gets other guys involved. He is throwing skip passes. He is throwing the pass to Gortat and then he can score also. He is a tough player.”


Perhaps it is unfair to pick on Drew Gooden considering Friday night was his first game since the Wizards’ victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on November 17. In fact, when the Wizards PR staff handed out the starting lineups pre-game, Gooden was listed as being out, even though he was feverishly working out on the court before the game. But shortly before tipoff, the Wizards announced that Gooden was available and would be on a minutes restriction. He didn’t quite make it that long.

He was subbed into the game (before Kelly Oubre) and promptly blocked the shot of Magic forward Aaron Gordon. Then he picked up two personal fouls in less than a minute before the first quarter ended. Almost a minute into the second quarter, Gooden picked up his third foul and took a seat on the bench. He didn’t play again until the end of the third quarter when he picked up a fourth foul, then re-injured his calf and left the game for good. He played four minutes, recorded four fouls, missed his only shot from the field, and had a block and a rebound.

Per the Washington Post‘s Jorge Castillo, he’s scheduled to have an MRI on the calf he re-injured. But that didn’t save him from the L.V.P. award, or Randy Wittman. “Drew used four minutes to get four fouls so he didn’t waste any,” Wittman joked afterward.


Ramon Sessions’ job as the backup point guard is to either maintain the momentum John Wall has built or give him a breather—especially when the Wizards are as shorthanded as they currently are. Against the Magic, Sessions was inserted into the game at the 6:12 mark because Wall was tired and unusually ineffective. Sessions took the baton and absolutely ran with it.

He entered the game with the Wizards trailing by three points, and he immediately hit a floater to cut the lead to one. The Wizards then took the lead on a Sessions pass to Porter, and after the Magic called timeout to quell the momentum Washington had generated, Sessions pulled a John Wall and scored on a full-speed, fastbreak layup. But the crown jewel of the first quarter—and what brought the Wizards bench (including Wall) and the entire Verizon center out of their collective seats—was this surprising dunk.

In the three and a half first-quarter minutes that Sessions played without Wall, he scored six points with an assist and a rebound. More importantly, he took the Wizards’ three-point deficit and turned it into a seven-point lead, and he quickened the pace, which allowed both Otto Porter and Garrett Temple to thrive.

Kris Humphries and Kelly Oubre deserve honorable mentions. Humphries, as he is seemingly wont to do against the Orland Magic (he hit five 3-pointers and scored 26 points when these teams last met in November), got hot and scored 11 points in the fourth quarter to help the Wizards pull away. Oubre bounced back from a lethargic game against Toronto (two points and three fouls in 13 minutes) to play what Coach Wittman called “his best defense game as a pro.” He also did this after missing two alley-oops from Wall:

That Game Was … Well-Coached by Randy Wittman.

Coach Wittman was very much in tune with what his team was and was not doing all night. He yelled at Garrett Temple for being out of position on defense, and he did the same thing to Kris Humphries when he failed to set a screen. He knew before the game that John Wall was going to log heavy minutes, so when he saw the slightest hint of fatigue, he was not bound to his usual script which has him removing Wall toward the end of the first quarter. He brought in Sessions for approximately four minutes to swing the momentum of the game. Even when Wall re-entered the game, Wittman subbed out Otto Porter, not the red-hot Sessions.

At the 7:56 mark of the fourth quarter, when the game was in the balance and the Magic seemed poised to make a run, Wittman went with a lineup of Wall, Dudley, Oubre, Humphries, and Sessions. The presence of Wall and Dudley in the lineup was hardly surprising, and Sessions had already earned Wittman’s trust with his first-quarter rescue effort. But for Wittman to lean on Oubre and Humphries was unexpected. Oubre’s offensive and defensive efforts against Toronto were rookie-like, and Humphries is always hit-or-miss from an offensive perspective, yet Wittman rolled with them and was rewarded with a strong defensive effort from Oubre and offensive consistency from Humphries.

After the game, Wittman was asked to pull the curtain back on his masterful coaching moves and he correctly played the humility card:

“Humphries played well. Listen, if I knew that a combination is gonna work, I’d be a hell of a coach. It’s just a hunch. You go with what you’re doing. Humphries has been our backup five with all the injuries for the most part and he got it going. He got good movement, made a couple of shots, defended–that’s what he’s got to do even when they went back big with Vucevic. I thought he did a heck of a job on him. So you just ride that. Kelly [Oubre Jr.] came in, and this was the best defensive game that he’s had as a pro. So that was a big step for him.”


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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,, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.