Just What the Doctor Ordered — Wizards at Magic, DC Council 35 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Just What the Doctor Ordered — Wizards at Magic, DC Council 35

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Updated: January 11, 2016

The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards at Magic, Game 35, Jan. 9, 2016, in Orlando, FL, via Rashad Mobley (@rashad20).

“All four games, they put us in a blender. They owned us. For whatever reason, against us, they play a much more physical game and we just haven’t responded to that.” —Scott Skiles

M.V.P.

The Wizards went 0-3 since their victory over the Magic on the first day of 2016, and, not coincidentally, John Wall’s numbers—worthy of an Eastern Conference Player of the Month award for the month of December—took a bit of a hit as well. He averaged 22.6 points, 11.7 assists, 4.8 rebounds, and shot 46 percent from the field and 37 percent from the 3-point line during that span. In the three home losses to Miami, Cleveland, and Toronto, Wall’s numbers dipped to 19.3 points, 10 assists, 3 rebounds, 40 percent shooting from the field and 38 percent from the 3-point line. The dip in production was not exactly drastic, but given the number of injuries the Wizards were facing, there was little room for error, let alone slippage.

To make matters worse, the way the Wizards were losing had to be eating at all involved. The first loss was by 22 points to the healthy Miami Heat, who were hell-bent on defending with purpose and giving Wall different looks designed to make his life difficult. The second loss came as a result of his nemesis, Kyrie Irving, catching fire, and the loss to the Raptors was due to the scoring of backcourt duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan—a partnership luxury that Wall has not had since November, given the injury to Bradley Beal.

Enter the Orlando Magic.

Yes, there were turnovers (a necessary evil to be discussed in a later section), but for the first time in three games, Wall was able to quarterback the Wizards to a complete victory, as opposed to the three losses leading up to the Magic contest, where the effort was inconsistent at best. In the first quarter, he routinely drove by Victor Oladipo and Evan Fournier and advanced to Orlando’s second line of defense. When Wall wanted to score, he drove to the basket and/or hit a pull-up jumper. He kept the pace at a high level and his always-present unselfishness (four assists in the quarter) was on display and seemed to be contagious. All of the Wizards starters had scored by the end of the opening period, and by halftime the eight Wizards who played had scored 60 points on 16 assists. Wall was running freely and there were opportunities galore for everyone. But this game was won in the fourth quarter; despite the glorious effort from all around, it was due to John Wall’s performance.

As the third quarter came to an end, Wall gave a glimpse of what was to come in the fourth by scoring this floater with his left hand to put the Wizards up 85-70:

Wall sat on the bench for the first five minutes of the fourth and watched the Wizards maintain a 14-point lead, but by the 5:14 mark of the fourth with Wall in the game, the Wizards’ lead was down to eight points. The two teams traded turnovers, and then Wall dug in, playing mistake-free basketball for the last five minutes. Deal: sealed.

First, Wall drove by Oladipo, drew Nikola Vucevic to him, and then threw a one-handed cross-court pass to Jared Dudley, who nailed a 3-pointer and put the Wizards up 11 points. The Magic’s Tobias Harris cut the lead to nine points with a tough turnaround jumper in Wall’s eye, but then Wall nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put the Wizards back up by 12 points. Washington’s lead went back down to 10 points, and then with 2:35 left in the game, Wall took and made a 30-foot 3-point shot with Oladipo’s hand squarely in his face.

Wall’s stat line was not pretty (24 points, 10 assists, seven turnovers), and it would have been nice to see his late-game heroics against a team that he and his comrades had not so easily dominated for two-plus years. But he helped them end a three-game losing streak and assisted the Wizards in getting the win, something Randy Wittman has repeatedly said is “not easy” to do.

L.V.P.

John Wall deserves high praise for leading the Wizards to victory, but he deserves an equal amount of criticism for helping keep the Magic close with his seven turnovers. It wasn’t just the turnovers, it was what the Magic were able to do with them which was problematic.

Halfway through the second quarter, the Wizards stretched their lead from seven to 11 points when Wall threw the ball out of bounds. The Magic hit a 3-pointer on the next possession to cut the lead to eight points. Yes, Dudley came right back to return the lead to 11 points, but Orlando was still in striking distance.

Later in the quarter, after the Magic had cut the Wizards’ lead from 14 to nine points, Wall drove to the basket, was collapsed on by Vucevic and Harris, and threw an errant pass to Garrett Temple, which was a backcourt violation. Wall had his head down on his way down the court, missed an open 3-pointer the next time the Wizards had the ball, and Washington’s advantage flattened to five points.

Wall’s final turnover of the game—before he secured victory for the Wizards—came at the 6:22 mark of the fourth quarter. Washington was up by 13 and on the verge of putting the game away. Wall threw an ill-advised, behind-the-back low bounce pass to Marcin Gortat, who could not handle it. Harris hit a 3-pointer for the Magic and the lead was 10.

Against a team like Orlando, Wall’s turnovers only delayed the inevitable and kept the Wizards from playing their reserves the entire fourth quarter. Wall’s turnovers would surely be more problematic against teams like Toronto, Miami, or Cleveland, where the margin of error shrinks significantly. To his credit, via his halftime interview with CSN’s Chris Miller, Wall acknowledged that his turnovers were indeed problematic: “I had four careless turnovers—I mean, just bad passes to my teammates. But when we take care of the ball, we can get whatever we want.”

X-Factor.

Garrett Temple had a team-high plus-13 in the plus/minus department, and he did it on offense, defense, and in the proverbial intangible department.

Offensively, he shot 5-for-8 from the field (1-for-2 on 3s), and continued to hit the open jump shot when it was given to him. Temple did have two of his shots blocked when he tried to drive the lane, but he was aggressive in his takes, which coaches love to see.

Defensively, especially in that tone-setting first quarter, Temple fought over picks and forced Fournier and Oladipo to prematurely pick up their dribble and take tough shots at the tail-end of the shot clock. In addition, the Magic guards were routinely forced to begin their offensive sets outside the 3-point line, thanks to Wall and Temple. Perhaps if Elfrid Payton had been playing, he could have nullified that with his penetration, but in his absence, Temple did yeoman’s work on defensive end. But before his recent offensive surge, defense was always Temple’s key to Wittman’s playing-time palace, so that is no big deal.

What was a big deal was Temple’s unveiling of the tougher, more aggressive side of his playing persona. With 7:11 left in the game, Otto Porter threw the ball to Marcin Gortat in the lane, and as Gortat went up for the shot, Vucevic flagrantly fouled him. Gortat shook it off and walked toward the free throw line, but the usually mild-mannered Garrett Temple had other ideas…

Vucevic did not look particularly scared, and the referees broke up the mini-confrontation before things turned all Bengals-Steelers. But the fact that Temple went out of his way to defend Gortat says a lot about him. We knew he could defend, and we’re learning he can score, but it looks like Temple wears the enforcer hat just as well.

That Game Was … Bittersweet.

The Wizards had six players in double-figures, John Wall returned to All-Star form, and the team shot 3s like it was preseason (13-for-23). During the Comcast SportsNet broadcast, Chris Miller reported that Coach Randy Wittman said that when his team shoots 3s like that, it can be an equalizer—meaning it can cover bad turnovers or bad defense.

Washington may have the Magic’s number, but the Magic are currently ninth in the Eastern Conference and just a half-game behind Pistons for the eighth spot. The Wizards are still 2.5 games behind that eighth spot. With losses to the Heat, Cavs, and Raptors this year, two wins against the Magic also serve as an equalizer of sorts. But the season series is over (Washington won all four matchups) and the Magic won’t be coming through that door anymore this season, folks.

The cold reality: The Wizards are 2-3 in their last five games, and the schedule gets tougher with Chicago, Milwaukee, Indiana, Boston, and Portland on the schedule over the next five games. The Wizards still have defensive and turnover lapses, and they could of course use the offensive stylings of Bradley Beal, a consistently healthy Nene, and any contributions Alan Anderson can provide beyond his elaborate 3-point celebrations.

The Wizards can blame their slow start on injuries, their new offense, the absence of Paul Pierce, or even their coach if they’re so inclined. The bottom line still remains that they are headed for the lottery, not the playoffs, and no amount of magical victories against Orlando can diminish that. But for now, let’s celebrate, shall we?

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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.