.500, and It Feels So Good — Wizards at Pacers, DC Council 38 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

.500, and It Feels So Good — Wizards at Pacers, DC Council 38

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Updated: January 16, 2016

The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards at Pacers, Game 38, Jan. 15, 2016, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN, via Rashad Mobley (@rashad20) and Kyle Weidie (@truth_about_it).

M.V.P.

—R. Mobley

After the Wizards beat the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night, Randy Wittman, Bradley Beal, and John Wall all spoke how disappointed they were with the level of effort in the third quarter. That quarter, the Wizards shot 26 percent, scored just 15 points, allowing the Bucks to score 20 of their 31 points in the paint and their 13-point lead turn to a two-point deficit. It was as if the Wizards knew they could get away with a substandard third quarter effort against the lowly Bucks, but they also understood a more talented team would make them pay.

The Wizards led by 13 points at the start of Friday night’s third quarter against the Indiana Pacers, and 16 seconds into the quarter, Paul George—the same guy who lit the Wizards up for 40 points in 35 minutes on November 24—hit a 3-pointer to cut the Wizards’ lead to 10. Nene missed a shot on the next offensive possession, and George maneuvered his way into another 17-footer, but this time he missed. Shortly thereafter, Mr. John Wall made sure the Wizards did not falter in the third quarter again.

First, Wall streaked down the court off a Monta Ellis miss, split two defenders, and made a tough shot while getting fouled. He completed three-point play and gave the Wizards a 15-point lead—their largest of the night. About a minute later, Wall made Ian Mahinmi pay reaching on the tail end of the pick-and-roll and emphatically slammed the ball home. Bradley Beal was able to play off the pace and space Wall was creating and scored seven points (on 3-of-5 shooting) of his own. But this third quarter belonged to Wall.

The Wizards’ third quarter defense wasn’t particularly good, as they allowed the Pacers to score 26 points on 44 percent shooting. On several occasions, the Wizards would score and the Pacers would go right down the court and score a quick basket of their own. But on this night, Wall shunned his point guard hat, but on his scorer’s cap and made sure the Wizards kept a double-digit lead the entire quarter and the rest of the game. He may not get that All-Star nod he so desperately craves, but he certainly played like one against the Pacers.

B.L.V.P.

—K. Weidie

No one! … on the Wizards. Seriously. Even DeJuan Blair managed to turn his usual court-toots into hardwood fuel.

The Wizards shot .520 from the field. Above .500! (the fourth-best shooting effort all season) And here’s who made that happen: John Wall: 12-for-21 (.571) and Bradley Beal: 9-for-15 (.600). Good, expected, how it’s supposed to be.

No. 3: Ramon Sessions (5-7, .714). “Sesh” is low-key having the best shooting season of his career (career-high .509 eFG%, career-high .574 TS%). High-key he’s the best Wizards backup point guard since even before Antonio Daniels, and I’m not sure who that would be right now.

No. 4: DEJUAN BLAIR! 6-for-8 from the field (.750), some jumpers, a floater, other things, six rebounds (3 offensive), a couple steals, one assist, only one turnover, and four useful fouls.

According to the Game Score metric via Basketball-Reference.com, it was by far Blair’s best game of the year—11.9. The previous best Game Score: 6.2, a couple nights ago versus the Bulls. Before that, a 6.0 against the Suns on Dec. 4 (when Ryan Hollins started at 5).

So, we won’t get all J. Michael on you, because Blair is, after all, overall putting up career-low numbers across the board this season (FG%, FT%, PER, etc.)—and if not this season, last season; and if it isn’t 2015-16 ranked dead last, it’s second to dead.

But, propers where propers are due: Blair has helped the last couple games. And maybe because he knows he’s going to play and it hasn’t really been in blowouts, Blair is that much more comfortable on the court. So this section for one game’s D.C. Council is henceforth renamed the Blair Valuable Player, because he was the best he could be on this night in Indiana.

X-Factor (Top 3 Rankings).

—K. Weidie

#1) Pray for Nene and print the t-shirts. He is quite injury prone but extremely valuable when he’s feeling healthy and engaged. All we can really say is that no one should know your body better than you, and that whatever process of healing that Nene needs in this potentially his last season before retirement, if he can be a presence like this, then so be it. I’m not sure what was just agreed upon but don’t hold me to this tweet:

#2) Garrett Temple.

Things Temple did during 28 minutes of battle: hounded Paul George and Company; got crushed by a screen and yelled at the ref—was maybe a shoulder sprain, he came back; fell hard as shit attacking the rim; sure, only scored 5 points but grabbed 6 rebounds with 5 assists (only 1 TO), and 4, we’ll again say, useful fouls.

Yep, G-Temp had a cruddy start to the season. So did John Wall. Like Wall, Temple has improved. Temple’s Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) has gone up from .398 in November to .487 in December to .532 over eight games in January. He’s not always your favorite Utility Infielder, but he’s the only one you got.

#3) John Wall was great and Bradley Beal is cool but Kelly Oubre is my favorite Wizards rookie in a long, long time. Perhaps ever?

I was 10-or-so-years-old and a guy who worked with my dad was good at drawing cartoons. He was going to draw me a baseball player knocking it out of the park. And he did, but as he drew motion lines around the bat and looked to complete his work of art with a caption my enthusiasm for the finished product flipped a 180. “STRIKE 3!” he wrote. What? My cartoon was supposed to hit a dinger; it was just ruined instead. The artist’s preference for the sport of baseball, I learned, was a pitcher’s duel, not the crack of the bat.

And so while baseball is not basketball and no one really likes an overall defensive duel in basketball, or either sport, really, I now better understand why he felt the way he did. We celebrate the natural defensive brilliance of shot-blockers a ton, and on rare occasions the perimeter skills of those like Tony Allen, Bruce Bowen, and Shane Battier (and, sure, Trevor Ariza). I guess what I’m trying to say is that Oubre, at 6-foot-9-whatever, has the same defensive gene as some of the greats. And while that feels like a creaky limb to walk out on so early in one’s career, defense requires a different, more inherit, more sustainable confidence. Call me a believer. And, well, lots of guys can score at this level. I really like watching individual defense like Spider Kelly’s.

That Game Was … Sweet Revenge.

—K. Weidie

The Wizards have been on a roll, a three-game winning streak heading into Indy on Friday night. They’ve been on a few rolls before—hell, Ledell Eackles knows rolls—but in the past it meant, not much. Still, when a team is clicking, even just a couple games in a row versus the Magic, Bulls, and Bucks (not powerhouses), it adds a little more intrigue to the confidence (even if relatively false) of the interested viewer that the team might do something … positive.

And then there’s the pride of those who actually. Washington’s perimeter defense was getting consumed like plankton earlier in the season. In a 123-106 loss to Indiana in Washington on Nov. 24, C.J. Miles was 6-for-6 and Paul George was 3-for-3 on 3-pointers—by halftime. Miles finished 8-for-9 and George 7-for-8 from deep; George dropped 40 total points. All kinds of records were set.

This time the Wizards didn’t have quick amnesia, or brilliant amnesia, or however Bradley Beal puts it. They remembered that beating, adjusted, and cleaned Indy’s clock on their floor, 118-104, and it started with defense. And several members of the Randy Wittman Clan were in attendance to boot (mom-dukes, pops, sissy, and wifey, to name those seen on TV).

George, this time, after abusing Otto Porter last time, was bothered by Kelly Oubre and referee whistles from the jump (finished 1-for-7 from deep) and Miles, back in the starting lineup after five games coming off the bench, was a complete non-factor. (Also worth mentioning that Indiana’s starting backcourt of Monta Ellis and George Hill had a terrible defensive game in return.)

WHAT IT BOILED DOWN TO: Probably Washington’s best defensive lineup started the game—Wall, Temple, Oubre, Dudley, and Nene (their first 12 minutes of the season together; plus-6 in plus/minus, 88.3 DefRtg). That last game versus the Pacers, not the best Wizards defensive lineup by any means started—Wall, Beal, Porter, Humphries, and Gortat.

We should rename this section, “What It Boiled Down To.”

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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.