D.C. Regulars Help Wiz Rebound — Wizards vs Bucks, DC Council 37 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

D.C. Regulars Help Wiz Rebound — Wizards vs Bucks, DC Council 37

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Updated: January 14, 2016

The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards vs Bucks, Game 37, Jan. 13, 2016, in Washington, D.C., via Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur).

M.V.P.

It’s easy to sit back and give John Wall the team M.V.P. award on damn near any given night—and Wednesday night would be no different. Washington’s fearless leader paced the team in scoring (19), assists (8), and tied for second in rebounding (5). But the most valuable player for the Wizards was the artist formerly known as Maybyner Rodney Hilario. The big fella was in vintage form against the Milwaukee Bucks on both sides of the court. Offensively, Nene finished the game with 12 points on just seven attempts from the field, but it was on the defensive end that his impact was truly felt. #NeneHands were in full effect. He was able to generate three steals and two blocks, actively generating the Wizards’ 12-0 run to start the fourth quarter when they were down three—after they had blown a 19-point lead.

Bradley Beal raved about Nene’s importance to the team in his postgame remarks:

“It was terrific. We need him. Sometimes I don’t know if he realizes how much we need him. He’s awesome. He’s our best low-post scorer and defensively he just brings a physical presence. He’s always good at helping his teammates so we have to credit him and continue to praise him because he does a terrific job for us.”

What makes Nene one of the best backup centers among the current slate of NBA big men is that he is a skilled and willing passer who can create offense on the low block, not only for himself but also for his teammates. On Wednesday night, the Brazilian national finished with three assists and countless hockey or secondary assists (passes before the pass that leads to a score). Combine that with the fact that Nene has an uncanny physical presence that can only be described as a sort of basketball inertia. He is constantly moving and, whether intentional or not, his opponents will feel the physicality of a 270-pound man pulling and prying to unwarrantable levels of discomfort.

For example, Nene picked up his third foul of the game at the 7:45 mark of the second quarter, and it was at that time that Greg Monroe was able to take advantage of a much less physically imposing Drew Gooden. Monroe finished the quarter with seven points, three rebounds, and two assists, while also drawing thee shooting fouls in that seven-minute span. The Bucks were able to use that momentum going into the third quarter to spark a major run that would allow them to outscore the Wizards by 16 and take a three point lead heading to the fourth.

Nene finished the game second on the team in plus/minus (+15) and impacted the game at the start of the fourth quarter by first getting in Greg Monroe’s head and pushing him off of his comfort spots on the lower block.

What Nene is proving is that his absence may have been just as costly to the Wizards as Beal’s. It could be a distinct advantage to know that Nene will have tons of mismatches against backup big men across the league who can barely walk and chew gum at the same time.

L.V.P.

I know that plus/minus isn’t the be-all and end-all of basketball analytics, particularly on a game-by-game basis, but sometimes the stat just simply nails it. DeJuan Blair played five minutes in the third quarter and in such a short amount of time managed to finish with a team worst plus/minus of minus-13. Blair deserves much of the blame for his own play, as he is a professional that collects a check every game, but at some point the powers that be must realize that Blair should be used strictly on an emergency basis—and that type of emergency includes either inserting Blair into the lineup or forfeiting because you can’t field a five-man lineup. Randy Wittman will have to take the brunt of this blame for fielding a Wizards lineup in the fourth quarter that included Gooden and Blair and simply watching as the Bucks used their length to manhandle their way to 62 points in the paint.

X-Factor

There has to be a tie between the young rook, Kelly Oubre, and the savvy veteran, Jared Dudley. Oubre only played nine minutes, but in that time he served as one of the catalysts, along with Nene, in providing a jolt of energy needed to snap the Wizards back into focus. Head Coach Randy Wittman went out of his way to praise Oubre, unsolicited by the media:

“I thought Kelly [Oubre Jr.] came in and helped change that with his activity at the defensive end. We had 15 deflections in the fourth quarter alone … I thought Kelly gave us a big lift, guys being ready and producing when called upon.”

Oubre was able to convert a few steals on defense to produce a quick five points on the offensive end and was also able to match up length-wise with some of the Bucks players, including the “Greek Freak,” who’s wreaked havoc on the Wizards.

The other X-factor: the smooth 3-point shooting of Jared Dudley iced the game (after Nene and Oubre sparked the 25-6 run) that would ultimately leave the Wizards victorious. Dudley hit two 3-pointers at the 2:33 mark and the 1:39 mark of the final quarter that extended Washington’s leads to nine and eight points with each respective shot. Those shots were back-breakers. Dudley elaborated further on his tough match up with Giannis and Jabari:

That Game Was … A Confidence Booster.

Especially for a team that not only needs to start stacking wins, especially against inferior opponents. It was also a friendly reminder that while the Wizards have struggled to come out of the dark ages of basketball, there are still teams living in prehistoric times in terms of style of play. The Milwaukee Bucks would probably be a contender every year in the mid-’90s with their plethora of position-less basketball players who can attack the rim. However, the Bucks rank 29th in the NBA in 3-point attempts per game (16.1). On this night, they looked as though they were deathly afraid of launching up anything that wasn’t directly under the rim. As a team, the Bucks only attempted eight 3-pointers in the entire contest, and if it was’t for a loose ball kick-out to a wide-open Khris Middleton, they would have gone the whole game without a 3-point make.

Bradley Beal returned to action after missing 16 games with yet another stress reaction to his lower leg, and came out like a gangbuster in the second quarter, sparking a 6-0 Wizards run with a pull-up elbow jumper, an assist to Ramon Sessions on the fast break, and a breakaway dunk of his own. Beal finished with 11 points for the game on 3-for-8 shooting, and his presence was invaluable to the Wizards’ floor spacing, commanding attention from the Bucks defenders and allowing his teammates to take advantage of open looks. As far as return performances go, Beal’s line was about what we could have expected, considering the rust that mounted as he sat for weeks. Flashes of Beal’s shot creation and ability as a secondary ball-handler next to Wall were definitely there. As long as he can keep his legs underneath of him, the Wizards are poised to make yet another postseason run.

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
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Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. He is going into his second season writing for Truth About It, and also writes for sports analytics website numberfire.com. You can find him in a district bike lane in the Northwest neighborhood of Bloomingdale.