Key Legislature: Wizards 94 at Heat 114 — Washington Rows Against the Tide in South Florida | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 94 at Heat 114 — Washington Rows Against the Tide in South Florida

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Updated: February 22, 2016

TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards at Heat, Regular Season Game 54, Feb. 20, 2016, by Kyle Weidie (@truth_about_it). Photo: instagram.com/miamiheat

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You can pinpoint the exact span the Wizards were officially out of it in their 94-114 loss on Saturday night in Miami—the moment they really seemed to give up. It didn’t happen until late in the third quarter, despite Miami using a 13-0 run before the midway point of the first quarter to ultimately take a 30-19 lead heading into the second period, keeping a comfortable command throughout the night.

John Wall awoke toward the end of the second quarter, roaring out of the halftime gates into the third, but the Wizards only teased at cutting Miami’s well-established lead to single digits. With just under four minutes left in the third, Josh Richardson hit a step-back jumper exemplary of the general team confidence that Miami shot with for most of the evening. Wall countered with a lazy shot, resigned to gambling at that point, and no one on Washington got back on defense in transition. Justise Winslow missed a five-foot shot, rebounded his own miss, and finished the put-back to put Miami up 80-61. Randy Wittman called timeout and Steve Buckhantz moaned as Wizards players were filmed moseying over to the bench: “Too many games in too many nights…” And that was it, the point when it was truly, if not technically, over.

If you subscribe to the theory that it’s damn near impossible for an NBA team to win three games in three nights (the only time such an occurrence has happened this season), then the Wizards should have never attempted to compete in the first place. Taking a step back, the Wizards didn’t look terrible against the Heat. At least the convincing loss wasn’t another inept display that’s consumed many of their losing efforts on the season. Wall was measured on offense early, looking to set up teammates first while expending most of his energy trying to ensure that Goran Dragic would not cook him once again. But Wall’s offensive passiveness also did not facilitate the floodgates for Wizards ball movement overall. They didn’t pass up decent shots, but they weren’t working to create great shots. On one possession just over four minutes into the game, Wall and Otto Porter just stood, frozen, on the right side of the court while Garrett Temple and Jared Dudley, with hopeless screening efforts from Marcin Gortat, bumbled the possession into a turnover on the left side. For Miami’s part, Luol Deng and Amar’e Stoudemire were the proponents of the first punch; Winslow also took it to Jared Dudley on several possessions. And the Heat just made a lot of good, contested shots. The Wizards meanwhile missed several field goal attempts due to mere lack of concentration, and even shot 1-for-6 from the free throw line in the first quarter (Beal 0-2, Gortat 0-2, Porter 1-2). It all added up pretty quickly, which also goes to show you: the mental challenge of playing such a stretch of basketball is just as important as the physical toll.

Minutes management in the first half for Washington didn’t seem ideal, either. Wall played all 12 minutes of the first quarter (he normally averages 9.8 minutes per first quarter), when his presence for that early duration wasn’t necesarily moving progress forward. Nene and Markieff Morris played just 6:18 and 6:40 in the first half respectively. Morris’ integration needs to be fast-tracked but can’t be forced. Nonetheless, he’s got a long way to go, and while Morris has the skills to guard several positions on defense, he’s got a penchant for much too easily finding himself out of position on D. Kelly Oubre Jr. was inserted with 1:47 to go in the second quarter, and then proceeded to pick up three fouls in 41 seconds—he’s been pressing a ton in limited action lately and perhaps could be put in better situations to contribute. Drew Gooden and Jarrel Eddie didn’t see any first half action and only played garbage time.

Goran Dragic quietly scored nine of his 24 points in the first quarter. In the third he scored eight points, achieving just as much success but looking especially dominant. He once caught Wall reaching on a drive, and Dragic soon after recovered to block a Wall jump shot, allowing Winslow to lose Temple on the break and Miami to maintain a 14-point lead. Dragic’s icing on the third quarter was when he and Amar’e Stoudemire chopped up Wall and Marcin Gortat with pick-and-roll action—Dragic found Stoudemire with a pocket pass between his own legs that had the Wizards defense spun like yarn. But the kicker was that Beno Udrih spelled Dragic on occasions to end each of the first and third quarters, and Beno got surgical on the Wizards as well.

There were some decent displays of aggressiveness from Bradley Beal on the evening (19 points, 8-20 FGs, 2-8 3Ps), particularly early in the game, but as the game further settled Beal settled for firing up desperation 3s that diminished his overall shooting rates. Mere glimpses in any case for a game that was aesthetically distasteful from the Wizards perspective (they were disjointed, always a step behind on defense), but also overall due to the amount of missed calls and flubs by the referees that affected both teams. Neither team helped their cause by combining for 29-for-49 from the free throw line (59% — 11-21, Washington; 18-28, Miami). In conclusion, in part, a 12-2 Miami run that gave them a 98-75 lead with seven minutes left was the final nail in the proverbial coffin. It was nonetheless quite encouraging that Washington didn’t lag out of the All-Star break, registering authoritative wins over the Jazz and Pistons. A loss to Miami (without Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh) was not wholly unexpected. But the blowout aspect made as much of a case against this team going to the playoffs as any other loss this season.

With Sunday and Monday off, the Wizards will face the New Orleans Pelicans in the District on Tuesday. The Pelicans have won four of five and on Sunday beat the Pistons in Detroit (helping Washington’s cause) behind 59 points and 20 rebounds from Anthony Davis. On Wednesday the Wizards will play the Bulls in Chicago. The Bulls previously lost five in a row, including a blowout loss to the Cavs in Cleveland immediately after the All-Star break, but have won their last two games, both at home, versus the Raptors and the Lakers. A misstep here could send Washington’s confidence reeling and only make any hope to make the playoffs increasingly false. Winning even one of the next two games, however, could put Washington on the right track.

 

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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 lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.