Wall Battles Curry in Star War — Wizards vs Warriors, DC Council 47 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wall Battles Curry in Star War — Wizards vs Warriors, DC Council 47

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Updated: February 4, 2016

The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards vs. Warriors, Game 47, February 3, 2016, via Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks), from the Verizon Center in D.C.

That Game Was … Fun Until You Wake Up the Next Day and The Weight of Wizards Fandom Hits You.

Two years ago, there existed a semi-popular refrain comparing the Washington Wizards and the Golden State Warriors. It went something like, “The Warriors are the Wizards of the West, except better at every position.” Back then, Mark Jackson still had his hands at either side of the Bay Area pulpit, and the Wizards were Witmanballing their way over .500 for the first time in forever. Since that time, the Wizards got a little bit better and then significantly more stale. The Warriors, on the other hand…

Let’s stop there. It isn’t fair to compare the two teams. Indeed, the Wizards hardly have Golden State’s personnel. Who knew that Draymond Green, drafted after the Wizards selected Tomas Satoransky to appease Jan Vesely who was selected ahead of Klay Thompson, would turn into a max-level player? Or who cared to know? Second-round picks rarely work out for teams content to punt like it was fourth-and-10.

We could go back further, too, and argue that the Wizards should have Curry too, who was selected after the Wizards traded their fifth overall pick for Mike Miller and Randy Foye, but I think (no sarcasm) that’s a bridge too far. I won’t defend that trade, which was incredibly disheartening as a follower of the team and worked out about as poorly as such a move can work out. And yet it’s hard to go back that far without remaking history and creating a growing list of assumptions that begs Occam’s Razor for a mercy killing.

This game, then.

The crowd was impressive, and even though there were a significant amount of Golden State fans present, the volume only seemed to hit max during Washington runs. During one spectacular sequence, which featured blocks on both ends (and began with Draymond blocking a Beal 3-pointer, of all things) and incredible pace, a missed corner 3-pointer by the Wizards drew the most audible collective groan I’ve ever heard in Verizon Center. Had it gone in, with the Wizards threatening to tie or go ahead in the game after being blasted out of the gate, I imagine the Game Entertainment division would have authorized emission of two additional mini-fireworks.

The Wizards were, as suggested above, trounced in the first quarter. Steph Curry went 7-for-8 on 3-point shots in the first frame, making absurd plays like stealing the ball a few steps inside midcourt, watching Jared Dudley dive to recover the ball, watching the ball go off his foot instead, snagging the ball like it was the last chicken sandwich in the cafeteria on meatball day, and then putting the ball through the basket on a quick-trigger 3-pointer instead of driving because at that point: why not?

At the end of the first, the Warriors led 43-28, and I prepared myself to pretend like I was resigned to another blowout when in fact I was deeply upset. At the time, the Wizards had managed only three more points (28) than Curry alone (25 in the first quarter). What can a team do against such reckless brilliance?

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Specifically, what can the Wizards do against a player so possessed? What can guys like Garrett Temple do? What about Jared Dudley? Nene? Gary Neal? In all such cases, the answer is close to nil. Few teams in the NBA have enough firepower to keep pace with Golden State, as evidenced by the Warriors’ 45-4 record. So, individual effort. Wall, who acting head coach Don Newman said came to “war” with a “big, big heart,” wanted this one. Badly enough that he said he wanted to make it a 1-on-1 battle. Of course, Steph had the headstart.

And yet Wall outscored Curry 34-26 after the first quarter, attacking the hoop far more often than normal, keeping the Warriors off balance with 10 assists, and then getting enough confidence to start knocking down some pandarange jumpers as well. How scary was Wall? Warriors coach had this to say:

“Well the biggest thing with Wall is if you’re going to give him fast break layups and dunks then he is more likely to give up jump shots too. You always have to give up jump shots with John because he’s so fast, you got to try to keep him out of the paint but I thought our biggest issue was the turnovers which led to layups which led to plenty of confidence and all of sudden he’s making his jump shot too and you’ve got a problem.”

Alas, it wasn’t enough, and though moral-victory-speak was prevalent after the game, you get the sense that the Wizards, 3.5 games out of the playoffs and fast approaching the All-Star break, don’t really have time for that mess.

M.V.P.

Steph Curry was one 3-pointer away from tying the record for total 3-pointers made in a game. That record, if you’re pondering, is held by Kobe Bryant and Donyell Marshall, at 12 3-pointers each. Curry turned the ball over seven times, and was able to hide on defense for most of the game, but he almost effortlessly put the game out of striking distance in the first quarter. The Wizards had to sustain perfect play for an unsustainable amount of time in order to catch up, and when Wall got his fourth foul with over six minutes left in the third quarter, the Wizards (once within two points) wilted. The game remained interesting, but Golden State’s weapons were well-maintained. Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, and Draymond Green all took turns heartbreaking. Thompson hit two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, both drawing audible disgust from the pro-Wizards home crowd.

The thing with Curry is: even when you know he’s coming for you, he’s impossible to stop. “I said, ‘Here he goes!’ And I knew it because that’s what they usually do,” Newman said after the game. “I mean, they come out and the first time and they want to just kill you.”

Washington slowed Curry down after the first quarter, running traps at him and getting the ball out of his hands, but slowing Curry down just means he won’t break a record over your head like a glass bottle. The dude still scored 51 points.

Because this is a Wizards blog, though, here are some nice quotes about John Wall (41 points, 10 assists, 3 turnovers) from the competition:

From Curry:

“He’s a top tier point guard … You have to be ready. He had a great game, really forced the issue in the second quarter, made plays down the stretch in the fourth quarter and was always under control. It was a fun battle. We didn’t guard each other that much, but you always get inspired by some great play out there.”

From Thompson, who Wall once delightfully threatened to knock out after Thompson shoved him out of bounds:

“His speed is probably second to none in the NBA, his ability, and he is a one man fast break and it is crazy because he logs so many minutes. He is a very special talent and they do have a great backcourt over there so have to give him a lot of credit. He fought hard. His midrange jumper is also so much improved. You can tell he has been working on his game a lot and you like to see that from guys.”

From Green:

“He’s tough. He’s super athletic, fast, and quick and he can jump. When that jump shot is falling like it was tonight, it makes him even tougher to guard.”

L.V.P.

I don’t want to get into this too much, because Garrett Temple in the right role is a fine support player to have on one’s roster. And at times he’s looked like he could complement his defensive prowess (which is mostly a mirage of effort and activity, anyways) with offensive competence. But in no way should Temple be lining up as a starter and playing over 30 minutes against the defending champion Golden State Warriors. To the extent that an end-of-the-bench player can be “exposed,” Temple found himself on the receiving end of a whole lot of Stephen Curry jumpers, arriving too late to pull his patented, and often perfect, palm between the hands of the shooter, preventing follow-through. Problem is: both Curry and Thompson have incredibly quick releases, which led Temple’s contests to look gratuitously late and more likely to produce a foul than a miss. The Warriors shot 11-for-18 (5-9 on 3s) when guarded by Temple.

The other side of the coin is that Curry guarded Temple instead of Wall on the opposite end, effectively letting the cartoonishly good Davidson graduate rest before his next offensive miracle. Although Wall and Temple shared the floor for much of the game, Wall ended as merely minus-1 whereas Temple ended the game as a team-low minus-22. Other factors come into play, obviously, but to quote those who often sing Temple’s praises, “if you watch basketball” you know that the Wizards could have used a starter-level player for those 30 minutes. Trouble is: I’m not sure one is on the roster, other than Beal, who played 28 minutes. To add to Temple’s troubles, he also shot 2-for-9 from the floor, including one early-in-the-shot-clock 3-point attempt that should only be taken by star-level players with respect enough to survive the collective raising of the eyebrows that such a shot elicits.

X-Factor.

There are only so many minutes to be distributed in a basketball game (240 to be exact). In that context, it’s easy to dismiss the lack of playing time for Wizards rookie Kelly Oubre Jr., who came in with low expectations after being drafted 15th overall. And although I’m not often one to overvalue rookie minutes (see: Otto Porter, who sucked as a rookie), Oubre Jr. has earned time over the likes of Gary Neal, who we’ve watched become the target of opposing guards as soon as he enters the game. As TAI’s John Converse Townsend notes, Neal allowed opposing players to shoot over 12 percent better than their average while he’s guarding them in January(1).

When Beal and Porter suffered through injuries, Oubre made a few starts, and got 20-plus minutes on several occasions. From summer league to mid-season, he’s improved in several areas. His drive doesn’t stop short in awkward layup attempts anymore, and he’s found ways around players rather than through them. His tendency to arm-check has diminished, and he’s playing better foundation defense in addition to the defensive activity and length that will make him a great defender down the road. Most importantly, as TAI’s Kyle Weidie has noted in the past, he’s often the catalyst for easy baskets, getting deflections, steals, or just stopping an opposing player on the perimeter and frustrating the opposing team’s system offense. And yet, somehow, his good play has taken his playing time in the other direction. He didn’t play against the Warriors.

Oubre’s playing time isn’t making or breaking the Wizards, but the team’s defense is awful, and Oubre has shown he’s a fast learner. There are minutes available if you consider that Gary Neal, Garrett Temple, and Drew Gooden are playing significant time. Oubre, who can play the 2 through 4 without significant adjustment, could help this team. I’d also add that his pre-game routine with DeJuan Blair, involving an intricate set of arm and head movements, is spectacular.


  1. For the season, Neal’s Defensive Field Goal Diff% is plus-7.3. Not good.
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Conor Dirks
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
Conor has been with TAI since 2012, and aids in the seamless editorial process that brings you the kind of high-octane blogging you have come to expect from this rad website. The Wizards have been an assiduous companion throughout his years on the cosmic waiver wire. He lives in D.C. and is day-to-day.