Matinee Matchup Easier Than Sunday Morning — Wizards vs Cavaliers, DC Council 58 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Matinee Matchup Easier Than Sunday Morning — Wizards vs Cavaliers, DC Council 58

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Updated: February 29, 2016

The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards vs. Cavaliers, Game 58, Feb. 28, 2016 at the Verizon Center, via Kyle Weidie (@truth_about_it).

M.V.P.

Not John Wall. Sure, he was the catalyst in Washington’s 113-99 win on Sunday afternoon—driving until gears grinded; checking Kyrie from the tip to help set a tone; dropping dimes in ways that should embarrass those who cast Plain-Jane Kevin Love as a coin-dropping pre-teen in an insurance commercial.

Not John Wall, though. The M.V.P. instead is the overall Wizards ball movement, for which Wall was the fuel, of course. But give his teammates a lot of credit for converting his assists. Passing is both contagious and demands a willingness. Wall is patient zero.

The Wizards had total 28 assists—damn near unjust since only four came in the fourth quarter, and assist No. 26 came with eight minutes left in the game. Still, it was Washington’s tenth-highest team assist total on the season, and they are now 9-1 when collecting more than 27 assists. Wall did not play in the fourth quarter and otherwise collected 13 assists (three turnovers), tying his sixth-highest assist total on the season (he’s achieved 13 dimes in five other games). The Wizards are now 9-2 when Wall has 13 or more assists.

In conclusion: shout-out to all those who converted John Wall assists (because sometimes, not all the time, teammates aren’t ready for Ser Wall’s zippy passes). The tally from Wall’s passes:

  • Marcin Gortat: 6 points (13-footer, layup, dunk).
  • Otto Porter: 11 points (layup, 3, 3, 3)
  • Bradley Beal: 3 points (3-pointer)
  • Markieff Morris: 4 points (layup, dunk)
  • Nene: 2 points (finger roll)
  • Jared Dudley: 5 points (3-pointer, 20-footer)

Total: 31 points (five 3-pointers, six layups/dunks, two midrange 2s)

We also must honorably mention Otto Porter. I tweeted this early in the third quarter and meant it:

And at that, I’d missed a whole, ‘nother entire 3-pointer that Otto hit. On the day he tied his career high with four made 3-pointers (six attempts), three of them coming within the opening 120 seconds of the third quarter—two assisted by Wall and one assisted by Markieff Morris.

L.V.P.

When pretty much the team’s two best defensive players, newcomer Alan Anderson and long-timer Garrett Temple, each shoot the worst (1-5 from the field), you have to give them a pass. We’ll give rookie Kelly Oubre a pass, too. At one point there was a decent window of time where, particularly given team injuries, Randy Wittman most definitely 100 percent should have played Oubre a lot more. Kid was playing well, too. But that window was always going to close no matter what, as players got more healthy and as the team was fighting for its playoff life. And as those rookie minutes naturally dwindled in recent weeks, Oubre pressed more and more when he did get on the court. Sure, a lot of it was garbage time, but still time to show something lest he be judged. And what Oubre showed was a bit of impatience—attacking but not tactfully; being aggressive but fouling like Whack-a-Mole. Oubre showed unexpected and very promising flashes earlier this season, but both he and fans need to realize that a process really is a process. (Kids these days with their 3-D printers and shit.)

But really, L.V.P.: freaking free throws. The Wizards shot 24-34—70.6 percent which is lower than their 74.4 season average, ninth from the bottom of the NBA.

The worst part: when the Wizards are ahead by one or more points, they are shooting 72.2 percent from the line, a good way to give up leads. When they are tied or behind in games, they shoot 76.5 percent from the line.

X-Factor.

So for the second game in a row Markieff Morris started the second half instead of Jared Dudley—the normal remaining starters being John Wall, Garrett Temple, Otto Porter, and Marcin Gortat.

Per Randy Wittman, the reason was matchup-based. Or rather, a defense countering the other team’s move. Very Randy Wittman and as sort of could be expected, with LeBron James taking the Sabbath in D.C. off, Tyronn Lue, with visions of David Blatt dancing in his head, forced the ball inside to Kevin Love early versus the smaller Dudley. And Dudley tried to give Love the defensive business. Love missed a 14-footer, made a 5-foot hook shot, missed a 4-foot hook shot, hit a 7-foot turnaround fadeaway, and finally Love got fouled by Dudley (making both free throws) within the game’s first four minutes. The Wizards started to counter Love’s success by adjusting their defense. And this time, they were lucky that Cleveland’s players were otherwise just not that into playing on a Sunday afternoon. For a change, it was Washington’s opponent that had the 1 p.m.-sies—a daytime start that leaves weary travellers off kilter.

But, with a nine-point halftime lead, Wittman threw another look at one of Cleveland’s two supposed stars. The more bruising but also fairly nimble Markieff Morris started the third quarter versus Love. (Kyrie Irving saw a range of defenders in Wall, Temple, Bradley Beal, and crew.) Love scored 12 points in the first half and that was about it. Morris at one point displayed his versatility in nicely switching onto and containing Iman Shumpert into a tough, missed jumper. It was Morris’ best game as a Wizard (eight points, 4-8 FGs), even if in his nearly 21 minutes he fouled a lot (3) and didn’t rebound much (3). Morris is also now 0-for-9 from the 3-point line as a Wizard.

There was also something about Love bumping knees with Gortat or getting a bruise or something late in the second quarter. I remember him limping at some point; he came out at the 6:47 mark of the third quarter with the Cavaliers down 19 points and never came back. Mission accomplished.

Sorry, Kevin.

On Morris with the Starters.

That Game Was … A precious win, no matter what.

Dateline, 11:30 a.m.; Washington, D.C.
Media-folk were circling in the catacombs outside of the visiting Verizon Center locker room, where a doomsday-prepped Cleveland Cavaliers resided for the day. Suddenly, a man rose from the depths—accounts of how he did this may vary, but let’s just assume he had a mustache and an earpiece. He said: ‘Heads up…’ or ‘By the way…’ or ‘For your information…’ or ‘Extra! Extra! Hear all about it!’ or something to that effect.

“LeBron will not play today. Rest.”

A hallway of at least 30 people and 60 thumbs sprung into action to broadcast the news via social media channels. No one measured their thumb size and speed metrics at the mass media combine, before the draft. And no one considered mobile device parity. For Christ’s sake, one guy was tweeting the news via talk-to-text while another did so via dictaphone. One man used a ‘Stylus’ pen that’s unable to write on paper while another man jabbed at a touch screen with one, single index finger. Another man dialed his phone to verbally provide the information back to his home base reporting station so that they could send a van. None of this happened; all of it happened.

What really did happen was that LeBron didn’t play, and he apparently left the bench area with more than five minutes left, frustrated that his subjects were not playing to the levels of his wishes.

The Wizards, to their credit, knew exactly what needed to be done. And part of what that was: shutting down Kyrie Irving. There were often times where a big, say, Marcin Gortat, would drop back in coverage as his counterpart set a ball screen for Irving. Wall, or whomever was defending, would chase Irving, generally conceding a jump shot that the Wizards were determined to make tough, instead of a layup or shot creation.

Irving tried to spark a comeback in the third quarter when he scored seven of his 28 points, but the Wizards also dominated that quarter, 33-16, one in which Otto Porter damn near outscored the Cavaliers with 15 points of his own in the period. The gist is that Irving started hot, scoring 10 points in the game’s first nine-plus minutes, but the Wizards adjusted and neutralized Irving from becoming a team player and leader in a day without LeBron.

Jared Dudley expanded upon the strategy in guarding Irving after the game (and frustrated Cavs fans have seemingly picked up on this and help to disseminate amongst #CavsTwitter).

Notes.

  • Floyd Mayweather and, like, an entourage of 40 people were in attendance. Who cares.
  • Bradley Beal didn’t start again. And that’s one thing for #WizardsTwitter to scream about. I get it, both sides of the argument, but I’m more on the side of him continuing to come off the bench until the Wizards can best manage the minutes restriction imposed by doctors.Randy Wittman expressed that the team’s main concern is Beal not having to sit for long spells once he does start playing in a game. So, bringing him off the bench narrows the window in which the Wizards have to manage his minutes. On Sunday, Beal entered the game at the seven minute mark of the first quarter. So in this instance, Beal’s minutes limit had a window of 43 minutes instead of 48 minutes. Seems minor, especially when people want John Wall to play with more shooters in the starting lineup. But hey, if Otto P. is hitting, part of that need is negated, allowing the team, and fans, to better place their focus: Beal’s health.
  • J.J. Hickson made his Wizards debut and scored. Jarrell Eddie was a healthy scratch and Gary Neal was the other inactive player due to what was said to be a leg injury. Neal wasn’t even on the bench, again, and his absence from the team seems to be a mystery past injury. Otherwise, the Wizards seem to have landed upon a rotation of 10 players for this home stretch—Wall, Beal, Porter, Dudley, Gortat, Sessions, Nene, Morris, Temple, and Anderson. That could move to a more traditional 8-to-9-man rotation if the Wizards make the playoffs, but then again, I’m not sure who you leave out. Perhaps it’s a nice problem to have: a relatively completely healthy team and minutes to manage.

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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.