Washington Fails to Buck the Trend in Milwaukee — Wizards at Bucks, DC Council 51 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Washington Fails to Buck the Trend in Milwaukee — Wizards at Bucks, DC Council 51

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Updated: February 13, 2016

The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards at Bucks Game 51, Feb. 11, 2016, via Rashad Mobley (@rashad20).

M.V.P.

TAI’s Sean Fagan highlighted in his Knicks-Wizards postgame offering that his colleagues (me included) were guilty of handing John Wall phantom MVPs in this here DC Council space.  Numbers-wise against the Bucks, the conditions were certainly ripe to hand Wall yet another MVP of the phantom variety, as he accrued his 28th double-double of the year with 15 points and 10 assists—unfortunately, he also shot 5-for-19, took 12 3-pointers (made three), and committed seven turnovers. More on Wall later in the L.V.P. segment (and yes, it is feast or famine for the team’s leader).

On Thursday night in defeat, it was Otto Porter who deserved the MVP award—partly because of how he played, but mostly due to how he reacted to being injured.

Similar to the way he started the game in Charlotte when he had 19 first half points, Porter started 4-for-4 with nine points in the first 14 minutes in Milwaukee. He scored cutting to the basket (thanks to Jared Dudley’s court vision), he scored on step-back jumpers, and he even ventured out to the 3-point line. Bradley Beal took just two shots during that span, but Porter more than stepped up, which gave Wall more real estate to drive and find Marcin Gortat, who had eight first quarter points of his own. Porter then missed his next five shots and cooled off in the second quarter. But he was not alone, as the Wizards as a team went 6-for-22 (27%) and scored just 19 points.

Porter continued to struggle from the field in the third period with two missed shots from 27 and 15 feet, respectively, and then was the victim of what was eventually called a flagrant foul by the Bucks O.J.Mayo. The foul caused Porter to bruise his back, and he writhed on the floor in pain for several minutes. It looked as if he would be forced to the bench for the night, which would have dealt a substantial blow to the Wizards, who already held their collective breath when Wall earlier ran into Mayo’s knee (yes, him again).

Porter regrouped, stayed in the game, and hit one of two free throws to cut the Bucks’ lead to seven points. Two minutes later, Porter showed his back was just fine by cutting to the basket and scoring via a pass from Wall. Porter even began jawing with some of the Bucks, and Jason Kidd was forced to call a timeout to stop Washington’s 7-0 run.

Immediately after the timeout, Porter overplayed Giannis Antetokounmpo and forced him to lose the ball out of bounds. As Giannis lay on the ground, Porter unleashed his angry side once again by engaging in some spirited dialogue. The Wizards would eventually take the lead after trailing by eight points before the Porter injury, and they actually led at the conclusion of the third quarter.

Porter had just five points and two rebounds in that period and 14 points on 6-for-15 shooting overall. But after a string of games where he looked timid and had fans (and some writers) longing for the youthful exuberance of Kelly Oubre, Porter continued his recent three-game trend of being aggressive on offense and disruptive on defense. More importantly, he showed some toughness—something only Wall and Nene have consistently showed this season—and demonstrated that he’s willing to fight for his team. That attitude only amounted to a moral victory against the Bucks, but it could translate to much more favorable results for the Wizards after the All-Star break.

L.V.P.

Let’s start with the excuses for why John Wall had such a mediocre game against the Milwaukee Bucks (15 points, 10 assists, four rebounds, two assists, seven turnovers, and 3-for-12 from the 3-point line).

He played the entire second half and played a game-high 41 minutes, which is way too many for someone who already plays 36.1 minute per game—tied for the seventh most in the NBA this year. (Ironically enough, he’s tied with Khris Middleton, who played 40 minutes with 27 points, nine assists, six rebounds, five steals, and just two turnovers). Wall also hurt his knee in a collision with O.J. Mayo which left him with a bit of a gimpy gait and noticeably diminished his aggressive drives to the basket. Aggressiveness in the first quarter saw Wall collect five assists in ten minutes and helped propel Gortat and Porter to eight and seven points, respectively.  Now enough excuses.

Yes, John Wall went into Thursday night’s game shooting 67.5 percent from the 3-point line in his last four games, but in those games his knee was healthy and long range shots came in the flow of the offense (he never took more than five or missed more than two)—and not at the expense of his teammates. Against the Bucks, Wall took five 3-point shots in the fourth quarter alone, and he missed them all.

The knee collision with Mayo clearly compromised his ability to get into the lane, but that should have been Wall’s cue to get his teammates—particularly Beal and Porter—some easy scoring opportunities. Instead, he jacked up 3s on offense and reached badly on defense, which rendered his team stagnant on one end and vulnerable in the paint on the other. Over the last three minutes of the game, Wall had a turnover and two missed 3-pointers, which helped cost his team the game. Wall afterward:

“I put the game on my shoulders. I couldn’t really move as much as I wanted to, so I just settled. I never shoot 12 3s if I don’t make eight of them. So it was just me not being in attack mode. I couldn’t really move, so I put the [loss] on me … I lost this game, I couldn’t move, and I should’ve never shot 12 threes. Those were valuable possessions we lost.”

X-Factor.

Nene and Marcin Gortat combined for 28 points (14 points each), 16 rebounds and, unfortunately, 10 fouls (5 each). Gortat seemed headed for a productive game before he picked up his second foul with 5:28 left in the first quarter and Nene looked as if he were going to help the Wizards close a victory before he was whistled for his fifth foul with 3:45 left in the game. Those seemingly small details, along with Wall’s 12 3-point attempts, were the deciding factors.

But in theory, this is how the 2015-16 version of Gortat and Nene were meant to play. Gortat’s job is to find his offensive mojo early in the game, while being a big, moving target for John Wall. Nene’s job—a job he did so well early in the season before he was injured, and a job he’s only done sporadically since—is to use his experience and physicality to dominate the second-team lineup, and hold down the fort until his fellow center in crime can re-enter the game.

They’ve played together this season with underwhelming results, and Gortat has attempted to carry the center burden alone while Nene was injured, and that wasn’t exactly effective either. But even in a disappointing close loss to the Bucks, the twin towers (if you will) demonstrated how effective they can be when Randy Wittman uses them in the proper fashion. Again, that’s useless info right now, but it could be one of several keys to success in the second half of the season.

That game was … potentially devastating

“The Wizards lost their second straight games and sixth this season when leading by at least 10 points, though this time the cushion was wiped away early … Washington enters the break 10th in the East, three games behind Charlotte (27-26) for the eighth and final playoff spot.”  —CSN Washington’s Ben Standig

Despite Comcast SportsNet’s attempts to throw folks off the scent by hyping last night’s game as an opportunity for the Wizards to sweep the season series over the Bucks, Thursday night’s loss was really a lost shot at momentum.

A win over Milwaukee would have given the Wizards two consecutive wins heading into the All-Star break, it would put them just two games behind the Pistons for ninth in the Eastern Conference, and just 2.5 games behind the Hornets for the eighth seed.

Instead, the Wizards lost their final game to an inferior team they had defeated three times already this season. After the break, they must play three games in three nights against the Utah Jazz and Detroit Pistons at home and the Miami Heat on the road. Three losses could put them out of the playoff mix before the end of February, and two losses would keep that inconsistent label firmly across their collective foreheads. A record of 2-1 or 3-0 would be ideal and signify a true turnaround for the Wizards 2015-16 season, but as of right now, there is an absence of concrete evidence that would leave anyone to believe that is going to happen.

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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.