Key Legislature: Wizards 101 at Lakers 88 — Wall Shows Shades of Showtime | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 101 at Lakers 88 — Wall Shows Shades of Showtime

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Updated: March 29, 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 Lakers, Regular Season Game 73, March 27, 2016, by Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur).

One man can’t do it all by himself. True in sports, true in general. Still, at the end of the first quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers, John Wall appeared ready to carry the Wizards to victory by any means necessary. Wall was single-handedly staving off another potential Kobe farewell tour masterpiece performance … while his teammates were still trying to figure out how to chip in.

Once the Wizards were able to establish their dominance from the inside out, the game’s outcome became the mere formality that it should have been from the tip. The Wall/Gortat pick-and-roll was a weapon that the one-time All-NBA center Roy Hibbert was not ready for. Gortat finished with yet another double-double—16 points and 10 rebounds.

The thing that was impressive about Sunday night’s performance from Washington was the fact that Randy Wittman stuck to his big lineup gun of Gortat and Nene (with Markieff Morris out due to injury). And not only did it not backfire, but it actually proved to be a smart decision that allowed the Wizards to dominate the paint against a Lakers team without a fearsome stretch 4. The absence of Morris was still noticeable, however, but if the bruising power forward can benefit from a few extra days of rest to be ready for All-World Golden State Warriors on Tuesday, then that, too, was a good call.

Gortat and Nene weren’t the only bigs to get into a groove against the Lakers. Buyout acquisition J.J. Hickson had his best game in a Wizards uniform, scoring all of his 14 points on 5-for-5 shooting from the field in the second half. Hickson’s performance was refreshing because it allowed the Wizards to avoid sweating out blowing a fourth quarter lead, as this team has grown so accustomed to doing.

Of course, Washington may not have had to worry about finishing off another reeling opponent—in this case, the Lakers—if they were getting the type of production expected from their second best player. To put it mildly, Bradley Beal had a disappointing week. After lighting up the Hawks on Monday, Beal went conspicuously M.I.A. against those same Hawks on Wednesday, and then he missed two potential game-winning shots against the Timberwolves, as the Wizards lost another close game in double overtime. Beal apparently saved his worst for last and was only able to muster four total points against the 15-win Lakers.

Beal played 29 minutes and only hit one of his five field goal attempts. The Wizards have been trying to go out of their way to get Beal more involved in the offense, but as my grandfather taught me at an early age, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. With only nine games in this season, it’s becoming obvious that young Bao Bao still needs a little more time to develop into Big Panda.

From the Lakers perspective, how can one watch that game on Sunday night and not walk away impressed with the No.2 overall pick in last year’s draft, D’Angelo Russell? Russell finished the game with 22 points on 8-for-20 shooting and looked about as natural a scorer as a rookie possibly can. The fact that Lakers coach Byron Scott has tightened the reigns on Russell over the course of this season is borderline criminal. Randy Wittman man not be leading any lectures at the Sloan Conference anytime soon, but at least the guy isn’t actively driving his franchise into the ground with rash decisions in the guise of teaching moments. (That said, Oubre could have gotten more minutes earlier this season.)

We can’t have the Wizards visiting Staples Center without mentioning the great Gilbert Arenas performance in 2006, when he out-dueled Kobe to score a Bullets/Wizards record 60 points—and an NBA record 16 points in an overtime period. Arenas is synonymous with “knucklehead,” but you have to give him some credit for the magical moments he brought the franchise in the mid-2000s. Arenas was courtside Sunday night to watch Kobe’s last game versus the Wizards.

Where do the Wizards go from here?

With nine games left on the season, the Wizards find themselves 2.5 games back of the Detroit Pistons for the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. The positive: The Wizards still have one game remaining against the Pistons. The problem: The Wizards need to make sure they are in a position to make that last meeting mean anything at all. They play six away games (17-18 road record) to close the season.

Washington is currently facing the daunting task of going into Oracle Arena and giving the Warriors their first home loss of the season. Yes, the Warriors have struggled with bad teams over the last week, barely edging past the Timberwolves and Sixers. But Warriors coach Steve Kerr has said that the team will be trying to equal (or beat) the Bulls 72-10 record, so don’t expect them to be doing any favors by resting their star players (although a couple role players might be out). If there is one thing that the Wizards can count on, it’s their All-star, John Wall, to bring the intensity that has allowed this team to even be on the brink of the playoffs, instead of deep into the lottery.

Will any of his teammates feel like joining the party?


 

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
Writer
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.