Key Legislature: Wizards 116 vs Sixers 108 — Sure, Washington Gets Technical Win | Wizards Blog Truth About

Key Legislature: Wizards 116 vs Sixers 108 — Sure, Washington Gets Technical Win

Updated: March 1, 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 vs Sixers, Regular Season Game 59, Feb. 29, 2016, by Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks).

As the first half wound into the kind of falsely assured ennui that is endemic to games played against the Philadelphia 76ers, Bradley Beal cruised in for a baseline layup with two seconds remaining. In the arena, people barely looked up. On television, Phil Chenier barely found time to say “Nice move by Bradley” in the midst of a personal story. A psychic wave of anti-engagement buffeted through the crowd. And while the Wizards weren’t exactly blowing out the now 8-52 Philadelphia Thinkpieces, the sense was, and should have been, that the second half was merely academic.

And yet the Wizards are an under-.500 team that just made a playoffs-or-bust trade. Cruise control doesn’t exist. Or worse, it does, but then you test the gas pedal and it gives the authoritative whir of an ancient kind of utter fucking silence.

The Sixers made a game of it in the third quarter before most had a chance to purchase their fourteen-dollar Monumental Beef Body Doubles with Cold Potato Necks and return to their Personal Pan Investment Chairs. Three minutes into the third quarter, a 12-point lead had disintegrated to a four-point lead on an Isaiah Canaan layup. And if this weren’t penalty enough for unearned hubris, the Wizards sunk even deeper into the cracks of your college roommates’ ash-encased couch cushions when the Sixers used Nerlens Noel’s first 3-point attempt (and make) of the season, an outlet to a driving Ish Smith, and a Noel putback cocoon dunk that encased Marcin Gortat in a web of flyover shame to take a 67-66 lead just five minutes after trailing by 12.

After the game, Randy Wittman joked that he considered calling the commissioner to ask for more timeouts. But what if I told you that Wittman only used five of his available six full timeouts, and never used his second half 20-second timeout? That’s right, sports fans.

*cut to correct people saying “Aw, c’mon.” *

*cut to me humorlessly arguing in peak whiny nerd voice that an NBA coach should be held to a pretty high standard.*

Speaking of timeouts, Wittman did manage to break from his reverie to take one after Canaan boldly knocked down a corner 3-pointer and turned to lock eyes with John Wall in what I can only assume was meant to be intimidating sports posturing. It gave the Sixers a 70-66 lead, which would balloon up to 74-66, and then reinflate in the fourth quarter to 90-83.

But pride cometh before the Wall. With nary a mention in this sports article as of yet, John Wall may seem an unlikely hero. But then again: Isaiah Canaan stared him down. That’ll do it in the most individual-within-a-team-driven and brilliant sport on the planet. Wall scored all 21 of his second half points following the Canaan Incident, and after the game characterized his “good friend” Canaan’s lingering stare as disrespect. Per Wall: “It made me mad, and when I’m mad I play better.”

It was a balanced attack (7 shots at the rim, 6 from midrange, 3 from beyond the arc), but Wall made his money in the paint, where he was 5-of-7 and drew nine free throws. With under three minutes remaining, having already scored 35 points on his own, Wall bodied through three Sixers players to buy Gortat an uncontested layup.

Sixers coach Brett Brown has been complimentary of Wall in the past when I’ve spoken with him, and he was no less laudatory when answering a question about John Wall posed by media after this game:

“I think that his physical approach on attacking the rim and taking a hit and still having the body control and toughness to finish and get and ones is remarkable. That is a physical, big guard. It’s Russell Westbrook-type. He’s just very gifted. He’s an All-Star for a reason.”

On several attempts, Wall retained control of his form and shot while forcing contact at the rim, possessing a greater mastery of gravity than his opponents as they collided. His 37 points would have seemed an encouraging promise of things to come in years past, but Wall has rounded out as a scorer this year, shooting 34 percent from behind the line, and refining his jump shot in a way that shows up in moments like the absurd Kobe-style fadeaway he converted during his torrid second-half run. As Pablo Picasso might say: “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” Shots that would have been cringeworthy two years ago suddenly take on an aura of confidence with Wall’s present incarnation. They’re not necessarily better shots. He’s just better equipped to make them.

Wall’s rampage was fueled with a rare rebounding tour de force by the Wizards. Both Markieff Morris (16 points, 13 rebounds) and Marcin Gortat (18 points, 20 rebounds) double-doubled against the Sixers, with Gortat’s 20 rebounds serving as his career high. The two big men also served as the secondary facilitators (5 assists each) to Wall, who was busy saving the season as the team’s most potent scorer.

The Wizards overtook the Sixers, and Randy Wittman insisted that an apology for the nature of the win was unnecessary. Only no one’s asking for an apology. Rather, the Wizards need to reckon with themselves. The team is unreliable on a game-by-game and quarter-by-quarter basis, features an All-Star and two other top-3 picks in its ideal starting lineup (Wall, Beal, Porter), and too often reverts to a recognizable form of bad offense that plays out like the NFL’s infamous prevent offense. Against Philadelphia (where a brutal late-game possession that ended with an unlikely Morris 19-foot attempt was converted without batting an eye), it worked. But as the music played and fans streamed out satisfied with their favorite local sports brand, Washington’s third-quarter collapse and the late Sixers rally that brought them within three points leading up to the final minute stuck out more than the comeback salvaged by a furious Wall and a career game from Gortat.

Maybe it’s unfair. After all, the Sixers rallied against the Warriors on one starry evening in 2016, too, only to fall short. But unlike the Warriors, the Wizards haven’t earned the benefit of the doubt. For now, they’ve just earned the doubt.

Other Things That Happened

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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.