Key Legislature: Wizards 94 at Warriors 102 — Fighting Uphill Without Bullets | Wizards Blog Truth About

Key Legislature: Wizards 94 at Warriors 102 — Fighting Uphill Without Bullets

Updated: March 30, 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 Warriors, Regular Season Game 74, March 29, 2016, by Lucas Hubbard (@LucasHubbard1).

It’s almost unfortunate that the Wizards had to play Golden State—on the road—in game 74 of their 82-game slog. The task demanded of them was effectively impossible, with the Warriors 35-0 at home on the year and having not lost a regular season game in the friendly Oracle Arena confines since late January 2015. Ideally, Tuesday’s contest would’ve been a “process” game, one where silver linings draw more attention than the overall storm.

Of course, such luxuries can’t be afforded when your team is 2.5 games out of the playoffs with nine remaining (now three with eight to go). So, absent of context, any Wizards loss on Tuesday would be a disappointment, but the team’s failure to really put the Warriors in jeopardy in the second half transforms this loss from disappointing to disheartening.

I’ll come clean for the sake of context: I’m actually a Warriors fan(1), so I’ve watched a fair share of their games this year. For how infallible they’re portrayed in the national media, they have trace elements of weakness. Their games hold a pattern, and for as confident as their fans can seem, the Warriors faithful invariably hold their breath at two points of each game: the start of the second and fourth quarters, when Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green go to the bench. The three All-Stars are tremendous individually and in tandem, but without them, the Warriors’ offense devolves into Shaun Livingston post-ups, Harrison Barnes isolations, and Marreese Speights 3-pointers. In short, their bench is hilarious, but not consistently good or even consistently competent.

So any serious opponent needs to capitalize on the stars’ absences in these periods, either to carve into Golden State’s existing lead, or, better yet, gain a rare, insurmountable position of their own. In the second quarter, Washington (primarily, Bradley Beal) did just that: they transformed a five-point deficit at quarter’s end into a two-point advantage by the time that Curry and Green returned. The Washington lead ballooned to nine late in the second before, well, the Warriors happened, and the Wizards found themselves trailing at halftime after a 12-0 Golden State run. It was, however, still a manageable situation.

Washington treaded water in the third quarter, as Markieff Morris exploded for 13 points; even though the Warriors were up seven, they were about to enter one of those problematic periods in which Leandro Barbosa is an offensive fulcrum. And, when John Wall re-entered the game with 11 minutes remaining, he and Beal were about to play four-plus minutes unfettered by the Warriors’ star lineup. The Wizards, in theory, had a great chance to make it interesting.

Unfortunately, Wall was bad Tuesday—nowhere on par with his 41-point, 10-assist performance versus the Warriors in February. While he garnered highlights for a few chasedown blocks of Curry, he shot 4-for-14 from the field and delivered an 0-fer from beyond the arc, which included a wide-open third-quarter brick so far off that even an overwrought metaphor can’t do it justice. More importantly, he failed to significantly attack the rim and put pressure on the defense; Wall took just six shots in the restricted area all game and only two FTs—both in the fourth quarter.

When Wall initially returned, it seemed that the Wizards would inevitably make a run: on the first three possessions, the offense delivered a pretty optimal allocation of a Wall drive sandwiched between two Beal 3-point attempts. Unfortunately, all tries were unsuccessful, and with the team down 13 with just 10 minutes remaining, the Wizards turned to their only option: …Nene. Yes, on five of the next six possessions, the burly Brazilian was the one ending the possession, and he generated a fascinating stat line of one lay-up, three fouls drawn (2-6 FTs), and one turnover. And, after all that, the deficit was 14; Steph and Draymond returned seconds later and it was curtains for the Wiz.

It’s unfair to pin the loss on Wall; the Wizards weren’t sharp from the get-go, and they were sloppy both in the half-court (17 TOs) and in transition defense (yielding 24 fast break points). But given the requisite support from Beal, Morris, and even Otto Porter (11 points, 6 boards), the point guard’s egg-laying with the game—at least nominally—up for grabs was more painful. All told, Wall went 0-for-3 from the field in the fourth and 0-for-2 from the line. It was a no good, very bad quarter in a no good, very bad game: his eight-point output on the night was his worst in over two months.

There’s little worth belaboring here: Tuesday would’ve required an incredible, unprecedented effort, so the key is for Washington to salvage something in Sacramento tonight on the second game of the back-to-back. While the math doesn’t favor them in the hunt for the 8th spot, the Pistons’ final games are actually pretty tricky, and a 6-2 finish for Washington could be sufficient to edge Detroit and sneak into the playoffs. (Indiana’s closing schedule looks very Knicks-heavy, so I’m excluding them from reasonable consideration here.)

One positive from the game in Golden State is that the Wizards’ workloads weren’t especially taxing, with 12 players getting time and 10 hitting double figures; only Wall, Porter, and Beal cleared 30 minutes. Still, the season is shortening rapidly, and the stakes of each game are rising; Wednesday night will require a heavy dose of John Wall, and No. 2 needs to bounce back. I’m guessing he will; I hope I’m right.


  1. My first in-person NBA experience was at Oracle during the Baron Davis/Stephen Jackson-era, and I’ve been fond of Golden State ever since (although it definitely helped that they drafted Steph Curry soon after). As an NBA junkie living in D.C., though, I’ve adopted the Wizards as my Eastern Conference team.
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Lucas Hubbard
Lucas joined TAI in 2015 as a late convert to the Cult of Randy Wittman. He holds many strong, ill-informed opinions about the NBA, most of which center on the belief that Mo Speights is an All-Star. Lucas lives in DC, where he has chanted "Ot-to Por-ter" at 9 consecutive Wizards games.