Key Legislature: Wizards 99 at Sixers 94 — Whiskey at Halftime, A Win in the Jar | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 99 at Sixers 94 — Whiskey at Halftime, A Win in the Jar

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Updated: March 18, 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 Sixers, Regular Season Game 68, March 17, 2016, by Bryan Frantz (@BFrantz202).

The time has come to ask an important question: Who has more animosity toward the other, the Wizards or their fans? TAI’s own Sean Fagan already discussed how little fun it is to cheer on this Wizards team, and this game against the 76ers could very well be the ultimate representation of that sentiment. After winning a pair of possibly season-determining games against the Pistons and Bulls, each by more than 20 points, Washington damn near threw away a(nother) massive lead against the most difficult NBA team to lose to.

It seems an absurd proposition, that a professional sports team might actually have disdain toward its fanbase, and perhaps it is. But open up the Wizards schedule, close your eyes, and point to a game. It’s almost guaranteed that either that game, the one immediately before it, or the one immediately after it was a shitshow. I mean cringeworthy levels of terrible. The Wizards appear incapable of mustering a complete, impressive three-game stretch, which of course bodes well for all those seven-game series featured in the mystical land after the regular season we Washingtonians have come to expect and know.

So what happened in this episode of Wizards Things? John Wall had some difficulty finding his shot (4-for-17 overall), but he otherwise stuffed the staff sheet. Four points on 2-for-6 shooting in the first quarter isn’t great, but seven assists and four rebounds to go with just a single turnover is pretty alright. Marcin Gortat notched a game-high 10 points in the opening frame on 5-for-6 shooting, and he matched Wall’s four-pack of rebounds. Markieff Morris knocked down four of his six attempts from the field, good for a solid eight points. Between that trio, the Wizards matched the Sixers’ scoring output of 22 points in the quarter, out-dimed them 7-6, and snagged eight rebounds to Philadelphia’s nine. The rest of the Wizards added eight points, five rebounds, and three assists, and the magicians led 30-22, thanks in part to a .538-.455 shooting advantage.

The second quarter brought more of the same: Wall went 0-for-3 but piled up three more boards and five more assists, again with just one turnover; Gortat added six more points on 3-for-4 shooting; Morris chipped in four points on three shots, two rebounds, and two assists; the Wizards outscored the Sixers, 28-17, thanks to shooting more than 20 percent better (.522 to .320) in the quarter. Garrett Temple and Marcus Thornton combined to shoot 5-for-8 from the field, including 4-for-6 from 3-point land, for 14 more points(1), and Nene suddenly emerged as a rebounding machine, with six in the period.

The Wizarding folk were cruising in the City of Bruherly Love on the day of St. Patrick. And then Randy Wittman got festive and doled out Jameson during halftime(2).

Here’s a stat to help sum up the Wizards collapse: Nerlens Noel had five (5) steals in the third quarter. Here’s another: Kendall Marshall, who didn’t play in the first half, had four (4) steals in the third quarter. And finally: The Wizards had one (1) steal in the third quarter. Each team shot below .400 in the period—.333 for the Wiz, .364 for the Sixers—and they combined to shoot 3-for-13 from beyond the arc. Washington made a lower percentage of its shots and turned it over an almost unbelievable 11 times to Philadelphia’s two, and the Wizards were only outscored by seven points (22-15) in the quarter. How is this possible? Well for one, the Sixers brought a modest 9-58 record into this game, which was played just two days after Bojan Bogdanovic scored 44 points against those very Sixers. Oh, and Philly also played the Wizards without Jahlil Okafor and Robert Covington—the Wizards were missing Bradley Beal, Alan Anderson, and eventually Markieff Morris, but they’re also the Wizards and not the 76ers.

At least the dreaded third period had come to a merciful conclusion, right? Nah. The misery continued right on through the fourth quarter, and it got so much more miserable. Wall paid about as much attention to ball security as an American pays to the history, accomplishments, and saintly deeds of Saint Patrick(3). Two first-half turnovers gave way to seven more in the second half; not coincidentally, the Wizards turned it over 16 times in the second half to the Sixers’ four.

One player made more than a single field goal for Washington in the final stanza. That player was 47-year-old Marcus Thornton, who also led the Wiz with four rebounds, somehow. At the same time, Thornton attempted eight shots in the period, while no other Wizard attempted more than three. In the second half, Thornton—the newest addition to the Wizards—attempted 10 shots. Wall attempted the next most after halftime, with eight, followed by Otto Porter, who tossed up six shot attempts. No other player attempted more than four. This isn’t a reassuring sign for the immediate future.

As the Wizards collapse progressed from cooling off to somewhat dysfunctional to frustrated mess to LOL what’s a basketball, the typical abysmal body language gradually emanated from the gentlemen hailing from the nation’s capital. Wall threw a pass out of bounds to an area he thought Thornton would be, about five feet from where Thornton actually was, and stomped his foot while yelling something in Thornton’s direction. Gortat stood under the basket and casually extended his arm in the vague direction of careening basketballs while keeping his feet firmly planted in their comfortable state, hoping to use his hidden magnetic powers to attract the evasive sphere. Markieff Morris whacked Isaiah Canaan in the head on a fast-break layup to earn a Flagrant 2; by that time, the Sixers had cut the Wizards’ lead to just six, and the game would be tied less than a minute later. This, too, was a poor sign for the coming days.

Meanwhile, the team still seeking a second digit in the win column played with heart and persistence, putting on a convincing imitation of a team that values a meaningless win over a draft pick.

In the end, the Wizards pulled out the win for two reasons. The first is free throws; Wall went 8-for-8 from the line in the final frame, and though Gortat missed a pair late, the Wizards mostly made them when they needed to. The second reason for the win is simple: The Philadelphia 76ers are godawful when healthy, and they were playing without arguably their two best players. Washington is objectively the better team, and while that hasn’t mattered much this season, losing to the Sixers is no easy task.

Of note: Jared Dudley scored just two points on 1-for-3 shooting. He has now scored in single digits in 10 of the past 11 games, with the one exception coming when he scored 16 in 39:05 against the Portland Trail Blazers (in a blowout loss). Dudders has also made just one 3-pointer in the month of March (1-for-13).

A win is a win, and it improves the Wizards’ chances of making the postseason, so the night was ultimately a success. But it was anything but reassuring, and it once again mitigates any confidence the Wizards had previously earned among fans and critics.

  1. Temple did turn it over three times in the period, but he was a quarter-high plus-11 while playing the entire period. It sorta balanced out.
  2. This is unconfirmed, and also probably not true.
  3. Or Saint Valentine, for that matter.
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Bryan Frantz
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Bryan is a D.C. native with a degree in something or other from UNC. He has important, interesting hobbies, but mostly he just weeps over D.C. sports teams. You can find him on the Metro, inevitably complaining about Red Line delays.