Big Panda Brings the Chill to Hotlanta — Wizards at Hawks, DC Council 70 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Big Panda Brings the Chill to Hotlanta — Wizards at Hawks, DC Council 70

By
Updated: March 22, 2016

The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards at Hawks, Game 70, March 21, 2016, via Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur).

M.V.P.

With the win over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday evening, the Wizards improved their record to .500, an elusive mark they’ve chased all season like a dog chasing its tail. It’s just too bad that the Wiz, now hottest team in the NBA on a five-game win streak, still have an uphill battle to climb as far as their playoff chase is concerned, thanks to a few blown games out west.

Bradley Beal, the game’s M.V.P. in Atlanta, finished with 25 points on 10-for-15 shooting from the field, and he a knocked down a season-high five 3s (on six attempts).With the 15-point victory, the Wizards improved their win percentage to a staggering .857 when the budding star  scores 25 points or more. When Beal has it going, the Wizards offense looks dynamic and they transform into a formidable opponent.

(The only problem is that Big Panda has only reached the 25-point threshold seven times this season, which is both sad and certainly not surprising, given the Wizards mediocre status and slew of injuries to the combo guard.

The third quarter is where the Wizards (and Beal, most notably) made their mark on the night. The Wizards have been a notoriously bad third quarter team on the season, blowing many first half leads or not being able to stay competitive in games after intermission. On a night where Washington desperately needed a win to keep up with the other teams involved in the Eastern Conference playoff race, Beal led the team with 12 points in the third by knocking down four 3-pointers (on four attempts). What was more important than the comfort of seeing Beal’s shots go through the net was the fact that he was fearless in taking on defenders. Sometimes Beal plays a little too passive, letting the game come to him or disappearing for stretches. On this night, Beal went out of his way to make sure that he was keeping his dribble alive, cutting like a sous chef, and attacking the Hawks all night.

For a guy seeking a max contract extension this summer, Beal still has a lot to learn—consistency is what makes players worthy of big bucks. But it’s definitely a good sign that he is hitting his stride towards the end of the regular season.

L.V.P.

Kent Bazemore is another player who is heading into a summer of free agency and will be expecting to sign a long-term lucrative offer, taking advantage of the NBA’s massive salary cap jump. Unlike Beal, Bazemore has pretty consistently contributed to his team’s success this season …  except on this night. Bazemore finished the game 2-for-8 from the field, including an 0-for-4 effort from 3-point range, and he was not able to provide the athleticism that could swing the game in favor of the Hawks.

Much of the reason why Bazemore was neutralized in this contest was because “Stretch Otto” is rounding into playoff form. Porter did a fantastic job of contesting Bazemore’s open looks and an even better job of ball denial on Atlanta’s wings, a formula that the Wizards used in last year’s playoff series (remember how well Porter guarded DeRozan in the first round?) The Wizards did a fairly decent job of denying the ball to the Hawks shooters, Korver especially, who has taken a total of eight shots against Washington in 2 games.

The blueprint: The Wizards again proved that the best way to stop a great shooter who can’t handle the ball is to prevent them from getting catch-and-shoot opportunities.

X-Factor.

Markieff Morris continues to make Ernie Grunfeld, and anyone else who agreed with the decision to acquire Morris minutes before the trade deadline, look good. Morris has undoubtedly provided a spark to the Wizards frontcourt with his size, defensive intensity, and surprisingly high basketball IQ. On Monday night, Morris was able to play All-Star Paul Millsap to a draw in points, but Morris maintained an advantage on the board, and was able to use his size to body Millsap off of his favorite spots around the high post area. Whenever Hawks guards Jeff Teague or Dennis Schroeder would run their pick-and-roll action near the foul-line extended area, Morris would show hard and limit any open shot opportunities from the guards— on display was the athleticism and length to recover onto his forward matchup. Morris has quick hands and uses them to punch back when opponents try to back him down near the basket. This aggressive style of play resulted in three steals (and Morris was able to stay out of foul trouble).

That Game Was … The Best the Wiz Have Looked.

This team had a near full complement of players and everyone was ready to contribute. The Wiz started the game strong, ceded the lead and momentum, but were able to push through a little adversity and take command in the second half. When this team is moving the ball around like they did—to the tune of 27 assists—they make it hard for teams to key in on stopping the bread and butter: the Wall/Gortat pick-and-roll.

The only negative on the evening is the fact that Washington was not able to make up any ground on the Pistons and Bulls in the standings. At least they will have the opportunity to play the Hawks again tomorrow night and further their chances of securing the 8-seed (or better).

 

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.