Key Legislature: Wizards at Pistons — You May Now Rest in Peace | Wizards Blog Truth About

Key Legislature: Wizards at Pistons — You May Now Rest in Peace

Updated: April 9, 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 Pistons, Regular Season Game 79, April 8, 2016, from Detroit, Michigan, by Kyle Weidie (@truth_about_it).

I’ve never written an obituary before. Not while someone, something, is still alive. But playoff chances for the 2015-16 Washington Wizards died last night. I watched it happen. With three games to be played, their regular season only has a couple meaningless, perfunctory breaths left.

The Detroit Pistons came out motivated—excited and ready to play basketball (perhaps especially so since Detroit was 0-3 against Washington heading into Friday). The Pistons scored 62 points in the first half, held off a furious and desperate 19-point Wizards comeback (it always happens in the NBA, anyway), and they won by 13 points, 112-99.

Detroit is going to the postseason (with a chance to win 45 games; currently 43-37), and at the same time put coins over the closed eyes of Washington’s postseason, sending them down the river with the fish.

Last season, Detroit’s first under Stan Van Gundy, was quite disappointing—they won 32 games. They even paid Josh Smith to not play for them after he signed a four-year, $54 million contract in the summer of 2013. Not on Van Gundy’s watch, who’d decided he’d had enough of Smith’s pitiful bullshit after 28 games under his reign. As coach and president of basketball operations (Jeff Bower is his GM), Van Gundy has added Reggie Jackson for two second round picks, Kyle Singler, and D.J. Augustin; he let Greg Monroe walk to Milwaukee (where Monroe’s subpar defense continues to hint that he’s overrated); collected Marcus Morris for the mere penance of a second round pick; and most recently, Van Gundy picked up Tobias Harris for Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Jennings. He didn’t have a first draft pick in 2014 (1), and with the eighth overall pick in 2015 he selected Stanley Johnson out of Arizona. Johnson, a DNP-Coach’s Decision in Friday night’s playoff clincher, has appeared in 71 games (1,642 minutes). For comparison, Washington’s Kelly Oubre has appeared in 60 games (600 minutes).

We take time to describe these current Pistons in detail because in writing one version of Washington’s playoff obituary—or at least the first draft of it—we somehow find ourselves curious about the room full of doctors who pulled the plug.

Reggie Jackson scored 39 points on 20 shots to pair with 9 assists, 5 turnovers, and 4 rebounds—bringing him to Detroit was worth every penny (and perhaps John Wall would now agree). Jackson didn’t care that John Wall wasn’t playing (out for the second straight game with a suddenly swollen knee), refusing to play down to the levels of his competition. He destroyed fill-in Ramon Sessions, then the Wizards switched Garrett Temple on Jackson—didn’t matter; Bradley Beal also gave a go of it at some point. Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris combined for 30 points on 17 shots, together going 5-for-9 from 3-point range. Detroit didn’t even really need their All-Star center, Andre Drummond (8 points and 6 rebounds in 25 minutes and victim of the “Hack-a” strategy with 9 minutes left in the game), all they really needed was the long ball—and Washington’s defense of it. The Pistons shot 7-for-9 on 3s in the first quarter, but then 3-for-10 in each of the next two quarters, and 1-for-3 in the final quarter (still, 14-32 for the game or 43.8%).

The Wizards came out not unlike the same Wizards we’ve seen all season, even with the services of Wall. Coaching strategy, player wherewithal, and player capability were terrible at defending the 3-point line—the Wizards have allowed 37.2 percent from deep on the season, tied with three other teams for second-worst to the Phoenix Suns.

Forty-five (45) of Detroit’s 77 field goal attempts versus Washington came from beyond 10-feet; they shot 4-for-13 on 2-pointers and, as relayed, 14-for-32 on 3-pointers. A Wizards defender was within 0-to-4 feet for just eight of those 45 attempts beyond 10 feet (the range NBA player tracking data calls closely or very closely defended), and Detroit shot 1-for-8 when this happened (0-3 from beyond the arc). With a Wizards defender leaving them open (within 4-6-feet) or wide open (no defender within 6 feet), the Pistons shot 17-for-37 from beyond 10 feet, 14-for-29 on 3-pointers (48.3%). The basic takeaway: Detroit hit all those open looks they were allowed to maneuver by Washington.

But the Wizards didn’t go out totally quitting. After getting outscored by 14 points (39-25) in the first quarter, the Wizards outscored Detroit by 12 points over the next two quarters (30-23 in the second, 29-24 in the third). A once 19-point Pistons lead even turned into a one-point Wizards advantage. Markieff Morris scored 20 points in the third quarter (including a buzzer-beater from beyond half court; he scored 9 points over the other three quarters). Detroit went cold over periods two and three (6-20 from deep; the Wizards went 4-10 during this stretch), and Washington woke up on the glass, nabbing eight offensive rebounds over that 24 minutes (Otto Porter grabbed four).

The game was tied at 92 as late as 8:34 left in the game. Randy Wittman once employed the Hack-a-Drummond strategy, and the center missed both. Bradley Beal answered with a sweet pull-up jumper from 21 feet out for the tie. Beal scored eight points in the fourth quarter but on the night he was just … OK. He scored 25 points on 10-for-22 shooting (2-4 on 3s, 3-6 on FTs) with 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 6 turnovers (and a game-worst minus-29). As much as the Wizards have tried to develop Beal as combo guard who’s a threat to score off the dribble and drive, as well as the spot-up shot, it just hasn’t happened to a (max contract) promising degree. Yes, Beal can drive and weave his way to the basket better than ever, but he’s not (and never has been) good at getting to the free throw line (2), he’s not good at taking care of the ball, and his body control and ability to preserve odds on his on-court health leaves a shit-ton to be desired. There were also moments versus the Pistons where Beal just sort of gave up—but this was far from the first such display from Beal and his teammates this season.

Beal didn’t have much help, either. Otto Porter, third overall pick in 2013, played in his 183rd NBA game on Friday night. He shot 1-for-5 in 31 minutes (made his lone 3-point attempt). Otto has never cracked 30 points in his career (his high is 28 points back in December 2015 versus Dallas—his only time breaking the 24-point mark in scoring). Marcin Gortat didn’t do much either, scoring 8 points with 4 rebounds and 3 turnovers in 26 minutes to go with his punchless pick-and-roll defense. Nene fared better at the 5 (13 points and 4 rebounds in 21 minutes) in what could be the last meaningful game of his NBA career (3). Jared Dudley, increasingly coping with his body type’s limitations as the season has worn on, scored 7 points on 3-for-4 shooting (made his lone 3-point attempt); while Garrett Temple and Alan Anderson shot a combined 1-for-9 from the field. Ramon Sessions was actually OK, save for the all-important, and suddenly hard to pin down, concept of defense.

And so the Wizards went out with a whimper. After Beal tied the game at 92, Detroit closed the evening on a 20-7 run. Reggie Jackson scored 12 points over that run, including 5-for-5 from the free throw line (and not one was the result of a late-game fouling session). And Aron Baynes, inserted for a benched, non-free throw-shooting Drummond, scored 8 points over that final stretch (yes, Baynes was 6-6 on free throws). Beal shot 2-for-5 during the last 8:30 of action as the Wizards struggled to get stops as well as score via Wittman’s same ol’ puttering offense.

This isn’t technically an obituary. It’s just sports. Just basketball. Just the Washington Wizards. This is just a note, a blurb, a small notice of the passing of a season—albeit one with careers on the line. Careers nested in offices at multiple levels of the Verizon Center.

“Today’s the day, that’s how we’re going to start this off? Are you serious?” said an emotional Randy Wittman as soon as Comcast cut into his postgame comments with the media. “Disappointing, obviously. But, we got to learn from ‘em, and, you know, try to see if we can make amends for it.”

Amends—“reparation or compensation for a loss, damage, or injury of any kind,” per the dictionary. Always hard to make, especially if you’re not around to make them. Praises due to the basketball gods, rest in peace, 2015-16 Washington Wizards.

  1. Van Gundy’s successor, Joe Dumars, once upon a time traded Detroit’s 2014 first round pick, plus Ben Gordon, to Charlotte for Corey Maggette.
  2. Beal has a Free Throw Rate (FTr) of .221, lower than Kelly Oubre, Garrett Temple, Alan Anderson, John Wall, Marcin Gortat, Nene, Ramon Sessions, and even J.J. Hickson (as a Wizard).
  3. If I were a betting man, sometimes I am, I’d put some (small) sum of money that Nene won’t retire once his contract is up after this season like he’s claimed he would do before. The money available this summer, and maybe even some self-vanity, could bring him back to the NBA.
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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.