When a Win Isn't a Win, But Still Better Than a Loss | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

When a Win Isn’t a Win, But Still Better Than a Loss

Updated: November 29, 2016

In the athletic realm, the best medicine for melancholy has to be the thrill of victory—unless you’re Gregg Popovich, who you might confuse with the Grinch who stole Christmas, even after a win. The thing that makes San Antonio’s leading man one of the all-time great coaches is the fact that his satisfaction is not driven by wins or losses on any given game day, but by a process in pursuit of a long-term result.

Against the Kings, the Wizards found themselves victorious at the end of what can be described as a “non-aesthetically pleasing” display of Dr. Naismith’s game, and it would greatly behoove them to focus a hell of a lot more on aforementioned process rather than the box score result.

The time stamps on this Twitter thread begin at 7:43 p.m., which is smack dab in the middle of what was one of the worst quarters of Wizards basketball I’ve ever witnessed: ugly, sloppy, start-and-stop stuff. The Wizards’ second quarter from hell allowed the Sacramento Kings a real opportunity to defy the basketball schedule gods (they played the previous night) and overcome a talent deficiency to win. By the time Marcin Gortat picked up his third personal foul (add on a technical foul after his expression of genuine, sink-to-your-knees-and-ask-why disbelief) at the six-minute mark of the second quarter, his team was in a full tailspin.

When DeMarcus Cousins was asked about the game flow of the contest, “choppy” is the word he used to describe it:

“The game was real choppy. Seemed like it was a lot of calls on both ends. Kind of messed up the whole rhythm of the game. Lot of turnovers early. I don’t really think either team found their rhythm. You have nights like this.”

And when asked about there being so many fouls called on both sides:

“You just said it. Fouls on each side. It just went like that.”

The Kings were more than happy to take full advantage of the Wizards’ gluttony of errors and weakened front-line (the Wizards were without Ian Mahinmi, again). Cousins eyes must have lit up when he realized that he would have a six-minute stretch of one-on-one basketball with Jason Smith due to Gortat’s foul trouble. Cousins proceeded to display the type of athleticism and agility for a 6-foot-11, 270-pound player that makes every GM in the NBA salivate. Cousins has it all, including a triple-threat dribble drive and post-moves resembling Orlando era Shaq.

The constant barrage of whistles in that second quarter made time seemingly slow down to half speed inside the Verizon Center, as another sub-13,000 group of attendees (and bloggers) grew restless from the lack of game flow. The Wizards committed 12 personal fouls in the quarter and that resulted in the Kings shooting an astronomical 19 free throw attempts (they made 11).

Turnovers also played a major part in how Sacramento was able to outscore Washington 34-25 in the quarter. The Wizards committed nine second-quarter turnovers, and the Kings took advantage of those miscues to the tune of 13 points off turnovers. Those live ball turnovers are a straight up detriment to any form of winning-style basketball, and a large part of the responsibility falls on the shoulders of John Wall. Optimus Dime must have been going through some kind of mechanical malfunction on this night, because he committed a season-high 11 turnovers and did not score his first points until the 1:15 mark of the second quarter.

When Wall was asked about getting into a flow during the game, he also lamented the constant foul calls and took responsibility for his turnovers:

“Turnovers were just over-dribbling, trying to make passes to certain people but those guys are pretty athletic and they deflected some of my passes. It was probably like eight, 10 minutes straight where it was just fouls, fouls, fouls or turnovers. It’s hard to get in a rhythm but we did a great job of trying to find Brad [Beal]. He had a rhythm going for us most of the past couple games he’s been pretty hot and keeping us into games. Then guys find a way to do the little things to help us win.”

They key cog that was able to see the light through the forest was once again Bradley Beal. He scored 31 points on a career-high seven 3s, which bumped his season percentage from behind the arc up to .382 (on 6.8 attempts per game). It is undeniable through the 16 games played this season that this Bradley Beal is assertive and willing to fire away from deep. Scott Brooks knows it. John Wall knows it. And, most importantly, Beal knows it.

The fact that Beal is launching more 3-point attempts, and more shots in general, is one of the more pleasant surprises for the Wizards this season. He’s always been capable of cementing himself as a foundational block for the franchise. (Those were always the expectations.) But it’s disheartening to watch this team play lazily for extended periods, which leads to mad dashes to the finish line where they have to eke out should-have-been-routine victories. The process is all jacked up, and the win is just a Band-Aid on an open sore; this Wizards team lacks depth and focus.

Again, Wall deserves some culpability for not getting his team into a rhythm early on in games—that “choppiness” makes it hard to appreciate Wall’s 11 assists. There were too many possessions when Wall shot, and where no one else touched the ball. The ability to take games over is what makes Wall a dynamic player, but on a night when he lacked a shooting stroke, he should have focused on being more of a facilitator.

The Wizards were not able to get a ton of production out of their bench, but second-year player Kelly Oubre contributed to the win. Oubre was able to grab a career-high 10 rebounds, and finished with his first career double-double. Young Spider Kelly was able to take advantage of the Kings’ small-ball lineup of Matt Barnes at the 4 and pretty much whooped Barnes’ tail on the glass all night.

No one likes losing, and the Wizards will most certainly take this win—their third in four games. But Monday night’s game showcased a lot of this team’s flaws. While the end result is important, it is even more prudent to build good habits around the foundation. That’s winning basketball. And there’s season enough left to develop it.


Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. Bylines on bylines on bylines.

Will write for food.