Bait-and-Switch Wizards Blow Another One in Crunch Time | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Bait-and-Switch Wizards Blow Another One in Crunch Time

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Updated: December 14, 2016

Some of the excuse making (or reason building) doesn’t cut to the point: John Wall and Bradley Beal just aren’t yet ready for prime time. Several times during their loss to the Heat in Miami on Monday night, the Wizards looked like a different, more competent team. But in the waning moments, when points never count more but always feel bigger, the team’s two star guards simply didn’t deliver.

Wizards bench play was once again subpar—but not disastrous. The best lineup actually featured Trey Burke, Marcus Thornton, Kelly Oubre, Markieff Morris, and Jason Smith (+7 in 4.8 minutes) while the starters once again played heavy minutes together (22.9) to the tune of minus-2.

The Heat played with incredible aggressiveness in keeping their offensive possessions alive, which no doubt had a hand in igniting their ability to hit buckets with hands in their faces. There are countless factors, including self-inflicted, that an NBA team will have to combat on any given night. But often, all those mitigating yet never unimportant factors come down to which stars carry their team to a win and which ones won’t.

Goran Dragic carried his team with 34 points on 23 shots—scoring 13 on 8 buckets in the fourth quarter—with many of his shots coming in the toughest of manners and at impossible angles. The Wizards didn’t take it easy on Dragic, that’s for sure. And for any basketball fan at heart, it was fun to watch.

Wall and Beal, for their effort, combined for 59 points on 46 shots—Beal 29 on 20 and Wall 30 on 26. Not bad nights, until you get to the fourth quarter where Wall scored 9 points on 8 shots, 0-for-2 on 3-pointers and 1-1 on free throws, while Beal scored 2 points on 5 shots, 0-for-3 on 3-pointers and zero free throw attempts. Wall and Beal paced the Wizards with team-worst plus-minuses on the night, minus-14 and minus-17 respectively.

Potentially cold blooded 3-pointers were missed by Beal in the final period. Wall and Morris each had zero self-control on several key possessions. There was even a shot clock violation for Washington—an entire mess. Goran Dragic souped the Wizards. He picked on Wall, he doubly picked on Burke (Tyler Johnson picked on Burke), and sometimes Dragic made Kelly Oubre look silly (just a few times). Brooks made a bold move to switch Oubre onto Dragic for several possessions and it often worked out, if not to change the pace of what Dragic was doing otherwise.

It was a familiar, yet odd nonetheless, collapse when it counted. Bursts of great plays were interspersed bad moments. Just look at the game flow—10 ties, 11 lead changes:

20161212-wizards-heat-lead-tracker

The first quarter began with all hallmark “extras”: Gortat spoke audibly on defense, Morris snared defensive boards and was even the last man back once, and Beal showed that he was ready to level up. But the ball also bounced Miami’s way more than a couple times, they counter-punched just a little harder, and, well, let me tell you about this Josh McRoberts follow slam and subsequent 3-point bomb he sank. And guess what, that Otto-Oubre-Gortat three-man unit just isn’t totally in sync on defense yet. It’s OK, Scott Brooks is trying.

Wayne Ellington (vs Beal), Rodney McGruder (vs Otto), and Dragic (vs Wall and with the curse of all Wizards Killers who have plagued this franchise) were the unbroken ice blocks versus the punching Wizards on Monday night. And let’s not forget James Johnson and his, how do you say—motor. Hassan Whiteside also flexed, naturally, as Gortat had little help in keeping him off the glass. The Wizards should have often put two bodies on him, but there Porter and Oubre were, just watching frozen in time on a possession or two.

Wall and Beal shared the ball, they showed the potential of the capability of looking great. But Marcus Thornton also ran fastbreaks like Andre Miller and generally Marcus Thornton’d. It was the aforementioned second unit (and Morris) which built a 38-30 lead. Then Wall, Beal, and Gortat checked back in with seven minutes left in the second quarter only to see the Wizards go down at halftime, 53-59. Miami ended the second on a 15-4 run.

The third quarter for the Wizards started with Beal sailing a pass out of bounds; it ended with Trey Burke getting blocked on a halfway shook midrange jumper. Beal’s overall aggression, too often unfounded over his career, nearly captured the night. It was a classic up-and-down NBA affair except that the better-on-paper Wizards defined their troughs with goofs.

There have been too many missed opportunities to count, already. In an 11-point loss the Wizards give up 31 points in the final period to their over 19. On the season, they give up an eFG% of 52.8 in fourth quarters, tied for fourth most; Miami put an eFG% of 56.3. But Washington will trudge forward, because they don’t have much choice otherwise. Fan will just have to accept it: sometimes you’ll get great basketball but more often than not, you’re paying premium time and money with bait-and-switch results.

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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.