Beal Breaker: Wizards Come Up Just Short in Indiana | Wizards Blog Truth About

Beal Breaker: Wizards Come Up Just Short in Indiana

Updated: December 20, 2016

This Wizards loss felt different than the previous 14. Sure, there were many similarities, including: sloppy offense (15 turnovers), stale shooting (.432 from the field, 7-21 in the fourth quarter), a shortage of production outside of the Wizards’ four main weapons (11 points on 4-17 shooting from Kelly Oubre and Markieff Morris), untimely missed free throws (10-13 in the fourth quarter), and a trio of heartbreaking moments (if a heart can be thrice broken) in the final few seconds that ultimately led to defeat. And that’s all without mentioning the Wizards air-balling two (2) 3-pointers in the final period.

Yet, despite all these similarities, the Wizards have reason to hold their heads high after this loss and not simply mark it down as a regression to the mean after a streak of five wins in six games.

This was a trap game from the start. Washington was coming off its best win of the season, a 117-110 upset of the Los Angeles Clippers at the Verizon Center on Sunday afternoon. The Wizarding folk then packed up and shipped out to Indiana for the second half of a back-to-back against a very OK Pacers team. I had this pegged as a sure loss entering Monday night, and the Wizards damn near pulled it out despite plenty of mistakes. Especially in this season, that goes down as a positive.

Bradley Beal started the game throwing up straight fireballs, going 4-for-6 with 10 points (2-3 on 3-pointers) in the first quarter, and he added a three-pack of assists to boot. John Wall scored 10 points of his own, thanks in part to a 4-for-5 performance from the charity stripe, and he added four assists and two rebounds while playing the entire quarter. Washington got out to a 12-1 start, and later led 30-20 before finishing the first frame with a 36-29 advantage. That lead would have been considerably larger, as the Wizards went 14-for-23 from the field to Indiana’s 9-for-25, but their mistakes haunted them. They committed eight fouls and five turnovers in the first to the Pacers’ three fouls and one turnover, initially keeping the game much closer than it should have been.

The fouls never stopped coming for either team, but the Wizards put themselves in an early hole and they had to fight for the rest of the game. Beal and Jason Smith each picked up three fouls by halftime while Wall and Markieff Morris had two apiece; for the home team, only Glenn Robinson III had even two.

Fighting the whistles, Beal was out for a pair of offensive possessions late in the second quarter, then he picked up his fourth foul just 87 seconds into the third quarter, sending him right back to the bench. He would not re-enter in the third, a period in which the Pacers outscored the Wizards 31-22 and Washington went 0-for-5 from beyond the arc. It was the only period in which the Wizards didn’t hit a 3-pointer, and it was the fewest triples they attempted in any quarter. Marcin Gortat took a whopping 11 shots in the third (scoring 12 of his 21 points), compared to just four over the other three quarters.

To give you an idea of how bizarre that is, it was just the second time in Gortat’s career that he’s taken 11 shots in a single quarter. The only other time was in Jan. 2012, when he went 7-for-11 in the first quarter for the Phoenix Suns.

Through three, Gortat had played a game-high 31 minutes and scored a team-high 19 points. Neither of those things are inherently troubling, but the Wizards offense looked so out of sorts without Beal in the third quarter that it reverted to Gortat back-downs, which are now a thing, apparently.

By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, the game morphed into a Bradley Beal vs. Paul George shootout. Each player took eight shots in the period while nobody else on the court took more than four. Beal went 3-for-8 to George’s 4-for-8, but a 5-for-6 performance from the free-throw line tipped the scoring scale in the young fella’s favor. But it was a story of isolation ball (Wall had Washington’s only assist in the quarter while Jeff Teague had the only two Indiana assists) and missed shots (16-for-40 combined shooting).

A quick note on Tomas Satoransky, who finished scoreless but chipped in two rebounds, an assist, and a steal: He continues to flash potential, typically by way of court vision and hustle, but he still has so much to work on. He was very much a liability on defense when trying to check Teague…

…and his jumper is cringe-worthy. Immediately after he lost Teague, with Wall on the sideline ready to check in, Satoransky threw up an ugly, wide open 3-pointer that didn’t even threaten to hit anything. He’s now just 2-for-18 from beyond the arc this season, and he’s just 10-for-35 from 10 feet or further. The growing pains are real, but it’s way too early to start throwing out the “b” word. After all, remember when people said as much about Kelly Oubre?

Back to the game. A few seconds after Sato came out in favor of Wall, Scott Brooks went back to his starters to close out the game, bringing Morris in for Oubre at the 7:37 mark. So much for the Wall-Beal-Porter-Oubre-Gortat lineup.

The action seesawed for awhile, with the Pacers leading by 2-to-4 points for the next three minutes, then a quick 5-0 run by George put the Wizards in an eight-point hole with 4:05 to play. Wall converted a difficult and-1 layup—what should have been his second such play if not for a questionable no-call in the first half—then knocked down another pair of free throws to bring the Wizards within five, but George simply couldn’t miss. He scored nine Pacers points in a row in a 150-second span, singlehandedly maintaining Indiana’s lead in the process.

Beal drained a triple to make it a four-point game, then George finally missed and the Wizards had life with a minute to go.

Then this happened.

Porter’s offensive rebound saved this possession, which eventually led to a pair of Beal free throws, but phew, that was a disaster of a shot from Wall.

Here is how the final three possessions went down, starting with the Wizards down by two and less than 20 seconds on the clock.

Not enough can be said about that final play drawn up by Brooks. Look how goshdarn open the Wizards’ best shooter was! With the exception of subbing Brooks into the game to actually make the shot himself, you cannot possibly ask for anything more from the head coach in that situation. As devastating as it is, the Wizards’ reaction is key. They all thought it was good. They all realized they got exactly the look they wanted, and they all realized how stupidly close they got to not just sending the game to overtime but actually winning it outright.

A loss is a loss is a loss, but it’s hard to really hang your head if you’re the Wizards here. They had so many chances to crumble and fall apart, but they didn’t (as Indiana also failed to put them away). Washington came within a couple of inches of snatching another win, and with how this season has gone, that’s a not insignificant thing.

Two other things that happened:

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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.