Stealing the Show While Stealing a Win — Wizards 109, Hornets 106 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Stealing the Show While Stealing a Win — Wizards 109, Hornets 106

Updated: December 15, 2016

The first half of Wednesday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets was simply unenjoyable. The as-expected tepid crowd of 13,447 (cut that in half for a more realistic estimate) was all but asleep throughout the first 24 minutes of action, and why wouldn’t they be? A pair of teams with a combined 23-25 record playing a Wednesday night game, in which the home team’s best shooter was 0-for-6 and the team’s best playmaker had as many turnovers as assists? That doesn’t exactly move the needle ’round these parts.

Making matters worse for Washington, the city and the team, was the absence of starting 4 Markieff Morris, who was befallen by a bum foot he’s struggled with all season.

The game ended as a 109-106 Wizards win, but the final result was hardly ever a lock. For much of the night, Washington looked mired in the malaise they’ve been trying to kick. After the Wizards took a 91-81 lead with 19:29 left and later a 106-100 lead with 35 seconds left, the Hornets had two looks in the final seconds to send the game to overtime. The latter rattled around the rim for an hour before caroming off.

The second half started much the same as the first, with the Wizards on the losing end of a yawner of a seesaw game. A five-point deficit out of Scott Brooks’ locker room was quickly cut to one thanks to a pair of jumpers by Marcin Gortat and Otto Porter. Then the Wizards traded a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 2 for a Bradley Beal 3 to tie it up, and the Hornets quickly countered with a 10-0 run that featured three consecutive Wizards turnovers mixed in among four consecutive makes by Charlotte.

With the Hornets basking in the glow of a 10-point lead courtesy of Cody Zeller’s latest bank shot, everything suddenly changed. Brooks took a timeout at the 8:50 mark, but John Wall turned it over just 10 seconds later, then Zeller hit his shot 18 seconds after that. Perhaps it was a delayed catalyst?

Here’s when the game changed:

Wall drew a foul on the ensuing possession and hit both free throws—he finished 7-for-8 from the line, more on the miss in a moment—then Porter grabbed his one and only steal of the contest. Gortat scored on that possession, six-point deficit, then he grabbed a steal of his own.

Porter added a block the next time around, but everything really took off a few moments later. At the 6:31 mark of the quarter, Kelly Oubre drained a 3-pointer to bring the Wizards to within 67-63, then Wall grabbed one of his seven steals on the night and finished a fast-break layup.

Washington took the lead for the first time since midway through the second period on a deep Beal triple, then Wall swiped another one that led to Oubre coasting to a really chill dunk with nobody in sight, allowing him to properly soak up the waves. Another Beal trey followed by back-to-back trips to the line for Wall, and another Wall steal and Porter finish brought the game-changing run to a climax.

To recap:

  • 8:22 3rd Quarter — Wizards down 66-56
  • 3:26 3rd Quarter — Wizards up 79-71

Seemingly out of nowhere.

Beal was 0-for-6 with five assists in the first half, then he responded with 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting, and three more assists, in the third quarter alone.

If you ask Brooks, he’ll tell you Beal made the mistake of passing too much in that first half.

“Brad, he has a moment in that third quarter. He didn’t make any shots in the first half but he had five assists, and I just told him you can’t pass up shots,” said the coach afterward. “I don’t care how many you don’t make, I just don’t want to go after the game and say, ‘Why did I pass that shot up?’ That’s not how we play, and that’s not how he plays.”

This is in tune with what Brooks said almost a month ago, that he wants Beal to be a willing shooter.

It’s also in tune with what basketball fans have complained about for years with Beal: He relies too much on Wall, or somebody else, to create his shot for him. He’s got too much riding on him to simply be a catch-and-shoot player, and the more he takes the offense into his own hands in 2016, the better his numbers get. Beal is averaging 4.5 points per game more than he did last year, which was his previous best for a season scoring output.

Wednesday brought Beal’s 12th 20-point game of the season. Over the 2015-16 and 2013-14 seasons, he had 22 such games; in 2012-13 and 2014-15, 13 such games. He also has eight 25-point games this season, just two off of his single-season best of 10, which he set last year.

Going back to the action, the Hornets bounced back from the Wizards’ completely unexpected turnaround, cutting the lead to just three points with less than eight minutes left in regulation.

But here’s a kind of weird thing: Oubre started in place of Morris and finished with a solid line of 15 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, and just 2 fouls and 1 turnover. He also played the most minutes (more than 40) of anybody for either team—Beal’s 37:03 was next. Oubre played nearly 17 straight minutes before coming out of the game for the first time, and he played all but 4 minutes, 23 seconds of the first half.

With 8:41 on the clock in the fourth, the Wizards up by six, the Hornets went on a mini 4-0 run after back-to-back Washington turnovers. Brooks called a timeout, seemingly ready to revert to the starters to try to preserve the lead for an easy win. Instead, he took Oubre out and replaced him with Wall. On the floor: a lineup of Wall, Trey Burke, Marcus Thornton, Otto Porter, and Jason Smith.

That lineup led to a quick long jumper for Smith, who had his best game of the season by far (12 points on 5-for-9 shooting, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals in 19 minutes)(1), then back-to-back jumpers by the Hornets.

The lead was down to three after 78 seconds and Brooks was forced to bring Gortat and Beal back into the game with both Belinelli and Frank Kaminsky now feeling themselves a little too much. Wall committed turnovers on consecutive possessions, and the disaster potential was bordering on catastrophic, but Wall and Beal got going and ultimately staved off a disorganized Charlotte attack.

It was the best and worst of Wall in the final minutes, as he made incredible play after incredible play while also playing some hero ball and talking his now-common shit.

For better or worse, Wall and Beal are both playing with bigger chips on their respective shoulders than ever before. It’s been a down season so far, absolutely, but the puffing out of chests could ultimately be beneficial for the future. Or maybe it’ll destroy the team. Only time will tell!

A Night Of Highs and Records

Wall’s Steals: Wall broke the franchise record for steals in a career, passing Greg Ballard’s 762, with the fifth of his seven steals on the night.

Beal’s a Dime Short of a Dollar: Beal set a career high with nine assists in the game. He had previously dished out eight on five occasions, including once in Orlando earlier this season.

Oubre’s Clean Play: Oubre had never played more than 33 minutes in a game, and he’d only topped the 30-minute mark twice. He played 40:23 on Wednesday night, and he was whistled for just two fouls, a huge accomplishment for the second-year player who averaged 5.4 fouls per 36 minutes as a rookie. He’s gotten much better about being aggressive while conservative this season, as his fouls per 36 minutes are down to just 4.2.

  1. Perhaps he was buoyed by the new CBA he helped negotiate, which was agreed to and announced during the game?
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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.