The Wiz Were Comeback Kids In Brooklyn (Plus Two Young Fans Chime In) | Wizards Blog Truth About

The Wiz Were Comeback Kids In Brooklyn (Plus Two Young Fans Chime In)

Updated: December 6, 2016


 [Basketball things were closer than they appear here.]

The Wizards did it. They doggone did it: back to .500, in their last 10 games. No thanks to their bench, however.

Per, the second unit was minus-7 on the night, scoring 31 points on .393 shooting from the field (fourth worst eFG% among teams that played Monday). Their NetRtg? Minus-23.3, second worst, behind Philly.

The starters, to compare, scored 87 points on .523 shooting (the second best eFG%), as well as 42.1 percent from 3. There was plenty of opportunity to get out and run, which saw the starters up the pace a handful of points above their season average to 103.58. The NetRtg: 17.2.

This game was the season, summarized. Coming in, the Wizards stood at 6-12 (and just 2-8 against teams .500 or better), despite having the 10th most expensive roster in the NBA. The lousy product won them more games than only three teams: Philly, who they lost to, the Mavericks, and the Nets, who they played and beat last night—the fifth time in six matchups.

Looking at the data pre-game, the on/off court numbers for the Wiz starting five are ridiculous. A banner year. And it’s not because the players, including first-round pick Markieff Morris, aren’t magically improved; the bench just sucks.

To wit: The #Wizards bench not only sported the third worst plus/minus overall (-3.6), but also the absolute worst NetRtg (-7) and TS% in the entire Association.

Despite this not-fake-news wake-up call, the Wizards overcame adversity and stole a W from the Nets, who dominated the game from final minutes of the opening quarter till midway through the third, leading by as many as 16 points. Washington ended up outscoring Brooklyn by 20 in the second half overall, and winning the fourth quarter 35-32.

“I like the way they play,” said Stanley Gonzalez, a Brooklynite in his early teens, who’s been a Wizards fan for the past three years. “My favorite player is John Wall.”

I watched the game at the Barclays Center last night, from section 222 with beer in hand as a fan. It wasn’t until the second half that I noticed the #WizardsTalk a few rows behind me.

Yeah, that was Stanley, along with his older brother Ismal, and their friend Barley Corloff, a Nets fan from Bed-Stuy (who has a lot of love for Isaiah Whitehead). I asked to chat after the game, and they entertained my request. For the culture.

Ismal wasn’t wearing a John Wall jersey like his younger brother, but he’s a big fan of No. 2, too. See, the Gonzalez brothers found themselves drinking the Wiz Kid Kool-Aid during those back-to-back Randy Wittman era postseason spectaculars—”Paul Pierce, man, that playoff run was amazing”—and have never looked back.

For Ismal, the keyword when it comes to Wall is “playmaking.” The older Gonzalez gets it—they both do, really—when it comes to Washington’s best player, even if they were surprised by Wall’s 23 and 13 night. That’s just another 48 minutes in the life of the three-time All-Star, who’s averaging 9.9 dimes per game on the season and has 10 or more assists in four straight games.

(In fairness, it was their first time seeing Wall and the Wizards play live.)

Wall’s play was key in this one, racking up 26 more touches than any other Wizards player, pushing the pace (see stats above), creating space for teammates, and turning no-look passes into scores. More than half of the Wizards’ 93 field goal attempts were uncontested, and they converted on 52.7% of those attempts. Those easy-scoring opportunities, in combination with his fourth-quarter scoring punch, in which Wall scored nine points in just over two minutes, helped put away the Brooklyn Nets.

John Wall’s last basket from the field in that run was a 3-pointer, upping the lead to six points with about two and half to play. Brook Lopez and Sean Kilpatrick would answer with layups, but a late rally by Brooklyn was cut short as Bradley Beal ripped the ball away from Joe Harris (on a pass from Trevor Booker).

Not long after, a pair of free throws from Wall put the proverbial nail in the coffin and sealed a win for Washington.

“The rumor is DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall’s teammate at Kentucky, wants him in Sacramento,” Stanley said. “But they haven’t made the playoffs in 10 years, and he should come to the Wizards.”

Who says no?

“Gortat for picks,” says Ismal (again, who says no?). “And I feel like they should give Otto Porter more time with the ball, because I feel he’s better than what he’s showing right now.”

Porter had 18 points on 10 shots (4-5 from 3), spending most of the night catching and shooting, and running with Wall on the break, who’d set him up for right-handed slams.

I asked Ismal if he thinks Otto Porter is a max player.

“Not yet. He has to prove himself. What he’s doing right now, you can’t get that money. But I feel that . . . he can improve. Once he becomes a free agent, by that time, he could be a max money guy.”

Conversation turned to The Plan. I asked the brothers if they were familiar with Team President Ernie Grunfeld. That he’d been around 14 years as the longest-tenured general manager to not once make it out of the second round.

“I didn’t know,” said Stanley. “They are taking this slow, I think. Yeah. We’ll be good, once our players improve. We’ll have an opportunity to get a championship.”

“I feel like once you get Bradley Beal and John Wall and Otto Porter to reach their potential, they’ll be great,” said Ismal, chiming in. “You stay together, you play better. And Scott Brooks is adjusting to what he has on the roster right now. Once they get comfortable with each other, they’ll get better, and that’ll happen as the season goes on.”

While the Gonzalez Bros. would like to see another 3-point-shooting big on the roster, another vet on the bench, and more youth all around, their outlook on the season is positive, overall.

“I feel we might reach 40 wins, like last year, but maybe we’ll get to .500,” said Stanley. “That would probably make 8-seed.”

“Hoping 45,” said Ismal. “Hoping 48.”

#PositivePixels, like $8 tickets, they outchea.


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John Converse Townsend
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
John has been part of the editorial team at TAI since 2010. He likes: pocket passes, chase-down blocks, 3-pointers. He dislikes: typos, turnovers, midrange jump shots.