Road-Tripping With the Wizards in Motor City | Wizards Blog Truth About

Road-Tripping With the Wizards in Motor City

Updated: January 22, 2017

[The Palace at Auburn Hills. January 21, 2017. Photo - A. Rubin]

[The Palace at Auburn Hills. January 21, 2017. Photo – A. Rubin]

With inauguration and anti-inauguration festivities expected to bring the D.C. area to a standstill over the weekend, your TAI correspondent packed his bags and took a road trip to see the streaking Wizards in Detroit and say hello (and goodbye) to the Palace at Auburn Hills. Here are some of the sights and sounds of Detroit…

Gotta Support the Team

[Detroit Pistons billboard on the site of what will be their new downtown home at Little Caeser's Arena. Photo - A. Rubin]


[Detroit Pistons billboard on the site of what will be their
new downtown home at Little Caeser’s Arena. Photo – A. Rubin]

As I started the 32-mile trek from downtown Detroit to Auburn Hills, I came upon an unexpected sight: a 30-foot billboard featuring the Detroit Pistons starting five. Not since the days of Gilbert Arenas’ larger than life likeness on the 6th Street side of Verizon Center—which was unceremoniously torn down—have I seen such a civic show of support for a local NBA franchise.

A little investigation revealed the billboard sits on the future site of the Pistons new downtown arena. This is exactly the type of billboard that should be on the Verizon Center. It’s all part of building a fanbase and an identity in the community. It would make the Wizards feel like a real team and gets fans excited as they walk through the nondescript Verizon Center concourse to their purple-colored seats.

It also might appease a certain someone who is going to be a free agent in a couple years. That may seem trivial, but Washington spent three years making a lot of sacrifices for a guy who didn’t even return their phone calls. How about showing some support for the All-Star who wants to be here.

Motherf***** Wizards Never Die

A most unwelcome sight greeted Washington players upon their arrival at the Palace. Washington’s locker room door was branded with the mark of the Wizards Man.

[Makeshift sign on the visitor's locker room door for January 21 Pistons vs. Wizards game. Photo - A.Rubin]


[Makeshift sign on the visitor’s locker room door
for January 21 Pistons vs. Wizards game. Photo – A.Rubin]

It’s been almost two years since Ted Leonsis drove a stake through his heart, but Wizards Man won’t stop terrorizing this franchise.It’s bad enough he existed in the first place but his continued appearances are a reminder that Washington is not a serious fanchise. It’s the type of franchise that would hold a fan contest to name its team and then populate that contest with five choices—each more ridiculous than the next—so that “Wizards” sounds like the most palatable option.(1) But I digress. Just re-circulate the new logo.

Otto Show Ends in Detroit

With the proliferation of in-house scouting and analytics departments (not to mention the accessibility of NBA League Pass), it is surprising that NBA teams still seem unaware of Otto Porter. When asked before the game if he is surprised that teams have not made it a priority to stop Otto, Brooks played dumb:

“I think Otto is very streaky. I wouldn’t guard him either. I don’t know why he’s make these shots. Keep guarding him that way.”

But Brooks did offer a sensible reason why Otto gets so many open looks despite being second in the league in 3-point percentage.

“Sometimes it seems easy after the fact, ‘Why didn’t we guard this guy?’ Well you have John and Brad out there also, so you got to pick your poison. We put the teams with some of our sets with decisions to make and we have Marc rolling and Kief doing his thing, so Otto gets a lot of looks because our team is playing good offense.”

After Stan Van Gundy failed to name Otto in his pre-game list of Wizards players who give Detroit problems (he mentioned Wall, Beal, Morris and Gortat), it looked like Otto was set up for another steady diet of open jumpers.

Unfortunately, much like his fellow starters, it wasn’t Otto’s night. Sure, he ended the game shooting a somewhat respectable 2-for-6 from 3-point range, but he was a very un-Otto-like 4-for-13 from the field overall. The good news is he still got a lot of open looks. The bad news is he missed them.

‘Mom, Marcus Fouled Me.’

For a recap of the entire game, check out Bryan Frantz’s write-up here. We’ll skip to the final minute (which is what you should do too if the telecast is still sitting unwatched on your DVR).

The two biggest plays of the game occurred in the final 52 seconds and they both featured Morris on Morris action.

First, with Washington leading by one point, Marcus got an offensive rebound and put up a short bunny from just outside the restricted area. Markieff, channeling his inner Richard Dumas, jumped off two feet and soared for a majestic block, sending the ball into Wall’s awaiting hands.

The refs called goaltending but immediately went to the scorer’s table for a review. Replays showed Markieff swatted the ball just before it started its descent. Wizards’ ball.

Marcus got his revenge, though. After Wall missed a jumper with 27.9 seconds left, the Pistons held the ball for the remainder of the game and managed to attempt four shots in the final 11.5 seconds, capped by Marcus’s payback.

The flurry started with Reggie Jackson missing a jumper, Andre Drummond grabbing a rebound, and the ball getting kicked out to Tobias Harris for a 3-point attempt in the left corner. Beal skied for a block but Tobias grabbed the rebound on the baseline and shot a rushed floater that glanced off the near-side rim and bounced over Markieff’s out-stretched hand.

Marcus reached over Markieff (more on this later) and tipped in the game-winner. The refs went to the scorer’s table for the second time in under a minute but the outcome was already clear. The Wizards walked off the floor before the stadium announcer could announce the Pistons had won.

After the game, Scott Brooks surmised that Markieff could not get off the ground to contest his brother’s shot because he was sandwiched between two Pistons players. However, there was more to the story. Marcus, with a laugh, told Markieff right after the buzzer that he fouled him and admitted as much to the media: “I grabbed him and put my hand on his shoulder.”

Marcus added that he knew the refs would not call a loose ball foul on the final play. And he was right.

Markieff, for his part, did not complain about his brother’s use of his shoulder as a springboard, instead offering a simple explanation for the game-winner: “I should have boxed out better.”

Despite his brother’s heroics, Markieff was not in a congratulatory mood. When asked how much credit he gives his brother for the game winning shot, Markieff deadpanned: “I don’t give him shit.” Wall, who was standing nearby in the cramped visitor’s locker room, laughed at that response.

Somber Bradley Beal

The Wizards locker room was understandably quiet after the game, but Bradley Beal seemed especially somber.

Beal took two big falls against the Pistons but did not miss any time. The first was a scary head injury, when he took a charge on Reggie Jackson with 5:20 left in the game and his head bounced off the floor. The second was a very awkward fall when he was fouled on a drive and landed with all of his weight on one foot while the other was flailing in the air. Beal stayed down for a moment and Otto called for the trainer to assist him, but Beal bounced up and swished both free throws.

Beal was not in any mood to talk about potential injuries after the game. He offered a quick diagnosis (“I’m OK. No concussion.”) and left it at that.

In fact, aside from praising the bench for bringing the team back from the dead in the fourth quarter, Beal was not in the mood to talk about anything.

Did the physical play and refs get into your head? “No.”

Are you frustrated? “No.”

Any thoughts on your recent 3-point shooting slump? “I’ll be alright.”

In fairness, there is no reason to be concerned about Beal’s recent shooting woes. As Brooks explained, slumps happen:

“They’re not falling for him right now but I’ve been around Brad for four, five, six months now. He’s diligent in his work. He gets his shots in. He doesn’t change his routine. That’s the best way to get out some missed shots. He’s getting good looks. He just has to keep believing in himself because I do and his teammates do.”

Bench to the Rescue

Washington had no business being in the game down the stretch. Detroit opened the fourth quarter up 16 after Washington shot 43.1 percent through the first 36 minutes, while allowing Detroit to shoot 55.4 percent. Bradley Beal, who was leading the team in shot attempts up to that point, was 0-for-6 from downtown.

But something strange happened at the start of the fourth quarter. Brooks started Trey Burke, Sheldon McClellan, Kelly Oubre, Markieff Morris, and Jason Smith together, noting after the game that he preferred McClellan’s scoring ability over Tomas Satoransky’s. Eleven seconds in, Markieff got a steal. Then Trey Burke hit a 3-pointer—a basket which Brooks said would have been the shot of the game had Washington won—to cut the lead to 13.

Then Oubre hit a jumper. Smith hit two free throws. Burke hit a layup. Smith grabbed a rebound and laid it in. Suddenly, Washington was on a roll and there was plenty of time left. When Wall and Beal entered the game with 7:25 remaining the deficit was only seven and the team was energized.

Beal praised the bench for its spiritual lift:

“They gave us a spark. We weren’t playing good. Nobody really played great at both ends of the floor. We needed a spark somewhere. They did a great job of cutting the lead down early in the fourth giving our starters a chance to come in and try to close it out but we definitely have to credit them because they came in and played hard.”

The bench did its job, but the starters could not seal the deal. After the frenetic finish and heartbreaking loss, there was only one thing left for the Wizards to do. “Just try and move on past it,” Wall said, “and get back on the track of winning games.”

  1. We’ll never know for sure whether that’s true, since the results of the fan voting were never made public.
Adam Rubin on EmailAdam Rubin on Twitter
Adam Rubin
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Adam grew up in the D.C. area and has been a Washington Bullets fan for over 25 years. He will not refer to the franchise as anything other than the Bullets unless required to do so by Truth About It editorial standards. Adam spent many nights at the Capital Centre in the ‘90s where he witnessed such things as Michael Jordan’s “LaBradford Smith game,” the inexcusable under-usage of Gheorghe Muresan’s unstoppable post moves, and the basketball stylings of Ledell Eackles.