Wizards Dress For Funeral, Have Party Instead | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards Dress For Funeral, Have Party Instead

Updated: January 25, 2017

Back in 2007, Gilbert Arenas started a one-sided feud with Portland assistant coach Nate McMillan and promised to drop 50 points against the Trail Blazers in their upcoming visit to Verizon Center. (1)

Spoiler alert: Gilbert scored nine points.

This was the first thing I thought of when reports surfaced that the Washington Wizards would wear all black to the Verizon Center before their game versus the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night.

In basketball, as in life, actions speak louder than words — and certainly louder than clothes.

The Celtics seemed to understand that, calling the Wizards display “cute” and dismissing any rivalry talk. Then again, Jae Crowder – the main instigator in the post-game feud the last time the teams met – sent a not-so-subtle message by also wearing all black to the game.

[Jae Crowder arrives for game on January 24, 2017. Photo - A. Rubin]

[Jae Crowder arrives at Verizon Center. Photo – A. Rubin]

Scott Brooks was not bothered by his team’s color-coordinated outfits, instead viewing it as a sort of team-building exercise. Brooks said he likes that the team came together and as long as they work hard, he does not care what they wear.

Then Brooks broke down what this “funeral” was really about:

“It makes for a good narrative. I get that. It’s fun. It’s January and we are excited about playing a game.”

Brooks was right. There was a playoff atmosphere in the building and twitter was buzzing with anticipation. Celtics fans lined up at the gate an hour before tip-off waiting for the doors to open.

[Boston Celtics fans an hour before game. Photo - A. Rubin.]

And Wizards fans were ready for them.

celtics signs combo

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, the Wizards won handily, 123-108, as Bradley Beal went off for 31 points and John Wall tagged along with 27. The two guards combined to shoot 23-for-38 from the field with a steady dose of highlight plays.

The Wizards downplayed the significance of their all-black stunt after the game, but if they had lost it would have been a different story.

Bradley Beal:

“It is hoops man. People talk. Nobody came in today expecting a fire or anything like that… Yeah, it was a team thing. We just wanted to have fun man. That is all we were doing. It was nothing personal. Of course it was a subliminal, but we were just having fun at the end of the day.”

Markieff Morris:

“We were having fun with it. No pressure.”

Kelly Oubre:

“It was another game for us. We said it in the media and it kind of blew out of proportion but we had to back it up. Everybody was behind everybody, me and John [Wall] were the faces of it. We backed it up and got the win. The Celtics are a great team and a great organization, we just gave our fans something to look forward to when they come to the house.”

John Wall:

“It’s going to be pressure, yeah. I think it was. At the same time no matter if it’s pressure or not we have to come out here and compete. They saw everything that we said and we heard what they said. I think it was just a great clean game today. Nobody did anything dirty — two teams competed today and tried to get a win.”

Despite their cool post-game demeanor, anyone who watched Beal’s emotional outburst after scoring on Marcus Smart late in the fourth quarter (below), or Kelly Oubre celebrating with fans afterward, knows that this was not just another game for the Wizards. Just look at Wall’s reaction to Beal’s and-1.

Washington put a whole lot of pressure on themselves for no good reason, but in doing so they learned something about themselves that usually cannot be known until the playoffs. They learned that they have an extra gear, and when they put their heart and minds to it they can beat (almost) any team in the league. Whether they carry that lesson with them to Atlanta for their next game on Friday is anyone’s guess. But if Washington falls flat, they will have no one to blame but themselves.

The John Wall Effect.

John Wall is incredibly fast and has greatly improved his scoring at the rim. Accordingly, the Celtics made it a priority to keep Wall out of the lane. Unfortunately for Boston, when you assign extra manpower to guarding Wall, you have to leave another player open. In addition to being incredibly fast, Wall is also an incredibly gifted passer. Here’s what happens when you give him even an inch of space to make a pass:

Look how nervous Kelly Olynyk is, glancing back and forth at Gortat, terrified that Wall will turn the corner on a drive to the left. Wall takes a couple dribbles to the left, knowing Olynyk will leave Gortat to stop his drive. All Wall needs is a sliver of daylight to deliver the ball to a cutting Gortat for a one-handed slam. Wall has the defense on a string and plays it like a violin.

Otto Finally Getting Some Respect, And Attention.

There had been a consistent theme in Otto Porter’s last few games: opposing players and coaches would ignore him in their pre-game comments (and in the case of Memphis, omit him entirely from their scouting report); Otto would proceed to make several wide-open 3-pointers; then said coaches and players would marvel at Otto’s production.

Brad Stevens put an end to that loop. When asked before the game about Washington’s improvement this season, Stevens quickly mentioned Wall and Beal then said this about Porter:

“I think Porter’s ascension has been huge for them. He’s really become another go-to guy for them on the perimeter. He makes big plays. He makes big shots. He makes effort plays and when you have  a one, two and three like that that on any given night — last time we came in here Porter had 34.”

Otto only attempted two shots in the first half, making two 3-pointers, and only shot twice in the second half, missing both. He ended with six points, matching his lowest point total of the season in 31:24 minutes.

It should be noted that Porter’s scoring dip may have had just as much to do with discomfort in his hip and/or back than extra attention from Celtics defenders. Otto spent much of his time on the bench lying on the floor getting stretched out and he looked to be moving gingerly on the court. Otto has a history of hip and back pain flare-ups, so his condition is worth monitoring heading into a two-day break before Washington’s next game in Atlanta.

Movin’ On Up.

When the week started, some Wizards observers highlighted the games against Charlotte (Monday) and Atlanta (Friday) as key match-ups for potential playoff positioning. Washington is currently sandwiched between Atlanta (fourth) and Charlotte (sixth) in the playoff race. However, Washington can aim even higher. After beating Boston, the Wizards are now only 1.5 games behind the Celtics for third place in the East. With Boston’s recent struggles, the East is now a two-team conference. Everything else is up for grabs.

  1. McMillan was an assistant coach on Team USA when Gilbert Arenas was cut from the roster. Arenas vowed revenge against McMillan for his role in his dismissal.
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.