Moral Victories Mean Something, Sometimes | Wizards Blog Truth About

Moral Victories Mean Something, Sometimes

Updated: February 7, 2017

The biggest regular season game of John Wall’s NBA career lived up to the hype, several times over. The Cleveland Cavaliers pulled out a 140-135 overtime win in the Verizon Center that snapped the Wizards’ 17-game home win streak. At times it seemed like the Cavs had the win locked up, and at times it seemed like the Wizards had sealed the deal. Ultimately, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving did what they do, and it was too much for the resilient Wizards.

But forget all that. The loss sucks, and the snapping of the win streak sucks, and LeBron and Kyrie getting yet another win over John Wall and Bradley Beal sucks, and the Cavaliers beating the Wizards yet again sucks worst of all. But none of that really matters.

Moral victories are generally bullshit. They’re almost always bullshit. This was a legitimate moral victory, and the Wizards have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of after this one.

Here’s what it took for Cleveland to beat Washington on this night:

  • A career-high 17 assists by LeBron.
  • A season-high 22 points by Tristan Thompson.
  • More than 41 minutes from LeBron (42:04), Irving (44:08), Kevin Love (41:43), and Thompson (41:21)
  • 140 points. One-hundred-and-forty.
  • Six 3-pointers apiece from LeBron and Love (on 8 and 10 shots, respectively), and four more from Kyle Korver. And that includes a 4-for-4 performance from deep by LeBron in the fourth quarter.
  • To top it all off, maybe the best shot this league has seen all season.

It’s not every day, or even every season, that we see something so miraculous that it causes the NBA social media person to turn into a speechless fanboy or fangirl.

#GameOfTheYear was very briefly trending on Twitter after the finale.

A few other significant nuggets about this game:

Wall had the following to say about how he and the rest of the team are looking at this game:

“We can’t let this one fall. This is a game we should’ve won, give a lot of credit to him — LeBron made a heck of a shot that he will probably make one out of a million times. Kyrie came and threw up a big shot to go up three, and we had an opportunity to go into double overtime. So we fought, we didn’t ever quit, and we have to keep this momentum going even though we lost a tough game.”

Here’s what Scott Brooks had to say about it:

“It was an instant classic — a great basketball game by two really good teams. A lot of great plays throughout the 53 minutes of basketball, on both ends … James hit an amazing shot, a fallaway 3 off the board, and I didn’t think I heard him call it.”

And later, Brooks again:

“When you have a highly competitive game, you want to keep your composure. Nobody plays well if they don’t have their focus in the right place, and we did. We had some mistakes that we made, but this is a good team. The mistakes that we made were split-second mistakes and they nail a 3 on you. We have to get a little better, I do not know how much better we can get from those mistakes, but like I said, they have one of the best players to ever play: that passing tonight was vintage LeBron James. He had 17 assists and they were all beeline direct in the shooting pocket. All they have to do is shoot the ball, which is the easy part of the play. He makes the game easy and this why he is who he is.”

That’s all fine and good, but there’s so much more to it than “this was a really good game.” (And I cannot stress this enough. This was a really good game.)

The place was packed. It was the second official sellout of the season for a Wizards home game, with the first being the first time the Cavaliers came to town. And while that sounds like the same old D.C. fanbase, this time was different. The fans were verifiably pro-Wizards, which, regrettably, isn’t something you can always say about Wizards home games.

Make no mistake, there were plenty of Cavs fans in attendance. But the mood of the crowd when LeBron hit that shot was about 40 percent utter despair, 30 percent unbridled joy, and 30 percent disbelief at one of the most incredible moments this fanbase has witnessed since Paul Pierce called game. And note just before that shot, the overwhelming MVP chants for Wall, who, by his outrageous standard of late, had just an OK game.

The Wizards played their asses off. They damn near beat the defending champions who were not only hyped up by the prospect of ending the Wizards’ streak, but they were fending off “trash” rumors that they might trade Kevin Love for Carmelo Anthony.

Maybe it was a coincidence. Maybe not. But on a night when the league-wide speculation (again) is that Love could be traded, the embattled big man put together perhaps his best individual game since he came to Cleveland, with 39 points on 11-for-17 shooting, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals. Maybe he had additional motivation?

The Cavs had generally positive things to say about the Wizards after the game.

Here’s coach Tyronn Lue:

“They’re a great team. They’re very well coached, and Coach Brooks does a great job of making sure guys are in the right spots. They really push the basketball, which really puts you at a disadvantage because of the shooting they have. Bradley Beal and now Porter, who’s leading the league in 3-point shooting, put you in some tough situations, so when they’re pushing the basketball, if you turn the ball over and miss shots and don’t get back, they put you in some tough positions.”

Here’s Love:

“They’re very good, and they’re getting better. When a team has confidence, and when you have confidence in this league, it’s hard to stop that. Unfortunately, momentum can change on a dime, and I think you’ve seen that with them. They started out slow, and really since maybe early, mid-December, they’ve been a great team.”

LeBron didn’t offer much of substance on that topic, but he mentioned the team has “gotten better every year.”

That claim could be true, or it could be simply a nice thing for a victor to say about a respected competitor. Maybe it’s just something where you have to step back — after all, the Wizards were a very mediocre 41-41 team last year — to see the whole picture, and this group really has been improving with each passing year.

But the Wizards keep playing good basketball. They show up every night instead of taking games off against teams they should handle easily. They win at home. They bury teams they say they’ll bury. They play well on the big stage, even when they go out of their way to make the stage as big as possible.

For the first time in a really long time, the Wizards might actually be a legitimate threat in the playoffs, and not just a threat in the way that a team hopes to get a chance to lose to LeBron’s team in the conference finals.

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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.