Wizards In Foul Mood After Home Loss But Gain Valuable Lessons | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards In Foul Mood After Home Loss But Gain Valuable Lessons

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Updated: February 7, 2017

The downside to winning 17 straight home games, seven straight games overall, and being in everyone’s top 10 in Power Rankings, is the rise of expectations.  The Washington Wizards can no longer be satisfied hovering around the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, pushing the top teams to the brink of a loss or hovering around the .500 line. The Wizards, much like their leader John Wall, want respect, nationally-televised games, and to be considered one of the best teams in the East, and the NBA overall.

After their 140-135 overtime loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Wizards did not look like a team basking in the glow of a proverbial moral victory. They looked angry, agitated, and ready to play again.

As rookie Danuel House put his backpack on to leave the arena, fellow rookie Daniel Ochefu told him to have a good night, and House responded, “I won’t, we lost.”

Wall answered all postgame questions with a stoic face but made it his business to say that Wizards have the respect of the Cavs and that he cannot wait to see them again.

Bradley Beal succinctly said, “Everyone is pissed … no one is in a good mood.”

In the first quarter of Monday night’s game, the Wizards had no reason to be moody or pissed — in fact they were quite the opposite. Otto Porter was 3-for-3 from the field including 2-for-2 from the 3-point line, which was more than enough to offset the tough time he had guarding LeBron and Kevin Love (via pick-and-roll switches). Beal torched Shumpert for 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting, and Wall, despite turning the ball over three times and shooting just 2-for-7, kept constant pressure on the Cavs and dished out four assists. Cleveland opened the quarter with a dunk by LeBron and a 3-pointer by Love, but the Wizards matched them shot for shot, stayed close, and finished the last 3:13 of the first period on a 7-1 run and led 32-26.

For the first six minutes of the second quarter, the bench — along with special cameos from Porter, Beal and Morris (whose aggressiveness was a bit limited thanks to the two fouls he committed in the game’s first four minutes) — held its own. They were going against LeBron and four members of his bench, and they managed to maintain the lead. Jason Smith blocked a Kay Felder drive, which led to a Porter 3-pointer. And on the very next possession, Smith dug deep in his back of tricks and hit a fade away off the dribble. Oubre went scoreless in quarter, but he was active with two steals (including one on LeBron James). Trey Burke and Tomas Satoransky seemed overwhelmed by the moment, but it didn’t cost the Wizards the lead or any momentum. The score at halftime was 57-54 in Washington’s favor, but there were tell-tale signs that the Wizards could be in trouble.

Love was scoring at will, in and out of the paint; he and Tristan Thompson were able to do what they wanted in the post and on the boards with little to no resistance from Morris or Marcin Gortat; and LeBron found that right combination of scoring (17 points) and getting others involved (10 assists) by halftime.

Beal scored eight of the Wizards’ 11 points to begin the third quarter as they extended their lead to nine points — their largest of the game. But as Washington’s shooting percentage began to dip from 54 to 47 percent, the smaller tell-tale signs became much more glaring. Love had 15 points (nine from the 3-point line) and six rebounds in the third quarter alone; Thompson had six points and three of his four rebounds were on the offensive end, which extended Cavaliers’ possessions; and LeBron continued to be the architect behind it all with seven points and five assists in the period. Wall began to heat up with seven points in the quarter, and Otto Porter was steady with six points, but the momentum was clearly shifting toward Cleveland, and their 86-82 lead reflected that. Then the fourth quarter came.

The TNT crew agreed that the Cavs/Wizards matchup was the game of the year, and the fourth quarter produced most of the intense and dramatic moments. LeBron and Morris had a physical battle in the post; then Oubre stole the ball from LeBron was knocked down, and he ended up scoring thanks to a pinpoint pass from Satoransky. The game was tied at 87, then 90, and then Cavs started to slightly pull away thanks to Kyle Korver and Love. They led 101-96 with 6:15 left in the game, and then the back-and-forth truly began.

Wall found Gortat for an easy layup and then scored on a pullup jumper to give the Wizards a one point lead, then LeBron nailed a 3. Wall followed with a driving layup, then LeBron hit yet another 3. The Wizards hit consecutive 3s on consecutive possessions to take a three-point lead, and then LeBron hit his third 3-pointer in a two-minute span to tie the game at 110. James scored or assisted on 16 of the Cavaliers’ final 19 points, and the Wizards — whether it was a Beal 3-pointer, a Wall jumper or layup, or a Porter 3-pointer, managed to match them, shot for shot.

After LeBron drove, traveled (it wasn’t called) and missed a wide-open layup, Korver intentionally fouled Wall, who calmly went to the free throw line and nailed both attempts to give the Wizards a 120-117 lead with 3.4 seconds left in regulation. The Cavs were out of timeouts, which meant Kevin Love, who took the ball out of bounds, would have to throw the ball the full length of the court for a potential game-tying basket.  Maybe Markieff Morris should have been closer to Love to make the pass more difficult, and maybe one of the Wizards should have been fronting LeBron to make sure he could not get off a shot, or maybe Beal should have intentionally fouled him to send him to the line for two free throws instead of letting LeBron get off a 3-point attempt. But none of that happened, which allowed James — who in year’s past has foiled the Wizards via a crab dribble — got Washington again after a Wes Unseld-like pass from Love.

Heading into overtime, both Scott Brooks and Beal said after the game that their spirits were high and they were not at all disheartened by LeBron’s amazing shot. A little under two minutes into the overtime period, that’s exactly what it looked like. LeBron fouled out which led to emphatic cheers by Porter, Beal, and the entire Verizon crowd, and shortly thereafter the Wizards led by five points after an Oubre 3-pointer. Then Kyrie, who had shot just 5-for-18 with 12 points up until overtime, began to remind the Wizards that the Cavs had more than one closer.

It wasn’t just that Irving scored 11 points in the OT period to put the game away, it was the way he did it.  When the Wizards led 133-131, Irving went down the court, yo-yoed the ball with a series of between-the-legs and crossover dribbles, faked a 3-pointer, and hit a tough baseline jumper over Beal. The next time down the court, Richard Jefferson ran over to set a pick for Irving, and he waved it away as if to tell Jefferson and the Verizon Center fans that he could take Beal solo. Irving used the same dribbles to throw Beal off, but this time he pulled up, nailed a 3-pointer to give the Cavs the lead for good, and he strutted back down the court where James greeted him a chest bump. Beal had a chance to tie the game with 4.9 seconds left, but his shot fell short and the Cavs went on to win.

It was a real victory for the Cavs and a dreaded moral victory for the Wizards. Tyronn Lue and Kevin Love commented on how much confidence the Wizards were playing with, and Lue (both in his pre- and post-game comments) specifically singled out Scott Brooks’ and how good of a job he had done coaching the team. The TNT crew of Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, and Shaquille O’Neal could not stop gushing over the Wizards’ improved play. Barkley said (for the second time in two weeks) that Wall should be considered for MVP. Even the intensity with which the Cavaliers played, cheered, and strutted was enough to show the Wizards that they had gained their respect.

But the reality is that the Wizards lost the game. Kelly Oubre said it was the basketball gods which allowed LeBron to hit that shot to extend the game into overtime, but it wasn’t quite that simplistic. The Wizards could not grab timely rebounds, which lead 18 second chance points for the Cavs. John Wall had 22 points and 12 assists, but he also had six turnovers, shot just 6-for-18, and took some hero ball attempts in the fourth quarter, as did Bradley Beal. The Cavs, being the world champions that they are, made the Wizards pay.

The Wizards are on to Brooklyn as Bill Belichick would say, and both Beal and Coach Brooks hinted that they look forward to taking their frustrations out on the Nets. Their W-L record after this Cavs game will truly demonstrate whether the lessons — both basketball-wise and emotionally — from Monday night will carry over to Wednesday night and for the remainder of the season. But for one night, a Monday night after the Super Bowl no less, the Wizards and Cavs gave the fans, the writers, and even each other, an instant classic which left everyone wanting much more.

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.