Wizards Pants the Knickerbockers, Make It 15 Straight Wins at Home | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards Pants the Knickerbockers, Make It 15 Straight Wins at Home

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Updated: February 1, 2017

Ridin’ dirty with a 14-game home winning streak, and victories in 11 out of 13 games overall, the Wizards knew they’d still have to exert some effort to defend their turf on Tuesday night. The walking wounded New York Knicks — even without Derrick Rose, Kristaps Porzingis, and Dave DeBusschere, as well as a gaping tear in the psyche of the Mecca of Fandom — weren’t exactly chum in the water. They still had Carmelo Anthony and New York is New York, meaning Knicks jerseys rose from the dead to march on the Verizon Center.

Without bodies and perhaps soon without a no-trade clause, there was no other choice: force-feed Carmelo. First play of the game: Melo on the far left block versus Otto Porter, three pounding dribbles inside, and a 13-foot shot. Markieff Morris came over to contest but Anthony’s too good. Next play, same thing: isolation, a rump thrust into Porter to create space, and a 10-foot jumper while Bradley Beal also swatted at the ball. And another: the pull-up jumper around the screen and off the dribble that led to a Scott Brooks timeout after a 13-6 Knicks lead.

With Carmelo’s reminder and the pest-like prodding of Brandon Jennings, Anthony’s second-fiddle for the evening, it didn’t take long for Washington’s offense to get charged. Two dump-in passes over the top of a helpless Joakim Noah to Marcin Gortat got the wheels rolling. A couple of John Wall break-outs — one spinning into the lane’s red sea, another a side-stepping finger roll — sandwiched a Wall alley-oop pass to Morris as New York’s defense was horse-blinded by a double screen for Beal on the other side of the floor.

And, well, the next shot Anthony attempted after three consecutive makes to start the game was a pull-up from the deep 2-point corner range. Washington’s defense was primed to over-help or at least commit an illegal defense violation. But Anthony didn’t body Porter like he previously did with ease, he didn’t get the defense moving just a bit. He just settled, and that’s just kind of his thing. First quarter shooting of 5-for-7 turned into a paltry 10-for-17 on the night for Carmelo.

He was overwhelmed. Washington overwhelmed anything Jeff Hornacek could muster. By halftime, four of the Wizards’ starters were in double-figures; and Porter had zero points. In the third quarter, Otto scored 10 points (to 9 for a refusing-to-go-quietly Anthony) as the Wizards outscored New York 33-22 out of halftime to assume a 91-76 lead heading into the final period. We don’t know what sort of java really runs through Scott Brooks’ veins, but apparently he had to remind his team just who they were at halftime. Not the team that played down to the sloppiness of the Knicks, countering baffling traveling violations by an ansty Jennings with seven turnovers of their own, even if the Wizards did outscore the Knicks 31-26 in the second quarter. Wall scored 10 points in that period, all in the last six minutes, and Beal chipped in 8 points. Each guard made it his business to muscle-down Jennings on both ends of the court.

The third quarter seemed elementary at the time but it was a key growth moment not lost on Brooks after the game. “I talked to them at halftime and our mindset needed to be adjusted a little bit,” he said. “I thought the guys came out with the appropriate mindset that you have to have to win in this league consistently. I thought that third quarter was the way we need to play.”

Anthony got himself a jump shot in the first 60 seconds, but before you knew it the Wizards were on a 16-2 run to start the third. Four different starters scored during this run and not one was named John Wall. He even only assisted on one of the buckets — go figure — a cross-court pass that sliced through the air, landing in Beal’s hands, which sent the ball flying high into the heavens before perfectly splashing through a net 28 feet away. Anthony, for his part, settled for more punch-the-clock jumpers, somewhat cultivated by Morris’ tough defense on him. Porter wasn’t perfect (still needs to get stronger); Oubre bothered Anthony on more than one occasion (but also learned lessons in what Melo can do with little space); and Morris served as the muscle to keep the Knick from backing into the paint. The collectively did their job, and lack of punch from the rest of the New York roster was a major contributor 117-101 outcome in Washington’s favor.

Brooks had an opportunity to rest most of his starters in the fourth quarter and he took advantage of it. Morris, usually the first starter to head to the bench early in games, lately in favor of Oubre’s change-of-pace on defense, did the heavy lifting at the end to keep New York at bay. Morris scored 9 fourth quarter points in just under 10 minutes of action and 24 for the game. Beal led the way with 28, Wall and Gortat each scored 15, Otto added his 10 third quarter points, and Oubre chipped in 14 off the bench. Jeff Hornacek waited until the 4:42 mark of the fourth quarter to waive the white flag — with his Knicks down 19 points. New York fans, while visually present throughout, were barely audible for most of the game before fading into the night.

The Wizards, and their turnaround, remain virtually unexplainable. They went from a team with faltering small columns knocking into steady pillars and compromising in the infrastructure to solid, relatively equally distributed cables supporting the entire bridge, suspending our disbelief, if you will. Wall and Beal continue to level up; Gortat cares less about touches and more about rebounding than ever (although he still gets his feature touches); Otto was always about more than 3-point shooting and it shows; and Brooks has found a way to keep Morris engaged — knowing his role yet with independent opportunity — and most importantly, rebounding (more on that to come).

They are disruptive (tied with Golden State for most deflections per game at 18.4; top 7 in loose balls recovered); they play for each other (9th in assists (23.5), 10th in assists points created (55.4), and fifth in screen assists (11.8); and in a make-or-miss league, they are making. Washington ranks sixth in eFG% (52.6 after the Warriors, Rockets, Spurs, Clippers, and Cavaliers); third in catch-and-shooter FG% (40.8), second in pull-up FG% (40.7), and seventh in paint touch FG% (67.5).

There are seven games until the All-Star break, with five of those games at home and — gasp — three on national television (also all at home: vs. Cleveland, TNT on Feb. 6; vs Indiana, ESPN on Feb. 10; and vs. Oklahoma City, TNT on Feb. 13). Opportunity is aligning to make an even greater splash leading into the post-break home stretch. But a bigger splash isn’t necessarily on this team’s radar. The current philosophy around the locker room and front office: keep your mouth shut, head down, and keep swimming until the race is over.

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.