Wizards Get Memo Just In Time For Comeback Win Over Kings | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards Get Memo Just In Time For Comeback Win Over Kings

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Updated: March 11, 2017

The memo hasn’t quite made it to the Wizards. They are a good team! They are a really good team. And in the context of the very franchise, they could be the greatest team (well, second greatest).

Pretty good teams like the Wizards don’t necessarily have to give up so many points to subpar teams, which they did again on Friday night in Sacramento. But they won, 130-122 in overtime, and they fought back from being down by 15 points to start the fourth quarter. That’s what really good teams verging on quite good teams do. And among the many singular but cumulative differences in this team between coaching regimes is that a culture of demeaning the offense in order to stress defense no longer exists.

Sometimes a really good, living up to its potential offense helps set up an OK defense. And it’s commonplace in the league where allowing a bucket is a given — it’s all about how you answer. (The 2016-17 NBA is collectively scoring 108.7 points per 100 possessions, per Basketball-Reference.com, the highest tally since OftRtg has been calculated starting in the 1973-74 season.) So with that, the Wizards outscored the Kings 48-25 between the fourth quarter and overtime last night. Bradley Beal scored 21 points in 17 minutes of action during this span — on 10 shots (3-3 on 3s, 4-4 on FTs) — giving him 38 on the night.

Beal’s partner, John Wall, scored 25 points with 12 assists and just two turnovers for the game. Beal dished four dimes himself (three coming in the fourth and OT) and even added 10 rebounds. When it comes to offense, it’s Wall’s team, but when it comes to scoring, the driver is Beal. Such is a concept that the squad, i.e., Wall, is better grasping. The Wizards have not yet faced the cliche, ‘whose team is it?’ questions that come with heightened national attention, but they are certainly doing a good job of preemptively making the team theirs.

The game’s change of direction essentially started with Jason Smith, respected for his ability to never hesitate before he shoots — the exact opposite of Fabricio Oberto. With the Wizards down 13 with nine minutes left in regulation, Sacramento’s defense dug into the lane with Beal coming off a Smith side screen, and Brandon Jennings shuttled the ball to Smith for a 20-foot jumper. The very next possession, Jennings pushed the ball toward the basket in transition, then just scooped it to a trailing, wide-open Smith for another 20-footer. A few possessions later, Beal drove right and Anthony Tolliver, who’d previously hit two 3-pointers over a recovering Smith, over-helped off Smith in the right corner. He nailed the 3-pointer off Beal’s pass to make it seven straight points for his team, Washington went from down 13 to 8 in less than 90 seconds.

Beal and Wall then got their vehicles running downhill — a Beal step-back 3 after turning down a screen (Wall assist); a Wall driving layup (but miss); another Wall drive (a make); and another Wall drive versus two Kings and then kick out to Beal for 3. Finally, a Bradley Beal layup (yup, Wall assist), after Sacramento blew an opportunity with a turnover, tied the game at 105 — from down 13 in less than five minutes.

But then the last five minutes of regulation was a tooth-grinder. The Wizards always had an answer on offense, but they had zero answer for Darren Collison and Willie Cauley-Stein. Four times down the stretch (4!) Collison found Cauley-Stein for a dunk or a layup with an assist. First there was the well-timed drive against a staggering Wizards defense after an offensive rebound. Then Washington allowed Bojan Bodganovic to switch onto Collison and he worked his magic. Then passive on-ball defense from Wall opened the path for Collision once again. Under 20 seconds left and down two points to the Wizards, Collison duped Beal badly with a pump fake, drove baseline, and dropped a dime for a Cauley-Stein dunk. To end the fourth quarter, Wall, seeking a game-winner, threw up a clunker of a jump shot. C’est la balle de héros. Look, he’s made those shots before but he knows better: get the ball in Beal’s hands (who was already cooking), or get into the lane.

The tune changed in overtime, when the Wizards finally took their status and prior missed opportunity seriously. Scott Brooks locked his team in with a lineup of Wall, Beal, Bogdanovic, Otto Porter, and Markieff Morris, and the scoring load was much more equal opportunity. Bogdanovic started with a fading bank shot, opening more eyes to the fact that he’s far from a mere spot-up shooter. Then after an awkward post possession into Morris, who struggled to kick the ball out, Porter swung the ball to Wall who hit a big 3-pointer from the right wing. Soonafter Beal hit a huge corner 3, thanks to a Wall drive, kick-out to Morris, and then swing pass.

With the Wizards holding a 124-122 lead in the extra session, the teams exchanged a series of two misses each late into the night on the East Coast. The Wizards reset their offense and Wall set up that long lob pass to Morris that Brooks likes to call so much, putting Washington up four points with 60 seconds left. Right after that, Porter, with his second straight strong scoring output (18 points), blocked a Buddy Hield drive to the rim — Otto came from behind after getting beat off the drive with a block that looked like an optical illusion. (Hield scored 18 points in the first half but was held scoreless in the second half and overtime.)

Washington’s defense held on by threads up until the end, made easier by Sacramento’s lack of a go-to scorer (or two). Plus the Wizards made their free throws over the last 20 seconds to seal the victory. Or to help escape the loss.

Still, not even giving up 68 first half points to the Kings (there was every chance for it to be 70, or even to match the 73 first-half points Washington gave up in Milwaukee back on Dec. 23 of last year) can dilute the buzz on what the Wizards are accomplishing. They have started a key road trip 3-0; they are 2.5 games behind Cleveland for first in the East (tied with the Celtics but currently holding the tiebreaker); and even victories with concerning events help build confidence and momentum heading toward the postseason.

But there’s still work to do for the 40-24 Wiz Kids. Tonight, the Portland Trail Blazers, a team that’s won four games in a row and probably still remembers getting crushed by the Wizards, 120-101, in Washington in mid-January. Portland’s deadline deal for Jusuf Nurkic has worked like gangbusters, and the lack of history between Nurkic and Portland’s top guards hasn’t inhibited great chemistry. On Monday, a game in Minnesota to round up five contests in seven days; the Wizards needed a 32-20 fourth quarter to beat the Timberwolves by seven points in Washington in early-January. There’s a month left in the season, and that’s entirely enough time to continue to convert even the most ardent of Wizards followers and the most pessimistic of skeptics into believers. Plenty of time for even the Wizards to receive the memo.


 

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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.