Wizards Get Their Fairy Tale Season Back on Track Against The Warriors | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards Get Their Fairy Tale Season Back on Track Against The Warriors

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Updated: March 1, 2017

First things first. Don’t tell me Kevin Durant was injured. Don’t tell me Golden State was playing the second game of a back-to-back. Don’t tell me Washington was sloppy (19 turnovers), or that Golden State was uncharacteristically off from long-range (8-for-28 3FG).

Don’t try to downplay this Washington Wizards victory.

Last I checked, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green were on the floor, and they played 34:14, 38:22 and 39:48 minutes, respectively.

And also, last I checked, Washington lost two embarrassing games to Philadelphia and Utah after the All-Star break, and everyone was panicking about a potential five-game losing streak.

Now you don’t want to get excited about beating the 50-9 Golden State Warriors?

Curry and Green said the game felt like a playoff atmosphere. Bradley Beal called it a must-win. Scott Brooks hugged an usher as he walked off the court. This was an important game, no matter who was (or was not) on the floor.

Otto Porter declared in the post-game locker room: “We’re back. We’re back to our regular selves.” And that’s really what this game was about. Washington started the week facing a mini crisis of conscience. Was the first half of the season just a mirage? Had they truly turned the corner? Did the starters already peak?

Washington answered all those questions in one fell swoop by beating the Warriors.

As an added bonus, reports surfaced before the game that Washington and Brandon Jennings reached agreement on a contract for the rest of the season, thus (potentially) solving the Wizards’ most glaring weakness. So, it was a very good day Tuesday at the Verizon Center — both on and off the court.

Now, let’s take a look at what the hell actually happened during Washington’s wild win.

A Quick Start…

Washington opened the game with the ferocity of a team that had spent 48 hours stewing over a humiliating loss, while Golden State dragged its feet like a team that had just played less than 24 hours earlier.

The Wizards scored from long-range, got to the rim with ease, and outran the Warriors in transition. In a blink of an eye Washington was up 16-4, then 22-9, then 39-20. Beal played out of his mind, scoring 16 points in a little over seven minutes. He said after the game he thought he was headed for 50.

Washington scored a mind-boggling 40 first quarter points – and that’s with several missed shots at the rim and seven turnovers.

The Warriors did not do themselves any favors, either. The whole team seemed off. They shot poorly, they ignored defensive rotations, and they turned down easy looks for what turned out to be unnecessarily difficult and contested shots. It also did not help that Kevin Durant exited the game with 10:27 left in the first quarter with a hyper-extended knee and did not return.

Curry implied after the game that the Warriors may have been a little tired (“We played a back to back and fought all we could tonight, so obviously it is a little exhausting.”), but the Wizards deserve some credit for the Warriors disarray. Washington played an aggressive, trapping defense on the perimeter and did a great job contesting Golden State’s 3-point shooters. When the Warriors attempted to exploit Washington’s aggressive perimeter defenses by swinging the ball from side-to-side, the Wizards did a great job rotating and contesting shots. Markieff Morris and Ian Mahinmi provided the best example:

Draymond blamed the Warriors defense for their lethargic start: “We just had to play some defense. Once we started to defend, they had 40 points in the first quarter, and then all of a sudden we defended better in the second quarter and they had 21 points.”

While the Warriors did slow the Wizards in the second quarter, they still could not get their own offense going. Golden State only managed 23 second quarter points and trailed 61-49 at halftime — and the deficit could have easily been larger. Wall missed a few shots at the rim and Washington turned the ball over an unacceptable 14 times.

A Predictable Warriors Comeback…

Everyone knew a second half wave of Golden State points was coming and the storm came fast and furious. Curry hit a 25-foot 3-pointer, Zaza scored twice at the rim, and Green hit a driving finger roll. Just like that, the Wizards lead was down to four after only two minutes.

However, Washington did not fold. They kept Golden State at bay for almost the entire third quarter with a steady diet of John Wall. Wall played all 12 minutes and either scored or assisted on 23 of Washington’s 24 points (Wall ended the game with a career high 19 assists). The Warriors eventually tied the game with 1:45 remaining and the score was still tied, 85-85, when the third quarter ended.

A Wild Finish…

Washington finally surrendered the lead on a wild sequence with 7:30 left in the game. With Washington up, 92-91, Wall set up Markieff Morris for what appeared to be an uncontested dunk. Instead, Shaun Livingston rose to the occasion and blocked Morris at the rim, then followed that up with his patented mid-range jumper to give the Warriors a one point lead.

This was the exact moment where a lesser team might have folded.  Not the Wizards — at least not this year’s Wizards. Even Brooks spoke about the team’s mindset at this pivotal moment when they lost the lead:

“That’s the thing — I love watching this team grow with moments like that. We’re not going apart. There’s an opportunity that you can break apart, and go solo, and be by yourself, and have five different corporations out there. Our guys are locked in. We stuck together. We knew that this team is not just going to fall.”

The Wizards kept hustling and, as the video below shows, their scrambling defense helped turn a potentially disastrous sequence with six and a half minutes remaining in the game into one of the most pivotal possessions of the night. After Markieff threw the ball away in the back-court, he blocked Steph’s lay-up. Curry then got an offensive rebound and Markieff blocked his shot again. The Wizards then swarmed Livingston, and Otto came up with the steal. Wall then drove the lane and kicked it to Markieff for a wide open 3-pointer. Splash.

Those 60 seconds were a microcosm of the entire game. It wasn’t pretty, but the Wizards got the job done.

And it is fitting that the biggest play of the game wasn’t even a made basket or a defensive stop. It was an offensive rebound by Mr. Otto Porter. Washington had the ball with the score tied 108-108 and only 41 seconds remaining. Wall surveyed the defense and put up a somewhat ill-advised fade-away jumper with 20 seconds left. The ball bounced off the rim and Otto beat all the Warriors to it.

Otto said after the game that “everyone was caught Wall watching, and I was able to sneak behind.” Porter went straight to the rim and got fouled. He hit two free throws to give Washington a two point lead with 17.5 seconds left, leading to the most dramatic shot attempt of the night.

Steve Kerr elected not to call a timeout and Golden State immediately set up their offense. Kerr said after the game the play was supposed to be “a high screen with a little bit of movement underneath it.” Curry had other ideas. He pulled up from a couple feet beyond the top of the arc and sent left an entire stadium breathless.

Luckily, it missed.

Markieff grabbed the rebound and was immediately fouled by Draymond. Morris calmly hit both free throws to ice the win (and set the stage for the best post-game quote of the year – more on that later).

The Wizards were all smiles as they headed off the court, and the 20,356 fans (minus a few Warriors bandwagon members) breathed a sigh of relief. We can all come off the ledge. The first half of the season was not a mirage. The Wizards are still for real.

Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut, Sometimes You Don’t.

By now you have probably heard what has already been dubbed the quote of the year. Locked On Wizards’ Ben Standig tweeted the video at 10:21 pm and by 10:55 pm Deadspin already had a post about it.

Standig’s video captured Markieff’s opening line, but his quote went on a little longer. For the rest of the video, click here.

Building A Psychic Connection, One Alley-Oop At a Time.

Markieff Morris and John Wall have developed a real nice chemistry with back-door alley-oops. As soon as Wall catches Markieff’s defender leaning the wrong way, he tosses it up to the rim for Markieff to flush. Morris said after the game that the plays are not really scripted. It’s just a matter of making a little eye contact.

Newest Member of the Wizards.

Before the game rumors started swirling that Washington had finally come to agreement with Brandon Jennings. The immediate speculation was that Trey Burke would be the roster sacrifice and his DNP versus Golden State (and subsequent failure to travel with the team to Toronto) seemed to confirm that speculation.

In the upbeat post-game locker room, both John Wall and Otto Porter were asked about Jennings’ impending arrival.

 

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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.