Scott Brooks Reveals His Dark Side in Wizards Comeback Win Over the Hornets
The most important moment of Washington’s 118-111 win over Charlotte took place behind closed doors in the Wizards locker room at halftime.
Washington trailed by 12 points at the break, after giving up 63 first-half points on 60.5% shooting. The Wizards’ defensive woes had followed them home from their five-game, nine-day road trip and were threatening to derail the end of a very successful season.
Jason Smith was the only Wizard who played with energy in the first half. He showed some fire yelling at his teammates during defensive lapses.
Jason Smith was not happy with Otto's close-out here, which was horrendous. pic.twitter.com/v3fjOhSeSS
— Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) April 5, 2017
When the halftime buzzer sounded, the Wizards walked off the court like they were headed to the execution chamber. Brooks was measured after the game when recalling his interaction with the players in the locker room: “We had a very candid conversation at halftime.”
Turns out Brooks was holding back. “Coach really let us have it a little bit,” Beal said. Then, after a reporter pressed Beal on what “let us have it” meant, he offered a rare glimpse into Brooks’ true psyche. “This is his dark side you guys don’t know about,” Beal said slyly. “Everybody has one and he definitely has one. Don’t let him think he’s innocent.”
Then Beal described Brooks’ relationship with the team:
“He grants us a lot of freedom, he trusts us on both sides of the floor but ultimately he still holds us accountable for not playing well. He’s going to let us know regardless of who it is so he does a great job of that. He knows when it’s serious and he knows when he wants more out of us and he knows how to go about it the right way and we give him the right results.”
John Wall said Brooks asked the team at halftime, “Do you want to quit or do you want to play?” It’s not the type of question a coach should have to ask his team 77 games into the season, but at least his players gave the right answer with their play in the second half.
The Wizards clearly had defense on their mind at the start of the third quarter. Before Charlotte in-bounded the ball to start the period, Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat were discussing defensive schemes with a lot of pointing and gesticulating. The fire Brooks lit under his players burned bright enough to erase Charlotte’s lead in less than six minutes when Wall hit a 25-foot step back 3-pointer to tie the game at 71 and motioned to the crowd that this was his city.
Wall was a terror in the third quarter, scoring 14 points on 5-for-8 shooting, with six assists, and Beal hit four of five shots, including a monster dunk.
— CSN Wizards (@CSNWizards) April 5, 2017
When the smoke cleared, Washington had out-scored Charlotte 36-18 in the period and built an 87-81 lead. Washington’s turnaround was so dramatic that even Kemba Walker could tell that Brooks made one hell of a halftime speech: “I’m pretty sure Coach (Brooks) got to them in the second half and you’ve seen the result.”
Cody Zeller noticed too: “They turned it on. They came out with a lot of energy in the third quarter, especially their best players. John Wall came out with a lot of energy.”
— Ledell's Place (@LedellsPlace) April 5, 2017
Washington’s third quarter was exactly the type of performance this team needed to recapture the defensive intensity and transition offense that fueled their January and February rise up the Eastern conference standings. An understated Brooks said it best: “That third quarter, I hope we can continue that.”
Brooks, as always, was playing it cool but it seemed like the Wizards’ month-long defensive backslide has been weighing on him. The playoffs start in 10 days and nobody wants to begin the post-season playing their worst basketball of the year.
“We definitely want to play better going down these last five games. Whether we win them or not—I’d like to win them all—but I’d like to just play better and play with the spirit that we need to have going into the playoffs and we need everybody to do that.”
For one night—or one half, at least—the Wizards got their mojo back.
Scoreboard Watching At Verizon Center
With so many potential playoff match-ups still on the table for the Wizards, all eyes were on the out-of-town scoreboard once the final buzzer sounded.
Race for No. 1 Seed
Cleveland pounded Orlando, moving them into a first place tie with Boston. The Celtics and Cavs play each other Wednesday night in Boston. Cleveland holds the tiebreaker over Boston so a Cavs win would effectively put them up two games on Boston with only four left to play.
Race for No. 3 Seed
Toronto blew a big lead to Indiana, which moved the Wizards back into a tie for the No. 3 seed. Toronto holds the tiebreaker so Washington would have to beat Toronto’s record over the last four games to overtake the Raptors.
Race for No. 5 Seed
Milwaukee got pummeled by Oklahoma City, thus slashing their lead to ½ game over Atlanta for the No. 5 seed. The Hawks have been slumping lately but they hold the tiebreaker over Milwaukee so it is not inconceivable that the Hawks sneak into fifth place. Chicago was a dark horse candidate to snag the No. 5 seed with an incredibly easy schedule, but that pipe dream went up in smoke with their unsightly loss the Knicks.
Nevertheless, Chicago remains a potential first round opponent for Washington. If the Wizards grab the No. 3 seed and the Bulls overtake the Hawks for 6, then Chicago and Washington will meet in the first round yet again.
And just in case you thought all this scoreboard watching was reserved for die-hard fans, the players are doing it too. During his post-game interview, CSN’s Chris Miller mistakenly told John Wall that Toronto beat Indiana earlier that night. Wall, who had been in the shower minutes before, quickly told Miller that Toronto won.
No Rest For The Weary
The starting five’s heavy minutes has been a topic of conversation the entire season. With the playoffs right around the corner and Washington already having clinched home court advantage in the first round, Wall was asked whether he will consider resting:
“I’ve missed too many games in my career already. Rest don’t mean nothing right now. I want to play as many games as I can. If coach decided, it’s his decision, but me as a player I want to go out there and compete. Like I said before, you just owe it to the fans.”
Wall was then asked if his stance would change if the Wizards’ seeding and first round opponent were locked in, but he wouldn’t budge:
“It’s got to be coach’s decision because I wouldn’t say it. You know me better than that.”
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