TAI Round Table: Wizards Bring Home a Win For Christmas | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

TAI Round Table: Wizards Bring Home a Win For Christmas

Updated: December 26, 2017

They say the NBA season does not start until Christmas. For the Wizards’ sake, let’s hope that’s true. After giving their fans a lump of coal through the first two months of the season, the Wizards finally gave them something to cheer about with a 111-103 win in Boston.

Since this was the most anticipated game of the regular season, we decided to roll out a TAI round table to find out what everyone thought of the Wizards’ performance, where this team may be headed the rest of the season and anything else they wanted to get off their chest.

Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace):

Per Ben Standig’s Locked On Wizards podcast, this was only the second game when all 10 players in Scott Brooks’ current rotation were healthy without any minutes restrictions. The results were impressive as Washington had its entire repertoire on display against Boston.

Bradley Beal got off to a fast start (15 first half points) with easy baskets at the rim and silky smooth jumpers. Kelly Oubre provided a spark off the bench with hustle plays and dunks. Otto Porter was back to his efficient self, scoring 20 points on 10 shots. John Wall brought the late heroics, assisting or scoring seven of the team’s final eight baskets as the Wizards closed the game on a dominant 21-8 run.

Unfortunately, you can’t have all the good without some bad. A few of Washington’s demons made the trip to Boston. The bench struggled for a brief stretch to start the fourth quarter, allowing Boston to turn an 80-76 deficit into an 87-85 lead. Brooks subbed in Wall and Beal a little earlier than normal (9:11 remaining in the quarter) and, after allowing Boston’s lead to stretch to 95-90, the back-court duo led the decisive late charge. Washington’s free throw struggles also continued (19-for-28) and they had a couple defensive breakdowns that led to open three-pointers.

But any nitpicking on this Christmas Day takes a back seat to the bigger picture: Washington put together a full 48 minute game on national television against the first place team in the East. That is something nobody could have predicted with any degree of confidence. And that’s sort of the point: Washington can beat (and lose to) any team in the NBA on any given night. The Christmas win in Boston was as impressive as the loss in Brooklyn three days earlier was disappointing.

Quick hits:

  • Unlike last year’s Game 7, Scott Brooks embraced small ball in the fourth quarter. Instead of playing Ian Mahinmi or Marcin Gortat on Al Horford, Brooks played Wall, Beal, Oubre, Otto and Markieff for the final six minutes.
  • Another positive that emerged from the Wizards’ first match-up with the new-look Celtics: the loss of Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder freed up space for Bradley Beal. Beal had an off shooting night  (10-for-25 FGs; 0-for-6 3FG) but he was able to get shots wherever he wanted on the court.
  • Washington’s win moved the Wizards into a tie for fifth place in the East (Pistons) and dropped the Celtics to second place (behind the Raptors).

Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur):

The Wizards continue their season trend of playing to the level of their competition, and in turn may have notched their biggest win of the year. John Wall and Bradley Beal continue to dominate the shots for this team and that’s OK considering what they can do in terms of play-making, but the best Wizards player on the court on Monday was Otto Porter. There is something to be said about efficiency in the modern NBA, and Otto Porter is the new poster child for “eye-test vs analytics.” Porter’s game is not sexy because he isn’t a high-flyer or possess a killer crossover, but all he does is make buckets. Otto finished with 20 points on just 10 shots and even chipped in six rebounds, including a pair of offensive rebounds to help seal the victory late.

The X-factor of the night had to be Kelly Oubre, who is taking the Otto Porter approach to offensive production. Oubre has figured out a way to become very direct and concise with his dribbles and movements on the court. When he gets the ball on the wing, its either a shot or a hard drive to the basket. Kelly finished the game with 16 points on 7-for-13 shooting and brought a high level of intensity on the defensive end. For a guy who played only a few seconds in the Game 7 loss in Boston last season, he sure is earning the trust of not only Scott Brooks, but his teammates as well.

This win will give the Wizards the confidence in their ability to play with the best of the best going forward. As the Wizards get healthy throughout the season and are able to unlock all of their potential small-ball lineups this team will become the formidable contenders that we all expected before the season.

Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It):

There they went. Just didn’t have enough. Never really have enough, it seems.

That was my familiar refrain as the Wizards sat there, late in the fourth quarter, down 90-95 with the threat of winning fading away. Washington was first to the presents on Christmas Day in Boston. Their defense looked a step behind Brad Stevens’s offensive script, but Boston’s defense, thanks to inexperience, was a few more steps behind. Only two 30-plus point quarters were had — Washington’s first and fourth — on a day where there were only four lead changes and six ties. The Wizards led for virtually all the first half and shrugged off ghosts of any past to dominate the third quarter, leading by as much as 11 points at one juncture.

But as dominant as the game chart looked in favor of the Wizards, the contest throughout was much more even. No, the budding rivalries trying to re-discover that budding part, did not exchange blows as if in the boxing ring. Instead, both teams were measured en route to feeling each other out, particularly refreshing for Scott Brooks’s squad — measured being no where near the realm of this team, so far this season.

Otto Porter hit that And-1 bucket to put Washington up 80-73 with about 20 seconds left in the third quarter. But by the six-minute mark of the fourth the Celtics had assumed that 95-90 lead. And the heavy lifting came from Boston’s youthful bench — Jayson Tatum scored 6, Terry Rozier scored 6, and Daniel Theis (the new Kelly Olynyk) chipped in 4 points (one of his buckets was allowed by Washington in the waning seconds of the third quarter). The Celtics went 5-for-6 from deep over the 22-10 stretch, with Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart each adding a deep bucket to the other totals from Boston’s youth. That’s when it seemed like it would never be enough for Washington.

Even when the Wizards as a collective decide to show up for games, their bench, featuring only two modicums of youth, is otherwise an aging, overpaid, and underperforming display. Meanwhile, the Celtics, were propelled by their babes in toy land, those next in line for the future. Down five on the road, the deficit certainly seemed larger than it was for the Wizards — layered atop opportunistic efforts from Danny Ainge versus the swamp that Ernie Grunfeld has presided over for nearly 15 years.

Yet, the switch was a simple. John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Kelly Oubre had more collective umpfh, swagger, or what-have-you to close the game on a 21-8 run. It started with Wall just chucking up a long 2-pointer — he made it, of course; before that point he had just 15 points on 15 shots. Over the next 120 seconds, Wall racked up 4 of his 9 assists on the day, getting Oubre a cutting layup and a 3-pointer; then a Beal layup (And-1), and an amazingly risky looking chest pass on the break to Beal to suddenly put the Wizards up 102-95. Wall’s team couldn’t help but quickly glance back at encroaching competition before the game was over, but Christmas was theirs for the taking, and they took it.

The Wizards have enough. They have more than enough. We know this, we hate this. Because how do you cope when the only thing holding a team back is its stars? Sure, you can focus on management’s failure to add building blocks to the bench — and we do. Or you could wonder just what kind of mentality their head coach instills in them — yep, we do, too. Or, even, you could call it a make-or-miss league, starting with Wall’s toss that rattled in to start the game-sealing run — luck is certainly involved. But, finally, that would be ignoring the most simple part, untouched so far over these paragraphs of mine. The defense: Washington’s rotations, although starting slow, were as crisp as crisp could be. They brought their A game attentiveness for going against Brad Stevens’s offensive chops, really. Whatever happens in other games going forward will be the gift that does, or does not, keep on giving.

Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks):

Despite the warning signs, I woke up in Annapolis on Christmas Day excited to watch the Wizards play. Of course, it wasn’t going to be smooth sailing, for me or Washington’s finest, not against the Eastern Conference’s best, and my most hated, Boston Celtics. I watched the first half in Centreville, Virginia, stealing the remote away while my grandmother got up to socialize and flipping from the Steelers-Texans game to watch the Wizards. I watched the third quarter from the front seat of my father’s car, streaming it on my phone while Dad explained to me that “between 85-90 percent of NBA games are decided in the final two minutes.” But I got to my home in the District before that, and it was a treat to watch the Wizards grind the Celtics down in the final six minutes of this game. Washington made the Celtics work for everything in the fourth, including your typical “gimme” defensive rebounds.

With about two minutes left in the game, Boston missed a big shot. Washington, after some fuss, got the rebound. And those watching closely may have seen Kelly Oubre Jr., the Wave Papi, the Elf on the Damn Shelf, running past Boston’s bench and into the corner while Wall dared Boston to cut his time-killing short. His Waviness didn’t make eye contact, and he didn’t make too much of it, but as he jogged into that corner of the court, he was realizing the Wizards had this one in the bag. He pumped his fist over and over again, he looked at the court. And that’s how it felt, after too many bad losses and two long days of questions from family about the Wizards, to see John, Brad, Otto, Kelly, and the rest of ’em put the pain to the evil Celtics of Boston. The good guys won, fuck Rob Gronkowski, and Merry Christmas to all who celebrated yesterday.

Gronk and Brooks

Adam Rubin on EmailAdam Rubin on Twitter
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.