Wizards Down New-Look Cavs, Sealed with a Kiss | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards Down New-Look Cavs, Sealed with a Kiss

Updated: February 23, 2018

It was a long All-Star break, especially for the “new-look” Cleveland Cavaliers, winners of four straight following a dramatic series of trades that revamped the team’s supporting cast. And the Cavs took the Wizards to the mat in the early going of last night’s eventual Wizards victory. Building a double-digit lead that floated between 10 and 11 points (once stretching to 12), it was mostly the long-time Cavs, rather than the newcomers, that punished the Wizards: LeBron James shot 72 percent for the game, J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson made their mark in those early quarters.

But the Wizards closed out the first half on a remarkable run, pulling ahead by six on a Kelly Oubre dunk before the Cavs closed it to three on the back of James, who looked unstoppable going to the basket.

Let’s talk about that Oubre dunk.

It almost didn’t happen! After Otto Porter and Markieff Morries disrupted the Cavs on offense, Oubre got the ball with Beal and Porter streaking ahead. Oubre passed ahead to Beal—just an awful pass, far ahead of Beal, who may have wanted to spot up behind the 3-point line for a fast-break 3-pointer with Oubre and Porter there for the rebound, if necessary. Beal, anyway, stretched out to get a finger on the ball and eventually tracked it down just outside the paint. Rodney Hood was right there, and Beal looked like he’s headed for a highly contested layup. Instead, two options opened up for him.

Oubre kept his head in the game, and saw the opening to cut behind Hood (if Beal could get it to him right away). Porter, sensing that Oubre’s cut may be too late, floated out into the far corner, providing Beal with the long pass option, or getting ready for a full halfcourt possession if nothing develops immediately. And then…

With Tomas Satoransky in the starting lineup, Oubre is the sole dual interloper, good enough to start but necessary for the bench to function. Oubre’s evolving game and swingman’s body allow Brooks to play him anywhere between the 2 and the 4. But it’s Oubre’s confidence that lets Brooks plug him in late in quarters, halves, and games alike. My friend Ben Standig put it well, on Twitter, when he pointed out the correlation between Oubre’s pre-break slump and Washington’s suddenly cold bench, which continued early against the Cavs: “The only way this Wizards’ bench unit can survive is with Kelly Oubre making shots, something he wasn’t dojng before the break. Starts 2-for-6 and 0-for-2 from 3.”

The thing about Oubre is . . . he’s not going to stop shooting. He’s had a taste of the impact he can make for Washington, and laps up the spotlight like few others in Washington sports. He’s got the candor that made Arenas a bone-deep favorite, but without some of the baggage that fans needed to accept in the service of Gilly (so far). This game was no different. Oubre started slow, kept shooting, snapped his slump, drew Cleveland Game Operations’ ire by pranking Rodney Hood, hit a corner 3-pointer in the fourth quarter that stretched Washington’s tenuous lead out beyond a possession, blew a kiss to Cleveland’s bench, helped Washington shut out everyone but LeBron James in the final ten minutes of the game (seriously, no one else scored—we’re talking zero points), and then showed up for postgame interviews sporting a full grill.

Throughout the game, other than the misguided stanza of offensive sets in which Beal brought the ball up, Satoransky was scary good. By now, you know that Satoransky has excelled by moving the ball, moving off the ball (where I most hope Wall is watching with an open mind), almost eliminating turnovers, and avoiding punishment for a slightly slow first step by stewing together a mix of floaters, baseline cuts, and catch-and-shoot 3s. I could talk about this all day. He’s been legitimately great, an oxygen tank at the bottom of the ocean, where Washington’s offense was slowly scraping towards isolationism and uninspired repetition prior to Wall’s injury.

Instead of prattling on about his effect on the offense, I’d like to share something a little more surprising, uncovered by (disclosure!) Washington Wizards employee Zach Rosen. You see, Satoransky has figured out how to stay in front of folks.

Satoransky can be forgiven for Irving’s performance. Few can stop the Navel-Gazing Galileo. Aside from that game, though, Satoransky’s marks have been inefficient, funneled to uncomfortable spots on the floor and unable to convert possessions into points. Defense was my biggest concern with Satoransky, especially against the game’s most athletic guards, who often can put Satoransky on their hip as they drive to the basket. The young Czech has gotten far better at staying with players during a drive rather than peeling off and cutting his losses.

In this game, Satoransky’s mark was George Hill, who was 2-for-10 overall and 0-for-8 when guarded by Tomas Satoransky, according to the NBA’s stats page. A frustrated point guard in Hill led to the game being exclusively on the shoulders of LeBron James late in the fourth quarter. And by golly, he almost pulled it off, just as he has too many times against Washington. I mean, this is the guy, over a decade ago, who whispered in Arenas’ ear at the free throw line. Who almost single-handedly deflated the best Wizards team in recent memory prior to the current one.

The Wizards showed signs of faltering late, bringing the ball up slowly with Beal at the point for a series of 6-second possessions, in order to run down the clock with four minutes left and a sizeable lead. It backfired like it always does, and LeBron muscled his way through Ian Mahinmi on a couple of truly ill-suited defensive possessions (looking at you, Scott Brooks) to bring the Cavs within a possession of the Wizards as Washington squandered play after play. The Wizards didn’t score between 3:44 remaining and 0:57 remaining. They finally did when Scott Brooks designed a nice little inbounds play following a lengthy out-of-bounds video review, where Porter inbounded it to Beal (as expected) with nine seconds on the shot clock, only for Beal to shoot it right back to Porter on the baseline (not expected) for a difficult, but well-executed layup.

LeBron scored again on the next play, bull-rushing Washington’s defense for what seemed like the tenth time in a row, using his elbows to create an impermeable bubble around himself. The Wizards brought the ball up the court, and ran the clock. Satoransky passed it to Beal with six seconds left on the shot clock and 33 seconds left in the game. Beal was well beyond the 3-point line, but surprised Hill by immediately driving left rather than faking left and pushing right. Hill never recovered, and Beal faced only token resistance from an outmatched Kyle Korver with his hands up outside the restricted area. Two possessions ahead and with only 30 seconds remaining, the Wizards were blessed by some poor foul shooting from James, and the game was theirs. Washington is now just a half-game behind the Cavs for the 3-seed in the East.

Tonight it’s the Hornets. Let’s get Wizard.

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Conor Dirks
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
Conor has been with TAI since 2012, and aids in the seamless editorial process that brings you the kind of high-octane blogging you have come to expect from this rad website. The Wizards have been an assiduous companion throughout his years on the cosmic waiver wire. He lives in D.C. and is day-to-day.