The Washington Wizards Play Basketball Like a Degenerate Gambler | Wizards Blog Truth About

The Washington Wizards Play Basketball Like a Degenerate Gambler

Updated: April 23, 2018

The Washington Wizards play basketball like a degenerate gambler. Regular season games don’t provide enough action. That’s like a $20 office pool. Even the first couple games of a playoff series can’t hold their interest. That’s like a $200 buy-in house game. No, the Wizards can’t feel the rush until they’ve pushed their child’s college fund into the pot.

There is really no other way to explain the Wizards seeming indifference on a night-to-night basis. Marcin Gortat surely does not have a better explanation. Asked by Todd Dybas of The Sports Capitol after Game 4 why the team always seems to play its best when their odds seem the longest, Gortat was at loss for words:

“If I knew, I would tell you. I have no idea. Every day you come in here everybody acts the same way, everybody is getting ready for the same game and, all of a sudden you can go against Orlando or Brooklyn and lose by 30, then next day the best team coming in the league and we are beating the best team. I have no recipe for that. It is what it is.”

Markieff Morris couldn’t tell you either:

“I don’t know. I guess that’s how we live so that’s how it goes.”

The Wizards refuse to do anything the easy way, trailing by at least nine points in the first quarter of all four games in the series against Toronto, requiring them to spend unnecessary energy just to tread water in the first half.

In Game 4, Washington took their self-destructive tendencies to a whole new level. It started in the first half when they dug an 11-point deficit, thanks to 34 percent shooting from the field, 14.3 percent from 3-point range and 53.8 percent from the line. Then, to make things even more difficult, Washington gave up a 3-point shot to Kyle Lowry mere seconds into the third quarter.

It’s like the Wizards were playing one-on-one with their little brother in the backyard and spotted him a 5-0 lead to make things interesting — except the Wizards are not playing their little brother. They are an eighth seed matched up against an opponent that won 16 more regular season games.

Nevertheless, the desperation of a 14-point second-half deficit was enough to get their attention. In just over three and a half minutes Washington tied the game with an electric 18-4 run. But that adrenaline rush quickly wore off and the Wizards failed to capitalize on their momentum. The remainder of the quarter was a back-and-forth affair ending in an 80-80 tie after a Mike Scott buzzer-beater.

The fourth quarter is when the Wizards really showed their degenerate ways. Facing a 3-1 deficit and a potential franchise-altering series loss, you would think the Wizards would start the final period with a sense of urgency.

Wrong. Washington looked more like a guy nursing a drink in the back of the Westgate Las Vegas Super Book, studying the lines in a cloud of cigarette smoke and torn betting slips. Here’s the play-by-play:

  • 11:38 – John Wall dribbles the shot clock out and forces a 20-foot jumper over Jakob Poeltl.
  • 11:30 – Seven-foot, slow-footed Poeltl beats the entire Wizards team down court for an uncontested layup.
  • 11:07 – Mike Scott misses a corner three-pointer.
  • 10:37 – After getting an offensive rebound, the Raptors create an uncontested layup for Lowry.
  • 10:15 – Wall drives baseline and loses the ball out of bounds.
  • 10:03 – Wall turns his back to Lowry on a pick and roll, giving him a direct line to an uncontested layup.
  • 10:01 – Scott Brooks exasperated time-out.
  • 9:44 – Bradley Beal makes a lazy pass that is intercepted by Delon Wright for a fast break layup.

Two minutes and twenty seconds into the most important quarter in the entire season, and the Wizards cough up an eight-point deficit with the casual indifference of a guy dropping $50 on a hand of black jack as he passes through the casino floor on the way to dinner.

For any other team, this would be a problem. Not for these Wizards, though. This is exactly where Washington needed to be, with their backs against the wall. The Wizards stared Teddy KGB in the eyes, paused for a second in faux contemplation of their next move, then pushed all their chips into the middle of the table. Washington ended the game on a 26-10 run, beginning with six points from Beal and – after Beal fouled out with 4:58 remaining – four baskets that were either scored or assisted by John Wall.

Game 4 ended on a high note, with Wall dropping his signature, “This is my city,” and the crowd celebrating on their way out to F Street. But there’s one universal truth in gambling: No matter how high you get, there’s always a bad beat on the horizon. The Wizards saw this first-hand last season when they won two straight home games against the Boston Celtics in convincing fashion, only to get destroyed in the pivotal Game 5.

The only way Washington can avoid the same fate this year is if they approach Game 5 with the same intensity as the final eight minutes of Game 4. If the last few seasons of Wizards basketball are any indication, that does not seem like a good bet.

But who knows? If you keep playing the same number on the roulette board, it’s bound to hit eventually.


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.