From The Other Side: Wizards vs. Blazers — A Real Sense of Urgency | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

From The Other Side: Wizards vs. Blazers — A Real Sense of Urgency

By
Updated: November 19, 2018

Truth About It is a blog that primarily focuses on all things Washington Wizards. We have media credentials and that access allows for up-close coverage of games, practices, and other activities, irreverent and otherwise. But occasionally we use that access to explore what’s going on with the opposing team. We call this segment, “From The Other Side,” and in today’s installment, @rashad20 focuses on the sense of urgency in the Portland Trailblazers’ locker room

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

The Washington Wizards lost to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night, and after the game, Coach Brooks, John Wall and Bradley Beal all attributed the defeat to a lack of defensive stops. Brooks specifically implored his team to “figure it out, get better and come back better on Sunday.”

Before Sunday’s matchup against Portland, when Brooks was asked about the importance of the game—especially since their schedule gets decidedly more difficult in the next six (the Clippers, Raptors, the Pelicans twice, the Rockets, and the 76ers)—he was again critical of his team’s past performance, and hopeful that the lethargy was a thing of the past.

“We seemed to be a step slow on both ends of the floor last game, looking at the film again this morning. Hopefully we play with better juice [tonight] and be able to stay in front of the basketball and play much quicker on both ends. I thought we were slow on offense, just as bad as we were defensively.”

Despite the sense of urgency laid out by Coach Brooks, the Wizards repeated the sins of their recent past, by managing to look even slower than they did against the Nets. At the  3:54 mark of the first quarter, they trailed the Trail Blazers, 32-12. The Capital One Arena crowd booed, Brooks and his assistants angrily huddled and the Wizards players seemed baffled yet again.

The Portland Trail Blazers were also operating under a sense of urgency prior to last night’s game but for different reasons. They lost the first two games of their six-game road trip, and they were badly in need of a win to raise morale.

“I think coming in here today, our urgency was just there. We lost the first two games of the trip. We wanted to come in and be sharp. I knew that being a leader on this team, I had to come out here and kind of enforce that and impose my will and be aggressive and assertive and live with the result. That was my mindset coming in and I was going to keep my foot on that gas until there was no time left to make sure we got it done.” —Damian Lillard

“We just came off two tough losses, so I think we came out with some energy tonight. I think we were ready to go on defense which was the most important thing.” —Jake Layman

Not only did the Blazers storm out to a 32-12 lead, but when the Wizards finally demonstrated a bit of fight late in the first quarter and into the second, the Blazers responded accordingly. Carried by Lillard and C.J. McCollum, who combined for 31 points on 58 percent shooting (50% from 3-point line), they led by 21 at halftime.

The best play of their first half was seven-pass, 23.6 second long possession which resulted in a Layman corner 3-pointer. Trail Blazers Coach Terry Stotts was so impressed with that possession that he played it for his team at halftime as a form of encouragement.

In the third quarter, due to missed calls, Beal’s five fouls, Lillard’s relentlessness (18 points), lackadaisical defense, and a lack of offensive continuity outside of John Wall (12 points), the Wizards once again found themselves trailing by 21 points.

Coach Brooks seemingly waved the white flag in the fourth quarter by primarily going with a bench lineup of Tomas Satoransky, Austin Rivers, Troy Brown Jr, Kelly Oubre, and Jason Smith (Thomas Bryant came in for Smith at the 4:57 mark of the fourth). The bench unit hustled, scrapped and played with type of give-a-damn that had eluded the Wizards’ starting lineup. As Coach Brooks alluded to after the game, this bench lineup initially not only worked Portland’s bench players, but also when the lead went from 25 to 20, and Coach Stotts inserted two starters (Lillard and Al-Farouq Aminu) into the game (McCollum was on the floor), the Wizards bench continued to play well.

Austin Rivers, Oubre and Jason Smith all hit 3-pointers in the span of 72 seconds and the Wizards whittled the Blazers’ lead down to 15 points. The Capital One Arena shunned the boos in favor of  cheers for this unlikely group of Wizards bench stars, who at one point worked the deficit down to single digits.

At this point, Coach Stotts re-inserted Jusuf Nurkic (who just missed a triple-double with 13 points, 14 rebounds, and eight assists) and Evan Turner into the game. Stotts could have trusted his bench unit to hold on, or he could have trusted Lillard, McCollum and three bench players to led his team to victory. But he took no chances and re-inserted his four starters and his best bench player (Turner) to close the Wizards out.

When asked to explain that call with a seemingly comfortable lead, Coach Stotts said, eloquently: “Well, I wasn’t going to screw around with the game, we built a nice lead, I thought it was a chance to get some [bench] guys in there. But like I said, Washington played hard and they made some shots, and anything can happen in this league, so that’s why the stars were back in”

The Wizards bench valiantly battled but ultimately, Coach Stotts’s decision paid off handsomely, and the Trail Blazers held on to their lead, and won the game 119-109.

In the Portland locker room after the game, both Stotts and the players were proud of how they internalized the inconvenience of the first two home losses and turned that into sharp play and, ultimately, a victory over the Wizards.

Meanwhile in the Wizards locker room, Coach Brooks seemed to recycle the same quotes he uttered just two nights ago after the loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

“We got to just play with more enthusiasm, more effort, more energy. That’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing.”

 

Rashad Mobley on FacebookRashad Mobley on InstagramRashad Mobley on Twitter
Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.