A Bad Loss to a Young Team and an Old(er) Man | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

A Bad Loss to a Young Team and an Old(er) Man

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Updated: February 5, 2019

[Photo: Geoff Burke / USA TODAY Sports]

On Saturday night, when the Wizards faced the Milwaukee Bucks, they found themselves trailing by as many as 32 points halfway through the third quarter. Washington fought valiantly to cut the lead down to 15 points, but, eventually, the Bucks put their hooves on the proverbial gas and put the game out of reach. Coach Brooks and his team were unhappy with the way they played—but they also understood that they’d been overrun by the freight trained named Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Last night, the Wizards were once again on the business end of a sizable deficit, but they weren’t facing an MVP candidate . . . or even one of the better teams in the NBA.  They were facing the Atlanta Hawks, who had a record of 17-35 heading into the action.

Although the Hawks had to that point exceeded expectations by going 3-3 on their seven-game road trip, they’d also been on the road for 14 days. Weary, sure, but also ready to win.

“We’ve been on the road for 14 days, I think we’re all just tired and ready to get back to Atlanta,” Coach Lloyd Pearce said before the game. “And [tonight’ game is] a great opportunity to finish this trip out above .500, and that’s what the conversation was going into the Phoenix game. When you’re on a long trip like that, you have to find as many positives as you can.”

After one quarter, the Hawks led the Wizards 35-20 (spoiler: a lead they would not surrender), and it was crystal clear that the Hawks had taken Coach Pearce’s message to heart. Meanwhile, the Wizards shot 33 percent from the field and zero percent (0-9) from the 3-point line.

The Wizards snapped out of their doldrums in the latter part of the second quarter, thanks to Jeff Green (9 points), who is averaging 15.2 points in his last 10 games, and Jordan McRae (13 points), who was averaging 30 points in the G-league and has continued with that prolific streak in the Association.

The Wizards trailed by just four points at halftime, and it felt like their late second-quarter momentum would propel them to a lead in the third quarter.

Then 42-year-old Vince Carter got going.

Carter did not play in the first half, and during the post-halftime shootaround, he missed all five of the 3-pointers he attempted. But the Capital One Arena crowed cheered when he entered the game midway through the third quarter, and Carter singlehandedly stymied Washington’s momentum by scoring 11 points (with one assist) in just 5:20 of play. As he worked himself into a lather with each made 3, the roar from the crowd got louder.

When Carter was asked after the game if he heard the cheers from Wizards fans, he chuckled and said, “Of course I did. It’s a cool feeling, like I said, to still be around and a lot of the fans that are cheering for me probably weren’t even born yet when I first started. But it is a great feeling, and I am thankful to have fans and have people cheer for you when you are on the road. Like I said, it’s just a cool feeling.”

The ebb and flow in the fourth quarter resembled a heavyweight prize fight. In one corner, the Hawks represented the champion fighter who did just enough to win rounds and maintain the advantage, and the Wizards were the scrappy challengers throwing haymakers with bad intentions, but connecting at a low percentage.

Beal (18 points in the fourth quarter) and to a lesser extent Trevor Ariza (7 points) did their very best to keep the Wizards close–in fact at one point they again whittled the Hawks’ lead down to four points. But just when the Wizards seemed poised to get within one possession, Beal would turn the ball over or miss a shot and Otto Porter would miss a free throw. The Hawks exacerbated that carelessness by hitting timely shots of their own.

In the fourth, Carter and guard Jeremy Lin score five each, Kent Bazemore scored six, but it was Taurean Prince (who according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst is on the trading block) who did yeoman’s work in the with 12 points–including this one which put the Hawks up by seven points and effectively put the game out of reach:

After the game, Coach Brooks, Jeff Green and Jordan McRae attributed the Wizards loss to their inability to run the Hawks off the 3-point line. Brooks’s comments were the most damning, since he admitted that his team knew what the Hawks were going to do leading up to the game:

“Tonight we couldn’t guard the 3-point line. We came up short on all of our closeouts, and they made shots. And then we tried to and we did have good closeouts, then they made shots because they were hot and they were filling up and the basket became as big as an ocean. We couldn’t get the stops that we needed. They were feeling good, and then they banked one in. It’s about guarding the 3-point line. They took 41.

“We knew that they were going to be a 3-point shooting team. We knew that we were going to switch. We had some coverage mess ups. You got to close out alternate shooters and they got guys just do that alone and they do it at a high level. We were short so many times.”

At the end of the day, the nuts and bolts of why the Hawks played better than their record, and the Wizards disappointingly played down to the level of their inferior opponent, is irrelevant. What matters is that the Wizards are now tied for 10th in Eastern Conference and they are a full three games out of the last playoff spot.

If they were in tanking mode, that type of slippage would not at all be discouraging, but given that Ted Leonsis is operating under the playoffs-or-bust creed, losing a winnable game to a bad team–especially when 42-year-old Vince Carter was one of the catalysts–is simply not good. And nowhere near good enough.

To make matters worse, the Wizards next game is in Milwaukee against those pesky Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee Bucks.

 

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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.