Wizards Blog Truth About It.net http://www.truthaboutit.net Washington Wizards Blog, ESPN TrueHoop Network Fri, 26 Jun 2015 20:12:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.5 Draft Decompression: Kelly Oubre and Delayed Gratification http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/06/the-washington-wizards-2015-draft-kelly-oubre-delayed-gratification.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/06/the-washington-wizards-2015-draft-kelly-oubre-delayed-gratification.html#comments Fri, 26 Jun 2015 19:58:56 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47492  

[via instagram.com/washwizards]

[via instagram.com/washwizards]

Head Coach Randy Wittman, Team President Ernie Grunfeld, and the rest of the Wizards’ decision-makers had two main orders of business headed into last night’s NBA Draft. They needed Paul Pierce insurance (as the Hall of Fame forward decides whether he’ll stay or go) and they needed youth at the trendy but necessary “stretch 4″ position. At the end of last season, it appeared Pierce insurance was necessary due to an impending retirement, but in the last few days, Pierce, despite the words of love that owner Ted Leonsis lobbed in his direction, reportedly decided to opt out of his $5.5-million player option and will decide between the Wizards and the Clippers, with Boston in hot pursuit. According to J. Michael of Comcast SportsNet, the Wizards feel confident that Pierce will return, which sounds grand, but means little until he shares the same sentiment.

The inclusion of a stretch 4 became a must when Coach Wittman had a playoff epiphany, realizing that smaller can be better and can produce better results alongside Washington’s young guards. Pierce played that stretch 4, but his age precludes him from doing it regularly, while Drew Gooden is too streaky and too good off the bench to be relied on for heavy minutes, or as a starter.

Enter Kelly Oubre and Aaron White, Washington’s first and second round picks in the 2015 NBA Draft, respectively.

Kelly Oubre was a top-10 recruit out of high school, who found himself on the bench and in Kansas Head Coach Bill Self’s doghouse due to his lack of defensive prowess. He started 27 of the Jayhawks’ 36 games and averaged 9.3 points and 5.0 rebounds, along with a Nick Young-esque 0.8 assists per game. He had a career-high 25 points in the first game of the Big 12 Tournament against Texas Christian, but failed to break double-figures in the next two Big 12 conference games or in the NCAA tournament, where the Jayhawks, the No. 2 seed, were upset by 7-seed Wichita State. The consensus on the 19-year-old Oubre is that he’s high on talent and potential, but low on consistency and “baskeball IQ.”

Here’s what NBA.com’s David Aldridge had to say about Oubre before the draft. It is worth noting that in his mock draft, Aldridge had Oubre going 24th to the Cleveland Cavaliers:

“Oubre was very inconsistent in college, but he’s done well in pre-Draft workouts, where his freakish athletic ability was likely to pop for prospective teams. He’d fit right in as one of the Cavs’ reserves, where he wouldn’t be asked to do too much but could fill the wings on the break while occasionally playing with a starter like LeBron James or Kyrie Irving, depending on matchups.”

Here’s what ESPN’s Chad Ford had to say about Oubre in his pre-draft chat:

“Well, Kelly Oubre is one of the most fascinating prospects of this draft, because again, he checks boxes. He checks boxes for size for position, and he has a 7’2″ wingspan and he can be a 2 guard. That’s freaky. He checks size for a few skills. I don’t think he’s an elite athlete but I call him a smooth athlete, and he can shoot the basketball. He’s not an elite shooter, but it’s clearly one of his skill set, and he has the ability to defend. He has all the physical tools to do that. One general manager referred to him as basketball illiterate, and I think that’s the issue with Kelly Oubre right now. The physical tools are there, and even some instincts of the game are there, but his understanding of the game, his understanding about anticipating what’s happening, especially on the defensive end, and you saw this at Kansas, that one of the reasons Bill Self really struggled to play him at first because he just didn’t have a feel for what was happening on the court, and it’s very difficult to play anything other than on the ball defense when a player doesn’t really understand what’s happening with the offense…

“He’s been working out with Drew Hanlen pre draft, and Drew Hanlen has worked out Bradley Beal, he worked out Andrew Wiggins last year, and one of the things I love about Drew is Drew takes tape of players that you’re similar to and he starts to show you the tape so you can start to learn what these players are doing and you can start to learn the game. And then he takes what you saw on the tape and takes you back out on the court and trains you how to do that… He’s starting to figure things out. The training is there. So if he keeps working hard and he keeps learning and he keeps hungry, he could be one of the 10 best players of this draft hands down. But that’s what he’s got to do. He’s got to continue to be hungry, continue to learn, and continue to grow that basketball IQ because it’s just low right now.”

The best case scenario for Oubre is that he continues to develop on offense and defense and turns into former Wizard Trevor Ariza, who ESPN’s Jalen Rose compared him to just seconds after he was drafted. He could learn from Pierce and Otto Porter, and even find himself in a 3-guard lineup with Wall and Beal with Porter at the four and Gortat (or Nene) at the center position. Worst-case scenario is that his game becomes stagnant along with his basketball IQ, and he becomes Nick Young part deux—on some nights he’ll go for 25-35 points, but on most nights he’ll shoot the team right out of games (if Randy Wittman doesn’t bench him first).

That type of attitude would be perfectly serviceable for the 2008-10 Wizards squads, featuring Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee and the aforementioned Swaggy P, but not a team that has designs on progressing beyond the Eastern Conference semifinals.

It is encouraging that in a limited sample size, Bill Self was able to impress upon Oubre that more defense equals more playing time. Coach Randy Wittman’s entire tenure has been based on that premise and it is hard to argue with his results (the Wizards ended last season ranked fifth in Defensive Efficiency). It follows, then, that Wittman may be able to squeeze even more defensive improvement from Oubre than Self did.

And then there’s Aaron White, 22, who the Wizards drafted at 49 (causing him to be overcome with emotion). He’s already tentatively slated to be shipped overseas to add seasoning to his game. He was a four-year player at Iowa who averaged 16.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game during his senior year. And, unlike Oubre, who came up short in the NCAA postseason, White saved his best for last. He had 22 points and 13 rebounds in Iowa’s first-round loss in the Big Ten Tournament, and he averaged 22 points in his two NCAA tournament games. Most importantly, White played both forward positions during his four-year career at Iowa, which makes him a perfect candidate—either now or when he returns from overseas—for the magical stretch 4 slot.

Here’s what Eric Laboissonniere of SB Nation had to say about White’s game:

“White is a 6-foot-9 forward that can stretch the floor at the next level. He played power forward and some small forward in college, which is something he will be able to to in the NBA as well. He is not a very strong forward, but he can get to the basket and score efficiently. White was one of the most efficient scorers in the Big Ten last season, and he averaged 16.4 PPG and 7.3 RPG in his last season at Iowa. White is not going to be the go-to guy for an NBA team at the next level, but he can do many different things in the NBA. He did not shoot many three-point shots in college, but he has the ability to knock-down long distance jumpers and attack the rim, which makes him a dangerous stretch-four. He is pretty athletic, which helps him score at the rim. He is a crafty defender because he has good hands, he averaged 1.3 SPG in his senior season at Iowa. White is a very intelligent basketball player and he always seems to make the right decisions on both ends of the floor.”

Here’s what ESPN’s Chad Ford has to say about Aaron White and the mind state of teams who pick players like him in the second round:

“The things that he brings to the table obviously are hustle, athleticism, and the question is is there skill level enough there and is he good enough at those things to warrant a second round pick. Here’s the other thing that people have to understand about the second round. The Sixers own like five picks in the second round. There are multiple pick situations. These teams can’t possibly have all these players on their roster, so you start drafting international players that aren’t nearly as good as Aaron White, but you draft them because you don’t have a roster spot for these other players, and so the second round is often a head scratcher, I think, for a lot of people that follow college basketball, and I think it’s partly where international players get a bad name. Think of all these busts that were drafted in the second round. Yeah, teams are essentially flushing those picks down the toilet. I mean, that’s essentially what they’re doing, like we can’t afford to have this guy on the roster, we need that roster spot for a veteran, we don’t want to pay the money, we don’t have space, so we’ll stash a guy over in Europe and maybe we’ll get lucky. Maybe he’ll turn out to be Manu Ginobili in a year or what have you.”

Last year the Wizards were without a draft pick but managed to sign Pierce, who, by season’s end, turned out to be a better teammate than any draft pick. This year, the Wizards picked Oubre, who may not blossom for another two years, and White, who will be overseas for at least one year. Which means the Wizards may not feel any significant effects of their 2015 draft until 2017, when current Thunder star Kevin Durant could be in the mix.

What was the alternative? Perhaps now would be a good time to mention Bobby Portis.

Portis was drafted by the Chicago Bulls with 22nd pick of the first round, which means the Wizards saw him, thought about it, and apparently opted to pick who they thought was the best player available in Oubre instead of the player who best fit their roster needs. Portis was the SEC player of the year in 2014-15, and averaged 15 points and eight rebounds during his two-year collegiate career. In two games against the semi-professional team that is the Kentucky Wildcats, he averaged a respectable 16 points and five rebounds. Chad Ford (before the draft) and John Paxson on draft night both praised Portis’ ability to play inside and out—which is a less technical way of calling him a stretch 4.

Unlike Oubre, who fell in the draft because of his high “bust” potential, Portis seemed to fall because, as Ford put it, “he does everything good, but nothing great.” The Wizards have yet to dip their toe into the free agent pool, and the Wizards’ brass could very well be cooking up something special to fill the stretch 4 void. But from a distance, it appears as if they missed a golden, and cost-effective, opportunity to upgrade at that position.

On a more positive note, the Wizards now have two young players who they may be able to count on in the future. In past years they have been without draft picks after trading them for veterans or players who have yet to make their way to the U.S. (hello, Tomas Satoransky!). Ironically enough, the Wizards have begun to stockpile assets for the future just when the team—as it is currently constructed with Paul Pierce—is on the brink of advancing to a place where no Wizards team has gone in nearly 40 years. That means that, after the Draft, the immediate future of the Wizards still hinges on Pierce’s decision, Grunfeld’s free agency plans, and the continued growth of Porter, Beal and Wall. Stay tuned.

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Oh, Bruh: Wizards Draft Kelly Oubre and Aaron White http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/06/oh-bruh-washington-wizards-nba-draft-kelly-oubre-and-aaron-white.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/06/oh-bruh-washington-wizards-nba-draft-kelly-oubre-and-aaron-white.html#comments Fri, 26 Jun 2015 06:24:56 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47482 oubreshoes3

After moving up to 15th overall pick, the Wizards went all hypothetically 3-and-D with Kelly Oubre, formerly of Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks. In order to move up, Washington traded their 19th overall pick and two future 2nd round picks (2016 and 2019) to the Hawks. Oubre, who is reportedly 6’7 with a 7’2 wingspan and smooth shooting mechanics, was a top-10 recruit heading into Kansas, but didn’t nail down a starting spot until late December, when he committed to consistent defense and eventually shepherded Kansas to a conference championship.

When Oubre stepped down from the Barclays Center stage wearing an Atlanta Hawks hat and gold-spiked slippers into the awkward embrace of a “you’ve been traded” question from ESPN, he delivered an outrageously confident set of takes despite the confusion about his eventual destination.

“Whoever gets me is getting a jewel, you know what I mean? “I feel like I’m a steal in this draft. I’m ready to win a championship. And whatever team gets me, we’re winning a championship, and I’m ready to put the work in to do so.”

And all night, he never really stopped. Unlike the decidedly jejune Otto Porter and Bradley Beal, who just barely flashed the kind of personality they’ve eventually evinced with the Wizards on their respective draft nights, Oubre was, from the jump, fired up. He told Monumental’s Dan Nolan “I’m definitely bleeding Wizard blood.” He told Comcast’s Chris Miller “The city will definitely love me.”

Of course, he also made mention of what appears to be limitless “swag,” which is a word I understand because I am cool (lie) and not old (another lie). Before you sigh an interminable sigh that when run through a codebreaker sounds a lot like “Nick Young,” stop. This isn’t the NFL draft. NBA rookies don’t have their teenage hubris fried out of them like the bygone nutrients of a now-palatable potato. And that’s fine. Good teams absorb characters into their DNA, making room for a player’s personality within the structure and veteran hierarchy of the locker room.

There’s probably no non-injury situation, or amount of confidence, that gets Oubre into the starting lineup on opening night. This is Randy Wittman’s team, after all, and if Paul Pierce decides to sign elsewhere, the 3 will belong to Otto Porter, who has paid two years of steep, splintered dues. Point is: there’ll be plenty of time for the kid to have introspective, humbling self-reflections after getting sonned in practice by actual NBA players. Moments after becoming a millionaire, it’s OK to pledge undying allegiance to yourself, probably.

Comcast SportsNet’s J. Michael spoke with Kansas assistant coach Kurt Townsend, who said:

“I recruited Bradley Beal for four years, recruited John Wall. I know those guys. He’s a high character guy. They’ll really like him. He never got into any trouble  off the court at all. He really wants to be good. He’s a great kid.”

Oubre’s jump shot is smooth, his release point is high, and his mechanics are good. He shot 36 percent on 3-pointers last season at Kansas, but should improve much like Bradley Beal did (34% in his lone season at the University of Florida) due to his already-polished form. Randy Wittman, sly and modern cad that he is, even suggested that Oubre could slide between the 2, 3, and 4 in the new, increasingly positionless, toy soldier NBA. Any player drafted 15th overall has weaknesses, and Wizards fans will become intimately familiar with those possessed by Oubre over the next several years.

There’s a chance that team president Ernie Grunfeld may have been overthinking things when he traded up for Oubre, especially since another Wizards target, playmaking power forward Bobby Portis, ended up being available at Washington’s original draft slot. But Grunfeld, man of vision and team president for life, saw a 3-man rotation of Beal, Porter, and Oubre in Washington’s future.

But what about Aaron White, the free throw-drawing, kinda-3-point shooting meta-stretch 4 from Iowa that the Wizards drafted with the 49th overall pick? Grunfeld told media after the draft that it will be up to White whether he stays with Washington or plays overseas this season. White worked out for the Wizards back on June 18th, and the Wizards were apparently impressed enough with him that they thought he was worth the team’s second round pick. Although White fits a need as a shooting big man, the Wizards still probably want to plan on filling that need via trade or free agency while White develops in D.C. or abroad. Here’s a bonny tweet:

Long live the Draft.

 

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The Gospel of Paul: What Pierce Means to the Wizards http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/06/the-gospel-of-paul-what-pierce-means-to-the-wizards.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/06/the-gospel-of-paul-what-pierce-means-to-the-wizards.html#comments Sat, 20 Jun 2015 16:10:07 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47465 piercehug1

[original photo via Greg Fiume]

In lieu of another week of slovenly blogslumber, we come out of hibernation today to talk about Paul Pierce, and what he means to the Washington Wizards. Why? Because the NBA Finals have come to a close, because the Draft is still several days away, but most pressingly because the reports that emerged in May regarding Paul Pierce’s potential desire to return to his hometown (in Pierce’s case Los Angeles) to play for the Clippers have been seasoned with the crushed dust of tangible reality. Between Game 4 and Game 5 of the Finals, the Clippers traded their starting small forward, Matt Barnes, and gag toilet paper-owner Spencer Hawes, to Charlotte for Lance Stephenson, creating a small-forward sized hole in their starting lineup.

Pierce has a player option good for $5.5 million dollars for next season. He likely won’t be able to sign more than the $3.37 million mini-midlevel exception with the Clippers, but a $2.13 million difference isn’t exactly the kind of “too good to turn down” deal that would stave off sentimentality, comfort, and the perception of increased title odds if Pierce decided that he wanted to reunite with Doc Rivers, who coached Pierce’s Celtics to a championship in 2008. Another option, and one that Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has plainly spoken power to, is Pierce opting-out and renegotiating a deal with the Wizards, who may very well feel comfortable modifying Pierce’s contract in the meme king’s favor. Here’s Leonsis, via the Washington Post, via the Emmy-emboldened and Leonsis-funded Monumental Network: “I hope he comes back. His deal is, he can say ‘I want to come back,’ and he would be welcomed with open arms. He might say ‘I don’t want to come back, I want to negotiate,’ and we would do that. He might say I want to go somewhere else. He’s earned that.”

The timing of this Leonsis quote, and the Ted’s Take that followed on Leonsis’ blog (which, correct me if I’m wrong, reader, appears to be the first Leonsis blog post ever accompanied by a thumbnail image), seems to be a very public, and very appropriate, Cusack-with-a-boombox moment after the Clippers trade removed a hurdle between Pierce and Los Angeles. Here’s Leonsis’ “In Your Eyes” chorus:

“Paul Pierce is a Hall-of-Fame player, and he brought so much to the Wizards this year – on the court as well as off. When people struggle to describe the “It Factor,” all they need to do is look at Paul. He was an incredibly valuable piece to our puzzle this year, and he expressed to us what a positive experience he had with our team, organization and city. I hope he has a desire to return to the Wizards next season and continue to build upon what he started.”

Oh dear. I just aggregated. (It’s a new offseason, it’s a new me, it’s a new webscape.)

The Wizards will be “fine” with or without Pierce, but will be better if he stays. Although Wall and Beal may have already learned enough about intangible gritfactors like “wanting it” and “greatness” and “that edge” and “trash talk that actually bothers opposing players” from the Hall-of-Famer, another year with Pierce could cement those lessons as more than just “Paul Was Here” on a still-soft sidewalk. Who’s going to be waiting on the sideline to embrace young Dash and young Splash like the ragamuffins they are after they’ve done good?

Although game-winning shots and incredible one-liners buoyed Pierce’s playoff performance, the 37-year old did look long in all the teeth on many defensive possessions. But that hardly matters. Pierce’s impact really can’t be measured with the grim, hoary coffee spoon that we use to determine the impact of less singular NBA players.

What was fantastic about Pierce’s playoff run is what should motivate the Wizards to bring him back. For the first time in his playoff career, Pierce shot more 3-point shots (6.3 attempts per game) than he did 2-point shots (3.6 attempts per game). He made 52 percent of those 3-pointers. For a team like Washington that was already short on deep threats, it was essential. Pierce can play two positions (even if he can only defend one), sure. He can also adapt his style of play, and is smart enough to know what the team needs from him.

Small ball, that fast-paced and spread-out artillery battery the Wizards deployed in the playoffs, won’t always be the answer, especially as it becomes standard around the league, but Pierce can catalyze incredible results as one of many beneficiaries of a liberated John Wall. To those concerned that Pierce’s presence eats into Otto Porter’s playing time: I know your heart, but you don’t have to worry. While Pierce swaps between the 3 and the 4, Porter will do the same between the 3 and the 2. Now that it’s clear that Porter can play, there’s no rush to make him an immediate starter with Pierce on hand to show him the ropes.

And the zings. Joy is important, you know? With brains already irradiated with the luxury of victory, Pierce’s “I called game” brought about ecstatic cerebral frenzy and actual human laughter to a populace best known for relentlessly collecting business cards at social gatherings.

Randy Wittman’s end-of-the-season press availability, that stressed he’d finally figured out that increased pace could maximize his young backcourt’s abilities, will be a cause for hope for many, even if it’s probably wise to be skeptical. And yet, Washington’s new (smart) plan to feature 3-point shooting from four of the five players on the court and speed things up would be conditionally hampered if Pierce left town. So hope that he doesn’t, because Pierce is affordable too, and the Wizards aren’t likely to spend the cash required for a proper stretch (or “playmaking”) 4 with a run at Kevin Durant a mere season away.

Below, TAI’s Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace) and Rashad Mobley (@rashad20) got words, too.

Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace):

I don’t even know if we can question whether the Wizards should bring Paul Pierce back. He is a national treasure. You saw what he did in the playoffs, right?

Sure, Pierce is not the player he once was. There were often times in the playoffs when he shouldn’t have been on the floor – like any late-game defensive possession – and the team got a noticeable jolt every time Otto Porter came off the bench.

That’s really the crux of this debate. The only reason anyone could possibly want Paul Pierce to leave Washington is to clear playing time for Otto. Porter certainly had a coming out party in the playoffs and appears ready to grab the reins as a starting small forward.

If Pierce makes it clear to Randy Wittman that he isn’t ready to play Andre Iguodala to Otto’s Harrison Barnes and accept a bench role, then maybe the front office should take pause. But Pierce has given no indication that would be the case. He has been nothing but supportive and encouraging of Washington’s young core, even offering to punch Otto to awaken his inner beast.

Washington offers the perfect situation for Pierce. He can play 20-25 minutes per game in the regular season and take off games whenever he wants. He is basically on a flex schedule from November through April. If John Wall, Bradley Beal and Porter progress as hoped during the regular season, Pierce won’t even be required to play as big of a role in the playoffs as he did this season. He can still take the big shots, but he won’t have to log 35 minutes before doing so.

Perhaps most importantly, Pierce’s presence in the locker room will help protect the Wizards from their greatest regular season foe: complacency. The front office may be satisfied with Washington’s 46-win season and return trip to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, but Pierce is not. He speaks the Truth with a level of frankness and authority that no other individual in the Wizards organization possesses.

Finally, there’s always the question of replacement cost. If Pierce opts in, he will make $5.5 million next season. But that does not mean Washington could spend his $5.5 million salary on another player if Pierce leaves. Washington will be over the cap with or without Pierce. Therefore, losing Pierce does not free up any cap space. This is a very different situation than the Trevor Ariza debate last off-season. Everyone agreed that Ariza was a great fit for the Wizards, but the question was whether Trevor was worth giving up four years of precious cap space. There is no such dilemma with Pierce. The Truth can stick around for one more year of mentorship and Washington’s cap sheet remains intact.

Rashad Mobley (@rashad20)

Before, during and after the NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors head coach and the players–from Stephen Curry to Klay Thompson to Draymond Green–raved about Andre Iguodala’s performance off the court. Yes they raved about his versatility and his knack to both facilitate on offense and shut down (or slow down, in LeBron James’ case) the opposing team’s strongest offensive player, but they were most impressed with two things: his professionalism and his sacrifice.

Steve Kerr said of Iguodala’s willingness to sacrifice and buy in:

“It’s one of the most gratifying parts of the season. That’s really what you hope for as a coach. That each guy is going to accept a role and understand that that role is designed to make the team better and that it may cost him some minutes and some points and all that stuff. But if everyone buys in, and believes, you’ve got a pretty strong, powerful force.”

Draymond Green took it a step further and said Iguodala saved the season:

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and the rest of the Wizards did not have the opportunity to sing Paul Pierce’s praises on the grand NBA Finals podium. But during the season, after their demise in six games at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks, and even this past week in Ted Leonsis’ blog, the not-so-obvious impact of Pierce’s off-the-court contributions were emphasized just as much as his obvious impact on it. Even when Pierce questioned John Wall’s desire to take the next step during his rant to Jackie MacMullan, Wall took his words in stride and said he had no problem with Pierce trying to make him great(er). Reactions and praise like that show a certain trust is in place, and that’s not something the Wizards can afford to lose going into this 2015-2016 season.

This past season was about building on the Wizards first playoff appearance (back in 2013-2014) in 16 years, and Pierce came to DC to assist with that process. The Wizards improved record-wise despite some mid-season stumbles, but after they swept the Toronto Raptors, expectations were sky-high that they could advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Maybe it was John Wall’s injury, maybe it was Nene’s passiveness, or maybe Pierce should have pulled even more miracle magic out of his pocket. But for whatever accumulation of reasons, the Wizards again fell victim to a better, higher-seeded team in the second round of the playoffs.

The pressure, the expectations and the stakes will be much higher during the upcoming 2015-2016 season. The Wizards are still Wall’s team, but he’ll need to shoot better and continue to be an All-Star level passer and defender. Beal and Porter need to cement themselves into more consistent production. Coach Wittman will have to make decisions on how to effectively use Nene and Gortat. Ernie Grunfeld and his front-office crew must make roster upgrades via draft or trade, since Pierce is inclined to be less interested in staying on a stagnant team. But the easiest decision to make is to make sure Pierce comes back for one more year.

Given how physically and mentally drained he was at the end of the season, Pierce will most likely have no qualms about coming off the bench, or playing more limited regular season minutes. He’s seen what a lighter workload has done for veterans like Tim Duncan and Vince Carter, and he also knows that the playoffs are where he will expend the majority of his remaining energy. He should be on a Nene-like 25-minutes a game limit, and and as the playoffs get closer the minutes and his role should gradually expand. By that time, he’ll be fresher, and hopefully his teammates will have learned how to win without him. That way, any big shots he can hit will be the gravy that can push them past the second round.

Ironically enough, Pierce’s arrival last season was not universally seen as a boon because he replaced Trevor Ariza, who with his 3-point shooting, defensive prowess and ability to find that perfect spacing in the open court, seemed like a model fit for the speedy backcourt of Wall and Beal. It took the entire regular season and playoffs for Pierce to prove he was every bit as important as Ariza was, and then some, simply by hitting shot after shot after almost shot. If that security blanket is taken away from this young Wizards team, it would represent the second major personnel loss in two years, which could easily be used as an excuse for yet another premature playoff exit.

If Pierce was to come back—which at the present date is still a big if—the Wizards need to bring him back. If they can go into his draft and offseason knowing they have Wall, Beal, Porter, and Gortat in the starting lineup, Nene and Pierce off the bench, and whoever Grunfeld brings in to improve the roster, the foundation for a deep playoff run is set. No Pierce equals uncertainty and the dreaded “who-is-going-to-step-up” question. No thank you.

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DC Council Round 2, Game 6: Wizards vs Hawks — The Traumatic End, Nothing Lasts Forever http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/dc-council-round-2-game-6-wizards-vs-hawks-the-traumatic-end-nothing-last-forever.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/dc-council-round-2-game-6-wizards-vs-hawks-the-traumatic-end-nothing-last-forever.html#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 21:29:07 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47388 Truth About It.net’s D.C. Council:
Grading Wizards players from Second Round Playoff Game No. 6:
Washington Wizards versus the Atlanta Hawks in D.C.
Contributor: Adam McGinnis from the Verizon Center.DC-Council-Logo-2

All of the SIGHS … because Washington’s 94-91 series-ending loss to Atlanta is going to sting for awhile. A very long time. Similar to Coach Wittman’s weekend fog, I needed a few days of grieving before being able to process and react.

For the fourth straight playoff game of the Eastern Conference Semifinal, the outcome came down to a shot in the final moments, and, once again, Washington finished on the short end. Pierce’s off balance, game-tying corner 3-pointer rolled in at the buzzer and blasted the Verizon Center crowd into a cosmic state. Nervous energy soon mixed into the air as everyone waited for the official decision—did he get it off in time? The seconds of anticipation felt like minutes, while the “Phone Booth” still possessed a party atmosphere due to another classic Truth Bomb.

The ref took off his headset, waved off the shot, the MC mumbled the final score, and the Hawks began to celebrate.

Game over. Series done. Season complete.

The rocking vibe hushed Wizards fans into a paralyzed state of disbelief. Thousands of fans, shocked, began to file out like zombies and others stayed in their seats, struggling to accept the reality of the situation before ushers attempted to snap them out of it. The immediate reaction was not one of sadness or anger, but an empty feeling. Nothingness. It seems only live sporting events are able to produce these odd emotions.

The anticlimactic ending overshadowed a valiant fourth-quarter comeback by the home team and stellar performances by Washington’s two young stars. John Wall and Bradley Beal were sensational in erasing Atlanta’s 10-point fourth-quarter lead. Unfortunately, the Wizards’ elite defense was unable to get two crucial stops in the final minute, allowing the Hawks to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time.

This loss completed last week’s trifecta of painful defeats on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Randy Wittman summarizes my mood during media exit interviews: “It just sucks.

Enough of the melancholy, let us D.C. Council…

paul pierce, jose andres, game 6, washington wizards, atlanta hawks, playoffs, truth about it

Paul Pierce is grabbed by Chef Jose Andres (picture courtesy of Washington Post)


Atlanta Hawks

94

Final

Box Score

Washington Wizards

91

Nene Hilario, PF

26 MIN | 2-7 FG | 1-4 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | -8 +/-

Atlanta was a bad matchup for the Brazilian big man and his many struggles in the series are still hard to sugarcoat. However, redemption was on the table for Lord Nene for in Game 6. He played a key part in Washington’s fourth-quarter surge with excellent defense and he pulled down several key rebounds. It then all fell apart in such dramatic fashion that he’s possibly stained his D.C. legacy. Nene missed two huge free throws and blew a costly defensive assignment in the final minute. This defensive lapse caused John Wall to shoot him a dirty look when they came to the bench afterward. On Washington’s next possession, down two, with fifty seven seconds remaining, Nene took an inbound pass and instead of passing it to Bradley Beal or Wall, he drove to the hoop and threw up an ugly miss. This costly decision and the Game 5 missed rebound will linger in the mind of Wizards follwers for a long time.


Paul Pierce, SF

24 MIN | 1-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -7 +/-

During the postgame media session, the eyes of Pierce swelled up when discussing the emotional toll his profession puts on his family. His sullen and introspective words hinted that this could be the last game of Paul’s illustrious career. Pierce has a $5 million player option for 2015-16. This would be a terrible way for “The Truth” to go out, and not specifically because his 3 being ruled to have come after the final red light. Simply, Pierce was awful in Game 6. He threw up forced shots, highlighted by an air ball, and was absolutely roasted on defense. Aside from Wall’s injury, Washington not having answer for Paul Millsap (often Pierce’s mark) all series was the main reason Atlanta is now facing Cleveland. The “I called game” memory will never be forgotten, but hopefully Pierce wanting to make up for his porous attempt at defense motivates him to come back for a final season.


Marcin Gortat, C

12 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -16 +/-

The venom on #WizardsTwitter was biting when Gortat sat out the majority of the second half. Fans, who were over watching Nene look old, could not understand why their $60-million center was riding the pine with the season on the line. We found out later that Gortat was battling a virus (food poisoning) and spent the previous night getting fluids through an IV. Credit to Gortat that he tried to battle through his illness, but what an unfortunate way for his rocky but productive season to conclude.


John Wall, PG

44 MIN | 7-21 FG | 6-7 FT | 6 REB | 13 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 6 TO | 20 PTS | -5 +/-

Two Sundays ago, the Wizards were steamrolling contenders with an unblemished playoff record. After five games, they possessed the top-ranked offense and the second-ranked defense in the postseason. Wall was being praised as the top performer of the playoffs. With other Eastern Conference elite squads showing vulnerabilities, Washington had a legit path to the NBA finals. Those exciting plans became obsolete when Wall injured his wrist, forcing him to miss Games 2, 3 and 4. The Wizards competed in his absence, but they were no longer a team in control. Wall’s return to the series was legendary stuff, yet it will probably lose some shine due to the outcomes.

Wall’s performances with a broken left hand/wrist should not go overlooked; he was electric in Game 6. He attacked the rim, got teammates involved, and fired up the crowd with his Vine Machine highlights. The All-Star played almost the entire game. He did lose DeMarre Carroll on a back-cut that will probably stick with him all summer.

Injuries dogged Wall throughout the first three seasons of his career and his spotty health became a talking point for his detractors. Surely, his 2015 post season should shut up all those haters.


Bradley Beal, SG

43 MIN | 11-24 FG | 4-4 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 29 PTS | -3 +/-

During the regular season, the criticism on “Big Panda” was the need for him to shoot more 3s, stop settling for long 2s, and be more of a play-maker off the dribble. In Game 6, he checked all those boxes. Beal hit big shots, made plays, and was noticeably more aggressive. The most impressive part was what he did on the defensive end by shutting down Atlanta’s sharpshooter Kyle Korver. For the second straight postseason, Beal was outstanding in the playoffs and now is the need for him to carry another stellar May-time performance into next season. Oh, maybe they could also put him in bubble wrap until training camp to avoid any injuries.


Drew Gooden, PF

19 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 7 PTS | +5 +/-

Gooden bounced back from a horrendous Game 5 in Atlanta with solid contributions in Game 6. He knocked down a 3, which opened a few driving lanes for his teammates. For the most part, his suspect defense was actually not a liability. “Drizzle” flourishing in his new stretch-4 role could make him a candidate to return next season.


Otto Porter Jr., SF

34 MIN | 3-9 FG | 1-2 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | +8 +/-

The “OT-TO POR-TER” chants were out in full force when the fan-favorite continued to out-scrap Atlanta for loose balls. Porter finished with a game-high six offensive rebounds. His dunk on a fast break produced the loudest sounds of the evening until Pierce’s corner 3. Otto gave all his skinny frame would allow on the court. The only negative was Porter missing two big open 3s that he had been making in previous games.

Helluva post season by Otto. Our Young Simba is growing up!


Kevin Seraphin, C

28 MIN | 6-11 FG | 1-2 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | +8 +/-

In what could have been Seraphin’s last game in a Wizards uniform, Kevin was exceptional. He provided his team with an offensive spark in the first half and even wasn’t a disaster of defense. The Wizards came up short, but #KSLife went out with a bang.


Ramon Sessions, PG

9 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | +2 +/-

With Wall and Beal combining for 87 minutes, there was little burn for Ramon. Sessions still needs to run the team better but, overall, he was positive addition to the team by the front office and should continue to serve as a nice backup off the bench next season.


Garrett Temple, SG

0 MIN | 0-0 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +1 +/-

Temple was inserted for defense and he made two clutch free throws that allowed Washington an opportunity for an improbable comeback.


Randy Wittman, Quoted:

“I am really proud of our guys. The heart they showed this year, taking this step again and ending up basically where we were last year. We had three 1 possession games in this series. We won one and they won two of them. We did not come out particularly sharp today in the first half. We got down 15 and we just kept playing. I am just so proud of their heart to stay in and fight and give themselves another opportunity to win. We just have to keep knocking on that door. We are going to knock it down. I like where we are at. Disappointed obviously like you are at any time at the end of the year but love their heart and fight that they gave me.”


Pictures.

Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, NBA Playoffs, Adam McGinnis, Game 6, DC, Verizon Center, John Wall, Rasual Butler

Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, NBA Playoffs, Adam McGinnis, Game 6, DC, Verizon Center, Bradley Beal, Program, May 15 2015

Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, NBA Playoffs, Adam McGinnis, Game 6, DC, Verizon Center, Bradley Beal

Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, NBA Playoffs, Adam McGinnis, Game 6, DC, Verizon Center, Truth About It, fans

Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, NBA Playoffs, Adam McGinnis, Game 6, DC, Verizon Center, Truth About It, Otto Porter, Robin Ficker

Robin Ficker’s Sign behind the Hawks Bench

Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, NBA Playoffs, Adam McGinnis, Game 6, DC, Verizon Center, Truth About It, Robin Fickers

Robin Ficker’s outfit

Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, NBA Playoffs, Adam McGinnis, Game 6, DC, Verizon Center, Truth About It, Chris Broussard, Michael Eric Dyson

ESPN’s Chris Broussard chatting with Michael Eric Dyson before game.

Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, NBA Playoffs, Adam McGinnis, Game 6, DC, Verizon Center, Truth About It, Will Bynum, Rasual Butler

Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, NBA Playoffs, Adam McGinnis, Game 6, DC, Verizon Center, Truth About It, John Wall, Garrett Temple, Paul Pierce, Rasual Butler

Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, NBA Playoffs, Adam McGinnis, Game 6, DC, Verizon Center, Truth About It, Drew Gooden, Bradley Beal

Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, NBA Playoffs, Adam McGinnis, Game 6, DC, Verizon Center, Truth About It, John Wall, Nene, Will Bynum

Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, NBA Playoffs, Adam McGinnis, Game 6, DC, Verizon Center, Truth About It, Ramon Sessions, Paul Pierce

Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, NBA Playoffs, Adam McGinnis, Game 6, DC, Verizon Center, Truth About It, John Wall

Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, NBA Playoffs, Adam McGinnis, Game 6, DC, Verizon Center, Truth About It, Paul Pierce, Pat Sullivan

Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, NBA Playoffs, Adam McGinnis, Game 6, DC, Verizon Center, Truth About It, Kyle Korver

Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, NBA Playoffs, Adam McGinnis, Game 6, DC, Verizon Center, Truth About It, Ted Leonsis

Mr. Ted Leonsis was nervous too.

Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, NBA Playoffs, Adam McGinnis, Game 6, DC, Verizon Center, Truth About It, Game Over, Jumbotron

The End: Season Over

Videos.

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Randy Wittman Found Religion a Little Too Late for the Wizards http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/randy-wittman-found-religion-a-little-too-late-for-the-wizards.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/randy-wittman-found-religion-a-little-too-late-for-the-wizards.html#comments Tue, 19 May 2015 18:22:27 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47396 whoopi4 copy

A funny thing happened after the Atlanta series ended. Randy Wittman started talking like he had been baptized in the Church of Daryl Morey. Wittman sang the praises of small ball and floor spacing and even hinted at a reduced role for Nene next season.

“Obviously playing small is successful for us. Playing faster. Those are the things I want to try to improve this team, moving forward. We’ve got to be able to have the pieces to do that in the regular season.

“We know what we have to do, the pieces that I’d like to add moving forward. Brad and John are going to be here a long time. So we got to utilize what their strengths and capabilities are, and find the right people to put around them, which allows us to play the way that I think we were kind of playing in the [playoffs].

“As we saw down the stretch, [Nene] played some 5, he and Marc(h) in that situation. Him playing that position doesn’t make it a lesser role. We’ve got to look at what works best for who we have here. … With what John does and the pace of play, we’ve got to play fast.”

It’s like a bizarro remake of “Freaky Friday” where Wittman walks into the Game 6 post-game press conference with a blogger and they both touch the doorknob at the same time and (voila!) Conor Dirks is now the coach of the Wizards and Randy Wittman is stuck in a basement playing Dungeons and Dragons, sipping pensively on a Diet Mountain Dew.

There’s just one catch: Did anyone else watch the Atlanta series where Wittman trotted out a mummified Nene every single game like a sacrificial lamb to get slaughtered by Paul Millsap and Al Horford?

Did anyone else watch Mike Budenholzer gleefully call isolation play after isolation play every single time Paul Pierce covered Millsap, like a gambler at a broken slot machine pulling the lever as quickly as he can before the pit boss notices?

Randy’s religious awakening sounds great, but when exactly did Wittman have his “come-to-Jesus” moment?

Certainly not the day before Game 6 when he said on a media conference call that he had no intention of adding Kris Humphries to his frontcourt rotation because “It’s been successful. You don’t want to change too much.”

Certainly not during halftime of Game 6 after Atlanta predictably waltzed to an eight-point lead to start the game before the young legs of Otto Porter and Kevin Seraphin kept Washington within striking distance. With the Eastern Conference Finals still in reach, Washington started the second half with the same exact ineffective lineup, and Atlanta methodically exploited mismatches en route to a 14-point lead.

It’s even harder to reconcile born-again Randy with the guy who earlier this season rejected the very notion that the goal of an offense is to create efficient shot attempts:

“You take open shots. You take open shots. Where they are is dictated by what the defense does. If you predicate what kind of shot you’re going to take not based on what you’re doing reading the defense, you’re not going to get good shots. I just worry about goods shots.” —March 12, 2014

“If a team wants to give us mid-range open shots, we’re going to take them. I’m going to tell a guy that has a wide-open 15-foot jumper to take three steps back and shoot a three? I’m not going to do that.” —October 27, 2014

Whatever the reason for Wittman’s refusal to adjust in the Atlanta series, he sounds like a motivated parishioner in the off-season, and Wizards players are understandably eager to install a modern offense.

“That’s what the league is turning into—a lot of stretch forwards. They’ve got one high line guy that goes and gets it at the rim and other guys are stretch forwards. That’s what we see when we play like that, we’re a pretty good team, spacing the court, attacking. That’s how a lot of teams are playing so that’s something you’ve got to look into for the near future.” —John Wall

“As much as I love Nene, and I think Nene understands this, too, I would love to play with a stretch four, with a guy who shoots the ball from the three-point line because that automatically gives me more room under the basket to operate. It gives me more opportunity to play pick-and-rolls to the paint where the paint is open.” —Marcin Gortat

Wittman’s offensive revival may have come too late to salvage the 2014-15 season but—with all indications being that he will be back next season—it’s better late than never, I guess.

 

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Key Legislature: Wizards 91 vs Hawks 94 — A Piercing Shot To The Heart http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/key-legislature-wizards-91-vs-hawks-94-a-piercing-shot-to-the-heart.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/key-legislature-wizards-91-vs-hawks-94-a-piercing-shot-to-the-heart.html#comments Sat, 16 May 2015 15:47:11 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47376 Truth About It.net’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s)
for Washington Wizards second round playoff contest No. 6 versus the Hawks in Chinatown.
via Rashad Mobley (@rashad20) from the Verizon Center.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Rashad Mobley.

The play that produced Paul Pierce’s shot, like most of Washington’s offensive possessions the entire night, was disjointed, slow as molasses to take shape. It seemed more improvisational than scripted by its end. Ramon Sessions inbounded the ball, John Wall sprinted past DeMarre Carroll to receive the ball from Sessions, and immediately got in a three-point stance. As he dribbled toward the center of the court, he was corralled by Carroll, Al Horford and Kyle Korver, which meant someone was open. In his postgame presser, John Wall told the media exactly how the play was supposed to go:

“The play was for me to catch the ball, be patient…and when Brad was going one way I was looking for him, and then Paul was going to come back the other way. I saw that time was ticking, so we ended up just trying to make a shot. Give credit to those guys they did a great job of just switching out and talking, and we couldn’t get the look that we really wanted.”

Wall got the ball to Pierce in the corner, and immediately Horford and Korver had him trapped. Pierce absorbed the contact from Korver, slid slightly to the left as Otto Porter cleared out, and then let the shot go:

 

Pierce nailed the shot, the crowd went ten times beyond wild, journalists tried (and failed) to maintain their neutrality and the Verizon Center thought it had once again witnessed the greatness of The Truth. Then it slowly began to unravel.

First the officials went to the videotape, then that same videotape ran on an endless, repetitive loop on the big screen in the Verizon Center. The most damning of all the frames was frozen, and showed the ball still attached to Pierce’s hand when the dreaded game-ending red light had shone. The refs waved the shot off, the crowd let out a collective groan, and the Hawks began tentatively celebrating as if there was still a chance the referees could change their collective minds once more. The Wizards players begrudgingly congratulated the Hawks players, and then began that slow walk of shame from the court, for some, and the arena, for others.

Some players like Bradley Beal and Drew Gooden took time to reluctantly slap fives with the fans. Other players like Rasual Butler and Nene were in no mood to exchange pleasantries. And there was Paul Pierce, who slapped fives with fans before giving them a poignantly demonstrative military-style salute. At the time it looked like an innocuous gesture that signified the end of the season. But given Pierce’s emotional postgame presser—one where he mentioned how hard it was going to be to give up basketball after 32 years of playing: that salute could have very well been a farewell to playing basketball overall, not just in Washington.

The kneejerk, visceral reaction is to blame the loss on the expiration of a tenth of a second Pierce did not have, but in reality the game was lost much earlier. The Wizards, except for Beal, did not play with that proverbial, impalpable sense of urgency so often described by coaches and players alike over the first three quarters. Nene and an ill Gortat could not secure offensive rebounds, and the Wizards scored just 39 points on 34 percent shooting in the first half. Early in the second half, the Wizards found themselves down 15 points because Wall and Beal could not stay with DeMarre Carroll, and Pierce could not guard Paul Millsap in the paint or the perimeter.

Kevin Seraphin—who Garrett Temple later called the MVP of the game—did his best to offset the disappearances of Nene and Gortat, and Otto Porter did yeoman’s work on the offensive boards (with six total), but it was not enough. Even in the fourth quarter, when the Wizards chipped away and eventually took the lead over the Hawks, only Bradley Beal (13 points in the quarter) had any semblance of offensive rhythm, while no other Wizard scored more than three points. Their offense was predictable, desperate at times, and highly ineffective.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the floor, the Hawks’ scoring was evenly distributed among the four starters (except for Korver, who Beal smothered in this game, and the entire series). The Wizards didn’t know whether Carroll would score via a cut to the basket, or if Teague would break down the defense and find Horford or Millsap. In the final minutes of the game, when the Wizards were trying desperately to gain the upper hand, Teague twice broke the defense down and found Carroll wide open for easy layups. It was a microcosm of the entire night: The Wizards would work hard for a basket that was the result of a broken play, and the Hawks would just methodically and effectively pass the ball until the easiest of easy baskets was available. Atlanta’s last score came via a Carroll layup, and Washington’s last shot was a tightly contested fadeaway shot in the corner that ultimately didn’t count.

This was the second consecutive year that the season was ended at home in the sixth game of a series. Last season, it was the Pacers—specifically David West—who came into the Verizon Center and sent the Wizards home for the season. Paul Pierce watched that game, decided his presence would improve the team and help the Wizards protect their home court, and joined Washington a couple of months later. Pierce buoyed the Wizards in the Raptors series, and won Game 3 of this series against the Hawks and seemed poised to carry the Wizards to a seventh and deciding game in the Peach State. But Pierce had just four points on 1-of-7 shooting and was a non-factor until a last shot that was ultimately a non-factor as well. Two years and two losses in Game 6’s and no trips to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The basketball gods, who hovered lovingly over Pierce the entire playoffs, decided to pay someone else a visit.

‘I was about to cry. I said, `Not again.’ … But the basketball gods were on our side.’ —DeMarre Carroll

 

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John Wall Responds to Fashion Critic http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/john-wall-responds-to-fashion-critic.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/john-wall-responds-to-fashion-critic.html#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 22:02:27 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47355 washington wizards, john wall, fashion, pink out fit

During the morning shoot-around before Game 6 in Washington, I asked John Wall if he got any feedback from the pink outfit he wore at the podium after Game 5 in Atlanta.

“Naw, I didn’t get no feedback,” said Wall.

There was, however, some negative chatter about his Game 4 bench attire.

Washington Wizards, John Wall, Atlanta Hawks, NBA Playoffs, Outfit, Game 4, Fashion

I followed up by asking Wall about that fashion criticism. He said:

“I loved my outfit in Game 4. I don’t care what decision nobody makes, I am going to be me. I am going to wear what John Wall is comfortable with. The only somebody who said something because he won a fashion contest, once.”

Wall was alluding to Cleveland’s J.R. Smith, who made fun of his Game 4 outfit in a tweet. J.R. also won this year’s NBA fashion contest at All-Star weekend.

Wall began this season by zinging then-Cavs guard Dion Waiters, and now he goes in on his replacement, Smith. A Washington and Cleveland Eastern Conference Finals would sure be great for the online pixel makers.

Quote.

Kyle Korver on Wall playing in Game 5 with a broken hand/wrist:

“I think we all knew that he would be out there again. That is just that kind of guy he is and the competitor that he is. I don’t know what bones he doesn’t need in his wrist. He didn’t look like he had any problems to me. He was dribbling with his left hand the whole night.”

Vines.

Pictures.

washington wizards, atlanta hawks, rasual butler, garrett temple, ramon sessions

[Talking about shoot-around]

bigdogfan

[Big Dog Jersey!]

dchouse

[Wizards pride in DC]

 

Sports Store in Georgetown

[Sports Store in Georgetown]

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Stop the Hate: 3 Reasons Why Nene is Not (Solely) to Blame for Game 5 Loss http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/stop-the-hate-3-reasons-why-nene-is-not-solely-to-blame-for-game-5-loss.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/stop-the-hate-3-reasons-why-nene-is-not-solely-to-blame-for-game-5-loss.html#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 21:50:37 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47362

Worst Vine Ever should destroy after viewing https://t.co/8IqruCcRTc

— Adam McGinnis (@adammcginnis) May 14, 2015

Yes, Nene should have grabbed the rebound. But his was not the only failure on that fateful final play. Here are three reason why Nene does not deserve all of your vitriol.

#1) Paul Pierce Didn’t Box Out.

Sure, Nene lost his man. But after Schroder drove, Nene turned and located the nearest uncovered player, which was Paul Millsap. If Nene had stayed with Horford, Millsap would have had a free path to the rim. Why was Millsap left uncovered with a free path to the rim? Because Paul Pierce did not bother to box him out. After a gentle reach toward Schroder, Pierce was out of the play.

In fairness, Pierce did not display any more or less defensive effort on the final play than he does on any other play. Which begs the question: Why was Pierce even on the court for an end-of-game defensive possession?

Some people have suggested that Gortat should have replaced Nene, but I have no problem with having the big Brazilian on Horford because Nene does the little stuff on final plays the refs will never call, like displacing DeMarre Carroll’s hip to free up Pierce’s game-tying 3-point attempt in Game 4.

Watch again what Nene does to Millsap. He bulldozes him to the ground. That’s exactly what Nene would have done to Horford if Pierce hadn’t let Millsap free. In fact, Nene almost picked up the 2-10 split after he ricocheted off Millsap but couldn’t quite recover to Horford.

#2) Nene’s Rebound Would Not Necessarily Have Won the Game.

If Nene had grabbed the rebound, Atlanta would have fouled him with a little over three seconds left in the game. Nene is not a good free throw shooter and Atlanta had one timeout remaining. Even if Nene sinks both (which was not likely) Atlanta has plenty of time to set up a final game-tying attempt.

#3) Why Doesn’t Washington Have a Pre-Planned Baseline Out of Bounds Play?

Al Horford scored with 1.9 seconds remaining. As anyone who has ever watched the NCAA Tournament knows, that is plenty of time to get a decent shot attempt. The play is simple: send a big man to the half-court circle and have two guards run up the sidelines. Throw a lob to the big man at half-court and have him swing it to one side for a jumper.

Why isn’t this a standard play at the end of every game when you have no timeouts? This play should be practiced regularly throughout the season and should be second nature whenever an opponent takes the lead on a late basket. The coaching staff should have been hammering the point home during Atlanta’s final timeout with 8.3 seconds remaining: If Atlanta scores, run the Bryce Drew play.

Is it likely to be successful? No. But at least it gives you a chance. There is no reason to concede the game by hoisting a running 70 footer when there is plenty of time left to do more.

This is not the first time Washington has effectively forfeited a Game 5 playoff game with a panicked in-bounds pass. In overtime of Game 5 of the 2006 Playoffs versus Cleveland, Lebron scored on a baseline drive with 0.9 seconds remaining to give the Cavs a 121-120 lead.

Wizards players stood frozen in disbelief for a second before Gilbert Arenas told Antawn Jamison to quickly in-bound him the ball at Washington’s own foul line. Arenas’ running three-quarter court shot fell short. However, Washington still had a timeout remaining and had plenty of time to draw up a play for Gilbert. If there is anyone in the history of the Bullets/Wizards franchise that I would trust with 0.9 seconds remaining in a one-point playoff game, it’s Gilbert.

 

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Opening Statements: Rd. 2, Gm. 6 — End of the Beginning or Beginning of the End? http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/opening-statements-rd-2-gm-6-end-of-the-beginning-or-beginning-of-the-end.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/opening-statements-rd-2-gm-6-end-of-the-beginning-or-beginning-of-the-end.html#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 16:25:01 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47349  

Down 3-2 in their series versus the Atlanta Hawks, the Wizards are looking down the barrel of the end of their season and all the uncomfortable questions that are raised when you are forced to pack up your bags for the last time, put on your fancy suit, and exit the bowels of the Phone Booth onto the chaos of F Street.

Washington would desperately like to put off these questions for at least another evening. Frustratingly, there has to be a belief that the Wizards should not even be in this situation. Even without John Wall, the Wizards were competitive. With him, they’ve often appeared to be the better team, and with exception of one poor Nene rebound, it would be the Hawks staring into the heat and glare of a long hot summer. If the Wizards have done all they could to win the series then under the most dire of circumstances (the absence of Wall, the fossilization of Nene) then what possible changes could Coach Randy Wittman introduce to in Game 6 that would shift his team toward a win and an elusive Game 7?

One is loathe to think that the majority of conversation both in the locker room as well as on the practice floor will center around #EffortTalk, but there has to be an uncertainty as to the particulars of how the Wizards will play 48 minutes of basketball without lapsing into the poor habits that derailed them in Game 5. But then, what can one expect of a team that started playing an entirely new brand of basketball only a month ago? Five months spent in a torrid love affair with the 17-footer doesn’t disappear overnight. There are still the late night texts, the furtive phone calls, or in the case of Wednesday night, the reappearance outside your apartment at 2 am screaming, “Why don’t you love me anymore?!” For what possibly may be the last night of the 2014-15 season, the Wizards need to hit call block on their old beau of an offensive system and commit fully to the belle that brought them to the second round.

For now, let’s look at the questions the Wizards hope to avoid answering tonight and then the keys to avoiding an uncertain future.

The dreaded questions:

  1. Is Randy Wittman viable? This would have been a question up until the Raptors series but Wittman has solidified his job for another year (Ted Leonsis hates buyouts) by tacking hard in another direction and remaking the Wizards offensively over the course of the last month. The real question is whether Wittman is a positive or negative in recruiting free agents, especially the great white whale that is Kevin Durant. Shifting the offense to be more open may appeal to possible FA’s, but there isn’t enough track record to demonstrate that the Wizards will stick to the model.
  2. Does Paul Pierce stay? The Player Option that Paul Piece holds in his hands looks more appealing based on his offseason heroics, but also is a bit of a poison pill (albeit just $5.5 million). Pierce disappeared for large parts of the spring and Otto Porter’s sudden emergence leads one to question whether Pierce has already played his part in the development of the franchise and needs to step aside to allow for its continued evolution.
  3. Whither Nene? Every offseason Nene will sit encased in ice and posit whether this will indeed be his last season due to the strain of playing in the post. In the past, a sudden Nene retirement would send terrors throughout Wizards fandom. Now one has to wonder if that would be a boon towards roster flexibility. No, he won’t give up being paid $13 million next season, the final year of his contract, but with this knowledge, will he still not touch a basketball for the entire summer as usual? Not even free throw practice?
  4. Can Ernie draft? It’s the eternal question. It’s also central to how the Wizards decide to construct their roster this summer.

How to avoid these questions:

  1. Nene has to summon it one last time (and Gilbert Arenas agrees). Nene was absolutely obliterated by Al Horford in Game 5, and no one can be sure if it’s the minutes logged during the series or whether his cumulative odometer just has too many miles. Regardless, Randy Wittman cannot afford to be stubborn if Nene appears to lag. Though he has kept his bench short for the entirety of the series, Wittman should be preparing Kris Humphries or Kevin Seraphin for emergency action this evening.
  2. The Wizards cannot devolve. Easy to say and harder to do, the Wizards cannot have another prolonged period of play like those crucial four minutes in the fourth quarter of Game 5 where they reverted back to the dog days of February. At the first sign of a John Wall forced 3-pointer at the top of they key or a Beal 17-footer, Wittman needs to call a timeout to calm his wayward charges.

The elixir to win Game 6 appears simple: stick to what brought you success, but the problem with ingrained habits is just that—they are ingrained. To avoid the pressing questions of the future the Wizards need to live completely in the present and avoid leaning on the teachings of the past.

 

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DC Council Round 2, Game 5: Wizards at Hawks — Enough Culpability to Go Around http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/dc-council-round-2-game-5-wizards-at-hawks-enough-culpability-to-go-around.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/dc-council-round-2-game-5-wizards-at-hawks-enough-culpability-to-go-around.html#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 16:02:57 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47330 Truth About It.net’s D.C. Council:
Grading Wizards players from Second Round Playoff Game No. 5:
Washington Wizards versus the Atlanta Hawks in Georgia
Contributor: Troy Haliburton from the District.

DC-Council-Logo-2With 5:31 left in the fourth quarter of the most pivotal game of the series, the Wizards were in command with a 73-64 lead. And for the second game in a row they wasted possessions, ultimately snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The Wizards failed to score over the next four minutes and found themselves scrambling to make enough plays at the end instead of cruising to a win. Of course the overall narrative of this game will be in the details of that final, fatal play (much more on that later). But, the Wiz seemed to have new life with John Wall’s surprising return to action in Game 5, and that could mean that confidence is still high going into Game 6.

For as much as this team banded together as a cohesive unit in Wall’s three-game absence, Wednesday night’s game had a general sense of complacency from the role players that not even the floor general could overcome. The Wizards bench went an abysmal 3-for-20 from the field and were doubled up in point output by the Hawks bench, 18-9. The Wizards went into Game 5 shooting a playoff high 43 percent from 3-point range, but were only able to connect on 4-of-17 shots behind the arc at a rate of 23.5 percent.

Yeah, the Wizards won the turnover battle this game, 19-25, but that differential was still negated by the fact that the Hawks were able to capitalize on less turnovers by outscoring Washington 25-20 on points created off of turnovers. Combine all of that with the fact that the Hawks shot 9-for-11 from the free throw line, while the Wizards shot 11-for-16 from the charity stripe, and you’ll finally have the answer to David Aldridge’s question posed to Al Horford: “How did you win this game?”

This game was not won or lost on that final possession, even though there are many things that the Wizards would love to have back about that fateful eight seconds. If Monday’s game was an encouraging sign or something like a moral victory, then Wednesday’s ending was a certified gut punch that will leave even the most optimistic Wizards fan gasping for air.

Only thing that will console us is some (council) counseling:


 

Washington Wizards

81

Final

Box Score

Atlanta Hawks

82

Nene Hilario, PF

29 MIN | 4-11 FG | 1-1 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | -2 +/-

Very fitting that Nene’s evaluation is first in line. Lots of debate on whether Nene was in the right place on the last play, and plenty of people have been willing to come to the big Brazilian’s defense. The fact is that Nene’s box-out assignment was NOT Paul Millsap, and to give him the benefit of the doubt for over-compensating for Paul Pierce being slightly out of position is short-sighted. There is no guarantee that Millsap grabs that rebound in front of Pierce, as they were both off-balance and ultimately ended up on the ground. What is debatable is Nene’s weak-side defensive assignment. There appeared to be back-side screening action that caused Kyle Korver to flare to the corner. There was no subsequent switch as Beal trailed him, leaving Nene in no-man’s land. Only Wizards players and coaches can say whether there was supposed to be a switch there or not (Randy Wittman hates switching, for what it’s worth), but what is known is that Nene’s man when the play started was Al Horford, and by the time Horford was flying over him for the rebound, Nene had completely lost sight of where he was in relation to the play.

Nene’s general aloofness and utter lack of strength or lift on that final possession proved to be detrimental. While Nene has looked more confident and spry in the previous two games, the Wizards are still 34 points better with Porter replacing him around the other regular starters in the playoffs. Simply put, this team needs more from Nene, and while he has shown flashes of the player he once was, his mere presence has been more of a detriment than a positive.


Paul Pierce, SF

35 MIN | 3-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | +5 +/-

Paul Pierce could never really find his rhythm in this game until he hit two very critical 3-pointers in the last two minutes to help stave off a ferocious Hawks comeback that should never have been allowed to flourish. Pierce has been one of the Wizards’ most consistent scorers in the post-season, so his poor mark will not be for his lack of scoring punch, but for a failure to impact the game in any other way over 35 minutes of action. The Truth’s lone turnover of the game came at the most critical point with the score tied and 19 seconds left on the clock. Instead of taking a semi-open look behind the arc, Pierce decided to attempt to penetrate into the teeth of the defense in hopes of getting to his sweet spot around the top of the key. Pierce ended up picking up his dribble and attempted to pivot in an already congested lane rather than moving the ball. This mistake allowed Kyle Korver to reach over the top, and slap the ball (i.e., the hand of Pierce), and generate an easy two-on-one fast break opportunity for the Hawks.

Of course, Pierce would redeem himself on the very next possession by hitting an open corner 3, giving the Wizards a one-point lead with eight seconds left. If only the game could have ended there with Pierce yelling “Series” at the Hawkss bench. To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Hawks ran their primary action at Pierce by initiating him in the high screen-and-roll at the top of the key. Schroeder had an initial step on Wall, which Pierce saw and immediately bailed toward the rim to help contend, putting him slightly out of position with his man Paul Millsap slipping between he and the basket. Pierce was losing his balance before Horford came in and pummeled the pile like an NFL running back, but so was Millsap. To say that Millsap would have gotten that rebound if it weren’t for Nene’s block out is a bit of an overstatement, but Pierce probably should have been more assertive with his action and not given Nene “truthers” a grand scapegoat opportunity. As clutch as Pierce has been for the Wizards during this playoff run and in the last two minutes of that game, his erratic play was a direct contributor to one of the most painful losses in franchise history.


Marcin Gortat, C

35 MIN | 7-10 FG | 0-1 FT | 8 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 14 PTS | -8 +/-

No one was happier to see John Wall back than Gortat. Offensively, Gortat was active and willing to get in the mix around the basket while Wall force fed him the rock like a new-born baby. Defensively, Gortat was about as putrid as one can be in defending the pick-and-roll action, hence why he was not on the floor on the last possession. Al Horford was able to have his way in the midrange for the second game in the row, and I’ll take a rebound scrum opportunity any day over watching Gortat flailing on a closeout as Horford potentially knocks down a game-winning jumper. Don’t blame Wittman for Gortat not being in the game, blame Gortat.


John Wall, PG

37 MIN | 7-16 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 7 AST | 4 STL | 2 BLK | 6 TO | 15 PTS | -8 +/-

This was about as gritty a performance as you will see from an NBA player. Just 11 days after fracturing his hand/wrist in five places, John Wall was on the floor leading his team to near victory, doing everything within his power, including blocking the potential game-winning layup. Wall had about as much control with his left-handed dribble as you would expect, given the circumstances, and he shot the ball at normal John Wall efficiency levels of 46 percent. Unfortunately, Wall had a team high six turnovers, very few of which can be attributed to his bad hand, but rather an unwillingness to take his time and pick his spots. With a nine point lead in the last six minutes, Wall was not able to mobilize his team, and late in the fourth, he wasn’t able to settle them down as the game got tight.


Bradley Beal, SG

42 MIN | 9-21 FG | 4-5 FT | 7 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 3 BLK | 5 TO | 23 PTS | -1 +/-

Bradley Beal continues to elevate his game to another level that Wizards fans are not used to seeing from the usually timid shooter. Beal’s 21 attempts again led the team, and his defense on Kyle Korver can best be described as stifling. The only thing that separates Beal from transforming into more of a budding superstar is the ability to demand the ball in pressure situations instead of constantly fading to the background and bearing witness to your team blowing a winnable game.


Drew Gooden, PF

12 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -4 +/-

The clock struck midnight, and Drew Gooden turned back into a pumpkin last. He wasn’t in position on defense, got schooled by Mike Muscala, and didn’t hit a shot on Wednesday. That was Gooden’s first playoff game where he did not make a field goal, and probably the worst time to lay a dud, given Washington’s low scoring output. Gooden has been most effective providing the Wizards with a stretch-4 who is supposed to allow his team proper floor space to operate, except Gooden decided he didn’t like 3s anymore and reverted back to long-two attempts, a Wittmanball staple.


Otto Porter Jr., SF

33 MIN | 3-13 FG | 3-5 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 9 PTS | +6 +/-

Otto was aggressive, which is great to see from the youngster, but you have to know when your shot is not falling that you can attempt to create for others. Zero assists is unacceptable for a wing who played 33 minutes and has the ball in his hands a fair amount. Porter’s defense was again exceptional, and his rebounding outstanding. The poor shooting is all part of the growing pains for young players in search of  confidence (and he was mugged countless times under the basket without receiving the benefit of a foul call). As long as Otto continues with the #MaximumEffort, we take the bad with the good.


Ramon Sessions, PG

17 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +7 +/-

Dish the rock, make a layup, or get to the free throw line. Do something. Sessions needed to give the Wizards something, hell, anything while Wall was out of the game. He failed to do so, and because of it the Wizards have to be leery of turning the keys over to him again in an elimination situation on Friday. But who else do they have? Will Bynum? Garrett Temple? Sessions better step up.


Randy Wittman

For the most part Wittman coached a decent game, but all it takes is one or two mistakes to ruin a season. The Wizards had four timeouts and a nine point lead with less than six minutes to go, yet ended the game with a half court heave because there was no timeout left to advance the ball. Wittman called timeouts to help stop the bleeding of the Hawks final run, only to have those plays out of timeouts end up in turnovers and blocked shots respectively. The lack of pure imagination in the fourth quarter offense ended up costing the Wizards a game they had little business losing. Wittman allowed the Wizards to play lackadaisical in the final six minutes leading to an overall “prevent defense” type of attitude.

In the first round series against Toronto, Wittman received high-praise for his adjustments that saw Paul Pierce move into the 4 spot and propel this team to a first round sweep. All credit to Wittman for that, but at the very least that plan was in the works for a while, and it appears that Pierce may have had just as much impact on that long-con scheme as Witt. Where Wittman has failed is his inability to make the strategic in-game adjustment, whether it be schematically or in the player rotation. The Wizards have a major size advantage, yet the last two games have not seen any advantage in points in the paint and rebounding. Witt has made basically no adjustments to remedy this, and it should be duly noted. His coaching counterpart Mike Budenholzer has made adjustment after adjustment, leaving no player’s spot in the rotation safe. Atlanta’s Mike Scott was a rotation main-stay during the regular season and now he can’t sniff the court because Budenholzer was willing to roll the dice on Muscala, and it has paid dividends.

On Wednesday nigh, Coach Bud benched All-Star Jeff Teague in the final minutes because Schroeder had been outplaying him. Budenholzer switched DeMarre Carroll on to John Wall in the fourth quarter, making John have to work that much harder just to get the ball into the front-court. When it comes to in-game adjustments, Budenholzer is running circles around Wittman, and that is proving to be just as costly as anything taking laces inside the white lines. Wittman has failed to display the off-the-cuff creativity that championship level coaches need. Hell, we can’t even get him to play the Wizards most consistent regular season bench player at all. Rasual Butler who is arguably the Wizards third best shooter has not had any role whatsoever in the post-season. I’m not saying that these guys are the saviors of the franchise, but the fact that Wittman has failed to initiate any sort of change is alarming. (Kris Humphries is also available, I am told.) Hopefully some light bulb will go off in the coach’s head before the Game 6 tip, or we might be realizing that the real long-con was Wittman making us all believe for a good two weeks that he was the one playing chess, not checkers.


Vines.

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Key Legislature: Wizards 81 at Hawks 82 — All Out of Miracles http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/key-legislature-wizards-81-at-hawks-82-all-out-of-miracles.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/key-legislature-wizards-81-at-hawks-82-all-out-of-miracles.html#comments Thu, 14 May 2015 18:50:10 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47332 Truth About It.net’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s)
for Washington Wizards second round playoff contest No. 5 versus the Hawks in Philips Arena.
via Sean Fagan (@McCarrick) from Brooklyntown, U.S.A.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Sean Fagan.

If this were a normal clichéd sports movie, then the Washington Wizards’ loss to the Atlanta Hawks broke all the conventions of the drama. The Wizards had garnered all the sympathy of mainstream public entering Game 4 of their second-round series, having seemingly lost their All-Star point guard, John Wall, to a horrifying injury that saw him break his hand/wrist in no less than five places. It was at this point that many supporters threw up their own hands in despair, cursed the basketball gods, and hoped that Wall would sufficiently recover by next season. A dominating win in Game 3 (and a few Paul Pierce throwback performances) was enough to sate fans with the fact that the Wizards were not going to roll over, but a successful series against Atlanta without Wall was an almost impossible reality to picture.

When the Twitter-verse began rumbling on Wednesday about John Wall possibly returning for Game 5 of the series, it was met with both concern and worry. After the bizarre series of events surrounding Wall’s injury (the purported “clash” with medical staff, Randy Wittman losing his mind on a reporter who had been covering the team for more than a decade), a miraculous return was met with less than enthusiasm and more with trepidation. The Wizards, after all, have a history of superstar players returning from injury sooner than expected (Gilbert Arenas), only to crash under the weight of both fans’ and their own expectations. How was a man with a broken hand going to run the point in an NBA playoff game? Would one of Wall’s patented crashes to the floor result in his hand detaching and flying from his body?

For once Wizards fans need not have feared because Wall was sublime. Content to distribute early, Wall showed the vision from the point that Wizards had desperately been lacking and then kicked it into another gear toward the end of the first quarter before dominating large portions of the second. There were two drives to the baskets for layups, one converted with the broken left hand. There were the pinpoint passes that transformed Marcin Gortat from bystander to pick-and-roll monster. When the dust settled at the half, the Wizards held a six-point lead (47-41) and all the momentum.

The triumphant return of Wall looked to be nearly complete with 5:31 left in the fourth quarter and the Wizards up by nine points. Having survived another run by the Hawks, the Wizards had extended their lead on the backs of Otto Porter and Bradley Beal. It would have been nice at this point to be able to turn off the television with the last image of John Wall with his warmups on, joking with Garrett Temple and accepting the congratulations of his teammates. This is how sports movies are supposed to end, with the hero overcoming adversity on their way to triumph.

Alas, it was not to be.

While Wall’s return was the defining narrative of the game (and may still be the defining narrative of the series), it was the coaching of the Ol’ Possum King Randy Wittman that ultimately proved the Wizards undoing in the fourth quarter. Instead of the Wizards new-fangled offense springing too many leaks (the Wizards did go more than four minutes without scoring in the fourth quarter and 3-point attempts were down to their regular-season average), it was on the defensive end that the Wizards started to sag and falter. More specifically, the Hawks offense started to exploit weakest chain in the link, Nene. Peculiar from the norm, as Nene has traditionally been the tail of Washington’s team defense if Wall has been the head of the snake.

That Nene has had trouble dealing with the frontline of Paul Millsap and Al Horford this series is not an understatement. Nene has often looked a step slow, especially against the smaller and quicker but still quite strong Millsap, and has spent most of the series closing out a step late on Horford (whose midrange has given the Wizards fits) or involved in various imbroglios with Millsap in the post. Nene’s patented sneer (and referee baiting) is still at an All-Star level, but his 29 minutes of time on the floor were a study in how past performance isn’t likely a predictor of the present.

Which brings us to the Possum King and how he failed to adjust. Wittman has earned laudatory pixels for going small in the playoffs and finally utilizing Pierce and Porter offensively to stretch defenses and de-clog the lanes that Wall and Beal need to facilitate the offense. The downside of this plan has been that Pierce has struggled to contain his man (Millsap or DeMarre Carroll) on the defensive end, leaving either Nene or Gortat with the yeoman’s work of compensating for Pierce. Gortat has at times looked up to the role (though he failed to contain the Horford mini-explosion in Game 5), while Nene has has done little to stop the Hawks from feasting on the boards. During the game, Wittman smartly pivoted away from an ice-cold Drew Gooden, but his solution to Gooden’s ineffectiveness was to double down on a player (Nene) who still has yet to prove that he is operating at anything near optimal level.  You can either credit Wittman with sticking to his small lineup and his shortened bench, but one has to question whether the insertion of Kris Humphries (or god help us, a spry Kevin Seraphin) would have given the Wizards a bit more vitality in the earlier portions of the game, or helped contain Horford more effectively as he stretched the defense thin.

Having lost their lead, the Wizards once again went to their magic bullet and Paul Pierce once again delivered another miracle 3-point bomb to put the Wizards up by one with eight seconds remaining. That Pierce continues to do this has gone past the point of amazing and has now fully entered into the realm of ludicrous. Despite Pierce’s heroics, the Wizards promptly broke down on the defensive end, with Horford bum-rushing Nene to snatch a rebound out of his hands and score a layup (leaving the Brazilian in a heap on the floor) and sealing the game with 1.9 seconds left (the Wizards were also out of timeouts).

The Hawks won the game 82-81 but the more telling narrative is that the Wizards used two of their magic beans and were unable to secure the win. The return of John Wall at 97 percent effectiveness, and another Paul Pierce dagger shot should have been enough to put the Hawks away, but instead it is the Wizards leaving Atlanta wondering if they just spent their last lucky penny. Wittman has a day to try and patch the leaks on defense and force a Game 7 against a Hawks team that has yet to play to its ability. It will be interesting to see if the Possum King has any more tricks, or whether he will just play dead.

nene (1)

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REACTION: Saved Day Undone http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/reaction-saved-day-undone.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/reaction-saved-day-undone.html#comments Thu, 14 May 2015 05:11:02 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47315 (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

(Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

John Wall blocked Dennis Schröder’s game-winning layup attempt off the glass. Wall, just a few steps earlier, had jabbed the Hawks point guard in the hip with his broken left hand, which slowed the drive just enough for Wall to set his feet for takeoff. The ball bounced off the glass and into Nene’s mitts with 4.3 seconds to play.

About 48 minutes earlier, moments before tipoff, Wall winked, stretched his quads, and adjusted his right arm sleeve with his broken left hand. The Wizards won the tip. Wall deferred early, first to Beal, who ran the first offensive possession. But make no mistake: it wasn’t too long before Wall made his presence felt with a transition basket.

Wall would run again, this time with half the speed but twice the creativity, using an in-and-out crossover to convince Jeff Teague to lunge at a shadow, before finishing over a closing Kyle Korver with his broken left hand.

Wall would go on to set up a Bradley Beal fastbreak with a perfectly measured, high-bouncing pass. But Beal, perhaps looking toward the basket a split second too soon, couldn’t control the pass. The Hawks stole the possession and two points from the Wizards’ box score.

Wall, soon after, would dance into the paint, to the left (to the left), before scooting out for what looked like a routine elbow jumper. Having captured the attention of every Hawks player, however, Wall fired a two-handed pass to Otto Porter, cutting baseline behind DeMarre Carroll, for the easy bucket.

Wall, again, made another left-handed foray into the paint. This time at the expense of Schröder’s hips and ankles, pulling the strings to free Gortat for an easy 2 at the rim.

John Wall talked shit with a smirk to Schröder while Beal was at the free throw line. He then went right back to work and made a floater in the paint. Then another floater, easy and open, having created space with a left-handed hesitation move. His eighth point of the game on six shots.

Dribbling with his broken left hand without consequence, even with confidence, Wall found Gortat in the paint for a basket. Then he hit a step-back jump shot to give the Wizards the first lead of the contest. “He changes the game,” said TNT’s Brent Barry. “He changes the series,” corrected Ian Eagle.

Early in the third quarter, John Wall, as if he had eyes on the back of his head, threw a no-look, two-handed overhead pass to Bradley Beal for a transition bucket.

Then he swished another jump shot from the right elbow. He stole a pass. And then the Wizards, inexplicably, went away from the guy who was carrying his team with one broken hand and surrendered 10 straight points to the Hawks without scoring. They surrendered the lead, too, suddenly down three: 58-61.

But then Wall took a charge, a few possessions before bringing the Wizards within one point with a light-touch floater, 62-63.

“John Wall, that’s nasty,” said Barry as No. 2 ran a textbook pick-and-roll with Gortat, holding Horford in the paint before dishing to this right with two hands.

Then he did this:

A 12-0 Hawks run gave Atlanta a 76-73 lead with fewer than three minutes to play. Wall was charged with a turnover with about 2:30 to play—it looked, from my spot on the couch, that the Hawks had tipped Wall’s pass to Beal (1).

Schröder scored on the ensuing possession. Hawks 78, Wizards 73.

Wall, leaving his feet to contest, deflected a threatening pass from Millsap with his broken left hand, a defensive play reviewed at length which gave the Hawks the ball under the Wizards basket with nine seconds to play. Pierce deflected the inbounds to Horford and Wall responded again by recovering the loose ball and pushing the ball up the floor. Wall dished to Beal, who found Nene near the basket. Nene missed everything but the backboard. (….)

Less than a minute to play: Wall turned down a very open midrange pull-up after screen action and instead chose to hit Gortat in the paint, who turned and made a left-handed hook shot. Tie game: 78-78.

Al Horford missed a 21-foot jumper after a Hawks timeout—the rock rattled out. Wall dove to the floor to secure the loose ball and successfully called a timeout. Pierce sabotaged the next possession, leaving Wall and his broken left hand to defend a two-on-one against Horford and Carroll. He wasn’t able to and the Hawks took a two-point lead.

Wall had the first chance to answer with 14.9 to play, but he was fouled by Carroll soon after receiving the inbounds from Porter. With 12.4 seconds to play, Beal came off screen action near the top of the key, found himself near the baseline and Paul Pierce wide-open in the opposite corner. Beal’s pass was on the money and so was Pierce’s shot. The Wizards had a one-point lead.

That’s when the Wizards, up one point, found their fate in the hands of John Wall, in isolation, against Dennis Schröder. That’s when Wall rose to the occasion and won them the game, only to have Nene’s lead feet and loose grip concede possession and, as we’d find out moments later, the victory to Atlanta’s starting center.


John Wall wasn’t the best player on the court—he sometimes struggled to defend dribble penetration (what player wouldn’t with a hand tied behind his back?)—but he was the most important. It’s amazing he even played at all.

The Wizards needed this one. They had it. And they fumbled it away.

It could have been Wizards in 6. Now they’ll need 7.

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Four Games Down, How Washington and Atlanta Lineup Going Forward http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/four-games-down-how-washington-and-atlanta-lineup-going-forward.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/four-games-down-how-washington-and-atlanta-lineup-going-forward.html#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 20:45:47 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47301
[via John Wall and @WashWizards]

[Wizards team picture, pre-Ramon Sessions, via John Wall and @WashWizards]

If you peruse this site-blog on occasion, you might notice that there is particular interest in data (‘analytics’ or ‘stats’) driven by lineups, or five-man units. We can parse individual numbers all we want, and even try to convey individual metrics in isolation from, but in connection to, team events (ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus, for example). But some of the best context, in my opinion, comes from how available team personnel (i.e., the combinations or rotations that coaches use) play together.

With the Wizards and Hawks tied at two games apiece heading into a crucial Game 5 this evening in Atlanta, it’s a good time to pause and assess how various lineups from each team have fared. (All data via NBA.com/stats.)

Washington’s starters (without John Wall)—Ramon Sessions, Bradley Beal, Paul Pierce, Nene, and Marcin Gortat—have gotten out-scored by seven points during their 36 total minutes (over Games 2 thru 4) versus Atlanta.

The starters, with Wall, were minus-9 over 12 minutes in Game 1. That conveys a trend not just involving the ‘small ball’ lineups Washington has incorporated more versus the Raptors in Round 1 and the so far Hawks in Round 2 (in comparison to the regular season), but also to the overall conundrum of strengths in personnel. Having two traditional big men like Nene and Gortat might put Washington at an advantage in the long run, but in shorter bursts, they can clog the court and constrict the offense.

Out of the 28 two-man combinations that saw 300 or more minutes together during the 2013-14 regular season, Nene and Gortat were tops on the Wizards in plus/minus per 48 minutes (+10.5). Over 226 minutes in last year’s playoffs versus the Bulls and Pacers, however, the duo was minus-5.1 points per 48 minutes.

Over the 2014-15 regular season, Nene and Gortat were plus-6.1 per 48 minutes as a duo, which ranked ninth-best in plus/minus amongst the top 30 Wizards two-man combinations in minutes played. In 112 minutes together thus far in the 2015 playoffs, Nene and Gortat are minus-3.9 points per 48. This speaks volumes as to how, as defense in the playoffs becomes more focused and gains more leverage from referees, dynamic offense becomes even more important. And thus having two big men on the court to defend at the same time (often against opposing small-ball lineups) is often a detriment overall.

Washington’s second-most-used five-man unit versus Atlanta (23 minutes) features Nene on the bench, Pierce and Otto Porter at the 4/3, and Sessions and Beal in the backcourt—they are an even-0 versus the Hawks during their court time.

Otherwise, these five next-most-used lineups have played 10-to-11 minutes together over the first four games of the series each (all have either Nene or Gortat at the 5, not both on the court at the same time):

  • +14 – Sessions, Beal, Porter, Gooden, Gortat
  • +2 – Bynum, Beal, Porter, Gooden, Nene
  • +1 – Sessions, Beal, Pierce, Porter, Nene
  • -3 – Wall, Beal, Pierce, Porter, Gortat
  • -9 – Bynum, Beal, Pierce, Porter, Nene

From Atlanta’s perspective, their starters (four of whom were All-Stars this season and all of whom were in January named the NBA’s Eastern Conference Player(s) of the Month)—Jeff Teague, DeMarre Carroll, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, and Al Horford—averaged 16 minutes per game together in the regular season to the tune of plus-3 per game in plus/minus. In four games versus the Wizards, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer has played that unit about the same amount of time (15.9 minutes per game) to the tune of plus-6.5 per game—a total of plus-26 over 63 minutes in the series.

Because of their strong performance, there have been calls for Budenholzer to play his starters even more. While in Washington the opposite has happened. The Wizards’ unit of Wall, Beal, Pierce, Nene, and Gortat averaged 14.9 minutes per game over 40 regular season contests and plus-1.6 per game. Before Wall got hurt, they were averaging 13.2 minutes over five playoff games to the tune of minus-1.6 per game. And this does not account for how Kris Humphries, who played 33 percent of all of Washington’s minutes at the 4 during the regular season, has only played five minutes in the playoffs during one blowout win over the Raptors. Randy Wittman instead has opted for more floor-stretching from Drew Gooden or a small-ball lineup.

Budenholzer, named the NBA’s Coach of the Year, has been less relenting in his willingness to deviate from Atlanta’s regular season game plan—and it’s hard to argue with such success (60 wins is no joke). Wittman, whose team’s futility brought his job into question a handful of times during the regular season, has thrown caution into the wind and has made necessary adjustments for the playoffs—even if it means still getting criticized for not having done so before.

At some point you want to get more basic, throw up your hands, search for that combination of characters that looks like a hairless, gender-neutral being shrugging their shoulders, and say, ‘Maybe it IS just all about making shots.’ Indeed, this is the game of basketball.

We’ll leave you with this surface deduction from the aforementioned empty theater of small sample sizes: The Wizards’ best chance, without Wall, is that highly-productive lineup of Sessions, Beal, Porter, Gooden, and Gortat. Pierce, bless his heart—always—should be in at the end of games and other critical junctures, but the hardwood water coming from his faucet is cloudy. Pierce is past his prime as a defender and is not the cutting, rebounding, “utility infielder” (who can also hit 3s) that Otto Porter is. Gooden, for his part, can stretch the floor without sacrificing rebounding (too much; he’s still not the best defender).

Atlanta, as suspected, is best served doubling down on its starters, some of whom have been nursing injuries (for your consideration), but note that there’s not necessarily a significant drop-off, if any, from Jeff Teague (+1.1 per 48 over the series) to Dennis Schroder (+6.8). But, the drop-off from Al Horford (+9.2) to Pero Antic (-11.1), who started for an ailing Paul Millsap in Game 3, has gotten the Hawks in trouble, and their only other answer is Mike Muscala (+10.5 per 48 for the series) with the caveat that Muscala’s returns (he’s a second-year player) certainly diminish with increased time.

Where were we again?

Oh yeah, you see, it’s all about making shots, or defending shots … or just doing both at the same time with the right combination of players, i.e., this now-three-game series could still go either way. With or without John Wall, both teams are relatively evenly matched in their ability, and willingness, to move the ball in systems that do not benefit from a superstar scorer.

The difference in the regular season was 3-pointers—Atlanta averaged 9.4 more attempts and made 3.9 more per game than the Wizards. Now, in the playoffs, Washington has averaged 10.8 3-point makes per game, tied with the Warriors for the most and a hair above the Hawks (10.6). To say that small-ball from ‘Playoff Randy Wittman’ has been a true game-changer is quite the understatement (Bradley Beal’s new found willingness to pull-up from deep is also understated). The right combination of players has provided the Wizards with better balance to use the 3-point line as a weapon while defending that same space against teams like the Hawks, which used the real estate to become regular season deadly.

Now guys just gotta, well, make shots.

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Opening Statements: Rd. 2, Gm. 5 — What If This Is As Good As It Gets? http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/wizards-hawks-opening-statements-rd-2-gm-5-nba-playoffs-2015.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/wizards-hawks-opening-statements-rd-2-gm-5-nba-playoffs-2015.html#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 19:11:20 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47297

Moments after Paul Pierce hit his improbable bank-shot to win Game 3, John Schuhmann of NBA.com asked him why the Wizards offense had been so effective without John Wall. That game featured four starters in double-figures (Ramon Sessions was two points short) and Otto Porter had 17 off the bench. Pierce responded to Schuhmann by giving what he believed was the blueprint to victory for the Wall-less Wizards:

“It’s going to be a combination of a lot of guys, the way we move the ball, move our bodies. We know John can create a lot of offense for us, he’s one of the league leaders, if not the league leader in assists. What it will take to replace that is a lot of ball movement, a lot of cutting, moving the ball from side to side, keeping them off balance. It makes us a little more unpredictable, especially when you got like five, six guys in double-figures, similar to Atlanta.”

On paper, it looks like the Wizards followed that blueprint in Game 4. Five Wizards were in double-figures, and if Paul Pierce had been able to hit the wide-open 3-pointer to send the game into OT at home (despite the presence of DeMarre Carroll nipping at his feet and truncating his follow-thru), the Wizards might have found themselves up 3-1 with an opportunity to close out the series tonight. The reality is that in the second half of Game 4, when Washington spent the majority of the time trying to chip away at the Hawks’ lead, Bradley Beal scored 19 of the Wizards’ 46 points. Nene and Gortat combined for just eight points, Sessions had just two, and Otto Porter had just one. Ironically enough, they were able to successfully trim the lead because the usually-balanced Hawks became one-dimensional and leaned heavily on Jeff Teague (14 second-half points). The difference? Atlanta shot 4-for-1o from the 3-point line in the second half, while the Wizards shot just 2-for-11.

Despite their imbalanced second half of play, the Hawks did get the victory. As Al Horford said after the Game 4, “We weren’t going to be kept down for long, that just wasn’t happening.” Teague, taking a cue from his backup Dennis Schröder, remembered that Wall was not in the lineup and began to aggressively attack the middle of Washington’s defense. Paul Millsap shook off the flu from Game 3 and was once again the inside/outside threat that neither Nene nor Gortat could handle. Millsap and Horford combined for 37 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists, and four steals, while Gortat and Nene mustered just 15 points, 15 rebounds, and four assists. Kyle Korver and Carroll were each held under double-figures, which will most likely not happen once they return to their home court.

The Wizards have reasons to be concerned coming into Game 5. John Wall is now dribbling a basketball, but conducting drills with selected teammates on the practice court is a far cry from trying to dribble around Teague, while avoiding picks from Horford, Millsap, Pero Antic, and the rest of the Hawks who will surely target his left hand. If Wall is able to play, there is no doubt that he will give the Wizards an emotional lift, but without tangible on-the-court results (increased pace, wide-open shots for Otto Porter, productive possessions with Gortat rolling to the basket), they will simply break even with a Hawks team that will be in the throes of their emotional home-court boost. And while the Wizards are just 1-2 without Wall (11-42 overall), Randy Wittman (and apparently Paul Pierce) know what the Wall-less keys to victory should be.

The question is, how will the Wizards adjust to assist Wall when he’s slowed or hindered by his hand? The Cleveland Cavaliers were struggled mightily to defeat the Chicago Bulls with a limping Kyrie Irving in Game 4, but LeBron James bailed them out with a game-ending shot. Bradley Beal and Pierce have the ability to bail out the Wizards in that same fashion, but—with all due respect to the up-and-coming Beal and the Hall-of-Famer, master-of-all-things-clutch—neither is LeBron F. James.

The elephant in the room, and the one question Wall surely does not want to hear now that the swelling has subsided in his hand, is: Are the Wizards better off just shutting him down and taking their chances without him? This would surely leave the Wizards wondering what would have happened had Wall been allowed to play, but that seems inevitable given that he will not be 100 percent until a possible surgery (or time in a cast/splint) and rehab. This is also risky given that a return trip to the playoffs next season, let alone being on the brink of a Eastern Conference Finals trip, is never a given. Wall will surely want to test his warrior-ness and play in a limited capacity now, while worrying about the damage later.

So many questions, so few satisfying answers, and yet the series is tied 2-2. Charles Barkley may have jumped off the Wizards bandwagon, but there’s no reason to believe—given how close all four games have played—that the Wizards can’t win a tough Game 5 on the road.

Here to help TAI discuss tonight’s pivotal Game 5 is Jared Wade (@Jared_Wade). Jared writes a weekly NBA column, The Weekside, for FanSided and is the editor in chief of 8 Points, 9 Seconds.

#1) The Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo reported earlier today that John Wall is finally able to dribble with his left hand, which seems like an awfully low bar considering he’s being asked to lead his team over the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

If you’re Randy Wittman, are you buoyed enough by your team’s play in Wall’s absence to just sit him the rest of the series, or do you like your chances with one-and-a-half handed Wall and allow him to play in Game 5 despite the risks involved?

@Jared_Wade: I really don’t like Ramon Sessions as a basketball player. He actually hasn’t been too bad in this series, but my opinion is unchanged. So I would let Wall go if he wants to play. This isn’t a knee or a shoulder. It’s broken bones in his off-hand, and while I’m no doctor, I would imagine that inability to perform and pain are the biggest concerns here—not long-term damage. I’m sure he could make the problem worse by playing, but the bones will still heal with enough offseason rest, and I doubt he can have lasting impediments to his game since it’s his non-shooting hand. Obviously Wittman needs to ask the doctors these questions, but if they allow him to play and he wants to suit up, I would start him.

#2) Throwing out the regular season records and relying simply on the eye test, who has been the better team after four games? If John Wall plays, who will win this series? Who will win if he does not play?

@Jared_WadeThe Wizards have played better. They won Game 1, dominated Game 3, and were a Paul Pierce missed 3-pointer away from taking Game 4 to overtime. If a 100 percent John Wall suited up the rest of the way, I would put my money on the Wizards. But with a highly limited or sideline-suited-and-booted John Wall, I’m taking the Hawks.

#3) In Game 4, Bradley Beal arguably played his best basketball since last year’s playoff series against the Bulls and the Pacers.

In his fantastic article about the Washington Wizards, Grantland’s Zach Lowe mentioned that Beal—despite his strong playoff performances—is not a max level player because he’s injury prone, a tentative driver, shaky on the pick-and-roll, and inconsistent on defense. Is that a fair assessment, or can you make the case that Beal is indeed a max contract player?

@Jared_Wade: It’s so hard to make contract valuations right now since the cap is about to jump by $20-to-$30 million in the next few years. In the current landscape, I would agree with Lowe. But if you can get him starting at $15 million in the first year now for the next five years? That could look fine once so many more players across the league are making $15 million per after the cap goes up. But of the guys on the bubble for max deals soon, I’d pay all of Kawhi, Jimmy Butler and Draymond Green before Beal.

#4) How do you see Game 5 playing out?

@Jared_WadeThe Hawks have yet to have a blistering shooting night this series, and really all postseason. As much as I am enjoying this Wizards ride, the Wall injury and the seeming inevitability of one of those 15-made-triples nights from Atlanta means that I think they’ll win Game 5 in the Highlight Factory.

Wall’s (Highly Questionable) Pre-Game Prep

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Key Legislature: Wizards 101 vs Hawks 106 — Beal and Pierce Almost Match Atlanta’s Best Shot http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/key-legislature-wizards-101-vs-hawks-106-game-4-2015-nba-playoffs.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/key-legislature-wizards-101-vs-hawks-106-game-4-2015-nba-playoffs.html#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 20:18:45 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47262 Truth About It.net’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s)
for Washington Wizards second round playoff contest No. 4 versus the Atlanta Hawks in D.C.
via Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks) from the Verizon Center.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Conor Dirks.

“Sometimes you make, sometimes you miss,” said Paul Pierce after the game.

Pierce claims his name. “Truth.” But he’s never claimed to be more than human. A king (in the North), maybe. But not perfect. According to Pierce, he wouldn’t have been drafted in today’s NBA, where stars appear increasingly immortal. Through just under four quarters in Game 4, though, and throughout Washington’s 6-1 playoff run before this game, Pierce seemed like far more than the sum of any mortal man’s genetic code.

With the Wizards down 104-101 and the game clock cruelly projecting a meager nine seconds, Nene set a hard screen on DeMarre Carroll on an inbounds play. When his hip suddenly jarred out of orbit, Carroll went down, leaving Pierce (5-for-7 on 3s) incredibly open, maybe too open, beyond the 3-point line. Three points down, 3-pointer up. As the ball left Pierce’s hands, Carroll dove desperately at Pierce’s feet as if in supplication to a shot that was almost assuredly headed for legend and permanent residence in the otherwise fickle frontal lobe of D.C. sports consciousness. Everyone agreed that this was the right shot, for the right guy, at the right time.

“It was going in,” laughed Will Bynum, after the game.

“I thought it was going in,” echoed Bradley Beal, hunched over in an increasingly familiar spot at the podium.

Kyle Korver admitted he thought the teams were headed for overtime, too. “I wasn’t thinking good thoughts,” Korver said. His teammate Kent Bazemore agreed.

This is how voracious an earworm Paul Pierce’s trash talk has become. It’s more than fear in the face of overwhelming confidence. When Korver says he wasn’t thinking good thoughts, what he is describing is DREAD. Dread in the most gravelly, indigestible sense. The dread that Toronto felt after Pierce lured the entire city’s heart and soul into a meat factory with a few well-placed words before the series, and then shoved them through the grinder in four straight games. If Pierce could defy time, double-teams, and pressure on countless occasions, there was no way he was missing a wide-open shot to send Game 4 into overtime, at home.

But the shot missed.

Pierce’s glee in ruining his opponents’ day is ingratiating to D.C. fans that love a player who has already proven more than he ever needed to in a Wizards uniform, creating memeworthy one-liners faster than Twitter can keep up with them and helping Washington to its best season in decades at the age of 37. Those watching wanted that shot to fall as much for Pierce as they did for themselves. Zero sum acts of heroism that raze the psyche of entire communities while uplifting others is Paul Pierce, and doesn’t he deserve to keep doing it until he washes up on the sunny shores of retirement?

But the shot missed. We’ve been proceeding here as if this miss was the key moment of the game because it was. Still, countless trivialities, course of business turnovers, and two untimely performances from key contributors all conspired to bring the Wizards to the bottom of the cliff that Pierce’s shot tried so hard to climb.

Chief among them was Washington’s inability to get Marcin Gortat rolling to the basket. Both Randy Wittman and Pierce commented that the team bore some responsibility in aiming the Polish Hammer at the cup, be it on pick-and-roll plays or otherwise. Gortat had one of his worst games of the season (3 points on 1-for-7 shooting), but more concerning than his inability to convert on a variety of putbacks, short shots, and layups was how often Al Horford was wide-open in the middle of the court.

Maybe, just maybe, those shots were what Washington’s defense was giving, but even if that was the case, the allowance confused Gortat enough that he fell victim to standing in no-man’s land, missing a few chances to contest layups because the Hawks were able to find players cutting behind him. Gortat’s rim protection numbers were still the best among Washington bigs (opponents shot just 42.9% when Gortat was able to contest the shot), but overall, this was a fatal performance, one that if retroactively amended would have reshaped the game in the Wizards’ favor.

Otto Porter, too, picked a bad day to curtail his assault on the playoffs. The only shots he took were four 3-pointers, and he only made one of them. For a player whose best looks still come as a result of off-ball cuts to the basket, it’s hard to tell whether Otto’s stall-out is more a product of his own making, or if Washington’s newly-conscripted point guards simply couldn’t take advantage of Porter’s strengths in the same way that the injured John Wall always can (with Porter and any other player on Earth). Porter still contributed in other ways, switching maniacally between offensive threats and pulling down grown man rebounds despite his resemblance to a weeping willow, but the Wizards need far more from Otto now that they’re without Wall.

Through three games, there was a sense that the Wizards had yet to get Atlanta’s best shot. This looked like Atlanta’s best shot. The good looks finally fell, some would say. And the Wizards hung around nonetheless. Despite uncharacteristically awful defense in the first half that led to 32 points in the paint (compared to 16 for Washington), a kind of scoring the Wizards usually don’t allow (Washington held opponents to just 38.3 points in the paint per game during the regular season, best in the NBA); despite the absence of Wall, the leader of the team and its best player, best playmaker, and most integral piece; and despite the above-mentioned performances from the likes of Gortat and Porter, as well as a completely lopsided, overrated performance from turnover and blown coverage machine Will Bynum. With all of that working against the Wizards, how did they stay in it?

Bradley Beal. The 21-year-old has been justifiably criticized this year for a number of things, foremost among them his unwillingness or inability to use his obvious strength and speed to get to the basket and his unwillingness or inability to find more opportunities to use his most deadly skill: the 3-point shot. Beal answered all of those criticisms and more in Game 4, scoring a career playoff-high 34 points and punishing Atlanta defenders no matter what they did.

Pushing the ball after an Atlanta miss, Beal suddenly drew back when he reached the 3-point line, dribbling the ball behind his back while keeping his eyes up. His previous speed in pushing the ball was enough to scare Korver and Carroll off from guarding him close, and both defenders sagged off as he surveyed the floor. Beal didn’t hesitate and stepped into an unassisted 3-pointer, something he absolutely has to develop as he becomes more and more of a primary option to complement his immaculate catch-and-shoot deep ball.

On other occasions, Atlanta defenders came out to meet Beal, and he responded by driving hard at the basket. It resulted in nine free throws and five buckets (on 10 attempts) at the rim. Add six rebounds and seven assists (all of which came in the first half), and you’ve got yourself what might eventually be considered a vintage Beal game, but can’t yet due to his precocity. But what made Beal’s performance so impressive, and cemented it among the very best, if not the best, he’s ever played in a Wizards uniform, was his unrelenting defense on Korver, who only managed four shots all game. The Wizards have figured out that they can slow down the Hawks by taking Korver out of the picture, but the defensive game plan does not work unless a Wizards player stays glued to Korver throughout his floor time. Within the spritely currents of the Hawks ball movement and bone-tiring screen-heavy offense, staying with Korver is like trying to put a pin through a butterfly at the epicenter of an earthquake. And Beal’s done it for four straight games.

After the game, Beal tried to stay “humble and hungry,” but a few too many times you could see a smile flash across his otherwise noncommittal visage. He’s enjoying this, and he should. I’m sure that his teammates, and his coach, have told him that he needs to do more in Wall’s absence. “I have to grow up,” Beal said, describing the burdens that come with oversight of duties that used to belong to Wall, and deal with the constant double teams that come with the territory.  Beal admitted that he’s not there yet, not quite able to thread the needle like Wall, or make the right decisions mid-air.

The Wizards aren’t dead yet, despite everything that’s happened. This new style of play provides new avenues for survival, and benefits from individual brilliance instead of relying on it. But without Wall, it’s clear that the Wizards need a more perfect union than the one they got in Game 4. They can’t afford a 65-point half on defense, or an off-game from Gortat. They need everyone they have left to do more than they’ve been asked to do all season. The Wizards have at least two more games to show that what they still have is enough.

Paul-Pierce-Picedit

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DC Council Round 2, Game 4: Wizards vs Hawks — This Was An Opportunity http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/wizards-hawks-round-2-game-5-nba-playoffs-2015-dc-council.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/wizards-hawks-round-2-game-5-nba-playoffs-2015-dc-council.html#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 18:43:53 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47275 Truth About It.net’s D.C. Council:
Grading Wizards players from Second Round Playoff Game No. 4:
Washington Wizards versus the Atlanta Hawks in D.C,
Contributor: Chris Thompson from the Verizon Center.

DC-Council-Logo-2

Gah. This was an opportunity. You could make an intensely frustrating five-minute highlight reel of all the achingly avoidable ways the Wizards gaffed away chances to bring the game within a single possession, or even to a tie. Some fluky combination of Atlanta knocking down some tough (and often low-value) shots and the Wizards picking exactly the wrong times to be goobers kept Washington always a finger’s length away from drawing even, where I have to think the enormous pressure this would have put upon the Hawks would have accrued generally in favor of the home team. This was an opportunity.

Go easy on the home team, though. They performed valiantly against a frothing-desperate Hawks team at very near full strength. If Paul Millsap’s “internal win” nonsense was, umm, nonsense, this Wizards loss was at least no more nonsensically kind of almost something very closely approaching the range of looking vaguely like what some might quietly and within the nonjudgemental confines of their own darkened bedroom describe at an absolute whisper to themselves and no one else as a moral victory. I didn’t say it! No one said it. I’m just saying, on the broad spectrum of losses, ranging from horrible through forgivable all the way up to encouraging, this one falls somewhere in the range of doomed heroism, which is certainly nearer to encouraging than horrible.

Let’s talk about it.


 

Atlanta Hawks

106

Final

Box Score

Washington Wizards

101

Nene Hilario, PF

31 MIN | 6-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 12 PTS | 0

Wizards fans who worried that the slow, tired-seeming Nene from the series’ first two games would return in Game 4 learned quickly—via an early pick-and-pop jumper and a pair of thunderous first-half dunks—that this was not to be the case. In fact, the Big Brazilian spent much of his night putting various Hawks players on various posters, highlighting his impressive variety of offensive skills.

For that matter, there’s probably a strong case to be made that the Wizards should have put the ball in Nene’s hands more often, both in the post and out near the free-throw line. While Paul Millsap struggled with foul trouble for most of the night, the Wizards never really made Al Horford work very hard at the defensive end, and might have benefited from trying to force him onto Nene, who, on this night, was not to be denied.

Hard as it may be to believe of this Wizards team, though, this game wasn’t really lost on the offensive end. The Wizards were a mess defensively through the entire first half, and Nene and Gortat were both guilty of getting caught in no-man’s land defending the pick-and-roll, and then being slow to rotate and help, which goes a long way toward explaining Atlanta’s 34 first-half points in the paint. The team buckled down in the second half and made it a game, but it’s hard not to think the early defensive malaise might have been the difference in this one.


Paul Pierce, SF

33 MIN | 8-13 FG | 1-2 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 0 TO | 22 PTS | 0

Pierce did nearly everything right. He did enough defensively on DeMarre Carroll to keep him as quiet as he’s been in the playoffs, and helped admirably on the inside, registering a game-high three blocks on the night. And his five 3-pointers nearly all came in huge spots, when the Hawks seemed ready to make a run, or the Wizards desperately needed to make one of their own. He even fouled in the right spots, once mucking up a Hawks breakaway opportunity with a perfectly-timed loose-ball foul. Playoff Pierce is a real thing, and the Wizards were granted another heavy dose of him on Monday night.

Then, with seconds on the clock and the Wizards seemingly in need of a miracle, the stars aligned, and quick execution, swallowed whistles, and a defensive error handled 85 percent of the miracle before Pierce even touched the ball. The easiest part of the play was lining up and knocking down a wide, wide open wing 3-pointer to tie the game and keep the Wizards in position to pull off the unthinkable. You know what happened: The ball found the back of the iron, and that was pretty much that.

The guy knocked down five crucial 3-pointers on the night and was just huge in keeping the Wizards in the game down to the end. You can’t kill him for missing one—if that miss had come on any of his earlier attempts, a make in the final 10 seconds would have left the Wizards still a bucket short with no time and no timeouts. But that was a really open shot, and if that’s why Paul Pierce is here, he’s got to knock it down.

Tellingly, both Kyle Korver and Kent Bazemore admitted after the game they thought the shot was going down. Here’s what Bazemore had to say, when asked point blank if he thought the shot would find bottom:

“Yeah, I did. I turned my mind to overtime. We got lucky, and that’s what the playoffs are all about.”

No one could have asked for a better look than that one.


Marcin Gortat, C

31 MIN | 1-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | -3 

Buh. Gortat had a really, really rough night. The Hawks were able to string him out on pick-and-rolls, and Washington’s ball-handlers, almost to a man, elected to cross in front of him rather than drive at the defense, essentially cutting off his path to the basket and mucking up the floor-spacing. Then there were times when Gortat found himself in space under the basket, but Wizards ball-handlers lacking John Wall’s otherworldy spacial awareness failed to find him. And he missed a few bunnies on put-backs … and he committed some cheap fouls … and he let any number of rebound opportunities squirt away. He had a bad game.

The Wizards spent a good chunk of the fourth quarter playing a small lineup featuring Nene at the 5, with Gortat on the bench, which was a good call, reflecting the strength of Nene’s play and Gortat’s difficulties. There came a point, though, when Nene was visibly wearing down, and the Wizards desperately needed a fresh lineup on the floor to pressure the Hawks. Gortat was inserted into the game, and the crowd angrily and loudly expressed their disapproval.

This is lame, and terrible, and reflects terribly upon Wizards fans. Being basketball savvy means knowing that the shift from Nene to Gortat, under those circumstances, is a potential downgrade. Being a smart and savvy member of a home crowd means, as a rule, shutting the hell up about it. Gortat has been, at worst, the third-best Wizards player throughout this season, and in all circumstances deserves (and will benefit from) belief and support from the home fans. You’d expect a murmur of disquiet to ripple through the arena when that switch is made, but a dumb, absentee, bandwagon, and in all other ways bad home crowd boos and jeers one of their team’s most important players during one of the most important stretches of basketball the team has played in decades, for nothing worse than having an off night.

Do better, Wizards fans. You embarrassed yourselves Monday night.


Ramon Sessions, PG

34 MIN | 5-14 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | -1

Sessions, bless his heart, threw himself over and over again at Atlanta’s interior defense, because he is a courageous player burdened with the impossible job of patching up the John Wall-sized hole in Washington’s offense. He missed, a lot. He finished 4-of-11 from inside the 3-point arc, and 4-of-9 from inside the paint, and 4-of-8 from in front of the rim.

Still, there’s something heroic and commendable about his routine, and on another night the refs—who, in one man’s opinion, might as well have been wearing Hawks jerseys for much of the game—would have sent him to the stripe for some of the contact he absorbed on those dashing forays into the restricted area. It’s hard to fault Sessions much for his approach—he took just two midrange jumpers in the game—but the results weren’t there, and some of that comes down to the calculated risk he takes in playing to contact. Sometimes the refs play along, and sometimes they swallow their whistle. Monday night they swallowed their whistles and hung homie out to dry.

Where Sessions hurt the Wizards, though, was in his inability to make much out of the numerous pick-and-rolls the offense put him into, and his tunnel vision once he did decide to go into attack mode. In order for guys like Gortat, Drew Gooden, and Otto Porter to do their best work, they need their point guard and all other Wizards ball-handlers to play with their head up, and it’s not a coincidence those three guys had lackluster nights.

Defensively, Sessions seemed more keyed-in, alert, and consistent at ducking under screens than certain other Wizards guards, which is absolutely the right way to defend every single high pick-and-roll involving Atlanta’s two main ball-handlers. As the game wore on, he did a great job of dipping under, obstructing the screener’s path away from the action, and recovering under control, and that approach overall helped tremendously in slowing Atlanta’s offense and holding them to 41 second-half points.


Bradley Beal, SG

44 MIN | 11-25 FG | 8-9 FT | 6 REB | 7 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 34 PTS | 0

First of all, 11-of-25 shooting is better than you might think it is, given the circumstances. Second of all, and most importantly, ignore those numbers entirely. Bradley Beal, Monday night, was spectacular. His play was beyond heroic. It was a breathtaking, fearless, fully committed effort over 44 minutes of intense, physical, desperate basketball. Maximum #efforting, guys.

Looking at the Wizards active roster Monday night (and likely for the rest of the series), it’s easy to see it solely in terms of what’s missing, and everyone knows what’s missing. But I urge you to clear your mind and look at it with fresh eyes for exactly what it is, and consider it within the context of a playoff team in a series against an equal foe. The Wizards have abundant role players, and, under most circumstances, Bradley Beal is another one of them—his job is to space the floor, contort the defense, and make good on opportunities created by the team’s alpha dog. But this is not that team.

On this team—the one that took the floor Monday night—Beal is the third overall pick, a tested and proven playoff performer, and a foundational cornerstone of an NBA franchise. The Hawks aren’t game-planning for the John Wall-led Washington Wizards, they’re game-planning for the Bradley Beal-led Washington Wizards, and, against that game plan, Beal ripped off his normal workaday suit, flexed his terrifying radioactive muscles, and tore their defense to absolute shreds. Down the stretch of Game 4, the Hawks had no answers whatsoever. They foolishly let poor, serviceable Dennis Schröder stick on Beal, and Beal ate his lunch, his dinner, and every meal the guy hoped to eat over the next several years of his life.

Beal, too, for the most part was disciplined about frustrating Atlanta’s pick-and-roll game, especially in the second half, when Washington’s defense tightened up and gave their offense a chance to chip away at Atlanta’s lead. His three steals were a game high, and his three turnovers were—considering the circumstances and his workload—close to a miracle.

I understand why the Wizards went to Paul Pierce on the final possession, it was the right call, he had a great look, and it would be the epitome of 20/20 hindsight to second-guess the decision now. That said, Beal was phenomenal against the Hawks, and I would be very interested in observing an alternate reality in which the final meaningful Wizards possession of the game put the ball in his hands.


Drew Gooden, PF

19 MIN | 1-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 3 PTS | -5

Gooden had a tough night. In order for his value as a pick-and-pop big to bear fruit—whether in the form of knocked-down perimeter shots or valuable spacing—he needs Washington’s ball-handlers to put a lot of pressure on opposing bigs. When he sets a screen, he needs the ball-handler to threaten the defense and drag his man away, preferably down into the paint. There wasn’t much of that Monday night, whether because Atlanta’s defenders were tighter on their angles or because Washington’s guards just plain struggled to execute a plan of attack against the Hawks’ trapping scheme when Gooden was on the floor. Whatever the case, Gooden routinely found himself without the space he needs to rain hellfire from beyond the arc, and that really hurts both Washington’s offense and Gooden’s overall value in the rotation.

At least one of his turnovers was the result of him doing too much, which is a thing that happens when a stretch big with a limited overall skill-set is suddenly met with tighter close-outs and closer defense, and his lousy defensive rating on the night (117.3, worst of anyone who played more than four minutes for the Wizards) handily illustrates the difficulty he had trying to guard Atlanta’s perimeter-oriented bigs while also hedging hard, as he generally does, against the pick-and-roll.

Gooden is, generally, a net-positive for the Wizards. He had a rough time Monday night, but it’s a tough matchup for him, and especially so in the absence of Wall.


Otto Porter Jr., SF

30 MIN | 1-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -3

Next to Marcin Gortat, Otto Porter might be the single Wizards player who most suffered from the lack of heads-up guard play Monday night, especially from Sessions and Will Bynum. All four of his shot attempts came from beyond the arc, which is generally OK, except when it indicates that all his off-ball movement in the half-court isn’t being utilized to create havoc and cheap opportunities within the opposing defense. That was undeniably the case Monday night.

At least one of Otto’s missed 3-pointers was the result of him rushing his shot, and Otto generally looked hurried and a little out of control on offense. He found ways to contribute, but this was one of those nights when his weakness at making plays off the dribble against a set defense limited his ability to positively impact the game on offense.


Will Bynum, PG

14 MIN | 5-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 10 PTS | -6

Bynum’s scoring is a valuable asset for the Wizards, but, man, he really hurt the Wizards Monday night. That might seem like a crazy thing to say of a guy who scored 10 points in just 14 minutes of burn, but it’s true.

Individual on/off numbers can be wildly misleading, but in this case Bynum’s minus-6 might even be misleadingly low: he had a terrible live-ball turnover in the second quarter that Atlanta couldn’t exploit for the simple reason that DeMarre Carroll slipped and fell in transition; he dribbled the ball off of Drew Gooden’s foot in the backcourt and was lucky when it rolled out of bounds before Dennis Schröder could get to it; and he turned an offensive rebound in a 3-on-2 situation into a turnover when he threw a tough inside bounce pass in traffic. The Wizards desperately needed those possessions, and while Bynum’s scoring was nice, his four turnovers led all players on both teams, in just, yes, 14 minutes of burn.

But even that leaves short the real harm he inflicted upon the Wizards’ chances Monday night. He was, by far, the worst pick-and-roll defender on the floor. Often, going over a screen is described as “fighting,” because it generally takes more effort than simply dipping under it, and, when done with effort, it can keep the defender in range of his man without requiring a ton of help from the rest of the defense. Will Bynum’s version of fighting over the screen is essentially the same thing as dying on it—over and over again he put himself so far behind the play that Washington’s whole defense was ripped apart. It was plain as day that Atlanta’s lead guards preferred to drive into the paint rather than dribble into long jumpers and 3-pointers, and even after the rest of Washington’s guards figured this out, Bynum was still ramming headlong into the screener and then meekly and hesitatingly moseying his way over the top, sometimes as far as six or eight feet behind his man, who, by then, was gutting the Wizards’ interior defense like a fish.

Coach Wittman needs to do a better job of picking his spots with Bynum. He can score, and he can penetrate, and those are HUGELY useful abilities in the playoffs, especially without John Wall, but he should not be guarding the point of attack against guards as quick and capable as Atlanta’s. Ever.


Garrett Temple, SG

4 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -7

Temple played a few minutes, was called for a completely bogus shooting foul, and missed a shot. It’s tough to come down one way or another on his performance, so he gets a pass.


Randy Wittman

After a rough, dangerous first half in which the Wizards needed some serious shot-making in order to hang anywhere close to Atlanta, adjustments were apparently made and Washington seriously hunkered down and walled off the paint in the second half. And, as has been the case throughout these playoffs, when the Wizards weren’t getting to the rim, they were at least generating valuable 3-point looks, which is a smart and welcome and vital adjustment from their regular season approach. These are all good things. Leaning on Nene in the second half was the right move, as was bumping up Pierce’s minutes, scaling back Otto’s, occasionally switching screens on defense, and whatever offensive adjustment or shot of moxie had Bradley Beal pounding away at Schröder and attacking the defense’s soft spots over and over again.

They never really did figure out a way to slow down Al Horford, although it’s worth noting that only four of his 18 shots came in the restricted area, and the Wizards are right to live or die with Horford taking 13 midrange jumpers. Those shots, even if Horford is good at making them, are a better result for the defense than what might have opened up had the Wizards committed extra help to take those shots away.

Wittman does deserve some blame, though, for the extended burn he gave Will Bynum in the second half, when he was observably undoing Washington’s defense. I assume this was a calculated risk, and therefore one you can’t totally kill Wittman for making—the Wizards needed points, and they needed fresh bodies, and they needed stops, and if Bynum couldn’t promise all three, he at least gave them plenty of the first two and a chance in hell of the third. And it’s hard to know where else he should have turned—Temple could have played more minutes, but then you’re banking upon the Wizards getting points from their defense (where Temple is significantly overrated) and somehow holding up against Atlanta’s trapping scheme and fierce on-ball defense with a dangerously unsteady ball-handler.

Wittman did what he could with an incomplete deck. They had no answers for Atlanta’s attack in the first half, no means of getting Gortat uncorked, and no plan for hiding Bynum on defense. But! They came within one wide-open brick from a historically great clutch shooter of potentially sending Game 4 into overtime, with a frenzied home crowd, a scorching-hot Bradley Beal, and all the momentum on their side. Wittman did well. Hell, he was great.


 

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REACTION: Wasted Wizards Possessions Lead to Missed Opportunity http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/reaction-wasted-wizards-possessions-lead-to-missed-opportunity.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/reaction-wasted-wizards-possessions-lead-to-missed-opportunity.html#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 04:44:49 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47254 We all should have known how this game was going to play out when John Wall showed up looking like an extra from “That Thing You Do.” Let’s react…

The Wizards fell 106-101 to the Hawks, and the story of the game was porous first-half defense and plenty of wasted possessions that ultimately cost the Wizards a chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.

How it happened

Paul Pierce was still a walking truth serum to start Game 4 for the Wizards. His 3-for-3 shooting from 3-point range allowed for his teammates to get into a groove in the first quarter without having to feel the pressure of keeping up with a Hawks team that came out much more focused than they had in the two previous games.

Ramon Sessions seemed to be out of sorts to start, missing his first few shots, including an air ball. Luckily for the Wizards, Will Bynum carried over the momentum that he’d built up in a nine-point outing in Game 3 with 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting. But Bynum played awful defense on Dennis Schröder, and four costly turnovers proved too, too crucial to the game-long arc of wasted Wizards possessions.

A major part of Washington’s problem in the first half was their lackadaisical pick-and-roll defense. Sessions allowed Jeff Teague and Schröder to initiate the offense well inside the 3-point arc, allowing too much space for Hawks guards and wings to operate in the lane. Marcin Gortat was late recovering on the majority of his close-outs in the first half, and Al Horford and Paul Millsap had free reign on elbow jumpers.

The adjustment that the Wizards made halfway through the second quarter was to switch on the pick-and-rolls, which ultimately confused the Hawks, who could not take advantage of their bigs on Wizards guards.

While the Wizards were able to stave off the Hawks from increasing the lead to blowout proportions during the second quarter, the damage was already done. Washington would spend the rest of the game playing catch up after being down 10 at the half. Atlanta’s 65 halftime points were the second-most allowed by the Wizards in a half this season.

In the second half, Washington was able to find a better rhythm defensively, limiting Atlanta to just 41 points. The problem for the Wizards was not being able to take advantage of all of the Hawks’ misses and mistakes. There were too many second-half possessions that ended in rushed shots or turnovers. The Wizards lost the turnover battle 13-17, and the timing of those turnovers proved to be tough to overcome in the long run.

Despite the sloppy play form the Wizards, everything was on the line with six seconds left and the ball in Paul Pierce’s hands. This time “The Truth” was unable to deliver the tying 3-ball, even though he was wide-open at his preferred spot above the break. I guess he needed two Hawks bodies flying at him as he faded away to make the shot as difficult as possible.

Hits

#NeneJams is back

This is the active Nene that the Wizards need to maintain their natural size advantage in the paint over the Hawks.

Bradley Beal had his signature playoff game, finishing with a game- and playoff career-high 34 points, plus six rebounds, seven assists, and three steals on 11-for-25 shooting. Beal has figured out how to keep his teammates involved while staying aggresive in finding his shot. There were a few times where he might have forced the issues with rushed shots when the team needed a quality possession, but that is the type of nuance that can only be acquired via in-game experience. Beal has grown exponentially over these last few games with Wall out, and this was one of his best games as a pro.

Misses

Marcin Gortat and Otto Porter both picked the worst time to lay duds. Gortat’s was the more egregious of the two considering the fact that he went 1-for-7 from the field, including a few missed bunnies at the rim. It was bad enough that Gortat’s shot was not falling, but he may have hurt the Wizards even more with his slow pick-and-roll defense and constant loose-ball fouling.

Porter, who lit the NBA world on fire with his first seven postseason games, finally had his “regression toward the mean” game. The effort was most definitely there on defense, but the Wizards really needed that third wing scorer to complement Pierce and Bradley Beal.

Garrett Temple played and finished with a team low plus/minus of minus-7 despite only playing four minutes. He missed his only 3-point attempt, and committed two personal fouls and one turnover. That is the type of negative impact that the Wizards cannot afford with the “all hands on deck” approach that the team needs with their leader and superstar out. At this rate, Randy Wittman might be better off breaking the emergency glass on Rasual Butler and seeing what he has to offer in terms of wing depth.

What’s Next?

The series heads back to Atlanta tied up at two games apiece, meaning the Wizards will be at the disadvantage of not having home court. It does not appear that John Wall will be making the miraculous recovery that everyone is hoping for, since all reports out of the Phone Booth are telling us that Wall has yet to attempt to dribble a basketball.

The Wizards will need to someone outside of Brad Beal and Paul Pierce to step up and give them a much-needed boost. Wednesday’s Game 5 is now the most important game of the season. Let’s hope that the Wizards can put this missed opportunity behind them before their run comes to a screeching and unsatisfactory halt.

 

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Key Legislature: Wizards 103 vs Hawks 101 — Soil by Nene and Otto, Flowers by Paul http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/key-legislature-wizards-103-vs-hawks-101-soil-by-nene-and-otto-flowers-by-paul.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/key-legislature-wizards-103-vs-hawks-101-soil-by-nene-and-otto-flowers-by-paul.html#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 21:01:35 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47243 Truth About It.net’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s)
for Washington Wizards second round playoff contest No. 3 versus the Atlanta Hawks in D.C.
via Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) from the Verizon Center.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Kyle Weidie.

Neither team started Game 3 with any sort of offensive flow. Jeff Teague got the boo treatment right away (for his unintentional role in John Wall’s wrist injury); Ramon Sessions attacked but was not Wall; and Pero Antic, starting for a slightly-ill Paul Millsap, threw up misses, doing the struggling Nene a favor. The Wizards weren’t totally on their bounce-back game, either. Open 3s and long-range 2s were missed, open cutters weren’t immediately seen, and jump-to-pass turnovers (something we believe Wall should generally avoid but that we also take for granted his ability to execute) kicked off the night.

It wasn’t until 2:40 of jitters were released that Washington seemed to gain its bearings. Neither team sent platoons to the offensive glass, both choosing to better gear up for defense, but at this juncture, Nene used his size against the numbers to snag a Bradley Beal miss already kept alive by Marcin Gortat’s fingers. With teammates clearing space, Nene charged like a bull toward the middle of the paint from the left side of the floor and used his speed advantage to get by Antic with a right foot drop-step and left-handed hook into the basket. It was Nene’s first field goal of the series and it opened the floodgates.

Nene suddenly became the master communicator on defense his teammates are so used to. At the 8:20 mark of the first Nene helped navigate a forced switch to Jeff Teague, gobbled up space, along with teammates, on dribble penetration, and the Wizards were left giving Atlanta exactly what they wanted to concede: a midrange Al Horford 2-pointer that missed. About a minute later Nene and Otto Porter were forced to switch onto DeMarre Carroll and Pero Antic respectively. As soon as cutting Hawks allowed, Nene expertly communicated a switch back to the proper matchups and the play ultimately ended with Porter & Co. swatting a Carroll attempt out of bounds. Atlanta’s ball movement was relatively neutralized by the Wizards’ team defense, led by an engaged Nene and spearheaded by Randy Wittman’s game planning. Atlanta scored 18 first-quarter points on 7-for-22 shooting; the Hawks went 0-for-8 on 2-pointers outside of the paint and 2-for-6 on 3-pointers. All of that set quite the tone.

For reasons beyond basketball yet all because of a love for basketball, we’ll always remember Paul Pierce’s Game 3 buzzer-beater. As TAI’s Bartosz Bielecki wrote, we will one day not care that Washington blew a 21-point lead to put them in position to win the game; nor will we care what the Hawks could have done strategically to avoid getting beat by Pierce—including having DeMarre Carroll on the court; avoiding allowing the smaller Dennis Schröder to switch on Pierce (something Kyle Korver seemed unwilling to do); and sending help earlier to get the ball out of Pierce’s hands and into another Wizard’s hands for a rushed shot. Always easy to second-guess.

So with the soil tilled by Nene and the flowers planted by Pierce, we’ll turn to three key plays from the third quarter that defined Washington’s Game 3 win and which could define the rest of the series.

#1.

Just under two minutes into the third quarter, Ramon Sessions created spacing and Atlanta’s defense gave Marcin Gortat an open jumper from the baseline. He missed. But Nene planted his massive body in the paint, boxed out two Hawks, grabbed the offensive rebound over three Hawks, and immediately kicked the ball out to Bradley Beal, who, by gosh, stepped into a very efficient 3-point attempt and made it, putting the Wizards up 61-45.
[Video via NBA.com]

#2.

A key to Washington establishing its big men, Randy Wittman will tell you, is having said big men run the floor. So on one trip, Nene ran the floor and got post position that left Atlanta’s defense scrambling to help and recover. As the Wizards quickly moved the ball out of awkward situations, they did find themselves with a wide-open opportunity for Nene to jack a midrange jumper. He didn’t. Instead, he gave the slowest pump fake in the world as Atlanta’s defenders continued to try to seek better spots. But DeMarre Carroll, said to be one of the Hawks’ best defenders, got caught over-helping and watching the ball. Young Otto Porter did not settle for simply being buried in the right corner and instead used Carroll’s unawareness to his advantage and cut toward the basket. Nene, being a better passing big man than most, found Porter and the Wizards found the layup for the 72-58 lead with six minutes left in the third.
[Video via NBA.com]

#3.

A desperate Atlanta defense scrambled to eliminate openings very late in the third. But a willing-to-pass and not-hold-the-ball Wizards offense easily countered that. On another particular possession I counted seven passes, from inbounding the ball against pressure at one end to Marcin Gortat (as underrated as Nene in terms of his ability to pass, and in terms of both of them compared the rest of the bigs in the NBA) finding a once-again cutting Otto Porter on a foray to the hoop. Bradley Beal was the only Wizard not to touch the ball on this possession. And I suppose that a dribbling and navigating Ramon Sessions gets some credit for baiting over-help from Pero Antic far from the basket. Once that happened, the ball just had to move—from Sessions to Drew Gooden to Gortat to Porter, once again happy to take advantage of being the ignored Wizard on the floor. This action gave Washington a 15-point lead (80-65) that would later be relinquished, but how they got to that point was just as important as hitting the final shot with zero time left on the clock.
[Video via NBA.com]

The Wizards have the ingredients, and the talent, to take down the top-seeded Hawks, but staying true to that is always a question in pro sports. Aren’t we lucky that we get to find out whether Washington will retain that fidelity soon?

20140331-nene-otto-porter-wizards-bobcats

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Why One Guy Wrote-In Paul Pierce for President of Poland http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/why-one-guy-wrote-in-paul-pierce-for-president-of-poland.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/why-one-guy-wrote-in-paul-pierce-for-president-of-poland.html#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 12:57:20 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47216 [Paul Pierce, via instagram.com/truthaboutit]

[Paul Pierce, via instagram.com/truthaboutit]


May 10 was a presidential election day in Poland. You might think that when there are eleven candidates to choose from, there is a little something for everyone. Well, there wasn’t for me. Obviously, I could have just skipped the ballot, like more than 50 percent of Poles did, but I figured that sending in an invalid vote would be more meaningful in terms of protesting against the current political system in Poland.

On the eve before the election, at almost 2 a.m. in Poland, Paul Pierce hit that buzzer-beating shot to win Game 3 for the Washington Wizards in their second-round playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks. It was so emotional for me that I caught myself staring at “The Game Has Ended” League Pass screen for nearly an hour. And that’s pretty much why I decided to write-in vote Pierce for President of Poland the very next morning. None of the eleven candidates ever made me as happy as The Truth, and none of them is as heroic.

You may wonder, why, as a citizen of Poland, I didn’t write-in Marcin Gortat. Firstly, because Pierce’s shot could not escape my mind. In a year—two years, three years, several years—no one will remember Gortat’s performance in Game 3 of the Hawks-Wizards series. Hell, most of us won’t even remember that the Hawks came back from a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter. But we surely won’t forget Pierce’s shot. (There’s a chance Pierce’s shot could be the best in modern Wizards playoff history, trumping Gilbert Arenas’ 2005 game-winner in Chicago.) Additionally, there is a decent probability Gortat will get my vote one day. A real, valid vote, as he’s mentioned several times before that he would consider running for presidential office in Poland in the future. It turned out, I wasn’t the only Pole to vote for Pierce, as an NBA blogger Przemek Kujawiński also decided to write-in “The Truth.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough for Pierce to be elected.

As you probably know, Gortat’s trade to Washington made the Wizards quite popular in Poland. It should be noted, though, that basketball is barely, if even, a top ten most popular sport in the country. It means that we don’t have many basketball laymen, and the mere fact that the only Pole in the NBA is playing for Washington doesn’t make the Wizards the NBA’s most popular team over here. I bet there are still more Bulls, Lakers, or Celtics fans, but undoubtedly the Wizards are on the rise. The team name is starting to ring a bell in more and more Polish minds. The media are paying attention to every Wizards game, but there is no denying that they mostly focus on Gortat, who, despite basketball being so unpopular, has really become a huge star and one of the better-known Polish athletes. The sad reality is that many fans in Poland care more about Marcin’s individual stats rather than the outcome of the game. Personally, I have never been so much involved, and immersed, in following an NBA team like I am for the Wizards this season. I always kept close tabs on Gortat and his teams, but the team the Wizards have is something special, even compared to the 2009 Orlando Magic team, which reached the NBA Finals. A special team demands special actions, and that’s why I voted Paul Pierce for president.

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Paul Pierce Does Not Care Anymore http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/paul-pierce-does-not-care-anymore.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/05/paul-pierce-does-not-care-anymore.html#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 10:45:33 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=47217
klompus 2 copy

[Paul Pierce arrives in style for the early bird special.]

Jerry Seinfeld has a bit about how when Florida drivers reach a certain age, they decide that when they back out of their driveway, they are not looking anymore: “I’m old and I’m coming back. I survived, let’s see if you can.”

Paul Pierce plays basketball like he lives in Del Boca Vista. When you watch Pierce in person, you notice that he spends almost every break in the action hanging around the bench talking to Randy Wittman like he’s at a pick-up game in the park. When his teammates are shooting free throws, he lounges on the opposite end of the court.

On offense he plays in slow motion. Some of the most entertaining moments of Game 3 were when Pierce pump faked a 3-pointer and casually watched as a Hawk defender flew by. Instead of driving to the rim or leaning in to pick up three easy free throws, he just pauses for a second, amused, and passes to a wide-open teammate. It’s like he’s playing against his little brother and giving him a chance to get up after knocking him down.

Even his final buzzer beater was leisurely. Pierce caught the ball, eyed the clock, and knew he had a few seconds to kill. He calmly waited until the clock hit two seconds before stepping back for a fade-away and gently easing himself onto the floor.

Pierce isn’t affected by the pressure of playoff basketball, much like your elderly grandfather doesn’t care about global warming or ISIS or any of the other issues of the day. He has already lived his life. He got married, had kids, worked 40 years, and retired before you were even born. In NBA years, Pierce’s 17 seasons make him the equivalent of a 90-year-old man.

That’s what made Dennis Schröder’s comment about Pierce’s game-winner (and Pierce’s response) so perfect. Schröder called Pierce’s shot “lucky” and Pierce fired back, “I guess Schröder’s going to say that ‘cause he’s a little young. He hasn’t been able to see it over the past 17 years.”

Paul Pierce has his car in reverse. Everybody better watch out.

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[Take the pen, Jerry.]

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