Wizards Blog Truth About It.net http://www.truthaboutit.net Washington Wizards Blog, ESPN TrueHoop Network Fri, 12 Feb 2016 14:01:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.10 Key Legislature: Wizards 111 at Knicks 108 — Wiz Reap What They Sow in the Garden http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/02/key-legislature-50-wizards-111-at-knicks-108.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/02/key-legislature-50-wizards-111-at-knicks-108.html#comments Wed, 10 Feb 2016 23:01:49 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=49948 TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards at Knicks, Regular Season Game 50, Feb. 9, 2016, by Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur).

On Tuesday night, Washington’s pro basketball team took on a team that was reeling through this fading 2015-16 NBA season at a much more alarming rate than even the Wizards. The New York Knickerbockers are coming off their worst seasons in their storied franchise history, and almost any positive result would have been cause for celebration among Knicks faithful. That calm embrace of slow progress changed, however, when Kristaps Porzingis began showing flashes of a young Dirk Nowitzki. Expectations changed, you see, and Phil Jackson decided not to waste another game developing his team under shaky tutelage—he canned head coach Derek Fisher.

Carrying all of that baggage into the game against the Wizards should have hindered the Knicks, and for the first half of Tuesday’s game it looked as though Fisher might have been the least of the franchise’s problems. For the Wizards, there was pace, there was space, and there were a whole lot of 3-pointers. The Wizards shot a blistering 16-for-26 from behind the arc (a season high in 3-point makes), doubling up on the Knicks (8-for-26) in makes, even though they had the same amount of attempts.

The key difference between the shooting numbers of these two teams is one dynamic point guard. John Wall finished the night with 17 assists (and just one turnover). Wall has an innate ability with precision to put the ball right in the shooting pocket of teammates so that when they catch the ball, they are already in an optimal position to lock and load and get a quick release. These extra milliseconds afforded by great passing can be the determining factor in a make-or-miss league.

As promising as the Wizards looked in the first half, however, they looked equally as disjointed in the second half, specifically the third quarter. The Knicks outscored the Wizards 33-20 in the period as some of Washington’s warts began to show.

While Jared Dudley is one hell of a role player, and might be one of the most tradeable assets in the entire NBA, his deficiencies as a starting 4 are easy to expose when there is a major talent (and height) discrepancy. Duds did a great job matching up with Kristaps Porzingis in the first half, but in the second half he was no match for the 7-foot-3 Latvian prodigy. Porzingis scored 14 of his 20 points in the third quarter, putting on a dazzling display of shooting touch and an array of moves around the basket. The Zinger’s play almost single-handily got New York back into the game, and Carmelo Anthony was intent on finishing the job that the rookie started. And he would have succeeded if it weren’t for a confident John Wall down the stretch.

Wall put the Wizards up for good with a go-ahead layup at the 6:18 mark of the fourth period. The Wizards should have been sailed comfortably to victory after a 3-pointer by Wall increased the lead to 10 with 1:50 to go, but then the #SoWizards experience awoke.

Beal missed three of four free throws and had a crucial turnover. Wall took two ill-advised shots in an attempt to invoke a Steve Buckhantz “Dagger,” instead of letting the game flow naturally as he had for the previous 47 minutes. Luckily for the Wizards, they were beneficiaries of the new NBA rule that allows for restricted area offensive charge/defensive block calls to be reviewed. And so a game-swinging play (that was almost a potential and-1 for Aaron Afflalo and a two-point Knicks deficit) ended up being an offensive foul and turnover for New York. The Wizards held a five-point lead instead.

Three Things We Saw.

#1.) Bradley Beal has played about as aggressive as he’s ever been since he came back form his broken nose. He was assertive with his offensive decision-making in New York, attacking the rim when he believes he can beat an opponent off the dribble, and not hesitating on his catch-and-shoot opportunities. If the Wizards are going to make a post-season run, not only will Beal have to stay healthy, but he will need to elevate his game to a near All-Star level. The best way for him to do that is to continue attacking the basket and get to the free throw line, and to increase his attentiveness on defense. On Tuesday night Beal had four steals and was a major factor in holding Aaron Afflalo to just 11 points.

#2.) The Wizards rotation could finally be forming into shape with the return of Nene and Kris Humphries in the frontcourt rotation, and the absence of Gary Neal in the backcourt rotation. Both Nene and Hump looked a little rusty coming off of injury, but in the long run their presence will be needed to help the Wizards in the rebounding department. Neal’s absence meant we got to see Kelly Oubre play, and even though the rookie did not take a single shot attempt, he still found a way to blend in on the court and contribute. In Randy Wittman’s partial defense, it has been a long time since the Wizards have had anything close to a full arsenal, but it will be more than fair to judge his coaching going forward as the team’s health seems to have turned a corner.

#3.) The Wizards shot an abysmal 17-for-25 from the free throw line (68%). On the season, the Wizards shoot 75.2 percent from the fee throw line, which ranks 22nd in the NBA. In New York, the free throw shooting woes almost cost them the game. It would have been the second such game this season—the first was the Toronto home game in which Wall missed two free throws in the last seconds.

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That Mirage Looks Mighty Delicious — Wizards at Knicks, DC Council 50 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/02/wizards-111-at-knicks-108-dc-council-50.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/02/wizards-111-at-knicks-108-dc-council-50.html#comments Wed, 10 Feb 2016 20:37:36 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=49954 The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards at Knicks, Game 50, Feb. 9, 2016, via Sean Fagan (@McCarrick).

M.V.P.

It would be so easy to simply hand the nightly M.V.P over to John Wall (28 points, 17 assists) and call it a day after Washington’s 111-108 win over the New York Knickerbockers. It was Wall who helped the Wizards overcome another lead collapse (this time they coughed away a 16-point advantage) by playing phenomenally in the fourth quarter, hitting two key jumpers (and a backbreaking trey) before sealing off the win by converting all four of his free throw attempts to give the Wizards a three point lead with four ticks left on the clock. Of course, with the #SoWizards lurking, the team then failed to intentionally foul a Knickerbocker and the game would have been sent to overtime had Langston Galloway been able to convert a 3-point attempt at the buzzer. But Wall being the glue that holds this underachieving team together is a narrative that has been explored in depth throughout this disappointing season, and his locker is already filled to the brim with phantom MVPs handed over by the staff of TAI.

Instead, one should turn their attention to the other Wizards starlet whose off and on again appearance on the court has been the source of much handwringing. Since recuperating from another stress fracture, Bradley Beal has (appropriately) been kept under wraps by the Wizards medical staff—his minutes limited and his impact mitigated. Against the Knicks on Tuesday night, Beal was finally set free from the confines of the bench and responded with a 26-point outburst at a tidy rate of 8-for-14 from the field and 5-for-8 from behind the arc. The importance of Beal being able to regain his role as a starter and ramp up his own participation cannot be understated, as the Knicks were forced to compensate for another offensive force beyond John Wall. Further, Beal’s shooting prowess was the high tide that lifted all boats, as the entire starting unit shot over 50 percent on the night (44-61 FGs) and created the spacing necessary for Marcin Gortat and Otto Porter to work at nearly their maximum efficiency.

The one truth to the injury narrative with the Wizards this season has been in regards to Beal. You can throw out Alan Anderson because he was hurt before the season even began. Nene is always going to be a hit or miss proposition and after early promising returns, it soon became clear that Kris Humphries was not a viable solution at the stretch 4 (1). The list of dings (to Drew Gooden, Otto Porter, and Gary Neal) can be further expanded upon, but it is Beal and solely Beal for whom the injury narrative was based.

Garrett Temple has filled in more or less admirably in Beal’s absence, even earning himself a spot on Zach Lowe’s “Luke Walton All Stars.” But as Lowe points out within the piece, Temple’s limitations are obvious enough to allow opponents to strangle the Wizards offensively:

“Temple is shooting just 32 percent from deep, and isn’t much of an off-the-bounce threat. Opponents stash their weakest defender on him, and ignore him away from the ball.”

But in the next paragraph in Temple’s defense:

“But 32 percent on a lot of attempts is better than nothing, and Temple manufactured a bunch of 20-point games when the Wizards badly needed someone other than Wall to put the ball into the freaking basket.”

Lowe’s point holds true, Temple has been a mensch in filling in and performed above and beyond what was expected of him with Beal on the shelf. Arguably, Temple was inserted as a starter simply because the Wizards could not trust either Ramon Sessions or Gary Neal to play defense at a high enough rate to not be lit up like a pinball machine (2). So the offense was always meant to be gravy, it was just surprising how much gravy was ladled out.

But the Wizards offense with Beal in the starting lineup and playing meaningful minutes is a completely different beast. And just as predicted, after a series of soul crushing losses, there are those who immediately have jumped onto their keyboards to proclaim that this is the “real” Wizards team we were promised and that all the doom and gloomers should rest their pixel generators and see how the rest of the season plays out.

To which I say: Hold on there youngster

L.V.P.

The Wizards inability to finish games the right way. (Again!)

As heartening as it is to see Bradley Beal back doing Bradley Beal things, the Wizards still managed once again to surrender a 16-point lead (in the 1st quarter) and a 13-point lead that they held at the half. And as amazing as young rookie Kristaps Porzingis may be, the inability of the Wizards to prevent his 14-point third quarter outburst (including two made 3-pointers,adding to the Wizards defensive woes), and the failure to execute a defensive strategy to contain the young Latvian seems rather befuddling. Even if we set this aside, allowing Kevin Seraphin to eat your lunch and take away your lead is simply unacceptable. Unlike other Wizards projects who have gone on to bigger and better things under better developmental systems, Seraphin’s style of play in New York has not changed in any discernible way. So to watch Seraphin calmly hit the jumpers and putbacks that he was long derided for on the Wizards (he also dished out three assists) was simply rubbing salt in the wounds.

The Wizards have now spent the last three games giving up monumental leads against the shallower end of the Eastern Conference talent pool. That these lead changes happen like clockwork at the end of the second quarter and throughout the third appear to be an indictment on the ability of the Wizards coaching staff to either, A) motivate the team finish off the opponent Karate Kid style and allow us some well deserved Kelly Oubre, B) the failure to tactically adjust to the changes the opponent has made to enable a comeback, or C) some combination of the two. The Wizards didn’t win their game against the Knicks as much as they survived it, thanks in no large part to the coaching debut of Kurt Rambis, whose tenure as the Minnesota HC is spoken with a level of horror one normally reserves for Isiah Thomas running your organization. It was Rambis’ “moves” (leaving Porzingis stapled to the bench to start the fourth quarter, putting the ball in the hands of Langston Galloway to end the game), rather than any Wittman “countermoves” that proved the Knickerbockers undoing. Wittman should be relieved that he got to play checkers against a man whose advanced tactical acumen stopped at tic-tac-toe.

X-Factor.

What now?

If Beal holds up for the rest of the season and is able to build upon Tuesday night, then the starting lineup of Wall, Beal, Gortat, Porter, and Dudley appears to be ideal for the integration of the offensive system that the Wizards have being trying to kickstart without much success since the opening of the season. The question that remains on the table is whether this starting unit will be able to perform consistently enough to carry the Wizards to the 8-seed of the playoffs and a potential matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Currently, the Wizards have a 11.7 percent chance (per ESPN) of making the playoffs and decisions to make about the future of their franchise. With the trade deadline just around the corner, the Wizards have a chance to trade their more valuable (and fungible) assets like Jared Dudley or Gary Neal to teams currently holding a playoff spot for a modest or decent return. However, that type of bottoming out essential eliminates them from the Kevin Durant derby to take place next summer. Just how much more attractive an eighth place playoff team is to potential free agents remains to be seen (3). As of right now, the course that has been charted appears to be to damn the torpedoes and proceed full speed ahead with the personnel assemble. It will be fascinating to see whether or not that is a suicide run.

That game was … a possible mirage.

For all the pundits crowing about the Wizards being a fraud team, the Knicks have been exposed (once) again as a project that is still in development, and that always provides more sizzle that it does steak. A win over a team that has dropped 10 of its last 11 contests doesn’t necessarily move the “hope” meter up than by more than a few notches. As Rashad Mobley pointed out in his recap of the Wizards win over the 76ers last Friday, there are too many false positives to be drawn from a result that should be predetermined. Defeating the Knicks after a brutal loss in Charlotte may appear at first glance to be a step in the right direction, but allowing the Knicks to crawl back from a huge deficit and make a game of it proves that the Wizards continue to exist as a team unable to exert a consistent 48-minute effort. It just remains to be seen on whom that blame should fall for those failures.

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Where Patience is Not a Virtue — Wizards at Hornets, DC Council 49 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/02/wizards-104-at-hornets-108-dc-council-49.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/02/wizards-104-at-hornets-108-dc-council-49.html#comments Sun, 07 Feb 2016 23:14:54 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=49916 The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards at Hornets, Game 49, Feb. 6, 2016, via Sean Fagan (@McCarrick).

[via @wzzntzz]

[via @wzzntzz]

M.V.P.

The patience of Wizards fans.

There have been many apologies made for fans of the Washington Wizards throughout the years for the peculiar behaviors they demonstrate toward their hometown basketball team. Many outsiders mock the penchant for native Washingtonians to show up midway through the first quarter, as well as their inability to drown out the opposing cheers of rival fans who are more invested in the fortunes of their team than the possibility of a free chicken sandwich. Several have pointed out that Washington’s identity as a city of transients makes it difficult to establish a rapport between fans and franchise, because so very few people actually think of the District as “home.” This lack of identity is especially difficult when one considers fans of other franchises who often show up to games in droves to root against the Wizards—from the sitting president who is an avid fan of the Chicago Bulls, to the legions of suddenly omnipresent Warriors fans who appeared out of the ether on Wednesday night to watch the best team in the NBA dismantle a surprisingly frisky Wizards team.

With these excuses out of the way, it is time to side with the poor, maligned Wizards fan and mount a defense for the passive-aggressive behavior they often display toward their own team. How many fans spent their Saturday night at home only to watch the Wizards cough up a 19-point lead (twice!) to the less-than-glamorous Charlotte Hornets? How many of these fans white-knuckled their remote controls and muttered to themselves, “I’ve seen this before,” yet remained stoically in front of their televisions, hoping that the seemingly inevitable was not once again going to take place? And how many of those fans woke up this morning to the dismal realization that the Wizards currently sit five games under .500 at 22-27, behind the Hornets and Pistons for the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference with no real reassurance that anything either structurally or organizationally about the team is going to change in the imminent future?

The Wizards are an example of a solidly conceived marketing plan that has gone so horribly wrong that no one has any idea of how to get the project on track, or even where the track is in the first place. The premise under which this season started was that the Wizards were going to make a concerted effort to pay attention to course change in the NBA and adapt their personnel to a new world order in which 3-point shooting is emphasized. The Wizards made the necessary acquisitions to put this plan into place (Gary Neal, Alan Anderson and Jared Dudley), while deftly managing their salary cap to leave room for pursuance of Kevin Durant, the D.C. native who for the past two years has had to undergo an inquisition every time he returns to D.C. about whether he is willing to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder (currently 38-14 and in third place in the brutal Western Conference) and come home to be a savior for Washington.

If it all sounded so promising on paper, the reality of the situation has left much to be desired. This, of course, is where the patience of Wizards fans has to be applauded. Just hold on for this year, the organization appears to say, because better times lay ahead. We promise that at the end of this process there will be a big shiny reward for your patience and in the meantime we will field a team competitive enough to keep you from pulling your collective hair out.

Yet, these promises appear to ring false. For the past three years, Randy Wittman has staked his coaching reputation on his ability to put together a stalwart defense—a reputation that has taken a severe beating as the Wizards continue hemorrhage points on a nightly basis, particularly from behind the arc. Stephen Curry almost tied the record for 3-pointers made in an NBA game against the Wizards and scorched the Wizards for 51 points. Three nights later, the Hornets shot 12-for-27 from behind the arc (or one more made 3 than Steph Curry). The Wizards currently sit at the very bottom of the league in 3-point percentage allowed at .390. The second worst team, the Phoenix Suns, clock in at .376, which demonstrates just how truly dismal the Wizards are at preventing long-range bombs. So while the kinks in Washington’s newfangled offense continue to be worked out, the defense has regressed to a point where any type of offensive innovation is unlikely to make much of a difference.

Add this to the gut punch that there are now rumors that the Golden State Warriors may pursue Kevin Durant in free agency. The same Golden State Warriors who are attempting to break the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls record for wins in a season. So Durant could either join a team that comes close to or breaks a historical landmark, stay with his already successful Oklahoma City unit, or make the completely deranged choice of joining a Wizards team that may set a mark for defensive futility and are on track to end up in the lottery.

Yet, despite this and despite the fact that the Wizards blew a 19-point lead to one of the two teams that they currently trail for the final playoff spot, there is nary a cry of outrage to be heard. The patience of the Wizards fan is boundless because the organization—from the players to the coaching staff to the management—appear able to construct new levels of psychic torment for a group of people who just want to see a reasonably competitive, capably coached basketball team.

L.V.P.

The inevitability of the status quo.

Let’s return to a point in the previous paragraph that may have been buried. We shall put it in bold so that proper emphasis can be made.

The Wizards blew a 19-point lead to one of the two teams they trail for the final playoff spot and lost the game.

Yet the day after such a loss, it appears to be business as usual. NBA franchises and players point to the fact that it is the nature of sports writers and fans to overreact to one result and that a season cannot be summed up by the shortcomings in any given 48-minute span. However, the frequency in which the Wizards lose leads, fall apart in third quarters, and appear to do everything short of committing open mutiny against their coach has done nothing to raise temperature on the job status of either Randy Wittman (or Team President Ernie Grunfeld, who has been around since 2003). No amount of players-only meetings, cajoling for a more concerted defensive effort, or intra-team sniping seems to move management out of its position of stony indifference.

The Cleveland Cavaliers fired David Blatt despite owning the best record in the Eastern Conference because none of his players responded to him (and possibly because LeBron James is a huge asshole), and because they felt that they could be better with a different voice at the helm. The Sacramento Kings right now (after last season canning Mike Malone, who is now in Denver) are considering removing George Karl, a surefire Hall of Fame coach, because he can’t put out the tire fire that is the Kings franchise, notwithstanding the fact that the Kings have only ONE LESS win that the Wizards. The Thunder fired their long-time coach Scott Brooks last year, because the Thunder failed to meet expectations, and hired Billy Donovan, despite the fact that the Thunder brass could have easily pointed to the fact that Oklahoma City was as injury-riddled as the Wizards currently find themselves. Kevin McHale and Jeff Hornacek lost their coaching seats this season, too.

Wizards fans remain patient (or perhaps indifferent) because it appears to be a continued organizational failing to tack appropriately when the wind changes course. The organization can continue to point to injuries as the prevailing narrative of the season, but it can’t hide the fact that by every discernible metric, either statistical or observed, that the Wizards are getting progressively worse as the season slogs on. The defensive metrics remain abysmal, the coach continually returns to stratagems that have proved ineffective (the Nene-Gortat on court duo, the reliance on the long range 2, or putting Gary Neal in to defend more than capable scorers), and there seems to be no real pressure from above to demand better performance. Instead, the Wizards are lauded when they actually wake up and play 40 or so minutes of concentrated basketball against teams like Golden State. And yet…

The Wizards blew a 19-point lead to one of the two teams they trail for the final playoff spot and lost the game.

Perhaps that’s the only fact that anyone needs to know about Saturday night’s loss to the Charlotte Hornets. The sad part is that it isn’t going to raise any eyebrows nor is it going to bring about change.

X-Factor.

When does the tide of evidence become overwhelming?

As Kyle Weidie pointed out on Twitter, the Wizards will most likely defeat their next two opponents (the New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks) just to further baffle their fan base and create a sense of false hope. The question is what happens if the Wizards drop both those games? Will management finally be moved to make some comment as to the state of the franchise, or will the season continue on in its current fugue state in which we all seemed to have entered into a Devil’s Pact to not acknowledge what is taking place before our very eyes?

That game was … wholly unsurprising.

As the lead slowly disappeared in the third quarter, Steve Buckhantz put on his “the Wizards are about to lose this lead” voice, which has become all but a staple this year from the seasoned play-by-play man. What is most surprising is how unsurprised Buckhantz and his broadcast partner, Phil Chenier, sound as they watch events unfold, victims of too much Wizards PTSD. One thinks of Buckhantz, sitting alone in his Charlotte hotel room practicing the voice of doom that has become all too familiar this season.

“And how do ya like that, Phil, all of a sudden the Wizards’ lead is gone.”

Soon enough, so will the hopes for this season.

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Key Legislature: Wizards 104 at Hornets 108 — A Stinging End in Buzz City http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/02/key-legislature-wizards-104-at-hornets-108-a-stinging-end-in-buzz-city.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/02/key-legislature-wizards-104-at-hornets-108-a-stinging-end-in-buzz-city.html#comments Sun, 07 Feb 2016 16:50:34 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=49907 TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards vs. Sixers, Regular Season Game 49, Feb. 6, 2016, by Lucas Hubbard (@LucasHubbard1) from a couple hundred miles north of Dabtown, U.S.A.

One night in college, after some typical shenanigans, my friend and I played a healthy 3 a.m. game of NFL Blitz. Nothing too extraordinary, certainly, but this particular game ended up with a final score of 52-3. (In hindsight, one of us had likely been a tad over-served.) Afterward, once our laughter had been curbed, we jointly reached the conclusion that this scoreline—while not a total shutout—was in fact as embarrassing as possible for the loser. A score of 52-0 would convey an unfamiliarity with the sport, such as a Londoner trying to pick up the nuances of the zone read. Those three points, however, suggested spurts of competence from the losing side: the player was capable enough to get on the scoreboard, but putting together a complete effort was simply not possible. In short, we had reached the conclusion that having the building blocks of success and doing little with them was a far greater mishap than having no building blocks whatsoever.

I thought about that Blitz game after watching the Wizards’ devastating loss to Charlotte on Saturday night. On paper, a four-point loss on the road to the team directly ahead of you in the Eastern Conference standings is not catastrophic. Painful and disappointing, maybe, but understandable.

The frustration with Washington, though, is that their standard performance is a Frankensteinian amalgam, one part fantastic and one part garbage. The team is clearly talented (see the majority of the first half) and equally lackadaisical and listless (see the rest of the game). So a four-point road loss to a roughly equivalent team is not just a loss: it’s a sign of both what could be if the team played fluidly with a defined game plan for 48 minutes, as well as a spotlight on why this team, as it stands now, will never accomplish anything more than tantalizing its fanbase. The competence is sometimes there; the sustained competence simply isn’t.

However, you can’t simply chalk up the Wizards’ struggles to the oft-invoked straw men of effort and focus. Those traits weren’t abundant during Charlotte’s 40-13 Amtrak trip spanning the second and third quarters that completely erased Washington’s 19-point lead, and certainly not when Marcin Gortat committed a clear path foul on noted quickster Cody Zeller. But a run of that magnitude doesn’t occur merely due to player apathy on the Washington side—blame can be shared, and the coaching staff didn’t do the players any favors on Saturday.

Two shining examples, one from each end of the floor:

  • The Wizards scored 17 points in the third quarter—nine of which came in the final three minutes. In those dry first eight minutes, Washington was 3-for-17 from the field, including a 1-for-14 stretch as Charlotte surged into the lead. The offense, invigorated in the first half by some fast break points and the hot hands of Jared Dudley and Otto Porter, Jr., devolved into its M.O. of bad spacing and screens to nowhere. Ultimately, it’s hard to expect Washington’s offense to maintain consistently high levels of efficiency when the core concept is “John Wall doing John Wall things.” An inventive offense, like Steve Kerr’s or Rick Carlisle’s or Gregg Popovich’s, can earn a team “system” baskets—baskets stemming strictly from the action of a smartly designed play. If someone has seen this phenomenon for the Washington Wizards, please let me know.

(One small suggestion to unclog the offense: perhaps play Bradley Beal before the entirety of a 19-point lead has evaporated.)

  • As the Hornets clawed to their eight-point lead, they repeatedly victimized the Wizards via one Nic Batum, who had a ho-hum 26/11/9 night. Batum’s night was made substantially easier when Washington downgraded to a small lineup midway through the third: from there Batum found himself guarded by the likes of Gary Neal and Ramon Sessions. Batum scored or assisted on Charlotte’s last 17 points of the third quarter, 15 of which came after the Wizards went small.

(One small suggestion to stem a 6-foot-8 triple threat: perhaps keep playing Otto. Or, dare I say, play Kelly Oubre, Jr.?)

Maybe the most inexplicable and surprisingly competent characteristic of the Wizards is how they battle, especially when they’ve done whatever they can to sabotage themselves up until that point. From down eight in the fourth quarter, John Wall and Beal found some rhythm and manufactured a one-point lead in crunch time. Miraculously, in Beal’s presence the offense ran well once again—if not brimming with fluid, at least damp—and the two backcourt stars consistently earned good looks in the midrange and outside.

(Again, when this offense clicks, it only serves to highlight the festering and inexcusable suckitude on other possessions. Maybe Beal’s eventual minutes increase will provide a more lasting alleviation; I’m not holding my breath.)

After a few altogether-too-easy Hornets layups, Washington—now down one with 45 seconds left—needed a stop. With Batum, the Randy Wittman nightmare fuel himself, attempting to drive baseline against Gortat after a switch, Wall sagged off Jeremy Lin in the short corner. One kickout pass later, it was a four-point game, which held up as the final margin. Here’s a specific situation where the blame can’t be accurately attributed: maybe Wall was acting alone in dropping to stop the drive, which would have been a bad split-second decision. Maybe the team was instructed to help on Batum and give up the outside shot, which, given that the Wizards were only down one, represents premeditated inanity. Whether a lack of focus or a lack of strategy, the action was ineffective, the outcome crippling.

The thought behind TAI’s Key Legislature is to point out the crucial play or moment that explains the game. To be clear, the Wizards lost this game when they allowed Charlotte to hang around and surge ahead, and then when they compounded their lack of killer instinct with bad decision making in crunch time. But in a way, blaming this loss on game-specific elements seems reductive—the flaws that were on display Saturday are old friends, endemic to the Washington 2015-16 season, with roots stretching into previous years. Yes, the Wizards lost this game when they zoned out for a quarter of the game; they also lost this game when Oubre (for some reason earlier this year) fell out of favor with Wittman; they lost this game in training camp when they didn’t retain focus on the defensive concepts that had kept them treading water in previous seasons; they lost it in the offseason when they forfeited the crunch-time mettle of Paul Pierce, when they didn’t find the pieces for the offensive system they wanted, and when they didn’t unearth an offensive system worth a damn.

In hindsight, Saturday was a four-point loss that could have been seen a mile away. Sure, the score was close, but let’s not kid ourselves: with the talent on this team, that game was as embarrassing as it gets.

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Glass is Half Empty in a Win — Wizards vs Sixers, DC Council 48 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/02/glass-is-half-empty-in-a-win-wizards-vs-sixers-dc-council-48.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/02/glass-is-half-empty-in-a-win-wizards-vs-sixers-dc-council-48.html#comments Sat, 06 Feb 2016 23:07:31 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=49893 The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards vs. Sixers, Game 48, February 5, 2016, via Rashad Mobley (@rashad20), from the Verizon Center in D.C.

M.V.P.

John Wall had 18 points, a career-high 13 rebounds, 10 assists, and a Euro-step in leading the Wizards to victory on Friday night. He wasn’t facing Russell Westbrook, and his numbers certainly weren’t as flashy as the 41 points and 10 assists he amassed in the Wizards’ loss to Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors, but he controlled the game against Ish Smith, who is arguably playing as well as any point guard in the NBA right now. Most important, the Wizards won.

Both Wall and Wittman downplayed the significance of Wall’s triple-double while playing up how good it felt to get a win. But Wittman did make it his business to play up his star guard’s 13 rebounds:

“We had talked where we are as a team rebounding, and it’s important that we get our guards back and help more. I think the importance of that is, [Wall] is going to give me 10-plus assists probably every night. The 13 rebounds I really like, just from the standpoint of getting back there and helping. We won the rebounding game tonight because of that. To me it doesn’t matter one way or another as long as we win.”

Wall also remarked that his renewed focus on rebounding made it easier for him to control the pace of the game:

“It is a lot easier. Just from watching Russell [Westbrook] when he rebounds the ball he don’t have to worry about waiting for the outlet pass, he just starts the break. I think it makes it easier for me, too. I don’t have to wait for the outlet pass, I can just get the rebound and go.”

Speaking of Westbrook, Wall was victimized by his wicked Euro-step last Monday when the Thunder defeated the Wizards—it “f***** me up,” Wall admitted. Against the Sixers, Wall broke out a Euro-step of his own. After the game Wall was asked why he doesn’t use the move more and he said, “I know how to do it, I just don’t ever be doing it because I be going to fast … I ain’t got it like James [Harden] or Russell [Westbrook] do.”

It was just the Sixers, though, and there will still be instances where Wall gambles and takes plays off on defense—seen in the third quarter when Ish Smith went off for 14 points and the Sixers cut the Wizards’ lead from 25 to 10 points. But as Coach Wittman has told the media during countless post-game pressers, a win is a win, and they aren’t always easy to come by in the NBA. The Wizards took the W and Wall was the engineer behind, aggressive from the start

L.V.P.

Otto Porter. Maybe it was the trade rumors, or maybe as Jared Dudley alluded to after the game it was Porter’s sore hip, or perhaps he’s just mired in a slump. Whatever the reason, Otto Porter played timid against Philadelphia. There is certainly no shame in going scoreless in the first half of a game, but Porter took just two shots in about 10 minutes of play. He hit the Wizards’ first basket in the second half on a 26-foot 3-pointer, but he scored just two points the rest of the game. Porter finished 2-for-8 from the field, good for five total points. He’s now failed to break double-digit points in two straight games, so now seems like a good time to mention that Kelly Oubre, who is capable of providing the very energy that Porter lacked on both ends of the floor, only played a minute of garbage time in the fourth quarter. As the kids say, “I’m just sayin’.”

X-Factor.

For the first time since December 9, 2015, against the Houston Rockets, Bradley Beal was in the starting lineup (it would have been nice to see him get that start against the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday, but that ship has sailed). He and John Wall (10 points each) were the main reasons the Wizards were able to score 38 points in the first quarter, and his offensive aggressiveness gave the Wizards some much needed versatility. Garrett Temple is a fine player who has the ability to hit the open shot (sometimes) and drive to the basket with purpose on the break, but as Dudley and Wall diplomatically said after the game, Beal’s presence in the starting lineup was truly missed:

“He just gives us more of a fire punch,” Dudley said. “He’s someone, out of everyone on our team … him and Gary Neal are by far the most aggressive to score, looking to score, to put pressure. He’s our best offensive player. Anytime you have that threat, people coming off and looking to pass, he’s looking to score. He’s the one guy besides John (Wall) who can give you 30. Anytime you have that on the floor, his spacing, he’s one of our best shooters. I’m glad to see him back there.”

“Other guys have been stepping up and doing a great job in their roles,” Wall said, “but with Brad starting it gives us another ball handler and he’s more aggressive and able to make plays.”

That Game Was … Bittersweet

A glass half-full kind of person would look at Friday night’s game as a step in the right direction. The Wizards are currently on the outside of the playoff picture and need to start accumulating wins to close the gap. With more than 30 games to play, they will need to win some challenging games against the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference and they will need to pick up some victories against the lesser teams, too. Against teams like the Sixers, the worst team in the league. Progress!

A pessimistic person who chooses to view the glass as half empty will look at the 25-point lead the Wizards relinquished and focus on how the  Sixers were able to stay just within striking distance the entire game. They will focus on Kelly Oubre’s lack of playing time, the inconsistent Otto Porter, and Randy Wittman’s inability to consistently keep the Wizards focused for 48 minutes.

A victory in Charlotte tonight will go a long way in providing some clarity.

 

 

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Key Legislature: Wizards 106 vs Sixers 94 — How it’s Supposed to Be http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/02/key-legislature-wizards-106-vs-sixers-94-how-its-supposed-to-be.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/02/key-legislature-wizards-106-vs-sixers-94-how-its-supposed-to-be.html#comments Sat, 06 Feb 2016 21:37:26 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=49891 TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards vs. Sixers, Regular Season Game 48, Feb. 5, 2016, by Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur), from the Verizon Center.

In the words of the great American philosopher Chris Rock, “Dudes are always trying to get credit for some shit that you’re supposed to do.” The Wizards were supposed to beat the 76ers because the talent discrepancy between the two teams is as distinguishable as the one seen between the Wizards and the defending champion Warriors earlier in the week. It doesn’t matter that the roster fielded by the Sixers more closely resembles a D-League All-Star team rather than an actual NBA franchise, a win is a win. And for a franchise that still fancies itself a playoff-bound team, the Wizards needed to prove to themselves that they can dominate an inferior opponent.

Jared Dudley, de facto Wizards mouthpiece, pointed out that this was a game the Wizards should have won, so by no means has Washington’s season turned around:

“Totally around, no. It’s just one game, a team that you should beat. The Sixers have been struggling all year. It’s some nice little home cooking before you go to Charlotte. I think that we’ve established offensively the way we have to play and defensively, can you get enough rebounds, can you get enough stops, and can you keep your turnovers low enough to give yourself the chance to win every night. Sometimes, we have, but that’s something we have to improve on.

“With our team being so deep, we have to now be able to get our rotations ready for how we are going to play for these next 30 games.”

It’s not as if the Wizards have had much practice playing against a slew of bad teams, since they have endured the second-toughest schedule in the Association. Before last night, they’d played 17 teams below .500 in 47 games.  But the universe does seem to have a way of balancing everything out: one of the selling points for the Wizards being able to turn their season around has been the fact that their schedule will be one of the league’s easiest going forward. Notable, however, is that they’ve played the fewest games in the NBA to date, so while strength of schedule may be more manageable, the Wiz have hundreds of minutes of catching up to do.

Friday night was the first of four meetings with the lowly 76ers. It’s a good sign that Washington did not take for granted that the Sixers have been much improved on the season after their disastrous start, actually sporting a better record than the Wizards since the start of 2016. Led by All-Star John Wall’s first triple-double of the season, the Wizards dismantled the Sixers from the inside out, outscoring them 58-42 in the paint and out rebounding them 46-38.

A large part of the reason that Washington had so much success down low against Philly was the fact that Wall and Bradley Beal were able to break down Philly’s guards off the dribble, attacking the rim for points of their own or distributing when the rotating help voided the paint area. Of course, it helped to have Marcin Gortat provide a safety valve all night with his touch around the basket. Gortat was so effective with a variety of layup finishes that it seemed like he was doing a George Mikan drill on air, not playing against actual NBA defenders.

“March” finished with 21 points on 10-for-16 shooting from the field, 13 rebounds, and a game-high plus/minus of plus-26. It was extremely important that Gortat brought his A-game, considering he had a much heavier load than most nights with Nene missing the contest (with a calf injury that will be monitored day-to-day, according to Randy Wittman).

Nene’s absence was a pre-game talking point, because he is the one player who does a lot of the dirty work down low in terms of rebounding, but Washington’s point guards were able to pick up the slack. Wall shined, attacking the glass and grabbing a career-high 13 rebounds. He pretty much did his best Russell Westbrook impersonation. Wall’s 13 defensive rebounds were critical because they allowed him to start the fast break immediately, and also cut down on Washington’s dreaded forced outlet passes to Wall, which are predictable and too often end up in the hands of the opposing team.

For a game that offered about as much excitement as a congressional hearing, and involved the worst team in the NBA playing against one of the many middling teams, there were not many big picture narratives to take away, except for the return of Bradley Beal to the starting lineup. Beal looked about as crisp as he has since his breakout game against San Antonio back in November. He finished with a game-high 22 points on 10-for-16 shooting, and he did it without displaying the sharp shooting touch that Wizards fans have come to know and love. This Beal was a masked menace, getting to the rim and finishing through contact. This is an aspect that many pundits have been waiting to see from Beal for about two seasons. Maybe he’s finally able to use his improved ball-handling skills to keep his dribble until he reaches the cup.

It was good to see Beal back in the starting lineup and playing alongside John Wall, as he should be, but there was a bit of a domino effect on productivity off the Wizards’ bench. Just last week in the win against the Houston Rockets, the bench scored 55 points in a big win. Versus Philadelphia, the Wizards’ bench looked a little disjointed, and Randy Wittman has his work cut out for him trying to settle on a rotation that will not leave the team totally vulnerable on the defensive end.  (He’s been working to find an answer here for a calendar year, at least.)

Real victories are better than moral victories, because they count in the standings. This team needs to get comfortable asserting themselves against inferior opponents, because they’ll have plenty of them in their path to the payoffs over the last 30-some game this season. If they fall apart, so too will their chances at a postseason berth.

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Key Legislature: Wizards 121 vs Warriors 134 — Curry Too Hot To Handle http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/02/key-legislature-wizards-121-vs-warriors-134-curry-too-hot-to-handle.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/02/key-legislature-wizards-121-vs-warriors-134-curry-too-hot-to-handle.html#comments Fri, 05 Feb 2016 21:55:36 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=49851 TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards vs. Warrios, Regular Season Game 47, Feb. 3, 2016, by Adam McGinnis (@AdamMcGinnis), from the Verizon Center, D.C. Photo: Monumental Sports.

john wall, steph curry, washington wizards, golden state warriors,  truth about it, adam mcginnis

On February 11, 1964, the Beatles performed their first concert in the United States at the Washington Coliseum(1The Washington Coliseum was also known as the ULine arena, home of the Washington Capitols of the Basketball Association of America. Red Auerbach coached there from 1946-49. It also was the home of the ABA’s Washington Caps from 1969-70. Rick Barry and Larry Brown played on the team. The structure is currently under construction to be a REI outdoor store.2) in D.C. The “Fab Four” from Liverpool electrified a new American audience. Fifty-two years later, almost to the day, the Golden State Warriors put on a complementary display of basketball rock-and-roll in the nation’s capital.

It appears on the surface overly hyperbolic and premature to compare one of the most iconic rock bands of all time to an NBA team, but the similarities are striking:

  • The Beatles arrived in D.C. from New York, where they had debuted on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” The Warriors’ previous game was in Manhattan against the New York Knicks.
  • In Golden State’s 136-121 victory over Washington, Warriors guard Steph Curry scorched the Wizards for 51 points and 11 3-pointers. Curry was one made 3-pointer away from tying an All-time NBA record. Groups of Beatles fans still trek to the now-shuttered Coliseum every February 12 to remember that historic evening by dancing around the arena to their favorite songs. Wednesday’s Golden State production won’t soon be forgotten.
  • The Beatles tune “I Want To Hold Your Hand” was their first American hit single, largely in part because of a D.C. radio DJ. The song sat atop the charts in February of 1964. The Warriors are the current defending NBA champs. Both groups stepped onto the pavement in D.C. as they ascended into their primes.
  • The Beatles’ show at the Coliseum began their successful transformation of how rock-and-roll bands in America were perceived. One music historian has called their D.C. show “one of the most exciting live performances the Beatles ever gave.” The Warriors are executing an exciting brand of “small ball” basketball that is revolutionizing the game. Their record of 45-4 has them on pace for the best ever regular season finish.
  • In over six years of covering the Wizards games, I have never witnessed fans mob a player like they did Curry when he exited the court. The Beatles had to rent an entire floor of the Omni Shoreham hotel in Woodley Park in order to deal with their throngs of admirers.
  • The Warriors visited the White House on Thursday to honor their 2014-15 championship. “I already met President Obama, so I’m not real excited,” Curry joked after the game. The Beatles had an event at the British Embassy. Beatles band member Paul McCartney recalled, “The idea of going to an ambassador’s party was sort of amusing and vaguely interesting, but it wasn’t our scene.”
  • The Beatles performed in front of 8,000 adoring fans that evening and this first-hand account compared the raucous atmosphere to “an explosion.” The Verizon Center was sold out. Every made Curry 3-point attempt sent the crowd into a frenzy. For example, check out the arena’s reaction when Curry successful nailed this wild shot.

The parallels don’t stop there, but let’s get to analyzing the actual basketball contest.

There were numerous pivotal moments in the Warriors’ triumph. Curry blazed to 25-point opening quarter on 9-for-10 shooting (7 made 3s), outscoring he entire Wizards team, 23-22. His insane shooting display energized followers of both squads and the game itself became secondary to whatever absurd stunt Steph was about to pull off next. To Washington’s credit, the team battled back behind the playmaking of John Wall and Bradley Beal. The Wizards backcourt duo attacked the rim, turned steals into buckets and produced many highlights of their own. They combined for 34 first-half points but, of course, their total was two points less than Curry’s output. Watching the reigning M.V.P. in the first half reminded me of a Barry Bonds at bat, or a Barry Sanders rushing attempt—you anticipated extreme sports greatness to at any moment. And when it did, the rush still was overwhelming.

The next significant series was Washington coming out like gangbusters to start the second half, in turn producing some of the best basketball of the season. Otto Porter started to knock down shots, the Wiz defense were ball hawks in the passing lanes, Wall’s drives were unstoppable, and Marcin Gortat briefly gave the Warriors fits on his rolls to the basket. The Wizards went on a 19-7 run in the first four minutes of the third quarter. The Phone Booth was, for the first time Wednesday evening, wanting for not Curry but the home team.

Everything changed when Wall picked up his fourth foul at the six-minute mark, then trailing by just two points. Coach Don Newman, filling in for Randy Wittman who was absent due to the passing of his brother, pulled Wall from the game. This overly cautious (one could argue) decision proved costly as the Warriors finished the third quarter on a 22-13 run with Washington’s star point guard on the bench. Wall returned in the fourth quarter but Washington never got closer than six points.

Two other sequences summarized how the Wizards were unable to conjure the necessary stuff to upset the champs. Gortat, in the fourth, stole the ball at half court and awkwardly attempted to pass it ahead, but the ball went to Warriors guard (and former Wizard) Shaun Livingston, who then rifled a pass to Klay Thompson for a successful corner 3-ball. Later, Porter missed an opportunity in transition and the Wiz tip-back attempt was unsuccessful. Immediately, the Warriors pushed the ball up the court, found Curry in the corner, who barely had control of the ball but still flicked a 25-footer into the hoop over the outstretched arm of a too-slow-to-close Gortat. These two plays combined to be a 10-point swing. Washington doesn’t have enough talent to beat the champs when they squander easy chances.

Unfortunately, Wall’s final line of 41 points on 17-for-25 shooting, with 10 assists, will be overshadowed by Curry’s 51. Any talk of him not deserving an All-Star berth has hopefully now subsided.

The experience was surreal, fun, and probably the closest thing to a legitimate moral victory. However, the Wizards have now dropped 16 games at the Verizon Center (10-16) this season, compared to 13 losses at the Phone Booth all of last season. Only the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers have more home defeats in the Eastern Conference. This is simply unacceptable. I share the sentiments of our TAI Boss man, Kyle Weidie.

Whether these Washington Wizards can take their sad song and make it better remains to be seen. There isn’t much track left.

PICTURES.

washington wizards, truth about it, steph curry, golden state, warriors, adam mcginnis, john wall

washington wizards, truth about it, steph curry, golden state, warriors, adam mcginnis, john wall

 

washington wizards, truth about it, steph curry, golden state, warriors, adam mcginnis, steve kerr

washington wizards, truth about it, steph curry, golden state, warriors, adam mcginnis, crowd

 

washington wizards, truth about it, steph curry, golden state, warriors, adam mcginnis, john wall

washington wizards, truth about it, steph curry, golden state, warriors, adam mcginnis, john wall

VINES.

VIDEOS.


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Wall Battles Curry in Star War — Wizards vs Warriors, DC Council 47 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/02/wall-battles-curry-in-star-war-wizards-vs-warriors-dc-council-47.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/02/wall-battles-curry-in-star-war-wizards-vs-warriors-dc-council-47.html#comments Thu, 04 Feb 2016 17:35:40 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=49834 The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards vs. Warriors, Game 47, February 3, 2016, via Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks), from the Verizon Center in D.C.

That Game Was … Fun Until You Wake Up the Next Day and The Weight of Wizards Fandom Hits You.

Two years ago, there existed a semi-popular refrain comparing the Washington Wizards and the Golden State Warriors. It went something like, “The Warriors are the Wizards of the West, except better at every position.” Back then, Mark Jackson still had his hands at either side of the Bay Area pulpit, and the Wizards were Witmanballing their way over .500 for the first time in forever. Since that time, the Wizards got a little bit better and then significantly more stale. The Warriors, on the other hand…

Let’s stop there. It isn’t fair to compare the two teams. Indeed, the Wizards hardly have Golden State’s personnel. Who knew that Draymond Green, drafted after the Wizards selected Tomas Satoransky to appease Jan Vesely who was selected ahead of Klay Thompson, would turn into a max-level player? Or who cared to know? Second-round picks rarely work out for teams content to punt like it was fourth-and-10.

We could go back further, too, and argue that the Wizards should have Curry too, who was selected after the Wizards traded their fifth overall pick for Mike Miller and Randy Foye, but I think (no sarcasm) that’s a bridge too far. I won’t defend that trade, which was incredibly disheartening as a follower of the team and worked out about as poorly as such a move can work out. And yet it’s hard to go back that far without remaking history and creating a growing list of assumptions that begs Occam’s Razor for a mercy killing.

This game, then.

The crowd was impressive, and even though there were a significant amount of Golden State fans present, the volume only seemed to hit max during Washington runs. During one spectacular sequence, which featured blocks on both ends (and began with Draymond blocking a Beal 3-pointer, of all things) and incredible pace, a missed corner 3-pointer by the Wizards drew the most audible collective groan I’ve ever heard in Verizon Center. Had it gone in, with the Wizards threatening to tie or go ahead in the game after being blasted out of the gate, I imagine the Game Entertainment division would have authorized emission of two additional mini-fireworks.

The Wizards were, as suggested above, trounced in the first quarter. Steph Curry went 7-for-8 on 3-point shots in the first frame, making absurd plays like stealing the ball a few steps inside midcourt, watching Jared Dudley dive to recover the ball, watching the ball go off his foot instead, snagging the ball like it was the last chicken sandwich in the cafeteria on meatball day, and then putting the ball through the basket on a quick-trigger 3-pointer instead of driving because at that point: why not?

At the end of the first, the Warriors led 43-28, and I prepared myself to pretend like I was resigned to another blowout when in fact I was deeply upset. At the time, the Wizards had managed only three more points (28) than Curry alone (25 in the first quarter). What can a team do against such reckless brilliance?

Shotchart_1454599725465

Specifically, what can the Wizards do against a player so possessed? What can guys like Garrett Temple do? What about Jared Dudley? Nene? Gary Neal? In all such cases, the answer is close to nil. Few teams in the NBA have enough firepower to keep pace with Golden State, as evidenced by the Warriors’ 45-4 record. So, individual effort. Wall, who acting head coach Don Newman said came to “war” with a “big, big heart,” wanted this one. Badly enough that he said he wanted to make it a 1-on-1 battle. Of course, Steph had the headstart.

And yet Wall outscored Curry 34-26 after the first quarter, attacking the hoop far more often than normal, keeping the Warriors off balance with 10 assists, and then getting enough confidence to start knocking down some pandarange jumpers as well. How scary was Wall? Warriors coach had this to say:

“Well the biggest thing with Wall is if you’re going to give him fast break layups and dunks then he is more likely to give up jump shots too. You always have to give up jump shots with John because he’s so fast, you got to try to keep him out of the paint but I thought our biggest issue was the turnovers which led to layups which led to plenty of confidence and all of sudden he’s making his jump shot too and you’ve got a problem.”

Alas, it wasn’t enough, and though moral-victory-speak was prevalent after the game, you get the sense that the Wizards, 3.5 games out of the playoffs and fast approaching the All-Star break, don’t really have time for that mess.

M.V.P.

Steph Curry was one 3-pointer away from tying the record for total 3-pointers made in a game. That record, if you’re pondering, is held by Kobe Bryant and Donyell Marshall, at 12 3-pointers each. Curry turned the ball over seven times, and was able to hide on defense for most of the game, but he almost effortlessly put the game out of striking distance in the first quarter. The Wizards had to sustain perfect play for an unsustainable amount of time in order to catch up, and when Wall got his fourth foul with over six minutes left in the third quarter, the Wizards (once within two points) wilted. The game remained interesting, but Golden State’s weapons were well-maintained. Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, and Draymond Green all took turns heartbreaking. Thompson hit two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, both drawing audible disgust from the pro-Wizards home crowd.

The thing with Curry is: even when you know he’s coming for you, he’s impossible to stop. “I said, ‘Here he goes!’ And I knew it because that’s what they usually do,” Newman said after the game. “I mean, they come out and the first time and they want to just kill you.”

Washington slowed Curry down after the first quarter, running traps at him and getting the ball out of his hands, but slowing Curry down just means he won’t break a record over your head like a glass bottle. The dude still scored 51 points.

Because this is a Wizards blog, though, here are some nice quotes about John Wall (41 points, 10 assists, 3 turnovers) from the competition:

From Curry:

“He’s a top tier point guard … You have to be ready. He had a great game, really forced the issue in the second quarter, made plays down the stretch in the fourth quarter and was always under control. It was a fun battle. We didn’t guard each other that much, but you always get inspired by some great play out there.”

From Thompson, who Wall once delightfully threatened to knock out after Thompson shoved him out of bounds:

“His speed is probably second to none in the NBA, his ability, and he is a one man fast break and it is crazy because he logs so many minutes. He is a very special talent and they do have a great backcourt over there so have to give him a lot of credit. He fought hard. His midrange jumper is also so much improved. You can tell he has been working on his game a lot and you like to see that from guys.”

From Green:

“He’s tough. He’s super athletic, fast, and quick and he can jump. When that jump shot is falling like it was tonight, it makes him even tougher to guard.”

L.V.P.

I don’t want to get into this too much, because Garrett Temple in the right role is a fine support player to have on one’s roster. And at times he’s looked like he could complement his defensive prowess (which is mostly a mirage of effort and activity, anyways) with offensive competence. But in no way should Temple be lining up as a starter and playing over 30 minutes against the defending champion Golden State Warriors. To the extent that an end-of-the-bench player can be “exposed,” Temple found himself on the receiving end of a whole lot of Stephen Curry jumpers, arriving too late to pull his patented, and often perfect, palm between the hands of the shooter, preventing follow-through. Problem is: both Curry and Thompson have incredibly quick releases, which led Temple’s contests to look gratuitously late and more likely to produce a foul than a miss. The Warriors shot 11-for-18 (5-9 on 3s) when guarded by Temple.

The other side of the coin is that Curry guarded Temple instead of Wall on the opposite end, effectively letting the cartoonishly good Davidson graduate rest before his next offensive miracle. Although Wall and Temple shared the floor for much of the game, Wall ended as merely minus-1 whereas Temple ended the game as a team-low minus-22. Other factors come into play, obviously, but to quote those who often sing Temple’s praises, “if you watch basketball” you know that the Wizards could have used a starter-level player for those 30 minutes. Trouble is: I’m not sure one is on the roster, other than Beal, who played 28 minutes. To add to Temple’s troubles, he also shot 2-for-9 from the floor, including one early-in-the-shot-clock 3-point attempt that should only be taken by star-level players with respect enough to survive the collective raising of the eyebrows that such a shot elicits.

X-Factor.

There are only so many minutes to be distributed in a basketball game (240 to be exact). In that context, it’s easy to dismiss the lack of playing time for Wizards rookie Kelly Oubre Jr., who came in with low expectations after being drafted 15th overall. And although I’m not often one to overvalue rookie minutes (see: Otto Porter, who sucked as a rookie), Oubre Jr. has earned time over the likes of Gary Neal, who we’ve watched become the target of opposing guards as soon as he enters the game. As TAI’s John Converse Townsend notes, Neal allowed opposing players to shoot over 12 percent better than their average while he’s guarding them in January(1).

When Beal and Porter suffered through injuries, Oubre made a few starts, and got 20-plus minutes on several occasions. From summer league to mid-season, he’s improved in several areas. His drive doesn’t stop short in awkward layup attempts anymore, and he’s found ways around players rather than through them. His tendency to arm-check has diminished, and he’s playing better foundation defense in addition to the defensive activity and length that will make him a great defender down the road. Most importantly, as TAI’s Kyle Weidie has noted in the past, he’s often the catalyst for easy baskets, getting deflections, steals, or just stopping an opposing player on the perimeter and frustrating the opposing team’s system offense. And yet, somehow, his good play has taken his playing time in the other direction. He didn’t play against the Warriors.

Oubre’s playing time isn’t making or breaking the Wizards, but the team’s defense is awful, and Oubre has shown he’s a fast learner. There are minutes available if you consider that Gary Neal, Garrett Temple, and Drew Gooden are playing significant time. Oubre, who can play the 2 through 4 without significant adjustment, could help this team. I’d also add that his pre-game routine with DeJuan Blair, involving an intricate set of arm and head movements, is spectacular.


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The Pixel-And-Roll Show: NBA Slamming and Woofing http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/02/the-pixel-and-roll-show-nba-slamming-and-woofing.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/02/the-pixel-and-roll-show-nba-slamming-and-woofing.html#comments Wed, 03 Feb 2016 15:47:35 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=49804 pixel and roll, pixel-and-roll show, podcast, john wall,

Two guests made their debuts on recent episodes of the Pixel-And-Roll Show. First, Abe Schwadron, who is an Associate Editor for SLAM Magazine, a Wizards fan from Silver Spring, Maryland.

In segment one of our conversation, we discussed Schwadron’s professional basketball writing career and the transition of SLAM’s print magazine to the online world. Other topics include: influence of SLAM among today’s players, Schwadron’s neat feature on the new NBA socks, his coverage of events with Klay Thompson and Carmelo Anthony, and his thoughts on this season’s Washington Wizards.

The topics for segment two: analysis of the Wizards, discussion of John Wall’s fall out with adidas, Wall firing his agent Dan Fegan, potential options for new a shoe deal, D.C.’s shot in bringing Kevin Durant “home,” and a forecast the Wizards’ playoff possibilities.

MLK Shoe, washington wizards, john wall, washington wizards, pixel-and-roll show, pixel and roll, truth about it, adam mcginnis
TAI writer Troy Haliburton joined me for a mid-January update on the Wizards. Topics for part one are Haliburton’s feelings on the season; the four-game winning streak with victories in Orlando, Chicago, Indiana, and at home over Milwaukee; the loss against the Boston; the solid play of Ramon Sessions; outstanding contributions from Garrett Temple; rookie Kelly Oubre’s surprising play; Bradley Beal and Nene’s returns from injuries; and the incident between Randy Wittman and the Celtics’ Jae Crowder.

In part two of our conversation, we break down the M.L.K. Day matinee blowout loss to Portland, discuss the team’s struggles at the Verizon Center this season, provide a team injury update, debate Beal’s minutes restriction, highlight Oubre’s progression, preview the upcoming schedule, and provide an outlook on the rest of season.

Subscribe to one of the podcast feeds below. Thanks for your support! 

washington wizards, mlk, warm ups, john wall, nene, pixel and roll, the pixel-and-roll show, podcast, adam mcginnis, truth about it

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Opening Statements: Wizards vs Warriors, Game 47 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/02/opening-statements-wizards-vs-warriors-game-47.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/02/opening-statements-wizards-vs-warriors-game-47.html#comments Wed, 03 Feb 2016 15:34:25 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=49812 Washington Wizards vs Golden State Warriors - Dec. 8, 2012 - Truth About It.net


Teams: Wizards vs Warriors
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Chinatown, Washington, D.C.
Television: ESPN/CSN
Radio: WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Warriors fav’d by 10.5 points.


Q: What happens when an unstoppable force meets an object that is not only movable, but also actually accelerates items that cross its path?

A: We’ll find out on tonight, but a safe, conservative guess is 120 points on the Verizon Center court for a Golden State Warriors team that will surely win as though they are playing at home with all the support they will probably find themselves receiving.

Remember the last time the Wizards and Warriors met? No? Really? Well, here’s a reminder. If you’re really pressed for time, let me just snag an image from that post and, one moment … ahh … there it is.

null

There we go. Here come those memories. We were this close to witnessing an entire quarter of Wizards basketball without a field goal, until that selfish son of a gun Kevin Seraphin just had to (barely) coax a stupid hook shot in with barely a minute remaining. In retrospect, it’s most definitely why the Wizards opted to let him walk in the offseason.

We won’t drag this one out more than necessary, because it’s somewhat predetermined: The Warriors will come to D.C., the crowd will ooh and ahh at everything Steph Curry does, the Wizards will be pissed off and likely keep the game close for awhile, then Golden State will go on a huge run and win by 20 or so. Naturally, because I have now etched it forever into the internet, something totally unexpected will happen.

As you perhaps have heard, the Warriors are an above-average basketballing group. They’re on pace for a cool 75 wins this season, and they’ve won 111 of their past 130 games (.854). And just because they can, they’re now supposedly the frontrunners to snatch Kevin Durant from the desperately clenched grip of the Oklahoma City Thunder and the blindly flailing arms of the Wizards. Harrison Barnes is fine and all, but Kevin Durant and the Warriors just has a nice ring to it.

Washington, meanwhile, is on pace for 38 wins, roughly the standard of participation trophy in the NBA. As Durant chooses which pen to sign his Warriors contract with in five months or so, the Wizards will more than likely be prepping for another season of Ernie Grunfeld, Randy Wittman, John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Marcin Gortat, 35-45 wins, and a whole lot of “Hey do the Wizards play tonight? Yeah, I think so. Wanna watch the game? Nah, I think I’m just gonna catch some ‘Castle’ reruns and call it a night. Oh nice, what channel is ‘Castle on?’ “ But hey, Washington will have a whole bunch of cap space to throw around, so look forward to a multiyear, 8-digit-per-year deal for an aging big man!

Alright, to this game. The key will be to stop Curry. And Klay Thompson, too. And if you could keep Draymond Green out of triple-double territory, that would be swell. Yes, the Warriors nearly lost to Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers last week, but I’m of the belief that will actually help Golden State. They nearly fell victim to a trap game against a team that’s improved much in recent weeks, one that would have been mildly embarrassing and really put a damper on the Warriors’ quest to top 72 wins; I don’t see it happening twice in a month, much less in a handful of games.

How one beats the Warriors (1) is a combination of ball movement, relentless defense, keeping them out of rhythm, and a stupid amount of luck. The Cleveland Cavaliers had some success against them in the Finals last year, thanks mostly to the latter two strategies. Washington will have difficulty slowing to the pace Cleveland did—the John Wall effect, if you will—and luck is rarely on the Wizards’ side. Ball movement isn’t exactly a strength of the Wizards’, and ‘LOL’ at relentless defense from this bunch.

Really, Washington should just get weird with this game. Throw out a starting lineup of John Wall, Gary Neal (unless Bradley Beal is starting again), Garrett Temple, Kelly Oubre, and Otto Porter. If the Warriors beat you by feeding the ball down low to Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli all night, so be it. It’s got to be better for your psyche than watching Curry throw in a half-dozen 40-footers as your defense threatens to give up 100 by the end of the third quarter (again).

I’ll go ahead and save you the five seconds needed to find this.

Instead of a Q&A today, I’m just going to punt and vomit a slew of incredible Warriors stats onto the page. Because when it comes to this Golden State team, it’s kind of like fine art: You can analyze all you want, pick apart every last detail of what makes them so excellent, but that’s doing it wrong. Just sit back and enjoy it. Let glory wash over you like an exquisitely timed ray of sunshine in the midst of the barren, otherwise unforgiving winter.

  • The last time the Wizards and Warriors played, in the game that featured the third-quarter collapse, Golden State shot just .411 from the field and won by 31.
  • The Warriors have surged forward to tie the San Antonio Spurs in Net Rating this season with a blink-worthy plus-14.1. The Thunder are third at plus-8.7. The Cleveland Cavaliers are fourth at plus-5.9. The Wizards are 22nd at minus-2.6.
  • Golden State’s Offensive Rating is 113.0, while no other team is even at 110.0. Washington’s Defensive Rating is a tepid 105.0.
  • Despite often utilizing a small lineup, the Warriors grab 51.9 percent of all rebounds, the fifth-best mark in the league. The Wizards sometimes use two traditional big men, yet grab just 47.5 percent of rebounds, the second-worst mark.
  • The Warriors hold opponents to a league-worst .467 eFG%. The Wizards allow opponents to put up the league’s second-best eFG% at .525. What’s more, the Warriors’ eFG% is .565, easily the best in the NBA.
  • Golden State (20.5 per game) and Washington (18.6) are the league’s top two teams in fast-break points, so at least the game might be entertaining for a bit? The Warriors also allow the league’s seventh-most fast-break points (14.4 per game) while the Wizards allow 12.2 per game, the 16th-most.
  • Golden’s State’s ball movement is unreal; 63.0 percent of their 2-pointers are assisted, easily the most in the league, and it’s tops in the league in percentage of total field goals assisted, at 68.9 percent. That number would be higher, but Curry and Thompson just casually pull up for 3s whenever they want, so their assist percentage on 3s is relatively low.
  • Speaking of casual 3-pointers, the Warriors shoot .439 from 25-to-29 feet as a team. That’s not only the best number in the league, by a lot, but also goddamn ridiculous. The next best mark is .376, by the Utah Jazz. The Wizards are a respectable seventh in the NBA in those shots, at .364. In fact, all but three teams in the league shoot between 30 and 38 percent on those shots: the Warriors, the Minnesota Timberwolves (.275), and the Miami Heat (.266). Even crazier, the Warriors shoot the most of these shots per game, not that that’s even remotely surprising. Golden State launches 15.9 shots per game from this range, and it makes 7.0. Ready for this? Only one other team in the NBA makes even 5.0 from that range per game: the Charlotte Hornets, at 5.1 per game, and they do it on .325 shooting.
  • Did I mention their starting lineup next season could very well be Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and [quite literally, anybody in the NBA]?

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Key Legislature: Wizards 98 at Thunder 114 — No Charge, No Chance http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/02/key-legislature-46-wizards-98-at-thunder-114.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/02/key-legislature-46-wizards-98-at-thunder-114.html#comments Tue, 02 Feb 2016 15:45:43 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=49785 TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards at Thunder, Regular Season Game 46, Feb. 1, 2016, by John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend).

Basketball is all about match-ups. In this 114-98 Thunder win, the Wizards lost most of them. (1)

John Wall scored 18 points with 8 assists. “John Wall is like the evil twin of Russell Westbrook,” Thunder TV analyst Michael Cage said a few minutes in. And later: “Talk about a mirror image, almost, of Russell Westbrook with the basketball.”

But Russell Westbrook triple-doubled in three quarters. He finished with 13 boards, 11 dimes, and 17 points. On thirteen shots and a single free throw (six attempts fewer at the line than his season average).

The baddest point guard in the NBA (2) turned screens to perfection and made dominating look easy all night. And his post-up game caused problems from the get-go–past Wall or over him to help OKC to a 6-2 lead. With the Wizards cowering, having realized two defenders wouldn’t be enough to stop Russ, Durant scored none of their next 11 points, mostly unbothered by Otto Porter, Garrett Temple, Jared Dudley, whomever.

Serge Ibaka. Too tough, nine points in nine minutes.

The Wizards trailed by 10 points after the first quarter. It was only that close because Wall out-scored OKC 7-6 in the final 1:24 (once rookie Cameron Payne entered the game for Westbrook), two layups and a hoop plus the harm. At halftime it was 64-52, Thunder. The aforementioned superstar trio had 42 points on 26 shots. Promethean. The Wizards had made just one 3-pointer and were getting wiped on the glass, grabbing zero offensive boards and getting out-rebounded 26-12 overall.


From there, John Wall and the rest of the product would get close as six once, for 23 seconds. The Thunder cruised like a Harley on the highway. Too comfortable at times, from a Wizards perspective. Fans watching were treated to a third-quarter show featuring trampoline dunk team, Lob City Midwest. Colorful posters and acrobatic alley-oops.


The fourth quarter: “Easy Rider” Action Bronson, sunset silhouette.

The raw numbers? The Wizards entered and exited the arena 30th against Western Conference teams in points allowed per game (now 109.8), field goal percentage (48.7%) and 3-point percentage (43.4%). Durant ended up with 28 points and nine boards; Ibaka double-doubled with 19 and 10.

The Wizards were out-rebounded (27-53), shown the shed on second-chance points (18-2), out-scored on the break (14-12), and had their shots swatted more often (3-5). “They just got one after another,” Assistant Coach Randy Newman said. “They beat us to the ball all night. That’s what happened.”

The Wizards were beat from every line:

3-point
Wizards: 26.9%
Thunder: 31.8%

Free Throw
Wizards: 73.3%
Thunder: 77.8%

Baseline
Wizards: not enough points
Thunder: 16 more

The sideline, too. Newman, filling in for Randy Wittman (3), dialed up this week’s standard rotations and got a standard result. Kelly Oubre didn’t leave his seat till inside the last two minutes (dos minutos), but scored more points than Drew Gooden (15:23 of action), Gary Neal (5:18), and DeJuan Blair (6:17). Oubre’s total: two points. So, despite Bradley Beal putting up 18 points off the bench, Washington’s second unit was just plus-2 over Oklahoma City’s.

And the ‘Zards defense didn’t look any wiser, perhaps most evident in the set below.

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 9.44.40 PM

The Wizards, here, have four players (4) in the paint trying to dig out a Westbrook post-up. That this tactic leaves Kevin Durant free for 3 in a zone where he shoots 44.1 percent is especially problematic. (He would miss.) That it looked like a practiced defensive strategy is cause for concern.

“The awareness on the weak side wasn’t there,” Temple said afterward.

Newman will get another go on Wednesday from the tame and familiar confines of the Verizon Center. But against the Golden State Warriors … well, don’t expect to be impressed. Dudley wasn’t on Monday night: “Our rotations were so bad that they had such a huge advantage where once we came back to try to rebound, they had inside position.”

This is what 21-25 looks and sounds like.

Basketball is about match-ups. The 2016 Wizards don’t.


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Stormy Trio [Thunder] Claps Wiz Kids — Wizards at Thunder, Game 46 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/02/stormy-trio-thunderclaps-wiz-kids-wizards-at-thunder-game-46.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/02/stormy-trio-thunderclaps-wiz-kids-wizards-at-thunder-game-46.html#comments Tue, 02 Feb 2016 06:25:18 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=49784 The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards at Thunder, Game 46, Feb. 1, 2016, via Bryan Frantz (@BFrantz202)

That Game Was … Surprisingly Close, Moderately Entertaining

At no point did you watch this game, assuming you watched this game, thinking the Wizards were actually going to win, but you had to raise an eyebrow on more than one occasion at Washington’s myriad of mini-comebacks. The Thunder went up by 10-to-15 points time and again, but the Wizards kept fighting back to get it back to 7-to-9 points. That’s something, believe it or not. Washington often falls behind by double digits and maintains that deficit (1), so the notion that the game was never really, technically unwinnable is certainly a positive.

Despite the two teams sustaining point totals that inhabited the same planet, middle America clearly boasted the superior basketballing squad on this day. Russell Westbrook had a triple-double before the end of the third quarter for the second time in two games against the Wizards this season, finishing with 17 points on 8-for-13 shooting, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists. Serge Ibaka had 19 points on 8-for-12 shooting, 10 rebounds, and two blocks. Enes Kanter put up 14 points on 4-for-7 shooting and a 6-for-6 affair from the charity stripe.

Oh, and that local basketball pro contributed to the Thunder’s reign with 28 points on 9-for-18 shooting, nine rebounds, and four assists. Durant went 0-for-4 with a pair of turnovers in the fourth quarter, but he dominated enough in the first three quarters to kick back and chuckle over the #KD2DC dream that existed for way too long.

M.V.P.

Give that man John Wall a round of applause (and a nap, and a week off, and a raise, and a…). On paper, he was mediocre at best. He finished with 17 points, eight assists, and four rebounds, each below his season average, despite 40:58 of action. He also added six more turnovers to his season tally, which reached 201 Monday night. But he was the only reason Washington was able to stay competitive relevant for much of the game, and his constant attacking of the basket, at least early on, was one of the most positive takeaways. He hit a bit of a lull as the game wore on, scoring just five points on 2-for-8 shooting after halftime, but the whole team was in a lull for much of the second half, so what are you gonna do? The All-Star point guard was also credited with three blocks on the night, blocking Kevin Durant twice while hustling back in defensive transition (once after Wall turned the ball over, of course).

The top runner-up for this coveted award goes to Jared Dudley, who played hard, communicated on defense, helped set a style early on, and started (for the second straight game!). Like Wall, he was far more impressive on the court than he was on paper—eight points on 2-for-6 shooing, four rebounds, and six assists has him coming up just a wee bit short of M.V.P. voting. But his passing was excellent, and Dudley moved with and without the ball throughout the game. He and Wall were the two who jumped out as playing active, fully devoted games. I have a pretty strong feeling this duo dominated last week’s players-only meeting.

L.V.P.

Just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s any less true: The Wizards are really atrocious on defense. Oklahoma City shot .518 from the field, and that number was dragged down by a 6-for-20 fourth quarter, when the Thunder spent a healthy chunk of time dicking around and waiting for the game to end before chucking up a tough shot to beat the shot clock. The worst part was: Even when they forced a Thunder miss, all the Wizards players would begin their jog to the other end of the court as the ball was just caroming off the rim. As a result, Washington was absolutely punished on the glass to the tune of a 53-27 overall edge. In the fourth quarter alone, Oklahoma City grabbed six offensive rebounds—the Wizards finished the game with two offensive rebounds.

OKC’s big three had its way with the Wizards throughout, and those numbers were mildly skewed by Durant’s errors of frustration in the fourth quarter. The trio combined to rack up 32 rebounds, five more than the Wizards team. Washington managed 20 assists to their 18, and the trio’s combined plus/minus was plus-44 (+15 when all on the court at the same time). It was an absolute exhibition on how to dominate with a trio of stars.

X-Factor.

It’s such a cliché, but hustle really decided the winner of this game. Hustle is a broad term in this sense, and it could really be subbed out for “attention to detail.” For example, when the Wizards were jogging up the court after a stop, they kept their heads down and didn’t pay attention to the details, which, in this case, were primarily that Washington did not yet have the ball. All Oklahoma City’s players had to do was keep an eye on the rock and make a move on a loose ball or a lazy or errant pass to regain possession. Or when Wall hustled back on defense one time in the final minutes of the first half to swat a Durant layup, no other Wizard tracked back with him, so the loose ball went right to Ibaka, who drained a 3.

Or when the Wizards cut the deficit to 12 with just under 10 minutes remaining, then they get a stop to have a chance to actually make the game close again, but Drew Gooden seemingly forgets he is dribbling and loses the ball at the top of the key. Then, after Washington somehow forces another stop, Wall leads Marcin Gortat too far on a transition feed and the ball sails hopelessly out of bounds. If the Wizards convert on both of those possessions, even if they just get two points on each, suddenly they’re looking at an eight-point game with more than nine minutes to go. They followed that up with another stop—a block by Wall—and Garrett Temple drained a 3 on the other end to make it a nine-point game. It could have been five, however, and the momentum would have been with Washington. A Thunder timeout likely would have followed, meaning the ensuing Cameron Payne 3-pointer might not have happened.

Alas, that’s not how it went. Washington did what Washington does—that is, fart away the game—and the Wizards fell to 0-1 under interim head coach Don Newman. Luke Walton’s record lives to fight another day.


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Opening Statements: Wizards at Thunder, Game 46 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/02/opening-statements-wizards-at-thunder-game-46.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/02/opening-statements-wizards-at-thunder-game-46.html#comments Mon, 01 Feb 2016 15:25:07 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=49777 Washington Wizards vs Oklahoma City Thunder - Jan. 7, 2013


Teams: Wizards at Thunder
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
Television: CSN
Radio: WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Thunder fav’d by 9.5 points


The Wizards could be facing Kevin Durant in a Thunder uniform this evening for the final time. Or it could be the fifth-to-final time, or the 17th-to-final time (if Durant plays until at least 35). Oklahoma City has won three in a row in the series, and they are 10-4 overall versus Washington since moving from Seattle. Wouldn’t it be something if these two franchises had a rematch in the 2018 NBA Finals 40 years after the fact?

The #KD2DC movement has, nonetheless, increasingly deflated as this season has worn on, with OKC having the fourth-best record in the NBA (third-best in the West) and the Wizards in 10th place in the East and 2.5 games out of a playoff spot. Durant barely played when the Thunder visited D.C. in November, leaving the game early with a sore left hamstring. Russell Westbrook (triple-double in three quarters), Serge Ibaka (23 points, 3-3 on 3s), and even Dion Waiters (25 points off the bench) were solvent enough to mop the floor with a Wizards squad without Bradley Beal and Nene.

From that night’s coverage:

As the usual late-arriving crowd in D.C. (also known to cower in the face of a little bit of rain) became noticeably and decidedly dull past the midway point of the second quarter, Dion Waiters hit a 3-pointer. It was his second in less than a four-minute span, the second 3 coming via assist from local basketball player Kevin Durant. He was the most un-Dion Waiters that I or anyone else has ever been served—a game-high 25 points on 10 field goal attempts. A feat of those proportions (>= 25 pts, =< 10 FGAs) only happened 19 previous times since Waiters entered the league in 2012. Waiters’ show last night was just the fifth time any player did it coming off the bench in that span. This x-factoring of Waiters on a night hyped for so many other reasons could be classified and archived as #SoWizards, if one were doing such (and the Library of Congress is), so there’s that.

The Thunder on this Monday evening welcome the Wizards having won 10 of their last 11 games, somehow losing to the Nets in Brooklyn last Sunday, needing overtime to beat the Knicks in New York last Tuesday, and beating the Timber-pups by three points in Minnesota on Wednesday. Back home, the Thunder beat the Rockets by eight points on Friday night and have had two days off.

During the last meeting—it was just the seventh game of the season for the Wizards—Randy Wittman aimed to counter OKC’s bruising duo of Steven Adams and Serge Ibaka (perhaps underestimating Ibaka’s 3-point prowess in the process) with a 4-5 combo that never worked, Kris Humphries and Marcin Gortat (1). Both got beat in the paint badly to the point where A) Wittman started Drew Gooden in the second half instead of Humphries, and B) the coach called out Gortat for getting one defensive rebound in 27 minutes, claiming that he, at his age of 56, could get at least one NBA-caliber rebound in that amount of time. Ah, the good ol’ days of the Wizards this season.

Over the last three games, with usual starting 2 guard Anthony Roberson out due to a sprained knee, Dion Waiters has started alongside Russell Westbrook, Durant, and Patty and Selma (I think Adams is Selma). And really, that’s perhaps where OKC’s recent close games started. Roberson, a defensive leader, got hurt after 15 minutes of action in the Brooklyn loss.

Wittman (2) will likely form a platoon to defend Durant once again, giving each Otto Porter, Jared Dudley, Kelly Oubre, Bradley Beal, and Garrett Temple their draft cards. Although, we can probably count on Temple starting on Westbrook and Wall on Waiters. The question is Porter. He’s banged up with a partially torn hip labrum and a sore back. He also got son’d by Durant last time. Will Randy Wittman throw #Slenderman to the wolves in their own den? Maybe trying to counter the size of the Thunder was the right answer, but Wittman just had the wrong personnel available, such as the Gortat-Nene lineup that’s been a sore point from yours truly to the players playing the actual games.

Still, could a Wall, Temple, Dudley, Nene, and Gortat lineup throw a counter-cog in the game’s flow and give the Wiz a desperate, fighting chance. Might not be the worst idea, if the Wizards think Dudley can keep up with Durant for half a quarter (you should have your doubts). And then you bring in Porter or Gooden in for Nene, along with Beal for Temple, at the six-minute mark of the first quarter to change things up. Then again, Dudley, Nene, and Gortat have not shared the court all season. There could be better, or worse, ideas.

In any case, here’s how Durant has shot over his last five games against the Wizards, and how tightly he’s been guarded, per NBA.com player tracking stats:

  • Field Goals: 46-93 (49.5%)
  • 3-Pointers: 11-29 (37.9%)
  • Catch & Shoot: 5-21 (23.8%)
  • Pull-Ups: 18-37 (48.6%)
  • Tightly or Very Tightly Defended (0-4 feet): 37-66 (56.1%)
  • Open or Wide Open (4 feet or beyond): 9-27 (33.3%)

The guy can just flat-out shoot—especially when guarded. Wouldn’t you want him on your team?

Stay tuned to your video, tablet, phone, and/or television monitors, this could go the way of the Wizards, or the way of the #SoWizards, with not much room left in between.

True Story?

KD2DC

durant-halo

Westbrook to Durant Oop

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Key Legislature: Wizards 123 at Rockets 122 — ‘Real’ Wizards Show Up In Gutty Win http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/01/key-legislature-45-wizards-123-at-rockets-122.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/01/key-legislature-45-wizards-123-at-rockets-122.html#comments Mon, 01 Feb 2016 02:33:21 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=49758 TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards at Rockets, Regular Season Game 45, Jan. 30, 2016, by Kyle Weidie (@truth_about_it).

The Washington Wizards got their most important win of the season on Saturday night in Houston. It came during a time of a collective struggle—Thursday’s home loss to the rebuilding Nuggets, the Wizards’ third in a row, led to a players-only meeting—as well as personal tragedy. Head coach Randy Wittman, increasingly under fire for not being able to motivate and strategize his team into playing ‘the right way,’ found out that morning that his brother unexpectedly passed away.

The Wizards somehow found a way to win, 123-122, after their star, John Wall, missed a point-blank layup in the final minute. On the other end, James Harden (40 points on 20 field goal attempts), missed his own close-range attempt and his teammate, Josh Smith, missed a putback. Wall then rebounded the ball, his eighth defensive board, and launched it in the other direction as the game clock expired. It would have been an extremely tough loss to swallow, given the outlined reasons atop the number of controversial calls from referees unable to fully control the flow of the game. A loss likely would’ve kicked the downward spiraling Wizards even further to the curb with games in Oklahoma City and versus Golden State on the immediate slate. Instead, a slight bit of hope—nothing too unlike the season’s pattern to date, but each glimmer does represent opportunity.

The prevalent themes arising from that players-only meeting on Thursday were that the Wizards needed to stay true to the identity they set out to establish (shoot more 3-pointers and play faster to open the floor for such); that a number of players needed to recommit to the defensive end; and that there were faint grumblings about a return to the Nene-Marcin Gortat starting lineup. The duo started four games in a row, starting with a win against a depleted Miami Heat team, and then for three-straight losses to Boston, in Toronto, and to Denver. The result: Jared Dudley was inserted back into the starting lineup versus the Rockets; Washington attempted 12 3-pointers in the first quarter (but only made two, the Wizards shot 11-32 for the game); and, perhaps arising from a bargain that the coach made with his team on returning to a stretch 4 starting lineup, Randy Wittman got better defensive efforts, particularly from John Wall, but also from Gortat trying to provide a bit more toughness in the paint. Wall seemed to ramp up his defense early, aggressively fighting through and over screens and shying away from the passive switching he often settles for (1).

So the first quarter started well enough. The Wizards jumped to a 6-0 lead, forcing an early timeout for Houston. Jumpers were nailed, and one should-be staple of a smaller lineup offense came to fruition on the game’s second score, except it was Dudley this time creating for Gortat off screening action. Still, Washington missed open 3 after open 3 and finished the quarter down four points, 28-32, despite beating up the Rockets on the boards and not turning the ball over once.

The second quarter signalled that the game would be a battle—Washington’s relatively egalitarian offense (seven different Wizards scored in the second), versus James Harden and the Beardettes (Harden dropped 12 points in the period). Gary Neal went 4-for-4 off the bench in the second quarter after a DNP-CD versus Denver, and Drew Gooden threw himself into the fray and was disruptive, in a good way (2). If it weren’t for some unforced, sailing-pass turnovers in the latter half of the second quarter, the Wizards could have led at intermission. Instead, a James Harden run-up 3-pointer with 1 second left (that everyone saw coming) was the difference, 62-59 Rockets.

The third quarter is where the Wizards made their mark, winning it 31-26 and shooting 5-for-9 from deep after a 3-for-16 first half. Wall set up a corner 3 for Dudley within the first 60 seconds for the identity-seeking squad, tying the game. There were plenty of other times where Wall set the table with a few dribbles and a cross-court pass to get the defense moving. Houston counter-punched from deep—Harden hit a couple 3s, and Trevor Ariza and Jason Terry each hit one. And Bradley Beal, quiet all game, really struggled in pick-and-roll coverage with Gortat. But Dudley hit another 3 in the quarter, and Ramon Sessions, almost unwillingly, hit two above the break, igniting his team with 12 points off the bench in the third period. Washington took an 90-88 lead into the final 12 minutes.

Intra-game battles between Nene and Dwight Howard, and Drew Gooden and Josh Smith—old heads—defined the early-goings of the fourth, which kind of shows how much each of these teams wanted to win. But the referees were not able to control escalating physicality between Nene and Howard (3) On a game-defining play at around the eight-minute mark, a defense rebound opportunity, Nene initiated an arm-grapple with Howard, who pushed back, further entangling the two; Nene wrapped an arm around Howard’s head as the two further engaged and then separated; then Howard raised his arms and jawed toward Nene, who approached, going chest-to-chest, at which point Howard shoved Nene and received what appeared to be the initial technical foul (his second of the game and an ejection). You can watch the exchange on Vine here. Upon further review, the refs decided to assess Nene two technical fouls for his actions, and he was ejected—the slapfight seemed equal but the Wizards received a harsher penalty (4).

Houston, after the scuffle, capped a quick 9-1 run—due to some more unforced turnovers by Washington—with an open Ariza 3-pointer to take a 107-103 lead. But the Wizards, intent on staying true to their desired identity, looked for a quick scoring opportunity. Gortat immediately ran the court and Jared Dudley immediately found him. Back and forth the teams fought. Harden hit some 3s, despite Washington implementing a strategy of doubling him more. And when they did get the ball out of Harden’s hands on a couple possessions, others like Patrick Beverley also nailed 3s. Temple, Sessions, and Wall (twice) each missed what could been very regrettable layups over the last four minutes. But Dudley bullying his way into some free throws, a Wall walk-up 3 when Houston left him wide-open, and better defensive execution along with the Hack-a-Clint-Capela strategy allowed for a 7-0 Wizards run that moved the needle from 117-114, Houston, with 2:41 left to 121-117, Washington, with 1:11 left.

After one of those potentially devastating Wall missed layups, Wittman and his Wizards drew up an amazing ATO play where Dudley went to set a backscreen for Wall, but then turned and cut right to the basket, received the ball from the baseline inbounder, Temple, and scored with Beverley in his wake. The idea must have been to pick on Harden’s poor defensive awareness, and it worked. The Wizards took a 123-119 lead with 37 seconds left and they did not relinquish it despite efforts otherwise from Harden (a counter driving layup and-1). What started with Washington’s desire to reestablish their pace-and-space-and-3-point identity ended with tough rebounding and defense that allowed them to still stay both true to themselves and their coach’s vision. We’ve seen the worst that can happen when disjointed, but when the Wizards can get both prongs extending from one handle and attacking in the same direction, they can be dangerous, or at least be competitive, in any game they play.

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Total Team Effort at the Turning Point — Wizards at Rockets, DC Council 45 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/01/wizards-123-at-rockets-122-dc-council-45.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/01/wizards-123-at-rockets-122-dc-council-45.html#comments Sun, 31 Jan 2016 21:12:10 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=49751

The D.C. Council…  TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards at Rockets, Game 45, Jan. 30, 2016, via Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur)

With the Wizards season seemingly on the brink after Thursday’s home loss to the Denver Nuggets, a players-only meeting may have been the catalyst that has, for now, staved off the final rights of the 2015-16 season. If that meeting was held in order for players to start holding each other accountable, then it succeeded: Saturday night’s 123-122 win over the Rockets was about as total a group effort win as this team could have. Washington’s bench dominated Houston’s, scoring 55 points on 20-for-29 shooting from the field, and the Wizards needed every last one of those points to hold off a 40-point night from James Harden(1).

The Wizards finally played a game worthy of bragging about and everyone deserves a sliver of credit. And for this, we will take a look at how each Wizard contributed. To the recap generator!

Washington Wizards

123

Final
Box Score

Houston Rockets

122

Jared Dudley

37 MIN | 5-8 FG | 2-5 3FG | 4-5 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 16 PTS | +2 +/-

Dudley has to be the team’s M.V.P. for the night, if only because the Wizards won the first game after the aforementioned players-only meeting that Jared apparently initiated after the loss to the Nuggets. To be the team’s de facto locker-room voice, while also walking the walk by elevating his play, Dudley is quietly turning into an invaluable asset for this team. There is no coincidence that Dudley was re-inserted into the starting lineup, playing the most minutes of any Wizard, and the team found a way to fight through adversity and pull out a gritty win. If it weren’t for Dudley’s savvy play in the fourth quarter, the Wizards would have certainly folded when they got down six points with just over three minutes to go. Dudley was able to create a few easy points by converting at the free throw line and hitting a clutch 3. His career will never be mistaken for Paul Pierce’s, but Saturday night he brought 50 Shades of the Truth to the Wizards in their darkest hour.

Otto Porter Jr.

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

Porter left the game hampered by the same hip that’s been bothering him—the latest injury reports suggest back tightness on top of that. These nagging injuries limited Porter to only 12 minutes of game action, but just like every other Wizards player who saw significant playing time, he found a way to make a positive contribution despite his shot not falling. Porter continues to struggle from the 3-point line, going 1-for-5 on the night and bringing his season average from behind the arc down to 31.2 percen. Porter did, however, excel in the midrange and stayed active by cutting on the offensive end. Maybe that’s what we should see more of from Porter until he can get his shot into a better rhythm.

Marcin Gortat

27 MIN | 4-4 FG | 0-0 3FG | 5-7 FT | 11 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 13 PTS | -2 +/-

The Polish Machine finished the game a perfect 4-for-4 from the field. If the Wizards would have let him check Dwight Howard one-on-one all night, Howard may have gone 40-for-40 on Gortat(2) in the low-post. Gortat struggled mightily defending his former Orlando Magic teammate, but he thrived on put-back attempts and even finished several plays through contact in crunch time that led to a very generous continuation call and a few other shooting fouls.

John Wall

36 MIN | 7-22 FG | 1-5 3FG | 4-5 FT | 8 REB | 13 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 4 TO | 19 PTS | -5 +/-

Wall struggled all night to get into a groove offensively, but for the first time in awhile he actually resembled the guy who made Second Team All-Defense last season. The three-time All-Star was as active as he has been all season on the defensive end, actually fighting through pick-and-roll screens and exerting energy to recover and contest shots at the rim. His ability to cover so much ground on defense paid dividends on the Wizards’ final defensive possession. Bradley Beal was beaten off-the-dribble by Harden, but at least Beal got beat to his left, forcing Harden to take a difficult shot with his right hand. An even more subtle, yet brilliant, play was Wall fighting for the rebound after Josh Smith’s put back attempt and heaving the ball down court as time expired, preventing a subsequent foul and game-extending play from the Rockets. On this night, Wall simply would not let his team lose. All-Star players tend to have those nights when their team’s most need them.

Garrett Temple

34 MIN | 5-14 FG | 1-7 3FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 11 PTS | +3 +/-

It’s safe to say that Garrett Temple is completely comfortable in the pecking order of the Wizards offense right now, because he probably has never had this kind of shot freedom at any point in his basketball career. There were too many Garrett Temple pull-up jumpers and not enough spot-up 3s going in the basket. Temple shot 1-for-7 from 3, but 4-for-7 on 2-point attempts. Combine that with four rebounds and four assists, plus a lot of effort exerted on the defensive end against James Harden (even though Temple wasn’t able to stay in front his The Beard all night), and … well, Temple played about as good an all-around game as he could have.

Drew Gooden

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

In a super limited role as the backup 4-man to Jared Dudley, Gooden came in and played at max-solid levels for 11 minutes. Gooden finished with five points and five rebounds, getting a little Drizzle on a catch-and-shoot corner 3, but also playing tough defense and protecting the glass.

Nene Hilario

19 MIN | 4-4 FG | 0-0 3FG | 2-5 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +6 +/-

Nene played a huge part in the Wizards’ most important win of the season, and the most valued portion of that contribution may have been with him in the visiting team locker room for the last eight minutes—because Dwight Howard joined him on the other side, likely left to ponder how he let the big Brazilian get the best of him. Dwight was dominating offensively for the majority of the game, until Nene came in and forced him to work just that much harder for positioning. Nene and Howard were involved in a tug-of-war during the second half, till Dwight finally had enough and began to lash out at Nene for his roughhousing. Both players were ejected, but the Wizards were able to take advantage of an experienced Gortat outplaying the inexperienced yet spry Clint Capela.

Gary Neal

16 MIN | 5-5 FG | 2-2 3FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | -3 +/-

Gary Neal played about as well as he can, but still finished with a plus/minus of minus-3. To his credit, his jumper was falling and his scoring punch directly kept the Wizards offense afloat in the second quarter when no one—besides him—was able to hit from outside. Neal’s flaws on defense are well known, but on a night like last night, when his shot is falling, there is no doubt that he can contribute as a spot-duty player.

Ramon Sessions

18 MIN | 5-8 FG | 2-2 3FG | 5-6 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 17 PTS | +7 +/-

Ramon Sessions was the X-factor for the Wizards in Houston. He picked up the offense until John Wall was finally able to start manufacturing points late and also able to stave off several Rockets runs with his Harden-like ability to draw fouls on drives. Session finished the game with a team high plus/minus of plus-7, and he actually played a little bit outside of himself by knocking down two very important 3-pointers at critical junctures in the fourth quarter. On the season, Sessions’ 17.0 PER ranks fourth on the team and his contribution has been highly underrated.

Bradley Beal

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

Beal struggled with his shot but, like Wall, found other ways to help contribute. Beal’s four assists were paramount to a team devoid of playmaking, and his defensive effort was there, even though he had a tough time matching up with a hot James Harden. The biggest thing with Beal is that he played on the high end of his minutes threshold (30 minutes) and, for now, appears to have come away from the contest without any tear with his wear.

Randy Wittman

Randy Wittman may have embodied overcoming adversity more than any of his players. Witt was coaching with a very heavy heart after finding out that his older brother had suddenly passed away that morning. He responded with one of his better regular season coaching displays. Wittman went back to Jared Dudley in the starting lineup instead of Nene, and it seemed to open up the Wizards offense. Washington wasn’t able to capitalize on their open shots right away, but eventually that style of play was conducive to winning basketball. Wittman also made the coaching strategy play of the game when he (or his assistants, or Dudley) implored “Hack-a-Capela” in the fourth quarter, which allowed the Wizards to cut into the Rockets’ lead without taking much time off the clock. Clint Capela went 1-for-4 on hack free throw attempts, while the Wizards countered with five momentum-filled points. Wittman also drew up one hell of an after-timeout play that lead to an uncontested Jared Dudley layup. Per John Wall’s post-game comments, the Wizards’ strategy on the last defensive possession was to double Harden and force Josh Smith to try and beat them. These are all great moves that must be credited to the head coach—nice to see that Wittman has a little creativity left in the tank, showing flashes of the Playoff Possum King, even if only for one night.


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Rocky Mountain Fried — Wizards vs Nuggets, DC Council 44 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/01/rocky-mountain-fried-wizards-vs-nuggets-dc-council-44.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/01/rocky-mountain-fried-wizards-vs-nuggets-dc-council-44.html#comments Fri, 29 Jan 2016 22:17:06 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=49746 The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards vs. Nuggets, Game 44, Jan. 28, 2016, via Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It), from the Verizon Center in D.C..

That Game Was … Unclear Clarity.

Where do we begin? At the beginning.

The Verizon Center was its usual dead self at the start. Worse: Deader than dead. But Wizards players should be used to that by now. The fans usually aren’t great in D.C., but when they are, they arrive late, and they get loud for good basketball. If the home team give them a reason, they will be a home crowd.

Then the starting starters. Randy Wittman once again rolled out ol’ reliable: John Wall, utility infielder Garrett Temple, gangly Otto Porter, Nene, and Marcin Gortat. Look, I have no major big with a two-big lineup—sometimes—but it’s also a relic. And Wittman is holding on to this relic like an apathetic parent who puts a pacifier back in a baby’s mouth after it fell into a street gutter without bothering to disinfect it. (Or something like that.)

And now, a brief history of the Nene-Gortat pairing:

  • 2013-14 Regular Season: 983 minutes (53 games, 25% of all team minutes) —
    Plus-10.5 per 48 minutes.
  • 2014 Playoffs: 226 minutes (10 games, 42% of all team minutes) —
    Minus-5.1 per 48.
  • 2014-15 Regular Season: 1,189 minutes (67 games, 30% of all team minutes) —
    Plus-6.1 per 48 minutes.
  • 2015 Playoffs: 139 minutes (10 games, 29% of all team minutes) —
    Minus-10.7 per 48.
  • 2015-16 Regular Season: 58 minutes (5 games, 3% of all team minutes) —
    Minus-15.0 per 48.

The moral of the story is that playing Nene and Gortat together more in 2016 is not the first, second, or seventh reason that the Wizards stink. But the pattern is that, as the NBA landscape has changed, Wittman and the Wizards have been slow to adapt. Such has gotten them by in the regular season, and perhaps made Wittman’s prowess as a defensive-minded coach better in theory than in reality, but in the playoffs the Wizards have suffered greatly, both on the court and not being able to adapt their style of play to one that better suits John Wall (instead of Wittman).

Now, in a desperate attempt to make the postseason if only to get swept once there, the coach has turned to what worked in the past but also that which does not serve the franchise well for the future. Wittman, however, will insist this is twin tower lineup is all about matchups and injuries. Whichever you choose to believe, any pattern or ‘identity’ that the Wizards players have been trying to establish since training camp has been thrown out of whack. The Wizards aren’t even good at defending when both Nene and Gortat play, which was really the only reason for playing them together in the first place.

Conclusion: the Wizards are clearly a mess right now, and it’s unclear if their coach—or maybe it’s very clear—knows what the hell he is doing.

Oh, by the way, the Wizards players had some sort of conversation, without the coaches, after the loss to Denver. Jared Dudley called it a “discussion.” Bradley Beal called it a “meeting.” Things are so clear now.

M.V.P.

Not John Wall, not all at. And really, only one Wizard qualifies. Although you could make devil’s advocate cases for Bradley Beal (7-14 for 17 points off the bench; team-high plus-2) or Drew Gooden (he hit some 3s; the floor spacing was noticeable!). Thursday night’s best in (horror) show award goes to team mouthpiece, Jared Dudley.

Dudley was the only Wizard who played with a bit of fire in the second half. He was a mere plus-1 on the court for the game but plus-12 over quarters three and four. With four minutes left in the third, the Wizards were down 18. Then came two Dudley free throws; a Wall steal; a Temple 3 (Dudley assist); a Dudley rebound; a Wall 3 (Temple assist); an amazing Wall block; and on the other end, a Dudley 3 (Wall assist). Suddenly the Wizards were down just nine points.

Dudley provided his team with a shot of #WittmanJava and the home crowd, most just settling into their seats after halftime intermission with Bud Light (or Bud heavy), popcorn, and Dippin’ Dots in tow, awoke with an alcohol/carb/sugar basketball rage. We almost had a basketball game. Team owner Ted Leonsis even live-tweeted this just as the spell was taking place.

Then Dudley missed 1-of-2 free throws; got beat baseline by Darrell Arthur (followed by a bad Gortat foul on Arthur); Wall missed a 3; Dudley lost Arthur on a cut and gave him an and-1; Ramon Sessions entered; Randy Wittman’s offense slowed to a creep; and Dudley missed a 3-pointer. The Wizards ended the third quarter down 12 points. These are the self-inflicted breaks. Dudley continued to play his ass off in the fourth quarter but his example-setting wasn’t enough.

After the game, Dudley would go on to opine on how the Wizards’ identity should be 3-point shooting and the what-not; proclaimed the team’s leaders to be himself, Wall, Alan Anderson, and Drew Gooden (you can do the math on who’s missing); and appeared to face some music that, yes, now the Wizards have to once again figure out how to play with both Nene and Gortat on the floor at the same time.

L.V.P.

According to NBA.com player tracking data, excluding fast breaks, John Wall drove toward the basket (1) on 10 occasions, above his season average of 7.8 drives per game. During a scorching December, Wall drove to the basket 9.4 times per game. In a poor November, it was 7.1 times per game. In January, Wall’s drives are back down to 6.7 times per game. On drives against Denver, Wall shot 1-for-2, earned two FTs (made both), and passed the ball four times (didn’t pick up an assist), and turned the ball over three times. That’s not good.

But, look, it’s not like Wall was terrible on Thursday—he damn near got a triple-double with 17 points (but 5-17 FGs, 1-7 3s), 7 rebounds, 9 assists, 4 steals, 2 blocks, and 3 turnovers. But Wall didn’t carry his team like an All-Star (he found out he was selected by the coaches just before the game). He didn’t appear overly frustrated as the game’s events unfolded, but maybe worse, he appeared resigned, tired. And he was especially passive late in the contest when the game was—well, actually—in the balance. Sure, Wall attempted four free throws in the fourth quarter (earning them after a steal on the break and on a drive after a timeout), and he made three of them. But otherwise, Wall attempted three fourth quarter shots, all were 3-pointers, and all were missed. The last one was an airball.

X-Factor.

There were a handful of gut-punches that you can imagine unfolding in rapid succession after a cut-away to an exclamatory statement rendered in cartoon-graphical form a là 1960s Adam West Batman.

POW! — 7:31 left in the third, Otto Porter went under a screen like a man licking the top of a yogurt left behind by a stranger. So Danilo Gallinari hit a 3-pointer, the Nuggets took a 10-point lead, and Randy Wittman called timeout.

WHAM! — Two minutes later, 5:34 in the third, Drew Gooden stripped and stole the ball from Gallinari, immediately passed the recovered ball to Otto Porter’s back, which the ball bounced off of, and so then Denver recovered the ball and Gallinari hit another 3. This time the Nuggets assumed a 15-point lead, and Wittman burned through another timeout.

BIZZOW! — Forty-five seconds left in the third quarter—and this was glossed over in the M.V.P. section above—but #RandyBall was looking for a way to validate cutting Denver’s lead from 18 to nine points over a span of two minutes before it quickly jumped back to 12. Wittman’s offense was initiated by Bradley Beal and Garrett Temple looping around the bay like rudderless dinghies on a windy day, wasting second after second as if in retirement, only for all that movement to result in zero gains. The ball ended up in John Wall’s hands for a desperation 3-point attempt, but it didn’t matter. The shot clock had expired.

BOOM! — 3:40 left in the game, the Wizards down 99-102 (since the 5:25 mark). Denver committed an offensive goaltending, feel asleep a bit on defense, and Washington took advantage by pushing the ball and finding Beal in the corner. But he missed what would have been a game-tying 3-pointer. Nene did get the offensive rebound, but John Wall soon after turned the ball over. I really think that Beal 3-pointer would’ve awoken the Wizards and propelled them to a win. A boy can dream.

DAGGAR! — 1:13 left, Beal drove hard to the basket—a great idea!—trying, albeit in vain, to keep the Wizards within two points. Instead: the Big Panda was consumed by the “Manimal,” Kenneth Faried, and then neither team scored until Beal was forced to foul Emmanuel Mudiay with 29 seconds left. Both free throws were made, giving the Nuggets all the six-point cushion that they would need.

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Key Legislature: Wizards 113 vs Nuggets 117 — Last One In, Please Close the Door http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/01/key-legislature-44-wizards-113-vs-nuggets-117.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/01/key-legislature-44-wizards-113-vs-nuggets-117.html#comments Fri, 29 Jan 2016 15:29:45 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=49733 TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Bullets vs. Nuggets, Regular Season Game 44, Jan. 28, 2016, by Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace) from the Verizon Center, D.C.

The Washington Wizards finally showed a sense of urgency Thursday night. Unfortunately, it happened 10 minutes after their game against the Denver Nuggets, a loss, ended in a closed-door, players-only meeting.

Bradley Beal would not reveal any specific changes that were discussed, other than to say, “We know what we need to do now moving forward, and we are going to do it,” but the players’ post-game comments gave an indication of what was discussed.

1.) Defense—or lack thereof.

Randy Wittman acknowledged what everyone is seeing in his post-game comments: “We are waiting until the point of being embarrassed before we start playing hard from a defensive standpoint.”

Interestingly (and disturbingly), Byron Scott, as reported by TNT’s David Aldridge, said the exact same thing about his Lakers team after getting blown out by the Bulls in the first half Thursday night: “Why do we always have to be down 15 points before you guys start playing hard?”

The players echoed Wittman’s sentiment. To a man, they each said that defense has been the problem the last couple weeks.

Garrett Temple:

“We’re not playing defense the way we’re capable of. We have to fix it before it’s too late.”

John Wall:

“Defense. We can score with the best of them. …We don’t do a great job of getting stops when we need to. We play defense for the first half, and then in the third quarter we get down 15-to-20 points.”

Jared Dudley:

“Defensively, we have to start holding each other accountable. That starts with me helping these guys out more defensively. … Players are going to have to hold each other accountable during games more to be able to get under guys, and that’s something I’ll do a better job of going forward.”

Dudley was the only player who suggested that the team’s poor offense is affecting their defense:

“Our defense is sputtering. A little bit is because we are not playing hard enough. A little bit is because our offense is so bad at times, we’re turning the ball over and they are coming at us full speed.”

2.) Playoffs Are a Privilege, Not a Right.

After diagnosing the problem, the players acknowledged a stark reality: if things do not change, Washington will be on the outside of the playoffs looking in come April.

Jared Dudley:

“We can’t keep coming into this locker room talking about inconsistency because April 15 we’ll all be back at the crib.”

John Wall:

“It’s to the breaking point where you either want to be in the playoffs or you want to be sitting at home. Everybody can make excuses about us being injured, but we have a lot of guys that step up and play big roles.”

Garrett Temple:

“In a few games come All-Star break, if we continue to play like we’re going to play, then it’s going to be too late.”

3.) The Solution: Play Harder.

While Washington’s defensive execution has not been great, the general consensus is that it’s from a lack of effort, not execution.

John Wall:

“Breakdowns are going to happen. You got to help and recover and be there for that person. I think at times we lack that, and teams get too many easy baskets and wide-open shots that they shouldn’t.”

4.) Confidence remains.

Lest anyone think the season is lost, Wall, Beal, and Temple each remain confident that this season’s incarnation of the Wizards can recreate the magic, if you will, of the past two seasons.

Garrett Temple:

“I still have the same level of confidence [as the last two years] because of the guys in this room, because of what we’ve been able to do. Put together four-game winning streaks here, three-game winning streaks there. I have the confidence because of the type of guys we have in this room.”

Bradley Beal:

“We are still in a great position to make the playoffs. We still have 40 games, or however many games we have left. We have a great opportunity to make a run. It’s up to us to be able put it together and be able to get out here and get some wins.”

So what led the Bullets to call their closed-door pow-wow?

The official scorer’s report will show that the score was tied 99-99 with 5:41 left in the fourth quarter, but the game was not close.

Wittman was asked when the game was lost and he responded matter-of-factly: “What, was it 10-2 (Denver) a minute and a half in? Coming out of the locker room we lost it.”

The specifics of the game hardly matter. If you saw the Boston game or the Toronto game, then you know the drill. It was another listless, uninspired showing by this underachieving bunch. Washington came out flat against a team playing back-to-back road games and its third game in four nights.

Any hope of a Washington win was put to bed during a three-minute stretch beginning with eight minutes left in the third quarter when Denver went on an 11-0 run, behind three Danilo Gallinari 3-pointers and a Nikola Jokic layup, to take a 83-65 lead.

Washington would go on one of its patented runs, the ones that make the game oh-so-close but require too much energy to sustain until the final buzzer. “We spent a great amount of energy coming back, and it was a great comeback by us, but it’s unfortunate because you run out of gas,” Beal said. “You spend all that time and focus and energy trying to get down from 18, but we shouldn’t have been in that position.”

An usher who was stationed in the VIP lounge for the the duration of the game asked me the final score as we waited a very long time for Wittman’s post-game press conference to begin—117-113. “I didn’t know Denver was good,” she responded.

“They’re not, that’s the problem,” I said.

The players’ post-game comments are all well and good, but this team should be way past the point of talking about basic concepts such as, ‘playing hard.’ Wittman seemed flabbergasted and completely out of ideas when asked why the team seems to have the same issue with effort over and over again: “That’s a good question. I don’t have a good answer for you there.”

If Washington is going to turn its season around, the change will have to start with the players. Beal says they are up to the challenge, but actions speak louder than words. With the Wizards’ next three games at Houston and at Oklahoma City, and then at home against Golden State, the margin for error is slim.

Washington Gets the Charles Barkley Treatment on Inside the NBA.

The Wizards rarely grab the attention of the Inside the NBA crew, but on Thursday night they were the subject of some discussion. Charles Barkley called Washington “other than the Milwaukee Bucks, the most disappointing team in the NBA.”

Then, while Ernie Johnson narrated highlights of the Nuggets game, Chuck posed a question to Kenny Smith: “Why are the Wizards so inconsistent?”

Kenny chose turnovers and lack of half-court offense as the culprits. Barkley went with turnovers and defense.

When Chuck caught a glimpse of the Wizards home record at the bottom of the box score, he quipped, “10-15 at home. That’s disturbing.”

As if that national airing of D.C.’s dirty laundry was not depressing enough, Wizards players occupied two of the five spots on “Shaqtin’ A Fool.”

Back to the Bullets.

20160128_202356

The Washington-Denver fiasco was a throwback night honoring the Baltimore Bullets, with a couple very special guests in attendance (Earl Monroe and Bernard King).

20160128_19553220160128_195553

The half-time show featured DJ Kool and a confused Nikola Jokic.

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Opening Statements: Wizards vs Nuggets, Game 44 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/01/opening-statements-wizards-vs-nuggets-game-44.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/01/opening-statements-wizards-vs-nuggets-game-44.html#comments Thu, 28 Jan 2016 16:54:34 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=49727


Teams: Wizards vs Nuggets
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Chinatown, Washington, D.C.
Television: CSN
Radio: WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Wizards fav’d by 6 points.


True: The Washington Wizards are not a good basketball team.

False: The Wizards will fire Randy Wittman.

Better than only 11 other NBA teams, the Wiz are definitely below average and have fallen off the cliff of expectations. The calls for Wittman’s head are neither unfair nor something new this season. Many knowledgeable NBA fans, including some writers at this site, would have fired Wittman at least 100 games ago. If not, they would never have given him a three-year contract extension in the summer of 2014.

Forget that he cried in front of his players, in support his his players, after an 0-12 start to the 2013-14 season. Forget Wittman’s leadership in the “dramatic turnaround for the franchise—in both culture and on-court success,” as The Washington Post put it. Wittman’s value, in its purest form, is getting players to buy into a defensive mindset. The Wizards no longer have that mindset, or, counterpoint: the 2015-16 roster is ill-equipped to fit his stylistic prepossessions.

The commentary from inside the locker room and the numbers (both traditional and advanced stats) suggest that both things are true. Marcin Gortat, for example, has beefed publicly with Wittman this season. Even newcomer Jared Dudley has conceded that the Wizards don’t handle adversity well and can’t close out games. And the data—good and plenty at this point—indicates the Wizards are almost historically bad at defending the 3-point line. Perhaps because only three, maybe four, Wiz players are plus defenders.(1) This means 10 are not.

I’m under the informed impression that a good head coach would do more with a great point guard in his, or her, conference. And yet the results we see, the record we get, is a string of home losses followed by a couple victories over lottery-bound teams and, on a good week, a surprise win against a team above .500. I’m not crazy to think that a higher quality head coach would regularly get more out of his, or her, players. Otto Porter, third overall pick, wasn’t even considered for the Rising Stars Challenge in first two seasons. This year’s rookie, the raw but obviously (more) talented Kelly Oubre, is headed down that same path…

…Meanwhile, yonder side of the Mississippi River, first-year big man Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets is averaging more assists per 36 minutes (3.3) than—get this—every Washington player except for John Wall (9.9) and Ramon Sessions (5.0). That’s right, a rookie center is dishing dimes like soon-to-be-max contracted Bradley Beal and better than every other member of the Wizards gang. And, uh, playing more than 19 minutes per game(2) under Nuggets head coach and every-fan favorite, Mike Malone.

There’s more here. “Nikola Jokic,” Malone said early in training camp, “he’s a young kid and I’m not saying he’s ready, but he does things every practice that make you say, ‘Wow, this kid has a chance to be a (heck of a) player.”

A month later, Jokic, a second-round pick in 2014, was starting in the Western Conference. “I did not expect Nikola Jokic to be our starting center 14 games into the season. But he has earned it,” Malone said in November. “He’s a guy who was wearing a pink uniform and playing in the Adriatic League last year. Now he is in the NBA, starting and doing great things.”

Back to Wittman, to compare. In October of 2013, Wittman was asked his opinion of then-rookie Otto Porter, who’d featured in the Las Vegas Summer League before injuring his hip flexor in practice. “I don’t know who he is and have not had a chance to coach him yet,” the head coach told the Junkies on 106.7 The Fan.

Jeez.

Malone, at least in part, has been able to resuscitate Danilo Gallinari, who looks like the stretch 4 of Ted Leonsis’ dreams. The 6-foot-10 forward with handles is averaging 19.2 points per game (35.6% from 3), 5.7 boards, and 2.5 assists. Fourth-year swingman Will Barton looks better than a real-life NBA player—he actually looks dangerous. Second-year big Jusuf “The Bosnian Beast” Nurkic is crafty as heck and full of potential. And the Nuggets (17-29), by no means better than the Wizards talent-wise, beat the Golden State Warriors, man.

Is Wittman the reason that Kevin Seraphin looked more like a black hole every season? I don’t know. Is Wittman the reason that Chris Singleton and Jan Vesely went from gotta-have prospects to NBA busts? I don’t know.

I do know that while Wittman hasn’t broken the Wizards, he hasn’t made them significantly better, either. At least not for the long haul. And maybe firing him wouldn’t make a difference this year, with no clear replacement among the Wizards assistant coaching staff, considered “one of the weakest coaching staffs in the league,” according to ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst and insiders around the league. But if firing the head coach (again, Wittman will not be fired) means that there’s even a small chance of the Wizards trusting each other more, playing with purpose, and even sniffing their true potential, then paying Witt go to away would be worth it. Perhaps not for the ownership group—$3 milion per year is a steal of a deal for a head coach—but for the talent on the roster. For Steve Freakin’ Buckhantz.

I’ll watch the Wizards take on the Nuggets tonight at 7 p.m. And I will watch them win, probably. Not because Denver is 3-7 on the second night of a back-to-back(3) and certainly not because Randy Wittman “rallied the troops.” They’ll win even though they’re bad because the other team is less good.

And if they lose?

Nothing will change in Wizard World. Another dream deferred.

TAI Extras.

Key Legislature: Wizards 117 at Nuggets 115 (OT)
Wall and Lawson’s Duel Ends Out of Breath 
by Kyle Weidie in January 2015

DC Council 45: Wizards at Nuggets
‘Thank You, Kenneth’ 
by Conor Dirks

Key Legislature: Wizards 119 vs Nuggets 89
Washington Mines a Mother Lode 
by JCT (that’s me) in December 2014

D.C. Council 18: Wizards vs Nuggets
Wall & Co. Vaporize the Nugs
 by Adam McGinnis


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Time To Sound The Alarm — Wizards at Raptors, DC Council 43 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/01/wizards-at-raptors-dc-council-43.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/01/wizards-at-raptors-dc-council-43.html#comments Wed, 27 Jan 2016 17:11:51 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=49709 The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards at Raptors, Game 43, Jan. 26, 2016, Air Canada Center, Toronto, Ontario, via Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur).

M.V.P.

It’s a sad occurrence when 14-assist John Wall games get completely wasted, but this is the current reality of the Wizards—desperate to salvage the 2015-16 season. Get used to it.

Wall didn’t quite bring his A-game to Toronto in defeat, but he played well enough to give the Wizards a chance through three quarters. He scored 18 points to go with his hefty assist total—highlighted by a second-quarter tear where he scored or assisted on 15 of the Wizards’ 19 points to finish the first half, helping Washington climb back from a 14-point deficit to trail by just three at half.

Wall got into a rhythm, attacked the basket, and got to the free throw line (after a few dives where contact was clearly initiated by the defense but no call was made). Wittman implored Wall to continue attacking the basket—that the refs would have to blow the whistle eventually. But not even peak Wall could prevent the avalanche of 3s the Raptors used to use to bury the Wizards. Toronto shot 11-for-29 compared to the Wizards’ 4-for-15 showing from behind the arc.

In another battle between potential All-Stars guards, Wall again fell short. On Monday, Isaiah Thomas ran circles around Wall; on Tuesday night, it was All-Star starter Kyle Lowry who gave Wall trouble on the defensive end. Lowry finished with 29 points, and he, along with DeRozan (17 points), proved to be too much of a 1-2 combo for Wall. Must be nice to have that sidekick you can rely on to pick up the scoring.

L.V.P.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to navigate through a TAI D.C. Council and not find disdain for Randy Wittman, but let us draw our attention—momentarily—to #WizardsTwitter’s new public enemy No. 1: Gary Neal. It’s not Neal’s fault that now even the average NBA fan, familiar with the most rudimentary aspects of basketball analytics, can see right through Gary Neal’s box score mastery. He seems to contribute, but in extended minutes destroys a team’s chances of winning. Neal fills up the stat sheet scoring-wise because he’s a shooter and for some reason has been afforded an opportunity by Wittman to shoot freely when he’s in the game. His mere presence on the court, however, is detrimental to the Wizards.

Notice in the clip above: Neal, high-percentage shooter, passing up an open 3 only to miss a layup on a weak dribble-drive.

Last night Neal finished with a game-worst plus/minus of minus-20 in 22 minutes of game action. He was a turnstile on defense, often caught standing flat-footed in the paint as defensive rebounds floated over his head. Wittman’s reliance on Neal is just another bullet point in the case forming against the head coach. At this juncture, the Wizards would be better off having Jordan Crawford fly back from China to fill the microwave bench role—at least he would provide some flare and set-up play along with his inefficient shot-jacking. In a game where Bradley Beal was out, the Wizards (read: Wittman) struggled to distribute Beal’s minutes on the wing in a productive manner, and that directly contributed to yet another Wizards loss.

Wittman is the rotation decision maker and he blew it. He also blew the starting lineup again by staying faithful to the Nene-Gortat frontcourt, despite the fact that the combo has a Net Rating of minus-18 in the 47 minutes they’ve shared the floor this year, playing at a snail’s pace of 93.2 possessions per 48 minutes (which would rank dead last in the NBA). They’re constantly clogging up driving lanes and preventing Washington from playing the style that the players have grown accustomed to over the first half of the season. Jared Dudley agrees:

X-Factor.

Otto Porter got into a nice groove that had him somewhat resemble the jack-of-all trades player that had so much success against these very Raptors in the playoffs last year. Porter finished the game with 15 points on 7-for-11 shooting from the field, also adding eight rebounds and four steals. Otto was active on the defensive end (despite allowing the Raps to shoot 8-for-12 against him), pretty much nullifying his counterpart James Johnson.

Despite his injuries, Porter has played some of his best basketball in the month of January, getting his field goal percentage up to .494 (.340 from from behind the arc). If he can continue his positive play, he will be a valuable asset to the Wizards’ attempt at a playoff push, especially if Beal misses extended time with a broken nose and concussion.

That Game Was … Cause To Sound The Alarm

To date, the most outspoken Wizard has been off-season acquisition Jared Dudley. Over the last few days, he has been more direct (even blunt) when referring to the state of the team. After Monday night’s loss, he mentioned how this team has a “tough time handling adversity,” and last night his quotable was, “Even though we’re struggling, you can’t let it get to you.”

What this sounds like is a savvy veteran who’s been in numerous NBA locker rooms and knows when a team has suffered a shot to their confidence. Dudley is a pro’s pro, so he’s not going to cause a stir with comments that could be viewed as divisive, but his coded language is clear enough: this team is lacking something in the leadership department and all of this losing and failing expectations may finally be getting to some of the Wizards players. The things that Dudley is saying are 100 percent true. The quicker this team can rally around the idea of this season not being over, the sooner they can actively work to tangibly make progress.

If they can’t, it’ll be another wasted year for a franchise with an All-Star guard entering his prime without a legitimate team around him.


 

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Key Legislature: Wizards 89 at Raptors 106 — Dusted, Swept, Trashed by Toronto http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/01/key-legislature-43-wizards-89-at-raptors-106.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/01/key-legislature-43-wizards-89-at-raptors-106.html#comments Wed, 27 Jan 2016 06:52:30 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=49711 TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards at Raptors, Regular Season Game 43, Jan. 26, 2016, by John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend) from a dual-screen work station.

The Wizards, 24 hours after being swept 4-0 by the Boston Celtics, got swept 4-0 by the Toronto Raptors. The 17-point win for Dwane Casey and Co. was their ninth in a row. “Impressive,” reacted off-the-bench X-factor Terrence Ross, who scored 15 points (9 in the second half). “We’re out here trying to have fun, play hard, trying to keep this going.”

Randy Wittman and his dopey bunch (20-23) are tied for 10th in the standings with best-case-scenario Jan Vesely, Kristaps Porzingis, and the rest of the 22-25 New York Knicks. Washington is 9-14 in games decided by 10 or more points and 9-18 against teams above .500, like the Raptors.

Make no mistake: There’s a pattern there. But the Wizards were in this one at a few points, including seconds after the opening tip. This moment is where we start our story.

TIE GAME!

The opening 10 minutes of the first quarter were played even, like two people who’ve never played chess trying to take out the Queen. In the final 94 seconds, however, Marcin Gortat missed a gimme at the rim and Jared Dudley turned it over, which led to a pair of made free throws by Bismack Biyombo. Then Ramon Sessions missed a try, which was answered without chance for rebuttal by Cory Joseph. Raps led 22-18.

Within the first three minutes of the second quarter, the Raptors grabbed a double-digit lead. Jonas Valanciunas scored four points at the rim with Kyle Lowry being officially credited with assists on both baskets. The Wizards helped a great deal, too. Nene missed a running hook, which opened the door for an easy counter attack, then Dudley lost the ball on the next possession, and Washington’s perimeter defense was matched by its rim protection—below league average all season.

The Wizards scored seven unanswered points at the seven-minute mark of the second quarter, prompting Dwane Casey to call time. After a point-blank miss by Nene (it seemed like his fifth), this time blocked by Valanciunas, DeMar DeRozan twirled past two Wizards defenders for what was ultimately an uncontested layup.

Back, forth, back, forth, ping-pong hoops. An official timeout was called with 2:33 to go in the first half. Two 3-pointers by Washington helped a great deal, in the box score, but the home team (Toronto) still led 45-39.

At halftime, the Wiz trailed 50-53.

John Wall produced 15 of the Wizards’ last 19 points in the final five minutes of the first half. With Washington’s best player looking nothing like himself in Monday’s blowout loss to Boston, it was anyone’s game.

Well, perhaps not. In second halves this year, the Wizards field an average plus/minus of minus-1.7, ranked 22nd in the NBA. (They have an average plus/minus of minus-0.8 in first halves, ranked 19th.)

Not encouraging, in any way, but the Wizards hung around with what Raptors color commentator Leo Rautins called, “good compete.” They found themselves trailing by just two, 66-68, with 3:45 left in the third quarter. Then Terrence Ross ISO’d Gary Neal on the left wing, set him up, crossed him up, and hit a step-back J. Neal would answer with four points in the final two minutes, but he also conceded a few buckets and the Raptors ended the third quarter up 77-70.

Good time to remind readers, here, that the Wizards have an even plus/minus (0) in fourth quarters this season. And considering that the Raps give up the fourth-fewest points in the fourth quarter (23.3), the Wizards, technically within striking distance, were in deep traditional stat doo-doo. In other words, the Wizards were not going to win this game.

Five minutes into the fourth, the Raps, held a 14-point lead, carried by Ross and a frying-pan-hot Lowry.

Speaking of Lowry, he sprinted off the court and into the locker room during a timeout with 3:42 left in the game. His hand got caught defending an off-ball screen for Neal, who would shoot and miss a long 2 attempt. Lowry would return to the bench during the timeout, but disappeared into the tunnel for X-rays before play resumed. “Fingers crossed, everything is fine with Kyle Lowry,” chirped play-by-play guy Matt Devlin, with audible concern. Not for the happenings in this game, mind you: the Raptors then led by 17.

And there was no hope—I mean, none—for the Wizards. With hundreds of seconds to play, NBA fans saw Ramon Sessions, Gary Neal, Kelly Oubre, Jarell Eddie, and Marcin Gortat on the floor.

“This team, what I’ve seen so far this year, we don’t do great dealing with adversity,” Dudley said after the loss to Boston. “I don’t know this year if we have any come-from-behind wins where we were down 10 or more—15. NBA teams are supposed to get a couple of those.”

True, true. Prophet, soothsayer, and the only true stretch 4 on the roster, who, on Tuesday night, wasn’t allowed even get 20 minutes of run. And Kelly Oubre? Five barely meaningful minutes. Questionable rotations aside (and there have been so many over the years), and completely ignoring the return of the midrange-focused offense (only 15 3-point attempts) that has plagued the Wizards in this John Wall era, it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint exactly what’s wrong with the Wizards, as Kyle Weidie tweeted earlier this week.

But I do have one idea which might help. I’ll share it with you, since it’s been a while:

Fire. Randy. Wittman.

(The Wizards won’t.)


 

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