[D.C. Council: setting the scene, rating the starters, assessing the subs, providing the analysis, and catching anything that you may have missed. Unlike the real DC Council, everything here is on the table. Game No. 27, Washington Wizards vs Orlando Magic; contributors: Dan Diamond and Conor Dirks from the Verizon Center.]
In going down 102-95 to an Orlando Magic team that appears to be suffering from mental fatigue due to uncertain cohesiveness, at least the Washington Wizards looked better at losing than they have in the past. Similar to the second half of the Milwaukee game, Randy Wittman opted to keep Nick Young and JaVale McGee benched in favor of a starting lineup of John Wall, Jordan Crawford, Chris Singleton, Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin. And while this unit struggled out of the gate, they did their jobs and stayed mostly within themselves.
Certainly there were mistakes. Furthermore, missed shots. All to be expected from young team making an earnest attempt while lacking size against a specimen like Dwight Howard and shot-makers who can be trusted to not disrupt the offense. Crawford caught fire with 14 points in the third quarter to go with four assists, giving him a hand in most of the Wizards’ 29 points scored in the period to Orlando’s 25. Once trailing by 17 points in the first half, Washington was down just 71-70 heading into the final 12 minutes. Unfortunately Crawford got cold in the fourth and went 0-for-6 from the field.
But John Wall picked up the slack. He scored 10 straight points for Washington after a timeout at the 10:27 mark of the last quarter when the Wizards were down 79-71. Wall capped his efforts with an assist to Mo Evans for a 3-pointer; it was a 13-4 run that tied the game at 83 with 6:56 left. But back-to-back threes by Orlando’s Jameer Nelson and Ryan Anderson after a Magic timeout at the 6:34 mark helped bury Washington. A long Nelson offensive rebound resulting in a Hedo Turkoglu 3-pointer that put the Magic up 100-91 with 1:32 left served as the dagger. But the point is that the Wizards fought, as a team, and with strong contributions from Booker, Singleton and a handful of others in addition to Wall and Crawford.
1) So what? If he’s traded, he’s traded. If he’s not, he’s not. Arenas has had a colorful past in D.C. that will always be remembered, mostly good … but it wouldn’t be colorful unless there’s some bad, and that will be remembered too.
Gilbert has come back relatively quietly this season (aside from emo acts, the fake knee injury, or shoe poop stories). Whether truly humbled, who knows, but he’s at least playing the part. The struggle with whether he should stay or go should now be released, regardless of if the rumors become true or not. People will surely struggle with how to remember him, many will dramatically paint broad pictures with broad brushes … just remember him.
It reminds me of a fight I once had with my girlfriend. It got pretty heated, and in a dead serious moment she looked up at me and said, “I hate to get all Mike Miller on you, but it is what it is.” And then the fight was pretty much over. I cracked up because she had the perfect way to break the tension, and get my attention, rending the conflict silly in the big picture. Then we moved on.
No one likes moral victories. They aren’t supposed to happen in professional sports, at least not acknowledged. Moral victories? Those are for the college underdogs, the 15 or 16-seeds in the Big Dance.
But if you’re the Washington Wizards, fighting hard against the Orlando Magic to the point where the game was decided by a Gilbert Arenas missed runner in the paint (after being stuffed like turkeys on Thanksgiving night in Atlanta), you’ll take it as one to grow on.
“Well, we competed,” Flip Saunders said, almost reluctantly, after his team fell 100-99 in the waning seconds. “Had opportunities, I thought we could have very easily hung our heads when we got in the situation and got down 12, but fought back, had some great individual play.” The coach relented his answer before even being asked a question at his post-game press conference.
Wizards fans can only hope the players see the type of effort displayed against Orlando as more positive bricks in their project of rebuilding. Saunders had an excellent game plan and his players worked hard to implement it. But the little things made the difference on Saturday night, according to the Wizards’ coach.
“It’s just the little things,” Saunders noted. “We wanted to wrap [Dwight] Howard up, not let him get layups. We gave him too many layups.”