Wizards Blog Truth About It.net http://www.truthaboutit.net Washington Wizards Blog, ESPN TrueHoop Network Fri, 05 Feb 2016 22:13:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.10 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! 

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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.

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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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Key Legislature: Wizards 91 vs Celtics 116 — No Match For That Mean, Green, Winning Machine http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/01/key-legislature-42-wizards-91-vs-celtics-116.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/01/key-legislature-42-wizards-91-vs-celtics-116.html#comments Tue, 26 Jan 2016 22:17:00 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=49688 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. Celtics, Regular Season Game 42, Jan. 25, 2016, by Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur) from the Verizon Center, D.C.

The blizzard that struck the D.C. metro area, and much of the East Coast, did little to deter die-hard basketball fans from trekking through the snow to see their favorite team. The only problem: almost half of those fans in the Verizon Center on Monday evening were sporting green Celtics gear, out in droves to watch their team complete a season sweep of the Wizards.

The “Let’s go, Cel-tics” chants were frequent and surprisingly loud, even though they were drowned out by boos from the locals every time … well, at least until the game turned into a 25-point blowout in the four quarter. People were more concerned about getting to the exits than city pride at that point.

Can you blame them?

Head Coach Randy Wittman said the Wizards gave up. But Hell, Wittman did, too. And from the look of recent starting lineups, he’s given up on the future of basketball. Maybe we were all sold a bill of goods.

Deep down, we had to know that Wittman was eventually going to lean on the style of play that he knows best—a style that includes neither “pace” nor “space.” Monday’s offense did not resemble the one that the Wizards used to dismantle the Raptors in last year’s playoffs and upset the Spurs earlier this season. The way they played, with Nene and Gortat in the frontcourt, more closely resembled last year’s team that finished 19th in Offensive Rating. The Celtics were able to limit the Wizards, particularly John Wall, from settling into easy offense and running in transition.

A functional half-court offense was almost non-existent, besides a few early post-ups from Nene and lots of futile Wall pick-and-rolls. There wasn’t enough spacing on the floor. There wasn’t a lot of shooting on the floor, either, and maybe that has something to do with the fact that the Wizards best shooter, Bradley Beal, only played nine minutes because of an elbow he absorbed. Not only did Marcus Smart break Beal’s nose, he also gave the Big Panda a concussion. Beal is now subject to the NBA mandated “concussion protocol” and won’t be available until he’s “sympton-free.” He’s been ruled out of tonight’s game against the Toronto Raptors, when the Wizards will try to avoid another season sweep against an Eastern Conference foe.

Boston Coach Brad Stevens has run an offensive clinic on the Wizards this year. The Celtics have had scoring totals of 116, 119, 111, and 118 points against Washington. Stevens is a coach who has an understanding of how to get the best out of a mediocre roster, while the Wizards under Wittman look lost if Wall or Beal have bad games—on those nights, it takes a season-high scoring effort from the likes of Otto Porter, Jared Dudley, or Gary Neal to stay competitive.

What now? Roster changes seem unlikely, and even so, would probably be of the minor variety. A change at the head coach position seems warranted, but that too will likely not happen mid-season. It’s not this organization’s style. (Keeping costs down is priority No.1, it seems.) Wizards faithful may be stuck on this sad journey till season’s end, and I, for one, am content. If they surprise everyone and make the playoffs, great. The Wizards have proven to be a team worthy of full attention from any playoff opponent. If they fall into the lottery, I’m OK with that too, because at least the Wizards could add big-time talent to the already-young nucleus.

This team may also be in need of that strong veteran leadership offered by Paul Pierce. Jared Dudley has tried his best to bring a sense of reason as a veteran in this league, but he’s an NBA journeyman whose voice my not resonate as deeply as The Truth’s.

Dudley was blunt after the game when talking about how this team handles adversity:

“They are a deep team where Coach [Brad] Stevens plays a lot of different lineups. If something’s not working, they’re trying different people who can shoot the ball, guards going downhill, so it puts a lot of pressure on us. We’ve never stopped them in all four games. I think for us we’ve been indecisive defensively how we’re going to do it, and this team, what I’ve seen so far this year, we don’t do great dealing with adversity. I don’t know this year if we have any come from behind wins where we were down ten or more, 15. NBA teams are supposed to get a couple of those.”

Dudley was one of the few Wizards who had a decent night against Boston. He kept the Wizards in it during the first half and finished with 15 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the floor. He had eight points in the first quarter and played with confidence and in rhythm, driving past opponents and pulling up for 3s. With Gortat and Nene clogging up the lane when they played together, it didn’t allow Wall the space he normally has to operate on offense. That is no excuse to absolve Wall from criticism, it’s just the truth, but in any case, Wall did not play well. He was unable to get the Wizards going offensively, and he did not put up much of a fight on defense. Wall allowed Isaiah Thomas (23 points) to create offense for himself and his teammates all night. It wasn’t just Thomas that beat Wall, however: the Wizards switched Wall onto Avery Bradley, who managed to sink a few shots. They switched him onto Evan Turner, who was able to have his way with Wall as well. It was a disappointing showing from a player many feel was snubbed for a First Team All-Defense selection last season.

Maybe John Wall is hurt, or maybe he’s just tired of losing and having to carry the team on offense every night. Or maybe he, like everyone else, is tired of a coach who has no intent on trying to progress, or at least has shown little capability to propel the Wizards to the next level.


 

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Boston Brings Another Beatdown — Wizards vs Celtics, DC Council 42 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/01/wizards-91-vs-celtics-116-dc-council-42.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/01/wizards-91-vs-celtics-116-dc-council-42.html#comments Tue, 26 Jan 2016 07:27:52 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=49691 The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards vs Celtics, Game 42, Jan. 25, 2016, at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., via John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend). 

Lead Tracker

M.V.P.

Jared Dudley, and don’t let the plus/minus tell you otherwise (Dudley and Marcin Gortat each fielded a team-low minus-24 on the night). Dudley shot 5-for-7 from the field and 2-for-3 from 3 for a game-high .856 True Shooting Percentage. Dudley also went to the free throw line as many times (4) as Otto Porter and Garrett Temple combined. Only one assist for him versus Boston—after recording four in each of the previous three games—and three turnovers, but Dudley nailed his role as a stretch 4 off the bench. Dudley also continues to pull-start the Polish Machine with surprisingly effective drives and dishes. His defense? Solid enough—he’s got the smarts and is deceptively strong in the paint.

L.V.P.

John Wall was a candidate. He had too little impact for much of the game and shot 3-for-11 from the field, but Wall gave a good defensive effort (more blocks, 2, than the Celtics) after the first quarter and 10 assists mean that he can’t be the least valuable player. The designation could easily go to Temple. He’s been better than expected this season (expectations were nonexistent), but Temple’s only contribution against Boston was the always hard to quantify “hustle.” Going 0-for-7 from the field (0-4 on 3s) is never good, but again, it’s never-been-a-sharpshooter Garrett Temple. Hey, he didn’t turn the ball over!

So … it’s gotta be Nene. Again, don’t let the plus/minus fool you: he was the only Wizard who had a positive rating (+4), but he tried to do too much with the ball. Once, racing up the floor in transition, he dribbled the ball off his shin. More often, he’d have the ball in the post, or in a good position on the wing, only to miss a shot or make a poor decision, throwing the ball away (2 turnovers) and/or letting Boston get fingers to a pass. Nene went 3-for-9 from the field, 2-for-6 from the line, and finished with just two points in the paint against a Celtics frontline whose most intimidating presence is Jared Sullinger.

Counterpoint: Nene helped defend Boston’s pick-and-roll game better than other Wizards bigs, according to Randy Wittman: “He was the best at it. He was our best big at doing that, our other bigs didn’t challenge (Boston’s pick-and-roll) at all.” Still, with him back in the starting lineup once again, this is when Washington needed their Nene the most.

X-Factor.

Bradley Beal was the favorite for this one, opening his scoring with a stop-turnaround J that could be cut into a Dwyane Wade highlight mix without anyone noticing. Next, he checked his drive, pivoted, and set up a score for a cutting Marcin Gortat with a backhanded bounce pass. Beal’s only blemish in the first quarter was trying to make a cross-court pass that only John Wall (and his NFL eye discipline) could pull off. Oh, and Beal fouled Evan Turner behind the arc as the clock expired. Yuck. Then, a third of the way into the second quarter, he took an elbow to the nose/face as Marcus Smart skied to the basket; Beal left for the locker room and never came back.

So, congratulations to co-leading scorer Otto Porter (15 points along with Dudley). Porter tied the team-high for points in the paint (4), led the team in fast break scoring (4), and made two of his four attempts from 3. An Otto P. who hits 3-pointers is an X-factor. Always. (He’s a career .312 shooter who’s shooting .313 this season.)

That Game Was … Another Big Loss To A Better Team.

The Wizards’ first possession went nowhere. Nene missed an easy layup, then, after Porter grabbed the offensive rebound to keep the possession alive, Nene very nearly turned the ball over on a bounce pass. Temple then missed an open 3. The Celtics on the other end took their time, looked for a mismatch, then found it: Avery Bradley vs. Nene 20 feet from the hoop. Splash.

Kind of the sums up the night. Really, that’s pretty much how it went. The Celtics got to their spots, exploited the space created by rotating defenders, and burned the home team from the arc (40.9% on 22 3-point shots) and at the rim (42 paint points). The Wizards, meanwhile, got whooped, again, by the Celtics. Boston always seemed to be a step ahead of Washington, even on the second night of a back-to-back.

The Wizards were outscored by 21 in the second half and by 11 in the fourth quarter. A 16-3 Celtics run in the fourth put the C’s up 102-78. After a timeout, Wittman would call ‘game’ with about five minutes to play, feeding this five-man unit to the lions: Ramon Sessions, Kelly Oubre, Jarell Eddie, Drew Gooden, and DeJuan Blair. They were minus-3 in five minutes, while the lineup of Wall, Sessions, Porter, Dudley, and Gortat went minus-12 in five minutes (minus-10 in 4 fourth-quarter minutes).

Major credit is due to Brad Stevens and his staff; the Boston head honcho talked halftime adjustments after the game. Chalk-talking Randy Wittman had a different opinion, though.

“We just gave in. It’s been like that all four games against this team. They just out-toughed us all four games we’ve played them,” he said. “We gave up on so many plays tonight it’s incredible, and we just gave them baskets. Are we willing to pay the price? And that’s not just on the floor during the game, it’s in practice putting the time in that’s needs to be put in.”

Classic stuff from the Washington Wizards head coach.

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Opening Statements: Wizards vs Celtics, Game 42 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/01/opening-statements-wizards-vs-celtics-game-42.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/01/opening-statements-wizards-vs-celtics-game-42.html#comments Mon, 25 Jan 2016 23:00:05 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=49683 Washington Wizards at Boston Celtics - Truth About It.net


Teams: Wizards vs Celtics
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 2.5 points.


The Washington Wizards, just getting into the second half of their 82-game regular season slate (after what would have been Game No. 42 was postponed on Saturday due to the northeast blizzard), will attempt to beat the Boston Celtics for the first time in four tries this evening.

The previous three attempts resulted in sheer failure. The first two contests were in November, within the season’s first 15 games, and played in Boston. Washington lost both games by a combined 53 points, giving up 229 total points to Boston while scoring just 176 of their own over 96 regulation minutes.

The Wizards and Celtics met for the third time just 10 days ago in D.C. Before that match, both coaches said that they expected that evening’s outcome to be quite different, each admitting that the Wizards of mid-January were a different team from the mid-November 2015 version. Healthier, in any case. The Wizards lead the entire NBA in player games lost due to injury (186), while the Celtics rank 25th with just 41 games lost. The C’s have been relatively steady overachievers all season—and I say “overachiever” in the kindest of senses. Celtics coach Brad Steven does a great job of maximizing—eking—talent on the roster he has; a roster without a bona fide superstar (although one can easily make the case that Isaiah Thomas is at least an All-Star this season).

Streaking? The Celtics have lost four games in a row once and three games in a row twice this season. They have also won four games in a row once and three games in a row twice. And that’s it in terms of streaks longer than two. The Wizards, similarly, have two four-game winning streaks and one three-game winning streak, as well as two three-game losing streaks and one four-game losing streak. Boston holds down the 5-seed in the East, 7.5 games behind the first place Cavaliers; Washington sits in the 9th position, 1.5 games from the 8-seed and 9.5 games behind the Cavs (and thus just two games from the fifth-place Celtics).

Tonight’s game is rather important and these two teams just don’t like each other. At least such has been more evident with this particular Wizards opponent than any other opponent this season. The last meeting in D.C. on January 16 was as back-and-forth as any game the Wizards have had, and there was no shortage of chest-thumping moments between John Wall and Isaiah Thomas, Jared Sullinger and Marcin Gortat, and Jae Crowder and Nene; or, really, any mix of participants on the court.

The Wizards led at halftime, 61-54, and were fueled by a 17-4 first quarter run and a 9-1 second quarter run, which Boston answered with a handful of 5-0 and 6-0 runs. Early in the third quarter, Boston struck with a 14-0 run, but Washington answered with a 15-4 run. Midway through the final period, the Wizards charged toward the finish line with an 11-4 run, giving them a 101-95 lead with six-plus minutes remaining. The Celtics answered with a 16-5 run to take a 111-106 lead with just over 90 seconds left. Then, general madness prevailed.

Gary Neal hit a floater to keep the Wizards within three points with 1:23 left; Boston called timeout. Brad Stevens generally owned the results of ATO (after timeout) possessions, but this one did not control for Evan Turner, who turned the ball over—John Wall stole it and raced to the other end to make the tally 111-110, Boston up, with 1:11 left. The Celtics missed their next two attempts but got offensive rebounds both times, and Stevens then called another timeout. This time his play call limited dribbling and dramatically confused Washington’s defense. The result: an Avery Bradley, nail-in-the-coffin 3-pointer to put the Celtics up 114-110 with 31 seconds left.

But not all the nails were pinned. Celtics players undid the doing of their coach, starting with Amir Johnson fouling John Wall on a 3-point attempt with 23 seconds left. Wall missed the first free throw but Crowder picked up a technical foul for jawing with Randy Wittman, or Nene, or whomever, while Wall as at the free throw line. Neal stepped in and made the tech, and then Wall made this next two free throws, keeping it a one point game, 114-113, Boston.

Then, the foul game: Isaiah Thomas made two freebies to put the Celtics back up three, but then Marcus Smart, stupidly, fouled Wall with 15 seconds left, sending him to the line. As Wall was making his second free throw attempt, the Wizards took advantage of a loophole. Kelly Oubre, a là Cleveland’s Matthew Dellavedova, jumped on the back of Amir Johnson while players were lined up for Wall’s free throw attempt. This act, which seemed to be triggered by Jared Dudley telling Wittman about the situation from the sidelines, sent one of Boston’s poorer free throw shooters to the line while taking no time off the clock. Johnson made the first attempt, but missed the second. Then up two points, 117-115, Marcus Smart committed another inexplicably dumb foul, sending Garrett Temple to the free throw line for two attempts, which he made, tying the game at 117.

Enter Brad Stevens, again. This time his ATO play did something the Wizards were either not expecting or totally unprepared for. With the rookie Oubre on the muscular Crowder in the paint, the plan was (instead of running some high pick-and-roll staple as the Wizards expected like government cheese) to lob a pass over the rook’s head and into Crowder’s hands at the basket. And it worked.

Boston grabbed the 119-117 lead and the Wizards, having already exhausted four timeouts in the fourth quarter (three in a 1:17 span from the 1:38 to the 21-second mark), did not have a timeout to stop the clock and set up their offense with less than four seconds remaining. John Wall, nonetheless, raced to the other end of the court. He had a chance, he soooo had a chance, but he missed a layup at the buzzer. Game over.

Various Celtics flexed and shot mean-mugs toward Washington’s bench; hoards of Celtics fans in attendance departed satisfied, voices hoarse from “Let’s go, Cel-tics!” chants, and anyone involved with the Wizards franchise neatly tucked their tails between their legs as if they’d done so many, many times before.

And so now this thing happens again. The Wizards enter as desperate as ever, and will probably be playing in front of a blizzard-affected crowd that will be as sparse as ever (so, perhaps not that unlike the normal Verizon Center crowd). Washington, with Saturday’s contest versus the Utah Jazz postponed, has had four full days of rest between games. The Celtics won on Sunday evening in Philadelphia and will be playing their third game in four nights.

Throw all of that out the door, anyway. The prior results, the maybe-tired legs, everything. These two surprisingly evenly-match teams are fun to watch. So sit back, relax, and try to enjoy.

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The Good, The Bad, The Ugly — The Washington Wizards After 41 Games http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/01/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly-the-washington-wizards-after-41-games.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/01/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly-the-washington-wizards-after-41-games.html#comments Sun, 24 Jan 2016 17:19:10 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=49672 The NBA All-Star break for the Wizards, and the rest of the league, comes in just under three weeks. Often talked about as the season’s midpoint (with a full playoff boat, it essentially is), the 20-21 Wizards have 11 games to play before the break. Then, after a seven-day rest around All-Star Weekend festivities, they’ll play a 30-game slate. But with 41 out of 82 games out of the way, we are exactly halfway to the finish line for teams merely hoping for a chance to make it to the post-season. The Washington Wizards qualify as a hopeful, currently on the outside looking in and mired in disappointment. It’s nothing that can’t be overcome, however. This team has the talent to beat any team outside of the Golden State Warriors; the Wizards also have the wherewithal to lose to any team, including the team that Will Smith destroyed in that one episode of “Fresh Prince” or any one of the teams that Michael J. Fox animal-ed in “Teen Wolf.” The Washington Wizards can be an unwilling ride on a backwards roller coaster. But there are many good things to appreciate about this team.

John Wall is an amazing point guard. He’s still learning and cannot yet be counted upon during the aughts of regular season play. But he’s tough, loves to pass, has learned how to shoot (mechanics are MUCH improved), and it’s a joy to watch how much joy he has playing the game. Bradley Beal is nice, too—when healthy. And it’s yet to be seen how he’ll taper his game to account for those frequent injuries. Aside from the leg stress reaction in his bones, the kid has taken some hard, seemingly devastating falls (only to often get up and be just fine). Beal is a potential star, but the final 41 games of this season will have a big impact on where his career goes next—a max contract also being in the balance. Wall, Beal, the slowly developing and subtly solid Otto Porter, and the surprise pup Kelly Oubre form a nice future core—the Wizards next need to invest in a stretch-5. Ernie Grunfeld has provided depth, flexibility, and has been once again stricken by injuries with his roster. Imagine feeling snake-bitten while having to maintain a positive yet apathetic demeanor like a gambler unconcerned with the highs and lows.

The Bad: The Wizards have not done a particularly good job of accounting for injuries and a change in offensive philosophy, which shouldn’t have been that unfamiliar, according the their coach. In this area, a C-minus would be too kind, and a D-plus would just be downright mean.

The Ugly: You wonder if the Wizards have the right locker room mix—and that includes coaching. Jared Dudley and Alan Anderson have been positive influences; Garrett Temple, Ramon Sessions and Gary Neal carry solid attitudes; and John Wall, Marcin Gortat, and Nene are well-meaning if not strong-willed presences who see things the way they see them. It’s a deep group of characters, along with Beal, Gooden, and Porter, that could succeed together. Now where does the buck ultimately stop? The Wizards are building the rep of being a dramatically underachieving team over the past two regular seasons (only to surprise with first-round playoff wins). Still, not good habits to build.

Keep reading as the rest of the TAI crew gets into their Good, Bad, and Ugly for one half of the 2015-16 Washington Wizards regular season.

[Wizards arrive at training camp - via instagram.com/washwizards]

[Wizards arrive at training camp – via instagram.com/washwizards]

Adam McGinnis (@AdamMcGinnis)

The Good.
Kelly Oubre. I assumed Randy Wittman would bury the first-round pick deep on the bench, and if he did get any legitimate burn, he would look completely lost. Due to injuries, Oubre got an early opportunity and displayed enough flashes of belonging that Wittman has been forced to give him additional minutes. The 20-year-old is far from a finished product, but he is shooting 38 percent on 3-pointers and his athleticism is needed on a team that lacks it. Also, his hair style is familiar to a “My Little Pony” so the nickname “Brony” works well.

The Bad.
The Injuries. Through 41 games, only John Wall and Ramon Sessions have appeared in every contest. Martell Webster injured his hip and was waived to create a roster spot. Jared Dudley, who was recovering from off-season back surgery, has logged more minutes than Bradley Beal and Nene combined.

Wizards 2015-16 Game 41 Minutes Count

The Ugly.
The home record and defense. Washington has already lost more at the Verizon Center this season (10-13) than last season (29-12). The Wizards defense has gone from elite, ranked fifth in efficiency last season, to mediocre at 18th in 2015-16. Considering the transition to a new offense, there was expectation of the defense slipping, but it dropping off a cliff has been the main storyline of this disappointing NBA product. Randy Wittman’s staple as coach has been getting his Wiz team to play tough defense. Owner Ted Leonsis has always stressed the importantce of protecting the home court. Neither of these outcomes are happening.

Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20)

The Good.
Kelly F. Oubre. Aside from the high draft picks like Beal and Wall who have effortlessly fallen in Ernie Grunfeld’s ungrateful lap, the Wizards have done little via the draft in recent years. Oubre seems to legitimately enjoy playing defense, he judiciously picks his spots on offense, he has a knack for finishing with flair, and, most importantly, there is room for growth. Who needs Kevin Durant?

Honorable Mention? The Wizards, despite an injury-prone season full of inconsistencies, are still just one game out of the eighth spot, two games out of the sixth and seventh spots, and four games out of fourth. A tepid win streak vaults them right back in the playoff discussion. It isn’t quite as good as jockeying for home court advantage, but it is something.

The Bad.
It could be due to injury, it could be due to ineffective play, but mystery of the “stretch-4″ has yet to be resolved. The Wizards decision to use pace and space based on the limited success they had in last year’s playoffs was a step in the right direction. Their inability to lock down a consistent stretch 4 prior to the Durant sweepstakes (which they won’t win) is part of the reason for this season’s mediocrity.

The Ugly.
On the one hand, it is unfair to judge Randy Wittman, since he’s yet to have a healthy roster at his disposal. And unlike Luke Walton/Steve Kerr, he is not running an offense he’s 100 percent comfortable with. We’ve gotten no concrete verification that he’s been forced to change his offensive outlook, but the tea leaves certainly lead one to draw that conclusion.

But Wittman is the head coach and his job is to get his team ready to play on the offensive and defensive ends every night, regardless of who is available. There have been far too many postgame pressers when he angrily comments on his team’s lack of defense or lack of consistent effort (a regular criticism in seasons past). He will occasionally pepper in the “I’ve got a do a better job” phrase, but he still disproportionately blames the team for not responding to him.

On top of the inconsistent performances, Bradley Beal, John Wall and Marcin Gortat have all taken subtle and not-so-subtle jabs at Wittman’s schemes and characterizations of the team’s efforts, or lack thereof. There’s a disconnect somewhere in that locker room, and unlike last year when Paul Pierce could be the leader on the floor to supplement or offset what was lacking with the coaches, the Wizards appear far too rudderless.

Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks)

The Good.
By turns John Wall’s performance and Kelly Oubre’s wind-whipped whispers of success.

The Bad.
Defensive prestige is but a signal tower on the horizon for a man with a cell phone full of breakup messages dying of thirst in the desert.

The Ugly.
Too much, resulting in forced passes, resulting in turnovers, resulting in a sub-.500 season driving a car with 50 wins stuffed in the trunk.

Bryan Frantz (@BFrantz202)

The Good.
Ramon Sessions learned how to make easy shots. Layups: 62-for-111 (.559) this year vs. 53-for-107 (.495) last year. Within 8 feet: 92-for-174 (.529) this year vs. 77-for-180 (.428) last year.

The Bad.
DeJuan Blair has already surpassed his minutes total from a year ago (198 to 180).

The Ugly.
If Marcin Gortat or Nene get hurt again, there’s a pretty good chance I start a game at center this season. I’m 5-foot-9.

John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend)

The Good.
John Wall, John Wall, and Jared Dudley. I’ll start with Wall. He’s (quietly) averaging more than 19 points, 9 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals this season. The only other player with those averages is Russell Westbrook, one of the three best players in the Association. Looking past his PER (top 10 among point guards) and Real Plus-Minus Wins (top 20 overall), the stat that best sums up this half-season is double-doubles. Wall ranks fifth among all players with 23, which means he’s produced at least 20 points in more than half of Washington’s games this season. Stud. Dudley’s been great, too. He’s third in the league in 3P% (min. 50 attempts), the best 4 on the roster, and this crappy team is 13-13 when he starts.

The Bad.
The dearth of mirth. It’s become routine to turn on a Wizards game with few (of fewer) expectations, cringe, then midway through the third quarter turn to the closest person and say, “Man, the Wizards stink.” And this isn’t just the unprofessional opinion of a fan or blogger, here: the players have also felt the suck. “It’s not even fun coming here anymore. There’s so much negativity,” Marcin Gortat said hours before the start of December 2015. “I understand we’re losing games but, damn, we just got to cut that right now, man. It’s not fun at all.”

The Ugly.
The sad, stale state of this Wizards union. Two things that will not be seen in D.C. this year: Kevin Durant in red, white and blue; and, based on current projections, the playoffs. While San Antonio’s bench has enough talent to win 64 or 65 games over a full season, Washington—the whole team—will be lucky to finish more than a few games above .500. Injuries are the go-to excuse, but they also beg the question: What happened to the “depth at both forward positions,” varied rotations, and unlimited versatility that was promised by team architect Ernie Grunfeld? Another question: How many All-Star seasons from John Wall will the franchise waste?

Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur)

The Good.
John Wall appears on his way to a third All-Star berth, Ernie Grunfield didn’t blow a draft, and the Wizards have gotten solid production from a cast of characters that can only be described as ragtag. Despite the sky seemingly falling on #WizardsTwitter, the team is only one game back of a coveted playoff spot.

The Bad.
Injuries, injuries, injuries. The Wizards have had more games missed due to injury than Michael Jordan crying memes on my Twitter timeline. It’s a miracle that they are even able to be around the .500 mark, considering the lineups they are fielding on a nightly basis.

The Ugly.
Randy Wittman’s coaching schemes have been underwhelming at best this season and, for a defensive-minded coach, he has somehow managed to turn a top 10 defense into a bottom 10 unit while not really showing a ton of progress in terms of fixing the offense (the Wizards are 15th in the NBA in Offensive Rating).

Bartosz Bielecki (@bart__92)

The Good.
The Wizards are showing flashes of being a good team. Their offense usually looks good, and whenever the defense steps up, the team plays the way we expect them to play. John Wall, Marcin Gortat and Otto Porter are all enjoying very good seasons, but they are let down by coaching.

The Bad.
Injuries! Gortat recently questioned some of his teammates’ professionalism for constantly getting hurt. Maybe we should start questioning the abilities of the team’s medical staff? Since the Suns are tanking, can Washington trade for their medical team?

The Ugly.
Perimeter defense and rebounding. Watching the Wizards sometimes means waiting for the execution to be over. Opponents have been killing this team with their 3-point shooting, making 38.2 percent of those shots, which ranks the Wizards last in the NBA. Rebounding has been another issue. The Wiz rank 27th in rebounding differential, mostly because they lack a glass-eating 4, other than the always-hurt Drew Gooden.

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Wall and Washington Win a Winnable Game — Wizards vs Heat, DC Council 41 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/01/wizards-vs-heat-dc-council-41.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/01/wizards-vs-heat-dc-council-41.html#comments Thu, 21 Jan 2016 20:16:52 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=49652 The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards vs Heat, Game 41, Jan. 20, 2016, at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., via John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend). Photo Credit: instagram.com/nba

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 9.25.32 PM

M.V.P.

The M.V.P. is John Wall, for the umpteenth time this season, even if he air-balled his first shot (a 16-foot jumper). Wall assisted on not one but both of Nene’s first two baskets—and it would have been three had the Brazilian not missed an uncontested shot under the rim. The star guard, after making a pair of free throws, also delivered a close-range score to Marcin Gortat. The Wizards, then, led 10-4. Wall would go on to hit a 15-footer and an above-the-break 3 (his 60th this season) to maintain the Wiz lead before getting a breather to close out the first quarter. (I have given him a pass for two errant-pass turnovers late in this quarter, because the 15-6 lead the Wizards built was orchestrated in its entirety by Wall.)

In the second quarter, Wall opened his scoring account with a scoop layup high off the glass, which he followed up with a smart defensive play—stepping in front of an off-ball cut into the key, and closing the open lane to the Wizards basket. He took two charges (easy calls for any ref) and dished a pair of frosting-sweet dimes before the first half was over: the first was a 30-foot alley-oop to a back-cutting Gortat, the second was a jump-pass which, springing up from the hardwood, surprised everyone, including Gortat, who finished the action with a dunk.

The once-again Eastern Conference Player of the Week, carrying the Wizards to a 14-point halftime lead, flashed a wide smile through his mouthguard. Job done. Miami, undermanned, etc., wouldn’t get closer than five points the rest of the way.

“Just being aggressive, beating them to the ball, talking, communicating,” Wall said after the game, asked about Washington’s pressure defense and quick start. “Sometimes we had some lapses, but at the end of the day we had a great job and that’s why we had a great start.”

L.V.P.

This was hard to call in the first half. It was either Bradley Beal for being invisible in five-plus minutes in the first quarter, or Garrett Temple for getting whipped off the dribble by whichever Heat player he was matched up against. Beal, of course, would find his rhythm and turn an early 2-for-6 shooting effort into an efficient 7-for-13 night overall; Temple would eventually stop chasing shadows and remind viewers why he’s emerged as the team’s best small forward. Game flow: the reason Truth About It’s D.C. Council accolades are handed out after the game.

So, the least ballinest player award goes to rookie Kelly Oubre, Jr. He didn’t play poorly—in fact, his basketballing was just fine, though perhaps he was too quick on the trigger—but when tasked with determining which player on any given night had the least impact on the outcome, sacrifices must be made. Oubre is the lamb in this one, as unfair as that may be. He had one steal, one block, one turnover, two fouls, and zero points in almost 20 minutes, a stat line which saves me from having to say more on the matter.

X-Factor.

Some people, including at least one Wizards staffer, after the game demanded this crown be bestowed upon the head of one Nene. Bradley Beal, too, thought that Nene was “awesome.”

“It’s probably the first time this year [Nene and Gortat have started together],” he said. “That reminds me of the past three years that we’ve all been playing together. It’s great to see those two out here working and battling together—and you never know, that’s what we may stick with and it’s giving us a different look.”

Winning makes just about any team seem like a big, happy, incredibly tall family. And while I wouldn’t go as far as to say Nene was awesome, he played well.

*checks notes*

#NeneHands were back and better than ever, which stymie sub-par creators like Hassan Whiteside and earned him five steals, plus the big man switched ball screens with purpose. On offense, Nene took it right to Chris Bosh time and time again, and once looked like a Pro Bowl defensive lineman running in a pick-6 on a fastbreak steal-and-score in the third quarter. However, without suitable explanation, Nene was outplayed for a few minutes by walking corpse Amar’e Stoudemire. For that reason (much more than his whatever plus/minus), he cannot be the X-factor.

Last night’s X-factor is … American professional basketball player Jared Anthony Dudley. Reasons:

  • Game-high plus/minus of plus-22.
  • Sizzling bacon action back-cuts.
  • Pick-and-pop star.
  • 10 points off the bench on nine shots.
  • 4 assists for the third straight game (7 of the last 9).
  • The continued (and uncanny) ability to pass open Gortat after forays into the painted area.

That Game Was … An Easy Must-Have.

The Wizards had lost five of their last six at home, but for all the injury talk, Miami was worse off to start the game and in a state of disrepair by the end of it. See, not having the services of Kris Humphries (whatever), Otto Porter (meh) and Drew Gooden (more like Who Gooden this year, amirite?) don’t compare to the missing pieces Miami played with last night: no Wade, no Dragic, no Beno, no Birdman; then, in the second half, no Deng (eye) and no Whiteside (oblique).

Deng was doin’ work, scoring the Heat’s last eight points of the first quarter and racking up another eight before exiting the game. And Whiteside … well, he’s got more swat than a militarized police force, but checked out with 6:21 left in the second quarter. Not before rejecting a Marcin Gortat hook shot, mind you. That first-quarter block was Whiteside’s fifth block on Gortat—in all, Whiteside has blocked 10 Wizards shots from six Washington players in two and a half games. Without Whiteside, there was no one left to protect the paint. John Wall and Co. finished the game with 46 points in the paint (7 more than their season average), 18 second-chance points (8 more than their season average), and shot .523 from the field.

“You’re not looking for moral victories or to keep it close,” Erik Spoelstra said post-game. “We honestly thought that we would have a chance to keep this a possession game. Toward the end of the third quarter, guys were running out of gas.

“I had to get guys out, I couldn’t stagger it the way I normally do. We thought we would be able to hold the floor and we weren’t able to. You have to give Washington credit. They put their foot on the gas the last few minutes of the third.”

Credit the Wizards for winning a game they had to win, but dock as many imaginary points as you’d like for them not doing so in any regular fashion. They’re 20-21.

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Key Legislature: Wizards 106 vs Heat 87 — Wizards Are The Healthy Ones For Once http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/01/key-legislature-41-wizards-106-vs-heat-87.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/01/key-legislature-41-wizards-106-vs-heat-87.html#comments Thu, 21 Jan 2016 15:43:10 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=49655 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. Heat, Regular Season Game 41, Jan. 20, 2016, by Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace) from the Verizon Center, D.C.

Charles Barkley often talks about “schedule wins”—meaning the regular season is a grind and when a team is playing its third game in four nights on a cold and snowy evening in late January without two of its best players (Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic) and loses two more top players during the game (Hassan Whiteside and Luol Deng), then sometimes a team takes the night off. This game felt like one of those nights.

Not to take anything away from Washington—who played aggressive defense (forcing 20 turnovers), shot well from the field (52.3% FG), and put its foot on the gas pedal in the fourth quarter (keeping the lead at 17 points or more for the entire final period)—but this Heat team just didn’t have it in them.

After the game Chris Bosh spoke sullenly about the current state of his injury-ravaged team: “With our situation, we are gonna drop [in the Eastern Conference standings], we know that. It just can’t be too far. The way things are going, I just want to get to the All-Star break and then regroup and talk about everything else after that.”

Doesn’t sound like a team that is mentally prepared to grind out wins on the road when four of their top players are wearing street clothes or injured during a game.

Randy Wittman, for his part, wanted no talk about Miami’s injuries. When asked about playing against a shorthanded team, Randy quipped, “Like us? I don’t want to hear about anybody else’s problems. We have enough of our own problems.”

The Great Nene-Gortat Debate.

For the second straight game, Nene and Gortat played meaningful minutes together. Against Portland it was eight minutes and against Miami it was a whopping 16. Wittman commented after the game that he may continue to play the pair together based on matchups.

If you only looked at the final score, you might assume that the front court reunion was successful. If you just watched the first quarter when Washington built a double-digit lead behind the front court stylings of Gortat and Nene, who combined for 13 of the team’s 26 points on a wide variety of low post moves, you might feel the same way.

But the final numbers tell a different story. Washington won the game by 19 points, yet the Wizards were minus-3 during the 16 minutes Nene and Gortat spent on the floor together. Meanwhile, Jared Dudley and Gortat were plus-18 in the 16 minutes they played together.

Having said all that, the front court debate is really a red herring. Wittman has given no indication that he intends to revert to the ways of yesterday, and the lineups of the past two games have been inspired more by injuries (and matchups) than anything else. The good news is that Nene is available to play meaningful minutes and he is back to his regular bruising self.

John Wall Was Upset.

You may have noticed John Wall yelling at his teammates (mostly Gortat) a lot during the game. I asked Jared Dudley what that was about. Dudley explained that since Miami did not have its starting guards, Washington picked up their ball pressure full court. Because of that, Miami broke the play open a couple times and Wall was frustrated when the help defender was late.

Wall mentioned the breakdowns in his post-game interview (“Sometimes we had a little bit of lapses.”), but he did not seem too bothered. It appears to be water under the bridge.

Young Kelly Oubre is Learning Fast.

There was a time earlier in the season when Oubre could not play more than a couple minutes without picking up two fouls. That is not so much of a problem when you are only playing 5-to-10 minutes off the bench, but it becomes a concern when you are playing starter’s minutes.

Wittman talked to Oubre a few weeks ago about the need to play more conservatively when he is in the starting lineup and Oubre took it to heart. I asked Kelly after the game about his defensive evolution:

“You got to be smart. You don’t want to put a team in the penalty. It’s a lot of negative things that come with getting early fouls—one of them being me sitting on the bench. So I was just trying to stay on the court a little longer. If I get two quick ones then I have to come out.”

Oubre said he has not relied on any particular advice from his teammates.

“I’ve just been watching around the league, watching how the refs call the game, and kind of learning as I go.”

One specific area of improvement has been how he contests jumpers. Early in the season he would slap at the ball on the release (often hitting the shooters wrist). Not anymore.

“Just got to go straight up. Don’t try to touch them, no contact, because the refs are looking for that now. Just kind of go straight up and straight down.”

Party Like It’s 2002.

There was an entertaining stretch in the second quarter when Nene and Amar’e Stoudemire went at each other on multiple possessions. I spoke with Amar’e after the game about their vintage showdown:

“It was good, man. We go back since draft day 2002. We are the last of our class, me and Nene, Drew Gooden and those guys. It felt good to compete. It’s a good battle. It’s always about competing at a high level. When you get a chance to compete you have to take advantage of that opportunity.”

Stoudemire finished with a season-high 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting in 20 minutes, and Nene countered with 16 points on 8-for-15 shooting in 26 minutes.

Winter is Coming.

WUSA9’s weatherman Topper Shutt was booed when his pre-recorded forecast shown on the Jumbotron predicted 16-to-30 inches of snow on Saturday. The impending winter storm was the main topic of discussion among team personnel and media after the game. There was speculation as to the status of Saturday night’s game versus the Utah Jazz, which is currently scheduled to tip-off right in the middle of the forecasted historic storm.

Dwyane Wade, who missed the game with shoulder soreness, wore a very elaborately knitted wool sweater to protect him from the very un-Miami-like weather.

Dwyane Wade addressing the media after Washington's 106-87 win over Miami (Photo - A. Rubin -  January 20, 2016)

Dwyane Wade addressing the media after Washington’s 106-87 win over Miami (Photo – A. Rubin – January 20, 2016)

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