When the writers of this site split up the recaps for the March slate of games, I was convinced that though I didn’t pick the ones of top billing, I’d still be watching some winnable contests. I was scheduled to cover the Wizards on the road in Minnesota, a home game vs. Cavaliers and tonight’s matchup in Charlotte vs. the Bobcats. Little did I know, those turned into three of the ugliest games in Washington’s real season (since January 12th, the date of John Wall’s return). The Wizards were completely nonexistent tonight on the defensive end, giving up 119 points to a team that makes it a routine to get beaten like they stole something. Turnovers were again a problem; as they coughed it up 18 times. And to compound the laundry list of issues, Washington had several key players battling with foul trouble – Wall ended up fouling out, while Beal and Nene finished with five personals a piece. However, with all that considered, the Wizards had numerous opportunities to put this game away. Washington gave up a 5 point lead with three minutes to go, allowing the Bobcats to string off 12 straight points and cruise to their 15th victory of the season.
As Bradley Cooper once taught me, it’s important to find the silver lining in anything we do. And in the case of yet another bad loss for the Wizards, that silver lining is John Wall. Fresh off being named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week (take that LeBron!), Wall was at it again, scoring 25 points and making another 3-point shot. I for one, really think his shooting woes are more a byproduct of his nerves and uneasiness than his lack of skill. I’m glad to see him getting it up more confidently, for better or worse. He must cut down on his turnovers if he wants to become an elite player, but we’re starting to see that explosiveness coming out a nightly basis on both ends of the floor. He outplayed Kemba Walker tonight (minus the final couple minutes, but hey – who needs those?) and although he should be past the stage where that’s an accomplishment, it’s worth pointing out that his improvement over the last week could be more than just a hot streak.
The Wizards are the ultimate ‘play to the level of the competition’ team, highlighted by the numerous victories over division leaders and the ever-growing list of losses to porous teams. The team’s performance tonight fell right in line with that modus operandi. It’s disappointing to say the least, and a setback for a squad that had been playing good basketball in recent weeks. The perk of losses like this remains an increase in ping pong balls come May but that is a present Wizards fans have too often received without much return. My preference remains to win the games they play.
See below for a couple key points that stood out to me during tonight’s game:
•Bradley Beal did not seem healthy to me, as he showed little movement on the court and even less lift on his jump shot. He capped off a forgettable 2-for-8 performance from the field with a badly missed 3 pointer that would have cut the Bobcats lead to 1 with under 30 seconds to play. I’m not sure if he needs additional rest, or if it was just a matter of getting his legs back under him but I am hopeful that he continues his fantastic progression since November and finishes his rookie year strong.
•Nene was in rare form tonight, registering the kind of all-around game that really shows off his versatility on the court. He finished with 21 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds but the aforementioned foul trouble really limited him in the 2nd half. The Bobcats don’t have much in the low post defense department (save for a block or two from Bismack Biyombo) so Nene could have really capitalized and helped stabilize the Wizards offense.
•Garrett Temple probably had his best game thus far as a Wizard. He really did everything for the team, even filling in as backup point guard in the place of the injured AJ Price. He finished with the highest plus/minus rating on the team and was worthy of the minutes he received. He’s got decent athleticism and good form on his jump shot and was able to overcome his normal struggles to finish plays tonight.