This one was gut wrenching.
A huge collapse, a missed opportunity to foul early on in the shot clock while down one, a last second air balled reverse lay up, a wide open Trevor Ariza sitting in the corner, and a loss. It was a tough pill to swallow, as the Wizards blew a 92-82 lead with 3 minutes left to fall 106-105 in Oklahoma City.
It wasn’t all bad, however: Bradley Beal, who once upon a time was involved in trade talks that would have brought James Harden to DC, showed Oklahoma City what they missed out on by not sealing the deal. Beal scored a career high 34 points on only 23 shots and drilled 6-8 three pointers. The players the Thunder actually got back for Harden, Perry Jones III and Jeremy Lamb, combined for 13 points.
Unfortunately, all of Beal’s nightly achievements will be overshadowed by an epic collapse, which saw the Thunder outscore the Wizards 24 to 9 in the last 8 minutes of the game. It all started with a small shove from Nene which sent Russell Westbrook to the ground and infuriated the young dynamo. Westbrook jumped up, attempted to shove Nene (but really just kind of touched him, since Nene is so huge and unmovable), and was promptly kicked out of the game. Unfortunately, so was Nene. You’d think the drop-off from Nene to Marcin Gortat is far less than that of Westbrook to Reggie Jackson, but you’d be quite wrong. Although Gortat individually played well down the stretch, the Wizards’ defense fell apart and the offense stagnated. Reggie Jackson outplayed John Wall so handily that Wall was relegated to the corner on a number of must-have plays. His night culminated with an air ball on a reverse lay up that would have won the game. It was a tough shot and one I don’t blame him for taking. It wasn’t an awful look, and he simply missed it. Sometimes that will happen, and it isn’t that big of a deal.
Wall is now averaging 18/9.5/4.2 on 38.9% shooting, which is not yet something anyone should dwell on since the season is so young. Wall is also playing better defense and turning the ball over at a lower rate, so at least we have those positive pixels to go along with that stat line and a 2-4 record.
The blown lead down the stretch appears to have had much to do with Nene’s ejection or Wall’s struggles, but that isn’t completely fair. Wall’s missed lay up did not lose the game for the Wizards. The game was lost at the free throw line, where the Wizards went 13-26, including 0-5 from Ariza and 4-10 from Nene. It is not often the whole team will shoot 50% from the line, and without this odd occasion, the Thunder would have not even been in the game. The Wizards should have won but it’s early and it’s okay to lose in OKC. The most important takeaway the players need to consider from this game is that they played a great team with the best scorer on the planet tight and close for 53 minutes. The game didn’t end in their favor, but they can compete. This is the thought process they need to have all throughout the season if they want to prove to be for real.
Update: I erroneously stated that Perry Jones III was part of the James Harden deal. In fact, he was taken with the Thunder’s own pick. Steven Adams was taken with a pick from that trade.