After covering Sunday night’s mismatch versus the Golden State Warriors, I had this strange feeling that I hadn’t actually written about a Wizards win in some time. In fact, it was possible that an entire generation of Wiz of Awes readers only knew me as a cynical, pessimistic fan who criticized everything from the ineptitude of the front office to the exorbitant prices of the chicken tenders+fries combo from the Verizon Center concession stands. I decided to do some research to uncover the true fate of the team when I’m readily sitting at my keyboard. Turns out that since the first game I ever recapped for the site (Wizards-Spurs on 2/2/13) to Sunday night vs. Golden State, Washington was an astonishingly bad 1-11. What was even more surprising was that I didn’t even start writing until after the return of John Wall, thereby protecting me from the 4-28 start in 2012 and implying that the team played roughly .500 ball since I signed up. There was once a time when I knew how to calculate the likelihood of watching 11 losses in 12 games when the nightly win probability was about ½ but that is no longer the case. At least for argument’s sake, let’s accept that it is very low. Regardless, the one thing I do still know is that there is only one remedy when you and your team need a win as badly as ever; find a way to schedule the Charlotte Bobcats.
While it’s true that Charlotte isn’t once the laughingstock it used to be (Bobcats actually have the same number of wins as the Wizards, but stand 4 back in the loss column at 15-21), it still represents a franchise that hasn’t quite decided it wants to win. The Bobcats know they’d be much better served with one more year picking in the top 5 at the NBA Draft and then coming back as the Hornets; rebranded with a new identity and franchise cornerstone. At least that’s what I’m assuming they want, given that Josh McRoberts, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and Anthony Tolliver played a combined 77 minutes tonight (in related news, I was also able to confirm tonight was in fact a real NBA game). But for Washington, it didn’t matter whether the opponent was playing for this year or next because there was no option but to take care of business. Especially in the East, when half of the teams are already starting to sell Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker jerseys, taking off nights like these can have serious ramifications in the standings. Fortunately, the Wizards did exactly as was expected after three straight bad losses, putting this away 97-83, winning their 8th road game (after 7 total wins away from DC last year) and playing themselves into a rhythm before tonight’s more difficult tilt with the New Orleans Pelicans (so they got a back to back of the New Hornets then the Old Hornets. Or wait, is this team technically the Old Hornets and the next game is the New Hornets? My head hurts).
So how were the Wizards able to handle the Bobcats so easily? As a throwback to last season’s top-10 unit, it all started on the defensive end. Washington started out early, grabbing a few steals leading to fast break points and protected the glass to a tune of a 46-38 advantage. After taking a 4 point lead into the break, the offense finally caught up with the defense as the Wizards exploded out to a 19 point advantage at 64-45. Since no Wizards win or loss would be complete without some 3rd quarter theatrics, they allowed Charlotte to get right back into it behind a 27 point effort from Gerald Henderson to cut it back to 7. Luckily Washington made some shots down the stretch and earned a rare double digit victory for the year. On the whole, it’s not a secret that offensively, the Bobcats don’t remind anyone of the Showtime Lakers. Or even the current Lakers for that matter. They score 99.7 points per 100 possessions, which ranks 27th in the league and are 29th overall in Effective FG at 45.5%. Nonetheless, Washington was aggressive early and didn’t play down to the level of the competition; an important step for a team that will use this entire season to really learn how to win and finish games.
See below for some actual observations from tonight’s game (wait you were really looking for those in a recap??) instead of my mindless banter:
•Tonight was a relatively pedestrian game for John Wall, though he did give us the first signal that the Wizards were destined to win with his 40-foot heave at the shot clock buzzer. Although he continues to struggle from the field, he’s making big plays when they matter, including a beautiful pass to Martell Webster for a corner-3 that brought out the famed ‘Dagger!’ from Steve Buckhantz. Even better, he logged only 32 minutes tonight and should be fresh for the matchup with Adidas counterpart Jrue Holiday tomorrow night (A$AP Rocky will be in town?).
•Bradley Beal was big time tonight offensively as he finally regained the stroke from mid-range. He still takes way too many long twos and only connected on one 3 pointer but tonight is meant for compliments and he definitely carried our meek offense for stretches with 21 points. If there is one criticism for him, it’s actually on the defensive end where none of he, Webster, and Trevor Ariza played anything depicting perimeter defense. That’ll be a development area moving forward this year for all the swingmen.
•It’s time for Otto Porter to see more floor time, because he finally seems to be impacting the game when his number is called. He played only 11 minutes tonight and for a player who is often most valuable off the ball, Porter needs extended playing time to make a difference. Since Ariza wasn’t lighting the world no fire anyway, not sure why Wittman didn’t look to the rookie more in a game the Wizards held a comfortable lead in.
•Trevor Booker had another strong game tonight and has really helped the cause on the glass. Combine that with a huge bounce back game from Marcin Gortat (18 points, 13 rebounds) and Washington’s frontcourt finally stepped up to the challenge. As a side note, is there ever a time when our bigs get the ball on the low block and don’t just stare at the defender for an eternity? In the time it takes for them to make a decision with the ball, you could go to the National Archives, memorize the Constitution, and take a lap around the Monument just for kicks. Quit ball stopping!!