Recap: Hornets at Wizards

The Wizards complete an improbable comeback to beat the Hornets in double overtime, 110-107. John Wall scored 32 points which is the second straight game for him with 30+ points. Drew Gooden was very valuable off the bench adding 15 points and 17 rebounds (5 offensive) for the team. The win snaps a four game losing streak.

The Wizards were looking to attack the rim and get some easy buckets early in this one. John Wall easily carved through the Hornets defense and was able to find Nene in transition for two easy lay ins to start the game. Three of their first five made field goals were in the paint as the Wizards started the game 5-10 from the field.

The Wizards defense came to play tonight. The Wizards had six blocks in the first quarter and nine overall for the game. Gortat had four of those six blocks in the first period. The Wizards started the game nicely and were up 28-19 after the first.

Mo Williams came in for the Hornets and picked up the scoring slack. Mo provided 26 points off the bench and came up just one rebound shy of a triple double (26 points, 10 assists, 9 rebounds).

Drew Gooden provided a much needed spark off the bench. Drew came in and hit his first four field goals in the second quarter. Additionally, he provided some much needed energy off the bench and played Al Jefferson well for a majority of the night.

The Hornets were able to make a late push towards the end of the second quarter. The Wizards were up but just five, 59-54 at the end of the first half.

Kemba Walker who was quiet for most of the game came in and knocked down a three to open the second half. Al Jefferson hit a close up lay in and just like that, the game was tied at 59. Not much went well for the Wizards as the Hornets used a 14-2 run to take a seven point lead at the 6:17 mark of the quarter. Drew Gooden hit a late three pointer but the Hornets were up 79-75 after three quarters.

Bradley Beal hit a fadeaway jumper over Kemba Walker to take a 83-82 lead early into the fourth quarter. Rasual Butler then got in on the action knocking down a three pointer to put the Wiz up four.

The Hornets on the other hand started the fourth quarter ice cold going 0-10 from the field. They didn’t score their first field goal until the 3:50 mark on a put back dunk from Al Jefferson. With the game seesawing back and forth, Kemba Walker hit two free throws to put the Hornets up 95-91 at the 14 second mark. Fans started exited the Verizon Center assuming the Wiz would drop their fifth straight game.

Not so fast, Rasual Butler hit a three pointer and then John Wall would hit a tough elbow jump shot to tie the game and we were going into overtime.

Mo Williams hit a three pointer to open the overtime for the Hornets. John Wall answered with a three of his own. The Wizards were able to regain the lead 101-99 on a transition lay in from Rasual Butler at the one minute mark. The Hornets would tie the game and we were going to a second overtime.

The Wizards hit some huge shots in the second overtime, particularly from John Wall who had five points in the period. None bigger than a tough fadeaway jump shot to put the Wiz up 110-107 at the nine second mark. The Wiz hang on to win.

The Win guarantees that the Wizards will not have a losing season. Unfortunately they did not clinch a playoff berth tonight since Boston and Brooklyn both won.

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Recap: Wizards at Kings

The Kings destroy the Wizards 109-86 in an uninspiring effort. Rudy Gay was on fire and led the way for the Kings with 26 points. DeMarcus Cousins added 20 points, seven rebounds, and five assists in just 23 minutes of play. Overall, this was a pretty embarrassing effort for a team fighting for playoff position against a team whose season is practically over.

Bradley Beal was the only positive for this team tonight. He started off the first quarter hot going 4-5 from the field with nine points and 19 overall. Things weren’t falling for Nene so in typical Nene fashion, he started forcing shots. Fortunately he was getting fouled and got to the line.

Omri Caspi who was very quiet the first time these teams met played much better. He had eights points and three assists in the first quarter alone which was better than his overall performance here in D.C.

The Kings started the quarter shooting 67% on 10-15 shooting. The Wizards shot a not too shabby 52% but still found themselves trailing 35-29 after one.

Derrick Williams opened up the second quarter with his second monstrous dunk flying through the lane as the Wizards looked lost on defense. DeMarcus Cousins picked up his third foul at the 8:12 mark of the second quarter and you thought the Wizards would have been able to take advantage of that. Not so much. Rudy Gay continued his hot shooting as the Kings led 57-50 at halftime.

The third quarter started off disastrously for the Wiz. Breakaway dunks and layups by Ben McLemore and the Wizards found themselves down 13 at the snap of a finger. That lead ballooned to 17 very quickly. The Wizards made one last push in the third quarter to cut the lead to 15 but the Kings had an answer. A three pointer by McLemore and another transition layup had the Kings back up 20.

The bench players for both teams closed this one out in an uneventful fourth quarter. The Wizards put Martell Webster in to start the fourth and that is their way of “waiving the white flag.” Kings win 109-86.

Paul Pierce looked old and lazy tonight. He wasn’t getting calls so he retaliated with some frustration fouls and got hit with a flagrant. Drew Gooden continues to provide solid energy off the bench but this team desperately needs Humphries to come back. Rasual Butler continued to struggle scoring just four points in 20 minutes of action.

Just when you think the Wizards are starting to catch a groove, a 23 points loss to the Kings happens.

3 Players Who Must Step Up to Get the Wizards Out of This Funk

The Wizards have been a nightmare to watch over the past two months posting an 11-16 record since the start of 2015 and a 2-8 record in their last 10 games.  Home court advantage for the playoffs is a distant afterthought as the 5 or 6 seed seems much more likely. There’s been no shortage of finger pointing over the past few weeks either. Everyone is calling for Ernie Grunfeld and Randy Wittman to be fired, injuries have set this team back, there’s also been rumors of certain players complaining about playing time; the sky is damn near falling here in Washington. Last night’s embarrassing 20 point blowout loss to the Wolves was just the cherry on top.

The blame game is at an all time high.  Fact of the matter is; this is the roster and coaching staff we have to work with through the end of the season.  If the Wizards want to break out of this funk and quickly, here are the three key players that need to step up.

John Wall – Being the franchise player is easy when the team is sitting pretty at 22-8, their second best start in franchise history. 360 layups, alley-oop dunks, it’s all fun and games. But when the team is going through a horrific slump, not so much.  John is the leader of this basketball team so it all starts with him.

Although his overall stats haven’t dipped too much since the All Star break, his energy on the defensive end has.  Early in the year, John was all over the player he was defending. Deflections, diving on the floor, and communication defensively; it was there in the early part of the season.  Now, not so much.  John has to set the tone on the defensive end for his teammates to buy in.  Even though the team is horrific on offensive right now, that has nothing to do with bringing energy and locking up on defense night in and night out.

Since the Wizards aren’t putting up major points, the main focus needs to be on getting deflections and turning the other team over to get some easy buckets in transition. Pressuring the other team’s point guard is key and John must pick up that intensity we saw at the beginning of the year.

Additionally, he has to be more careful with the rock.  He’s converted 18 turnovers in the four games since the All Star break including eight against the Warriors (FYI, Steph Curry had zero turnovers that game).  However, these aren’t turnovers where a charge is drawn or the ball is knocked out of bounds and the defense can reset.  These are turnovers where he is forcing the ball into tight windows that don’t exist.  Worse are the lazy passes that get picked off and are turned into easy transition dunks for the opposition.  Throwing alley-oops to Otto Porter from half-court and cross court passes for an attempted corner three are not being converted and can’t be thrown right now.  The team struggles to score as it is so they need to protect the ball and that starts with heady play from John Wall.

Hope I’m wrong but I’ll say it again.  I believe that this team will only go as far in the playoffs as John can take us.  Before the year he said that he thinks he’s the best point guard in the league.  Now would be a great time to start proving that to people.

Nene – The one player who has kind of been immune to all this finger pointing as of late is Nene.  Whenever we talk about the veterans on our team, seems like Pierce, Butler, and Gortat get mentioned first.  Nene is sort of forgotten about when it comes to this team’s struggles.

There’s good Nene and bad Nene.  Aside from the Detroit game, we’ve seen mostly good Nene since the All Star break.  When Nene is playing with his back to the basket, he is at his best.  He is very physical and can go pound for pound with the best of them.  Posting up his man or driving the ball from short range is his strength.  Unfortunately, he has a tendency to bail his defender out and settle for jump shots a lot of the time.  Nene is just an OK jump shooter.

What happens way too often is he settles for a jump shot attempting to make the defender respect his ability to take jumpers.  If his jumper isn’t falling on a particular night, he’ll continue to take more jump shots.  If his jumper still isn’t falling, he will then drop his head and barrel to the hoop often missing the layup and will then complain to the refs all the way down the court. That is the play from Nene that needs to stop immediately.  When Nene starts forcing drives or shots, good things do not happen.

We traded for Nene to be that veteran presence in the locker room.  He seems to have gotten a pass from the fans and media during this slump.  Fact of the matter is, he needs to play smarter if we’re going to right the ship.

Rasual Butler – He teased the hell out of everyone in D.C. with the way he was shooting the ball to start the season.  Dude couldn’t miss, shooting 50% from three point range through the first 20 games of the season.  Reality has set back in as his three point field goal percentage is now 40%.  40% is a very nice number to shoot from three point range but just like the Wizards season, that number is representative of the hot start at the beginning of the year.

Rasual is our best shooter off the bench.  He is the only guy on the bench who is even capable of scoring 20 points.  We need some kind of spark to come off the bench and get the team points and Rasual has to be that guy.  Since he’s not very good at creating his own shot, this is a little more difficult.  However, what Rasual is very good at is rising above his defender.  He has a confident stroke and is capable of knocking down shots even with a hand in his face. Outside of Bradley Beal, he is probably our next best option to shoot threes.

On the defensive end, he brings good size and is an upgrade speed wise at the small forward spot.  He’s not a lockdown defender by any means but is much more capable of staying in front of his man than Paul Pierce is.

We can continue to point fingers all we want, dream up trades for Otto Porter and future picks, or speculate who our next coach might be but the fact of the matter is; this is our squad for the rest of the season.  If these three players can elevate their game, that will hopefully elevate the overall team’s game and get this squad clicking again.  And if they can’t, well… let’s not think about that.

Recap: Nets at Wizards

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

That was just what the doctor ordered. The Wizards rout the Nets 114-77 behind 17 points from John Wall to end their five game losing skid. Bradley Beal did not play tonight for the Wizards as he re-aggravated his toe injury in the Charlotte game.

The Nets were playing the second half of a back to back where they beat Toronto in Toronto the night before. They had no energy and the Wizards took advantage of their heavy legs. The Wizards were looking to get out in transition early and often. They won the battle of fast break points 18-3 with the Nets’ three points coming in garbage time.

The Wizards got the screen and roll game going with Gortat again as he converted on two easy layups in the first quarter. This was lacking from their game plan during the losing skid and it was clear that they wanted to get Gortat involved early. The Wiz raced out to a 28-19 lead after the first quarter and never looked back.

All reserves started the second quarter and they were able to extend the Wizards lead. Rasual Butler came in and hit his first bucket off the bench. This was reminiscent of the Rasual we’ve come to know and love through the first 45 games of the season. The Wizards clamped down on defense and held the Nets to a 6:50 field goal drought in the quarter. The Wiz were up 58-38 at half and the rout was officially on.

The Wizards were very active on defense and stretched their lead to start the third quarter; something they have not been doing as of late. Nene hit back to back shots to open the quarter followed by a reverse layup from Otto Porter to stretch the lead to 23.

John Wall was hot from 3 point land in this one connecting on 3-5 for the game and 2-3 in the third quarter. John Wall went all And-1 on Brooklyn throwing a no look pass the Seraphin down low for the easy dunk. The Wiz were up 89-61 at the end of the third quarter and the starters would sit the rest of the game. The reserves were able to extend the lead to 37 as the Wiz close this one out 114-77.

Nice to get this monkey off our back. Up next is Orlando at home on Monday.

R-E-L-A-X, This Team is Just Fine

John Wall

Breathe in, breathe out.  Breathe in, breathe out.  Breathe in, breathe out.  Everyone OK?

The Wizards are currently on a three game slide and look just as inept on defense (their strength) as they do on offense.  Aside from the Charlotte game, the Wizards found themselves down 19+ points in the second quarter in three consecutive games.  This includes against the lowly Lakers which they ended up winning.  People are calling for lineup changes, trade talk is in the air, and their toughness is being questioned.  There’s no denying, this team is currently in a funk and cannot wait for the All Star break to arrive.

Although disappointing, the Wizards faithful need to take a step back and realize that this team is just fine.  Even with this slump, the Wizards currently sit in 3rd place with a record of 31-18 and are just two games behind the Toronto Raptors who we just can’t seem to beat. During this current slide, we are 2-5 and are losing in a variety of ways; blown leads, slow starts, blowouts, etc.  But the sky is NOT falling.

The NBA season is a grind.  Every single team during the NBA season will fall into a lull at some point.  Minimizing these slumps is the key to a successful season.  In the eastern conference outside of Atlanta, every single team has experienced a disappointing stretch in games.  Yes Cleveland is hot as they have won their past 11 games but it took them 40 games to figure things out. 40!!!  If this Wizards team was 20-20 at the midway point, that would have definitely fallen short of expectations.

In addition, the Bulls are 4-6 in their last 10 games.  They had a nice win in Golden State but their current slump includes losses to Orlando, LA Lakers, Utah, and Miami.  The only loss that the Wizards have in their slump that compares to any of those was the 22 point drubbing at home to Brooklyn.  In addition, the Raptors aren’t running away with the 2 seed as the Wizards are just two games back.

On a positive note, Bradley Beal and Kris Humphries are starting to pick things up.  It took a while for Brad to recover from his wrist injury which sidelined him for the first 9 games of the season.  Brad received criticism from his coaches and the media for being too passive and not attacking the hole.  Brad has responded by scoring 15+ points in 5 of the past 7 games including 16-38 from three point range (42%) during that span.  Brad is also averaging 4.7 rebounds over that seven game stretch which is very good for a shooting guard.

Kris Humphries has provided some great play off the bench during Gortat and an inconsistent Nene’s struggles.  Kris has 10+ rebounds in 4 of the last 7 games and has recorded three double-doubles.  He only recorded one double-double prior to this team’s funk.  Kris’ play shows that he is a player who can be counted on night in and night out coming off the bench.  This will be very valuable come playoff time.

On the flip side, the play of Rasual Butler and Marcin Gortat has been very frustrating to watch.  Let’s be real now, Rasual was the last player to make the roster after summer camps were done.  He surprised many by coming in off the bench and being automatic from thee point range. But relying on him to shoot 48% from 3 for the duration of the season is ludicrous. Slumps happen for all shooters; it’s unfortunate that it is happening while the team is slumping.

As for Gortat, his shooting has declined significantly but he’s still a big presence on defense as his rebounds and blocked shots have not dipped during this slide. Unfortunately, a combination of his shots not falling and him catching the ball way too far from the hoop have contributed to his decline.  To me, this seems like a confidence issue in his shot.  If we can get Gortat some easy layups or dunks early, this should not be a huge issue going forward.  Whatever happened to him and John running the pick and roll by the way?

This is the first time this team has faced real adversity this year.  It was reported that the team held a meeting after the Charlotte game to discuss these difficulties and inefficiencies.  This can happen during the “dog days” of the NBA and no team is immune to it.  With games against the Hawks, Hornets, Nets, Magic, and Raptors; if the Wizards can go 3-2 during that stretch and avoid injury, there will be nothing to worry about.  Keep in mind, there were two games where John missed a triple-double by one rebound (Lakers) and two rebounds (Toronto).

If we are having this discussion in mid-March then that might be a cause for concern.  In the meantime, R-E-L-A-X.

Recap: Knicks at Wizards

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

John Wall led the way for the Wizards with 18 points and eight assists as the Wizards beat a depleted but feisty Knicks team 101-91. The loss is the Knicks’ 13th straight, their worst losing streak in franchise history.

The Wizards pulled out to an early lead hitting three of their first four shots from the field. Nene was active from the beginning and his jump shots were falling tonight; always a good sign. The Big Brazilian finished with 20 points on a very effective 8-13 shooting from the field.   Otto Porter, getting his second start of the season for Paul Pierce, was very active especially off the ball. Otto had a nice baseline cut to convert on an easy layup as well as a nice hook shot next time down the floor. Otto continues to stay active and is growing more and more as the season goes on.

The reserves came out sloppy in the 2nd quarter, carelessly turning the ball over on their first three possessions. It was nice to see Martell Webster come in and get some playing time after his back surgery. Martell hit his first shot off the bench which was a three pointer, fittingly.

The Wizards who are the best three point shooting team in the NBA, did not shoot the three ball particularly well in the first half. Beal started 0-5 including 0-2 from long distance as the Wizards only hit two threes on eight attempts in the first half. Back to back steals and easy lay ins from the speedy John Wall helped the Wizards stretch the lead to 12 at intermission.

Beal found his shot in the quarter banging home his first three, three point attempts. After the game he admitted that he was lazy with his shot and put more of an emphasis on getting his legs underneath him in the second half. The Wizards were up by 20 points at one point in the 3rd quarter but the Knicks used a 15-5 run to end the quarter and cut the lead to 10 entering the 4th.

The Wiz couldn’t buy a bucket to start the 4th quarter and you could feel the Wiz faithful getting a bit antsy. The Knicks rallied to cut the lead to 5 at the 7 minute mark. Rasual Butler came up big with a nice jump shot and a steal and lay in on back to back plays to stretch the lead to 9. The Wizards never looked back and closed the Knicks out 101-91.

Huge test coming up with back to back games against the Bulls and Hawks. See you Friday.

Recap: Timberwolves at Wizards

WolvesWiz

The Wizards run away from the Wolves 109-95 behind 23 points off the bench from Rasual Butler and another terrific game from John Wall who had 21 points and 17 assists. The 17 assists match his career high which he set just eight days ago against the Boston Celtics.

Unlike in previous games against inferior opponents, the Wizards came out hot hitting on 4-6 field goals to start the game. John Wall assisted on the Wizards first four buckets and had 6 assists in the period. The Polish Hammer also started out hot connecting on four of his first six shots from the field and eight points in the quarter.

Otto Porter got the first start of his young NBA career due to a sore toe for Paul Pierce. I’m not sure how severe the injury is or if this was just precautionary. Regardless, the Wizards felt they didn’t need The Truth to take down an inferior Wolves team who was already decimated with injuries.

The bench came in in the 2nd quarter and was very solid. They were able to keep the lead in the 8-12 range for pretty much the duration of the quarter. It was interesting to see that the Wolves opted to double the post off of Andre Miller’s man. When the Wizards bigs passed out of the double team, this led Andre Miller to shoot wide open threes which isn’t his game whatsoever. There was a possession where the professor went up for a put back dunk but got stuffed by the rim. Love the guy but let’s stick to post ups.

The third quarter was the Wolves’, mainly Thaddeus Young’s to shine. Young scored 19 of his 29 points in the 3rd quarter and was really the only reason the Wolves were in this game. His jump shot was on tonight as evidenced by his 12-19 shooting from the floor. If he would have hit his free throws, it would have made the game that much more interesting. But he shot a poor 5-12 from the charity stripe.

The Wiz blew this game open in the 4th due to some hot shooting from the bench, specifically Rasual Buter. Rasual scored the first six points of the quarter for the Wizards and had 18 in the quarter including two threes. At the 6:01 mark in the 4th quarter, the Wizards had already scored 19 points on 9-10 shooting; all from bench players. As mentioned, Rasual hit a three from the right corner to stretch the lead to 16 at the four minute mark and the Wizards never looked back. The Wiz are 18-6, one win away from matching their best start in franchise history. The Wiz will be seeking revenge in south beach this Friday.

Notes: With John Wall’s ridiculous stat line once again, the crowd started “MVP MVP MVP” chants when he was at the line. There’s still 2/3 of the season to go but if John continues to play at this high level, no reason not to include him in the MVP discussion. Also, the last man to make the roster, Rasual Butler, should also be getting some recognition here soon as potential 6th man of the year. Once again though, still a lot of basketball to be played.