September 1, 2014

Why Lance Stephenson’s New Contract is Bad News for Washington Wizards

On Wednesday, Lance Stephenson finalized a deal with the Charlotte Hornets to be their shooting guard for three years and $27.5 million. While that’s great for him and the Hornets, it’s bad news for the Washington Wizards.

This coming year marks the final year in which Bradley Beal will be under his rookie contract. In 2015, Washington will have the ability to exercise a club option worth $5.6 million. If all goes according to plan, you have to believe that will happen. In other words, Beal will become a free agent in 2016 and the Wizards will most certainly be looking to bring him back. [Read more...]

Washington Wizards Rightfully Reward Randy Wittman With Three-Year Contract Extension

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

For the Washington Wizards this offseason, that is the philosophy they should stick to when maneuvering through the laundry list of decisions that face them this summer. They have several high-profile people in need of new contracts, and on Tuesday evening they checked one of them off the list. [Read more...]

Looking Back On The 2013-2014 Washington Wizards: The Dawning of a New Age in D.C.

Before the season, if you would have walked up to any Washington Wizards’ fan and told them that this team would get to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals before it was all over, you would have been met with many wide eyes and disbelieving shaking heads. With the recent history of the franchise, it would be hard to blame them. [Read more...]

Washington Wizards Game 6 Recap: Wizards’ Playoff Run Ends in 93-80 Loss to Pacers

All the fire and energy that powered the Washington Wizards through Game 5 seemed lost Thursday night as the Wiz Kids fell 93-80 to the Indiana Pacers in an elimination game at home to end their playoff run.

Marcin Gortat came nowhere close to his career high playoff points this time around, but he did lead the Wizards’ scoring efforts with 19 points. Bradley Beal and Nene added 16 and 15, respectively, and John Wall rounded out the double-digits club with a mere 12 points as Washington’s 39.2 percent field goal percentage proved too low to pose a threat.

Indiana jumped to an early – yet surmountable – lead early in the first quarter, but Lance Stephenson and David West helped the Pacers to a 29-23 lead in the first 12 minutes of play.

The Pacers continued to tack onto their lead in the second quarter, largely with the help of nine free baskets off poorly timed Washington fouls.

The Wizards regained just a bit of momentum in the third quarter as the Gortat-Beal duo breathed life back into the offense. The two combined for the Wizards’ first eight points of the quarter in under three minutes before Nene added a free throw and Wall sank a two.

But, West continued to pester Washington with back-to-back baskets before George Hill’s three gave Indiana a 67-55 lead with 4:26 remaining in the third. Washington trimmed the deficit to 10 on free throws before Trevor Ariza and Drew Gooden added a pair of baskets to help the Wizards climb back within eight points.

For a brief moment in time, Washington actually regained the lead in the fourth by way of two Gortat free throws, a pair of baskets by Wall, and two long jumpers – including a lead-changing three-pointer – from Beal.

With the next shot, however, West regained the lead for the Pacers. From there, Indiana continued to outrun the Wizards – so much so that Washington endured a stretch of more than five minutes without a basket in the fourth. West and Stephenson took advantage of the slow-to-awaken offense to help the Pacers to their 93-80 win.

“We’re definitely disappointed,” Beal said after the game. “This loss hurts more than anything just knowing that it all just came to an end just like that. But at the same time, nobody really thought we would be this far. For us to actually make it here and for us to believe in ourselves and make Indiana earn it, we should be proud of ourselves and there’s nothing we should hang our head about.”

“Nobody expected us to be here,” Wall said. “I just want to thank God for giving me this opportunity to be here and compete as a team. Like [Beal] said, I think we got a lot of effort from a lot of teams. I think a lot of teams respect us now. We definitely made Indiana earn it. Give them a lot of credit for coming out and just giving us a lot of experience to know what it takes to win and compete, and close out games and get to the next level. We just want to say thanks to everybody that supported us, and our family, friends, the organization and definitely our fans.”

The loss makes further evident the Wizards’ playoff struggles at home. The end of their run caps off a 1-4 record at the Verizon Center – compared with a 5-1 record on the road this postseason.

“We have to look on the flip side of it and the things that we did on the road is a huge step for this team,” said Wizards head coach Randy Wittman. “There is no question you have to take care of home and that is the next step. I mean we win 44 games and we win more games on the road than we do at home. You even take a little bit of care at home and you are at 50 you are at 52 and that is the next step we got to take. Continue to be what we were on the road this year. Take care of home and continue to grow.”

Wizards vs Pacers Game 4 Analysis: Wiz Lose On A Night They Should Have Won

About five minutes into the fourth quarter, I had all but finalized a heartwarming piece highlighting the sensational play of the Washington Wizards’ bench. At the end of the game, I promptly deleted it and repeatedly smashed my face into my keyboard.

When I put my broken keyboard, and heart, back together, the struggle then became finding the right words to describe the slow-death that took place on the floor before us inside the Verizon Center on Sunday night. After staring off into space for several long minutes, that’s when it hit me.

The reason the words were so difficult to come up with is because the Wizards weren’t supposed to lose Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals to the Indiana Pacers. They weren’t supposed to go down 3-1. Washington was supposed to tie the series up at 2-2 and head back to Indiana with new life.

Instead, they had what was rightfully theirs stolen right out from under their noses.

The setting was right. The Phone Booth was rocking (Ringing? Buzzing?). The hometown crowd in D.C. was as alive as ever for what could have been the final home game of the season. The Wizards fed off that energy, in the first half, and carried a 55-38 lead into the half.

The Senior Center, The Oldies But Goodies, The AARP Unit (saw that one on Twitter), whatever you want to call them, the bench for the Wizards, primarily Drew Gooden, Andre Miller and Al Harrington, didn’t play like they were 32, 38 and 34 years old respectively. Off the bench, they fueled Washington’s fight with 28 points between the three of them.

Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza both shot 2-for-4 from behind the arc and the Wizards collectively shot 45.6-percent from the floor. At the free throw line, they went 15-for-19. The shooting struggles that they went through in Games 2 and 3 seemingly disappeared. Shots were falling and the Wizards seemed poised to take back some control in a series that was certainly held captive by the Pacers.

But alas, the sleeping giant that is the Eastern Conference’s number one seed woke up. After being embarrassed to end the first half, the Pacers then stuck it to the Wizards in the second half. In front of the red, white and blue faithful, Indiana sent a powerful message to the District, and the NBA.

They outscored the Wizards 57-37 in the second half, highlighted by a 33-17 third quarter. Indiana had an answer for everything Washington threw at them. That answer took the form of small forward Paul George.

In a game-high 46 minutes, George poured in 39 points on 12-20 shooting, including seven three-pointers. At the free throw line, he made 8 of his 10 attempts and managed to grab 12 rebounds, as well. Not to be overlooked, Roy Hibbert added 17 points and George Hill provided 15 points of his own.

Ultimately, the Wizards were their own worst enemies and the Pacers took advantage of their mistakes. Washington had victory well within its grasp, but Indiana snatched it away thanks to a slow third quarter and a clutch performance from one of their stars.

Following a night as emotional as Sunday, it’s almost cruel to be reminded that there is still one more game (at least) left to be played. The 95-92 loss at home in Game 4 was so devastating, so debilitating, that any hope that remained for this season was quickly drawn away like a popped balloon. You could feel in the arena; you could see it on social media.

On Tuesday night, however, that’s exactly what Washington is faced with. For the first time since 2008, the Wizards will take the floor with their postseason on the line. With a win, they get to play another day. Should they lose, they’ll board the plane back to Washington for one final time.

Tipoff for Game 5 of the NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals is Tuesday night at 7 PM EST in Indianapolis.

Wizards vs Pacers Game 4 Preview: Wiz in Must-Win Situation

On Friday night in Washington D.C, there was a definitive shift in momentum in the NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals series between the Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards. As Washington begins to slow, the top-seeded Pacers are picking up steam and that is trouble for the Wizards.

Led by Bradley Beal, Washington got off to a hot start in the postseason. They took care of the Chicago Bulls in five games in round one before opening up round two with a statement win over Indiana. Lately, however, they seem to have cooled off while the Pacers have heated up.

Unlike Washington, Indiana started the postseason slow after a sloppy month and a half to end the regular season. They squeaked by the Atlanta Hawks in seven games before getting trounced by Washington to open the second round. Now, however, it seems like they’ve corrected the ship.

The Wizards convincingly won Game 1, but the Pacers have comeback to take complete control of this series. The Pacers stole Game 2 in Indy from the Wiz Kids, and then embarrassed the Wizards on their own floor on Friday night. Their defense was suffocating and their offense was clicking.

While Indiana is finding themselves again, Washington appears to be losing it’s sense of identity. As the Pacers have turned up the heat defensively, the Wizards have struggled to setup and run an offense. Things only seem to be sliding downhill, especially in an area where the Wizards have to excel in for success.

One place the Wizards have dramatically fallen off is from behind the three-point line. After making 10-of-16 in Game 1, they have made just 9-of-37 three-pointers in the past two games. Trevor Ariza and Beal have had a difficult time getting open shots and, because of that, haven’t been able to get into a rhythm.

Washington is beginning to show it’s youth for the first time all postseason. In the final minutes of Game 2 last Wednesday, the Wizards put up multiple threes that simply didn’t need to be taken. In Game 3, they appeared to be overwhelmed by Indiana and were unable to match their intensity.

With the Pacers on the upswing and the Wizards looking like a team running out of gas, Washington is now faced with a must-win Game 4 on Sunday night. Coming back from being down 3-1 is hard against any team, but if Indiana continues their recent upward trend, it will make the task exponentially more difficult for Washington.

Tipoff for a crucial Game 4 on Sunday is set of 8 PM EST inside the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.

Wizards vs. Pacers Game 2 Recap: Hibbert Helps Pacers Edge Wizards to Even Record

The otherwise slumping Roy Hibbert bounced back to contribute 28 points and nine assists to the Indiana Pacers’ late 86-82 win over the Washington Wizards at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Marcin Gortat led the Wizards’ efforts with 21 points, but Bradley Beal and Nene rounded out Washington’s double-digits points club on the night with 17 and 14, respectively.

Many of the factors that have driven the Wizards thus far in the playoffs were missing in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. For starters, Washington shot just 23.8 percent from behind the arc, and completed just five of 12 free throws.

And, despite their ability to slow the Pacers’ offense a bit, the Wizards lost their grip over late opportunities.

After ending the first tied 23-23, the Wizards outscored the Pacers by just two points in the second quarter. Through the middle of the quarter, both teams struggled to sink baskets, but Nene finally broke Washington out of the drought to make it 37-35 with 3:59 left in the half.

John Wall drove to the net with a dunk, only to be repeated by the Pacers’ George Hill seconds later. Then, Gortat’s eight-footer tied things up 41-41, before Trevor Booker’s jumper narrowly put Washington in front at halftime.

In the third quarter, the Wizards came out strong, at first after Gortat and Nene went back-to-back to give Washington a six-point lead. It stuck, until Washington handed Lance Stephenson a pair of free baskets before giving up back-to-back shots to Hill to tie the game with 7:31 left in the quarter.

But, the Wizards remained a day late and a dollar short for the remainder of the quarter, after Hibbert and Stephenson took advantage of small but timely opportunities, including a three-point shot and a pair of free throws.

Gortat made his effort to tie things up again, but Hibbert and Ian Mahinmi saw to it that it would not be the case.

The Pacers narrowly led the Wizards 68-64 entering the fourth quarter, but, by way of a Drew Gooden basket, a jumper from Beal and a free throw, the Wizards evened the score with 9:56 left to play.

Nene made a 20-footer to push Washington in front, but Hibbert responded with a dunk fed by Paul George.

The Wizards held a lead, however, with as few as 5:32 left to play. But, George added four points before Stephenson made a jumper to give the Pacers an 84-79 lead.

Beal sank a late three to keep hope alive for the Wizards, but David West’s late free shots pushed Indiana in front once and for all, 86-82.

With the loss, the Wizards are now tied with the Pacers 1-1 in the series.

Wizards vs Pacers Game 2 Preview: Is Bench Play A Concern For Washington?

In Game 1 of the NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Washington Wizards handily defeated the Indiana Pacers 102-96. They may have been separated by just six points on the scoreboard, but Washington took care of business like professionals on Monday night.

When it comes to the playoffs, your keys to victory are fairly simple. When you’re the road team, you can’t let the hometown crowd get inside your head. You need to play within yourself. It’s important to play your game and not get outside your comfort zone.

For the Wizards, they did all of those things and more in Game 1. They out-rebounded Indiana by nearly 20 and the play from the front-court tandem of Nene and Marcin Gortat was simply incredible. The duo combined for 27 points and 21 rebounds. All the while, the largest man on the floor, Roy Hibbert, was kept in check during his 18 minuets of play.

Hibbert’s postseason woes continued in Game 1. Save for his two blocks and one assist, it was a pretty dismal performance not worthy of the $14.2 million that he’s making this year. Not only did the All-Star center fail to score a point, but he also didn’t grab a rebound.

Where does that leave us with our keys to victory, then? If the Wizards won in nearly every facet of the game, then why even write a Game 2 preview? Doesn’t it seem like they have this series well in hand? Do they not have a weakness?

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The one place where the Wizards could fall victim to the Pacers lies simply within the box score (numbers never lie).

With the exception of 12 points and 13 rebounds from Drew Gooden, the Wizards’ bench was largely ineffective on Monday night. Together, they put up just 15 points, 14 rebounds, one assist and three turnovers. Collectively, the Wizards scored a net of -35 points with their bench. On the other side, Indiana found a spark from their bench that kept them in the game.

For the 15 seconds that the Pacers had the lead in the second quarter, you can attribute much of that to the bench. They scored 17 points in the first half and were responsible for their early-second quarter charge. Indiana’s bench scored 33 points and the team scored a net of just -15 points with their bench players.

By no means was either bench outrageously effective, but there’s no denying that Indiana’s certainly beat Washington’s. While the starting five for the Wizards were no match for Indiana’s, the bench for the Pacers allowed them to hang around. Had the Wizards not made nine straight free throws to end the game, Indiana could have stolen Game 1 from them.

It was a rather uncharacteristically slow night from Washington’s bench. Trevor Booker, a hero off the bench in the Wizards’ Game 5 victory over Chicago, recorded a mere assist and two turnovers in nine minutes of play. Martell Webster, who has been able to provide one-to-two three pointers a game this postseason, missed on his only shot attempt in 16 minutes.

For as good as the starting five has been this season, the bench has also been there to pick them up when they are down. While Nene was out with an injury for much of the second half of the regular season, it was Booker who stepped in and provided eight points and six rebounds in 45 starts.

Likewise, Andre Miller has been a suitable replacement off the bench for Bradley Beal or John Wall. In fact, in the regular season, Miller’s PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of 14.6 was actually .3 points higher than Beal’s. At 15.0, Booker’s PER was even better than that.

Washington has a golden opportunity on Wednesday night to push their lead to two games over the Pacers and be in complete control for another attempt at a series sweep in D.C. Indiana appears to be a frustrated bunch, largely in part to their non-existent big man. According to reports, David West was quite frustrated with Hibbert following their Game 1 loss.

Wall, Beal, Trevor Ariza, Nene and Gortat will be physical and aggressive as always, but strong play from the bench in Game 2 would mentally take a toll on the Pacers. In their eyes, there would simply be no let-up in Washington’s game, and they would be on the defensive all night long.

With another strong performance in Game 2, Washington could head home with the Pacers wrapped around their finger. Tipoff is set for 7 PM EST in Indianapolis.

Wizards vs Pacers Game 1 Recap: Total Team Effort Leads To Victory For Washington

Despite several comeback attempts by the Indiana Pacers, the Washington Wizards secured early control of the Eastern Conference Semifinals with their fourth road win of the postseason, 102-96.

While the two teams were separated by just six points on the scoreboard, Indiana was only in front for a mere 15-seconds in the second quarter. Other than that, it was all Wizards, all the time.

Washington began the game on a roll and immediately made the hometown crowd a non-factor. Trevor Ariza nailed two of his game-high six three pointers within the first minute of the game to help lead the Wizards to an early 8-0 lead.

Behind 11 first-quarter points from Ariza, Washington found themselves up 28-15 entering the second quarter. As we’ve seen throughout the postseason, however, the Wizards have gotten into a bad habit of letting their opponents back into a game in the second quarter. As we saw Monday night, old habits die hard.

The Pacers started the quarter on a roll with a 14-2 run to take the lead 31-30 with 8:15 remaining in the period. As Washington was able to do throughout the contest, they responded with a run of their own to retake control. After trading shots over the next three minutes, the Wizards pulled away to end the half.

In the final five minutes of the first half, Washington closed on a 15-6 run to take a 56-43 halftime lead. Any sort of momentum that the Pacers had built, the Wizards had quickly taken away. Ariza and Bradley Beal combined to go 3-for-4 from behind the arc in the final push before halftime.

After building a 60-44 lead in the opening minutes of the second half, Indiana began to chip away at the Wizards’ lead. To finish off a third quarter in which the two teams combined for just 32 points, Lance Stephenson scored nine points in the quarter as the Pacers closed the lead to seven on an 18-9 run.

Once again, the Wizards responded. Thanks to two free throws from Drew Gooden (12 points, 13 rebounds) and a three from Andre Miller, Washington widened their lead to 12, 74-62. For much of the fourth quarter, it was a back and forth battle where the Wizards were able to match Indiana shot for shot.

With five minutes remaining, Washington had it’s largest lead of the half, 92-78. All things seemed to be going their way, especially after a technical fouled was assessed to Indiana’s David West. For a third time, however, Indiana began to claw their way back into the contest.

It wasn’t all due to an elevated level of play by the Pacers, unfortunately, as Washington made it’s fair-share of mistakes. Following West’s technical foul, Beal missed three free throws and the Wizards committed several turnovers. With just two minutes remaining, the Pacers were lurking down 10 points.

Washington struggled at the free throw line for much of the second half, but it was their ability to make their freebies in the clutch that iced the game. In the final minute, Indiana made four three pointers. While the Pacers were hot from behind the arc, the Wizards made their final nine free throws to stay out front and secure the victory.

The scoreboard doesn’t show just how much better the Wizards were on this night. Washington out-rebounded Indiana 53-36 and held the advantage in assists 23-16. They made 10 threes and shot 41.7-percent from the floor.

Possibly the biggest advantage for the Wizards was the biggest man of the floor, Roy Hibbert. In 18 minutes, Hibbert failed to score or grab a rebound and committed five fouls. In the paint for the Wizards, Nene and Marcin Gortat combined for 27 points and 21 rebounds (15 rebounds for Gortat).

The front-court battle was also won by the Wizards. While George Hill had 18 points, it’s important to note that six of those came in a meaningless final-minute rally. Paul George finished with 18 points, but Ariza bested that with 22 points of his own.

A new dynamic duo is forming in the NBA with Beal and Wall. Beal poured in a game-high 25 points, seven assists and five steals. While Wall scored just 13 points on 4-of-14 shooting, he recorded a game-high nine assists. Wall was the leader on the floor and Beal took advantage of the opportunities created by him.

Washington is a perfect 4-0 on the road in the playoffs and certainly didn’t seem phased by the Indiana faithful on Monday in their Game 1 victory. The series stays in Indiana for Game 2 on Wednesday night. Tipoff is set for 7 PM EST.

Washington Wizards vs Indiana Pacers Game 1 Preview

On Monday night, the Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers will go head-to-head in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup. Series features teams that seem almost opposite of each other.

On the one hand, you’ve got the youthful and energetic Wizards. On the other, you’ve got the question mark that is the Pacers. After dominating for much of the regular season, they slowed near the end, but still entered the playoffs as the number-one seed in the east. For the Wizards, they fought tooth and nail all season long for their fifth-seed.

The Pacers biggest asset, literally, has been seemingly invisible this postseason. After averaging 10.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game in the regular season, 7-2 center Roy Hibbert has barely managed half that in the postseason. Defensively, he hasn’t been effective as his blocks and steals are half that of his regular season averages, as well.

That could very well be where the Wizards hold the upper hand in this matchup. While John Wall and Bradley Beal have been a back-court duo to be feared, the impact that Nene and Marcin Gortat can have on this series is undeniable. The Wizards’ big men have both seen a minutes increase in the postseason and they are making those minutes count.

Gortat has been averaging nearly a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds per game this postseason. His heart and hustle in the low-post has been very beneficial for Washington. In their series-clinching Game 5 win over the Chicago Bulls, Gortat grabbed 13 rebounds, a playoff-high for him.

Just as important, if not more important, has been the play of Nene. After scoring 24 points to lead the Wizards to their Game 1 victory in Chicago, Nene then cooled a bit to score 17 and 10 points in Games 2 and 3. After serving his one game suspension, Nene returned with a vengeance to drop 20 points, grab seven rebounds and dish four assists in the decisive Game 5.

The one player on the Pacers’ front-court that Washington will need to defend and defend well is David West. The 10-year veteran power forward is averaging 13.4 points per game this postseason, highlighted by a 24-point performance in Game 6 to stave off elimination. It’s also important to note that Hibbert did have a 13-point game in Game 7, so it should be interesting to see if that’s the start of something big for him.

For the Wizards, the fact that they got out of the first round is a shock to many. As highlighted by the team’s Twitter page shortly after their series victory, all but one of the experts at ESPN had Chicago winning that series. Much of Washington’s success, however, was due to their ability to eliminate home-court advantage.

The series will open up in Indiana, but Washington has proven that playing on the road doesn’t phase them. They are 3-0 on the road this postseason and outscored the Bulls 278-261 in Chicago. That is no small task in front of the playoff atmosphere you usually find from the hometown crowd.

The last time the Wizards made the second round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, they were swept by the Miami Heat in 2005. If you want to find their last berth in the conference finals, then you need to go all the way by to 1979 when they eventually lost to the then Seattle Supersonics in the NBA Finals.

The second round of the playoffs start Monday night. Tipoff for Game 1 is set of 7 PM EST in Indiana.

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