November 19, 2019

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…]

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 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 Game 4 Recap: Ariza’s 30 Helps Wiz to 3-1 Series Lead Over Bulls

As thousands in the Verizon Center chanted “Free Nene” in honor of their suspended forward, Trevor Ariza carried much of the weight in the Washington Wizards’ commanding 98-89 win over the Chicago Bulls Sunday afternoon.

Ariza recorded a career playoff-high 30 points, completing six of 10 three-pointers, while Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat and John Wall added 18, 17 and 15 points, respectively.

As Nene served his one-game suspension for grabbing Jimmy Butler’s head in an argument during the Wizards’ Game 3 loss, the Wizards looked to get an early jump on the Bulls in Game 4 to erase any doubts of their ability to carry onward.

They did exactly that – tallying the first 14 points of the game before Chicago could respond.

“Well, we were locked in,” said Wizards head coach Randy Wittman after the game. “I could tell our focus was back yesterday, even with the news of Nene when it came of being suspended. I saw our guys bond together like ‘That’s okay, big fella’s not going to be here, but that’s okay.’ We were in tune right from the start. Extra passes and simple plays, those are the things these guys are going to get tired of hearing me say. They probably can’t wait until this series is over because those are the things I’ve used with them in this series. Make the simple play. Make the easy play and we did that at the start of the game. We got a lot of different guys scoring and when we move the ball like we talked about in Game 3 at the third quarter where we stopped – the ball stopped and people stopped. We can’t play that way and we didn’t fall into that tonight.”

Perhaps even more, Washington enjoyed a tremendous advantage from behind the arc – going 8-for-19 compared to the Bulls’ 4-for-19.

Chicago power forward Taj Gibson did his best to keep his team in the mix, posting 32 points in 32 minutes on the floor, while adding seven rebounds. But, only Butler and Joakim Noah rounded out the Bulls’ double-digit-points club on the night.

The Bulls actually shot with greater efficiency – making 35 of 78 field goals to reach a 44.9 shooting percentage, compared to the Wizards’ 40.7 percent. But, they lacked execution from Game 3 star Mike Dunleavy, as well as Carlos Boozer and Kirk Hinrich.

As has been the case throughout much of the series, the Wizards seemed on pace to run into foul trouble as four players recorded two fouls apiece before the start of halftime. They settled down, however, despite Trevor Booker earning a technical foul from the bench.

Washington cruised to a 28-18 lead to end the first quarter, but the Bulls regained some ground to pull within four points with 7:09 remaining until halftime. From there, Wall sank a jumper before Beal went back-to-back for a combined five points. Gortat rounded out the miniature run with a jumper that put the Wizards back in front by 13 points.

In fact, for the final 3:32 of the half, the game very much consisted of Gibson versus the Wizards. Only Gibson posted baskets for the Bulls – three, to be exact – while the Wizards added another 10 points to their total in the same time frame.

Just as they did in the second quarter, the Wizards outscored the Bulls 27-22 in the third.

In the fourth, the Bulls jumped on a 16-7 run, sparked by early baskets from Gibson and Tony Snell. But, the game ended much as it begun – with powerful drives from Gortat, Ariza and Beal – to hand the Bulls their 98-89 loss.

“I know a lot of people probably doubted us,” Beal said. “We did a great job coming out and focusing in. It started with our defense like [John Wall] said. Once we got out to that 14-0 run at the beginning of the game, we just took off from there. Yeah, [the Bulls] went on that run, but I think we did a great job of staying poised the rest of the game.”

“In two and a half years, we’ve grown and developed those intangibles, you talk about, not just the skill level, but playing the game the right way, doing the right things off the floor as well as on the floor, being professional, as I like to call it,” Wittman said. “I think now these guys are just playing basketball, they understand that this is a job. Playing games like this helps that. Like I said, we haven’t done anything yet. We’ve put ourselves in a position to do something but we have yet to do anything.”

Worth noting is that the Washington Wizards franchise boasts a 5-0 record in closing out a best-of-seven playoff series after taking a 3-1 lead. This record has held true through 1971, 1975, 1978 (twice) and 1979.

Washington Wizards Game 81 Recap: Wiz Scorch Undermanned Heat

While the Miami Heat opted to sit LeBron James and Chris Bosh, the Washington Wizards seized the opportunity, recording one of their strongest offensive performances of the year in their 114-93 win Monday night at the Verizon Center.

The Heat essentially forfeited the top seed and home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference playoffs to the Indiana Pacers by sitting their star players, but Washington had no reservations about controlling the pace of the game.

“We’ve seen enough of these games where they haven’t played some of their guys and we lost,” said Wizards head coach Randy Wittman after the game. “Anytime you can get out and play… I thought the way we did from an offensive standpoint, moving forward, can’t hurt you.”

Washington led by as many as 36 points and shot 59 percent from the field. Trevor Ariza seemed to bounce back from his recent bout with the flu, leading the Wizards’ scoring with 25 points on the night.  Nene and Al Harrington added 18 and 16 respectively, while Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat rounded out the double-digit club. [Read more…]

Washington Wizards Game 61 Recap: Ariza, reserves lead Wizards past Jazz

Trevor Ariza posted 26 points and five rebounds, and Bradley Beal added another 22 and five, respectively, to help the Washington Wizards to a 104-91 win over the Utah Jazz at the Verizon Center Wednesday night.

But, to add to their efforts, Wizards head coach Randy Wittman called upon what he referred to as the team’s “AARP group.” As such, by the end of the night, 37-year-old Andre Miller, 34-year-old Al Harrington and 32-year-old Drew Gooden played a combined 53 minutes, during which they posted a total 22 points and 11 assists.

“You can see it each day whether it is in practice or out here on the floor, they are getting their legs under them more and more each day,” Wittman said of Miller and Harrington. “I thought Dre [Andre Miller] came in and battled. Obviously, we know he is capable when he gets into shape to make that 18-foot jump shot that he made tonight. Al [Harrington] obviously stretches the floor for us, at that four spot that opens and creates driving lanes for John [Wall], Brad [Beal] and those guys. Dre just does his steady self. The numbers aren’t going to wow you, but he just controls that group out there.”

Fortunately for the Wizards, the reserve corps didn’t need to “wow.” Washington outscored the Jazz in all but the third quarter, and they maintained a comfortable lead for the greater portion of the night.

In fact, once Ariza hit his second of four three-pointers on the night, the Wizards were already off to a nine-point lead with 4:05 remaining in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the reserves helped pad Washington’s lead.

Beal led off the quarter with a floating jump shot fed by Miller. Not two minutes later, Gooden made back-to-back baskets before Harrington laid one in to help Washington back to a 10-point lead, up 36-26 with 8:30 remaining in the half.

Gooden added two more baskets in the quarter before the momentum shifted back to Beal and Ariza. At halftime, Washington held onto a 54-44 lead.

“The usuals” dominated in the third quarter. Beal kicked things off for the Wizards with back-to-back threes and John Wall added a couple baskets to keep Washington afloat.

In the fourth quarter, however, the reserves showed they still had some fight. Miller drove for an early layup before Harrington hit a fadeaway jumper.

With 6:39 remaining, Harrington dazzled with a slam dunk that restored the Wizards’ double-digit lead and put a smile on Beal’s face.

“I started laughing a little bit,” Beal said. “[Harrington] was energized. I told him he should’ve dunked a couple in the first half and he said, ‘Alright I’ll make up for it.’ He gave us one in the second half and you just thought that it was the end of the game the way he dunked it. That’s a great momentum play for him, to actually see him be able to get up like that.”

The win marks the Wizards’ seventh in their past eight games, dating back to Feb. 19. Washington is now three games above .500 and 16-15 at home, but they will face Milwaukee and Miami on the road before returning home Mach 12.

Washington Wizards Game 46 Review: Wall, Wizards snap Thunder’s 10-game win streak

Hold your breath – the Washington Wizards are a .500 basketball team once again.

And, to get there, all they had to do was slow the hottest team in the NBA.

John Wall tallied 17 points, 15 assists and matched his career-high six steals as the Washington Wizards’ topped the Oklahoma City Thunder 96-81 on Saturday night at the Verizon Center. But, his first half performance was anything but all-star caliber.

Through the first 24 minutes of play, Wall missed all of his field goal attempts, including an easy lay-up just before halftime.

Then, per head coach Randy Wittman’s request, Wall changed his shoes.

After trading in his red Adidas for a white pair, Wall went on to shoot 7 of 11 with a highlight-worthy one-handed dunk over Washington native Kevin Durant.

With 4:09 remaining in the third quarter, the Wizards held on to a 58-57 lead before going on a 20-7 run. By the time Wall wowed the crowd with his monster dunk, the Wizards had jumped in front of the Thunder 89-72.

“Got to have amnesia in this league if you’re going to be good,” Wittman said after the game. “If you’re going to be good you can’t let bad plays, bad shooting, bad three quarters bother you… It could be easy to sit there and say, misses a layup at halftime I told him, either change your shoes, change your uniform, or do something. Something is not right.”

Marcin Gortat backed Wall with 14 points and 14 rebounds, and Trevor Ariza and Nene added 18 and 17 points, respectively. Even more, the Wizards took advantage of key opportunities, converting the Thunder’s 21 turnovers into 23 points.

“Everybody was involved with the game and when everybody touches the ball, even if they don’t shoot it, you feel involved,” Ariza said. “We definitely got everybody involved in the game tonight.”

Ariza did an excellent job of covering Durant who, despite tallying 26 points, missed 13 of his 21 field goal attempts.

“You definitely can’t stop [the Thunder],” Durant said. “What you can do is try to make them work for everything you get and make them take a lot of shots. That’s what I tried to do tonight—try to put pressure on them, try to make them take tough shots and luckily [Durant] missed some.”

With the win, the Wizards snapped the Thunder’s 10-game winning streak to go to .500 for the seventh time this season. A win over the Portland Trail Blazers Monday night would give Washington a winning record for the first time since October 2009.

Washington Wizards Game 5 Review: Nene, Ariza help Wizards top Nets in the nick of time

At the start of Friday night’s matchup against the Brooklyn Nets, the Washington Wizards appeared headed for a 1-4 start entering into a three-game road stretch.

That is, until a second-half surge and timely production from Nene and Trevor Ariza lifted the Wiz Kids to a less-than-likely 112-108 overtime win over Jason Kidd’s Nets.

Trailing 99-97 with nine seconds left in the fourth quarter, Brooklyn’s Kevin Garnett laid down a block on John Wall before the Wizards nabbed the rebound. Wall tried once more with a missed layup before Nene sank the putback to send the game into overtime.

But the shot accounted for just two of his 12 total points tallied in the quarter and, without all of them, the Wizards would have stood little chance against Brooklyn’s all-star cast of players.

“Nene was huge in that fourth quarter and overtime,” Wizards head coach Randy Wittman said after the game. “No question about it – I’ve stated this a number of times. He’s so important to us, not just points and stat sheets.  It’s not a stat sheet thing with Nene. His presence on the floor goes a long way, both offensively and defensively.” [Read more…]

Washington Wizards Game 1 Wrap: Wizards’ rally falls short in season opener

Old habits die hard and, on Wednesday night, the Washington Wizards of new looked much like the Wiz Kids of old in their 113-102 loss to the Detroit Pistons.

It was not John Wall or Bradley Beal who helped carry the Wizards in their comeback attempt after trailing by as many as 15 points, rather, it was Trevor Ariza who provided the most momentum with 28 points by day’s end, including six shots from behind the arc.

Wall came up with 20 points and 11 assists for Washington and Beal added another 17 and two respectively, but it was largely defense that dashed Washington’s hopes early against a revamped Detroit squad.

Detroit handed Washington plenty of opportunities on early turnovers, but as Wall & co. tried to push back in the second half, so, too, did Washington gift the Pistons opportunities.

Halfway through the third quarter, the Wizards pulled within single digits of catching Detroit, but Greg Monroe was too quick to catch throughout. By the end of the night, Detroit’s player-of-the-game recorded 24 points and 16 rebounds.

After entering the fourth quarter down 81-73, Al Harrington and Marcin Gortat came up with timely free throws to help the Wizards keep things close. Martell Webster added another two free shots before Gortat made a bucket to veer right onto Detroit’s path, trailing 89-85.

But, the newly returned Chauncey Billups had an answer that would lay to rest comeback hopes. Billups sank back-to-back baskets from 26 and 27 feet respectively before Josh Smith’s three powered the Pistons to a 103-89 lead with five minutes left to play.

Wall and Beal did their best to lead the Wizards back in it, but the effort proved too little too late. In the end, the Pistons outscored the Wizards by a crushing 32-8 advantage in the paint. As such, Detroit powered to a 113-102 win at The Palace of Auburn Hills, further delaying the Wizards’ hopes to showcase a playoff-bound squad.

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