The Washington Wizards were soaring high as the holidays came to around. A marquee game against the New York Knicks on Christmas Day. But their holiday plans were cut short because they started a brutal five-game road trip against some of the top teams in the Western Conference. As the Atlanta Hawks start to soar, the Wizards sputtered. I take a look at these games and examine the past as to what happened.
Wizards at Houston Rockets 104-103
Bradley Beal had took over the game to hold off a furious return from the Rockets. He scored 33 points on 5 for 11 shooting from beyond the arc and made all ten of his free throws. John Wall had 13 points and 12 assists. James Harden ran wild on the Wiz defense for 33 points, while Corey Brewer had 15 points off the bench.
The Wizards bench went dead cold with three players not scoring at all and Rasual Butler had his hot streak slowed down to just 8 points. This was one of the first appearances for Josh Smith and he already started to regress from his Houston start.
Wizards at Dallas Mavericks 114-87
The next night, the Wizards moved the party to Dallas where they were going to release Martell Webster from his injury purgatory. Webster played 14 minutes, missed all 4 shots from the field and the one shot from three points. He made 3 of 5 free throws. Dejuan Blair also took time out of the cryogenic freezer and played 12 minutes to attempt to slow down the Mavericks domination in the paint. Blair had 5 rebounds and 9 points.
The Wizards couldn’t do a thing to stop the Mavs with 50 points being scored in the paint and Monta Ellis got 20 points off of John Wall. Chandler Parsons racked up 14 points and Dirk Nowitzki grabbed 13 points and 8 rebounds. It was an ugly game for the Wizards, even if the turnout got Randy Wittmann to open up his bench for once.
Wizards at Oklahoma City Thunder 109-102
How much narrative can you take? This game was Durant’s first game back from a break with a sore ankle. It was also his first game against hometown favorite Washington Wizards. And, maybe, I dunno, you’ve heard that there’s a whole group of people in Washington who want Durant to come back home? It’s the kind of news that is filed behind a certain dysfunctional football team.
And Durant wanted to make his hometown boys remember him, so he put up 34 points on 12 for 18 from the field, 4 for 7 from three and 6 of 7 from the free throw line. It countered the awful shooting night from Russell Westbrook where he went 8 for 23.
John Wall pulled another double-double on 14 pts and 12 assists. Beal grabbed 21 while Andre Miller taught the Thunder bench a lesson with 15 points on 5 for 9 shooting.
Wizards at San Antonio Spurs 101-92
Once again the interior defense of the Wizards collapsed under the pressure of a better Western team. Spurs went HAM in the paint, getting 52 points. Boris Diaw had 14 off the bench, and Tiago Splitter had 19 points and although Tim Duncan only got 4 points, his 9 rebounds to lead all players.
Wall and Beal had 15 points a piece, while Butler was stopped in his tracks again, ending with only 3 points. Nene was shut down around the hoop and got zero rebounds.
Wizards at New Orleans Pelicans 92-85
The Wizards end their five days with a win, wrapping up their record as 2-3. The Wizards took it to the Pelicans hard at first and kept Anthony Davis in check for most of the first half.
Bradley Beal had another inconsistent game, only 6 points and three made field goals, only three three-point attempts and he didn’t make it to the line at all. In fact, the entire team only shot 20% from three, only hitting 2 of 10 attempts. Both of those came from Paul Pierce who ended with 14.
The bench unit once again saved the night with Andre Miller putting on a class with 12 points on 100% shooting. Kris Humphries went after the boards like mad and finished with 10 points and 5 rebounds. And in 20 minutes, Otto Porter had 7 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks to go with his 6 points.
John Wall blew two turnovers in what is becoming a bad habit. Wall comes down half court, the team is down in the post, no cuts are being made and Wall tries to make an acrobatic move, hoping someone comes to his aid. They don’t and he leaps in the air, tossing the ball carelessly and into the hands of an opponent. It’s still a really bad habit that he can’t shake and he did it in almost back to back possessions.
Paul Pierce’s mixed bag scoring nights, in order: 21, 9, 12, 5, & 14.
The Wizards interior defense, a long concern of mine, gave up at least 50 points three times. And the other time they gave up 42 points. But in that stretch Dejuan Blair, who was brought in to be a rim protector, only played 14 minutes. Which is actually a huge bump in his production, but still not the amount of time he expected when he signed up. The bright spot in the trip was holding the Pelicans to 38 points in the paint during that last game.
Rasual Butler, the bench relief that has been so dependable for the Wizards, also went cold in the stretch. He only scored in double digits once and in two games he only scored 3 points.
Total Team Turnovers for the Five games, in order: 21, 23, 15, 9 & 12. Way to clean up your act on the road!
Martell Webster finally appeared in a Wizards game, for only two of the games. In 19 minutes he scored 4 points.
And yet his return was enough for the rumors to come afloat that second-round 2nd year man Glen Rice Jr is going to be waived if a trade partner can’t be found. Rice couldn’t ever get on the floor and had a blowup with coach Wittman during a blowout loss to the Toronto Raptors. It’s another nail in the coffin that Washington is unable to develop second round players. And the fact that they can’t find a trade partner for the Summer League MVP gives a league wide impression on how the Wizards can screw up a young guy. The fact that Beal and Wall are as good as they are seem more as an anomaly than anything else.