Wizards 101 – Nets 94
March 15, 2014
Verizon Center, Washington, DC
The electricity surged throughout Verizon Center in a manner that’s been rarely, if at all felt by Wizards fans and the media who cover the team for them. As the final moments of the game dwindled and the Wizards were on the cusp of surviving a vigorous Eastern Conference scuffle against a team they may face again in the playoffs, the feeling was just right. It was a foreshadowing moment that indicated what was to come for at least two games come late April. And whether those are Games 1 and 2 or Games 3 and 4, it won’t matter. These fans will show up. Wizards Nation will show up.
The hope is that over the next few home games we’ll be witnessing more of last night’s aura at the Verizon Center as the postseason looms.
Last night’s eventual after-party was preceded by quite the 2nd half spectacle for the Wizards. Trailing by nine at the break, the Wizards turned up the aggression on defense and production on offense to outscore Brooklyn by 16 in the final two quarters.
John Wall, who had 33 points, set the tone with two back to back 3’s to start the 3rd quarter. He knocked one down later in the period and finished going 4-for-6 for the game from downtown.
Defensively, the Wizards made plenty adjustments from the first half. Their on-ball defense stifled the Nets’ ball handlers into bad decisions and forced turnovers. They dominated the paint, holding the Nets to just six points in that area. They jumped on the Nets’ second chance opportunities. They just had it. They found it. They wanted it.
And need we say more about this AARP group holding down the second unit? For three and a half quarters, not one Wizards’ starter had a positive plus/minus. In fact, during that time the only three players that kept the Wizards in a positive point differential while on the court were Miller, Gooden, and Harrington. While Miller and Harrington were decent, it was Drew Gooden who was not to be taken off the floor. Gooden replaced a struggling Gortat late in the 3rd at center and never took a seat again, scoring 11 points and grabbing six boards in that final period.
Play of the night
Drew Gooden – 21 points (15 in 2nd half), 9 rebounds
“You guys joke about me being old, but I’m still Drew Gooden. That’s what I do. Once I see a couple go in, I feel like I can’t miss. Tonight the ball was definitely on my side and it dropped for me tonight.”
John’s 33 was great, but Drew Gooden owned the night. He owned that 4th quarter, and he certainly owned that exuberant Verizon Center crowd. He feared nothing and destroyed everything. Rainbows trailed each of his long 2 attempts and there was nothing Brooklyn could do to simmer it. He had already teleported back to 2005. The Wizards outscored the Nets 29-15 in that final period with 11 of those points coming by way of Gooden.
A forgettable night for:
Marcin Gortat – 2 points, 1-8 FG, sat out all of 4th quarter
Drew Gooden essentially became the beneficiary to Gortat’s terrible offensive game. Aside from some solid rim protection in the first half (3 blocks), Gortat was completely ineffective otherwise. He never established his presence down low and he surprisingly struggled against Mason Plumlee. Not to say Plumlee’s defense isn’t pretty stout, which it sure was against Gortat, but this seemed like a matchup Gortat could have been advantageous of. But contrarily, Gortat failed to gain any ground in the post, took bad shots and simply couldn’t get it going, which evidently led to Wittman putting him out of his misery.
Notable: The Wizards also got forgettable games from Ariza and Webster, who combined to go 1-for-8 from downtown.
Key stat of the game:
Wizards 13 turnovers
The Nets’ small-ball lineup has been greedy on defense during the recent surge they’ve been on. They’ve hadn’t allowed 100 points in eight straight games and had forced 118 turnovers over six of those games. On Saturday night, they were pacing for the same mark after the first quarter as the Wizards turned over the ball six times. But someone in that locker room read my pregame tweets and consequently, the Wizards tallied just seven turnovers over the next three quarters.