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Game Notebook 1, Wizards at Magic: Let The MVP Conversations Commence

Wizards 88
Magic 87

October 28, 2015 – Amway Center, Orlando, FL

ESPN Box Score

Wizards fans are often prone to recalling bad times of the past, usually to help simmer the pain of bad times of the present, using the choice term “remember where we came from” to establish their theories. But I’m more prone to recalling bad times of the past only to iterate how times of the present are insurmountably better. The Wizards were in every position to botch last night’s opener in Orlando. An unbearable 2nd quarter drought; ten freaking missed free throws; the obstruction of Nene’s all but useless body. But all adversity would ultimately be canceled out, thanks to none other than the commander-in-chief himself, John Wall.

Wall’s dominance vanquished any idea the Magic would have a chance to pull away. A 78-70 Magic lead early in the 4th was quickly a memory with a 12-0 run spearheaded by Wall. A 5-point Wizards deficit late in the 4th was again wiped out thanks to Wall’s short jumper with 12 seconds left. Eventually that would be the game-winner.

In years past, the Wizards would have succumbed. They would have folded. They would have beat themselves. But back then, they didn’t have a potential MVP running at the helm. Last night, they did. Wall’s immaculate stat line along with several “when it really mattered” moments subdued the Magic from owning the game, and it propelled the Wizards to a 1-0 start.

#WizMagic in a tweet..

The Game’s Top Performer:

John Wall – 22 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, a career high 5 blocks

It’s easy to make this about John Wall’s unmatched presence on offense. His surgical ways of dicing up a defense with zipping passes and speed that is virtually impossible to withstand. Wall had everything to do with everything offensively for the Wizards to open up the game, being his normal commanding self and the pure tone-setter.

What really gets me going is John Wall’s unrelenting efforts on defense. It’s character-defining. It’s contagious for a team when their leader is constantly putting everything on the line. John Wall’s previous career high in blocks was three. He’s done that EIGHTEEN different times in his career. Last night he swatted five. Staying focused on defense is probably one of the most laborious tasks in basketball because it requires the utmost awareness. That’s why a lot of players suck at it. But that’s why it’s also not surprising why John Wall is so good at it. Whether he’s crashing down on you from behind or he sneaks up and leaps over you up front, he’s a problem. Wall vows to be 1st Team All-Defense, and he couldn’t have gotten a better start to achieving that last night.

Honorable mention: Bradley Beal: a game-high 24 points

A forgettable night for..

Anyone in close proximity to Elfrid Payton’s hair.


[via @recordsandradio]

We joke:

Elfrid’s hair is basically a replica of a dying plant that I fail to water for two weeks. He’s like the perfect hybrid of a Fraggle Rock and Whoopie Goldberg in The Color Purple. Otherwise, Payton had a decent game with a near triple-double.

Honorable mention: The Wizards second unit: a combined 4-22 from the field.

The Breakdown:

1st quarter

  • Just as Irfan K suggested in his pregame, one of the Wizards’ key adversaries in a season opener is rust. Here’s how the first three possessions panned out:

    • Irfan K is an analyst of genius proportions.
    • The Wiz came swinging and slinging, pushing the ball up court, moving the ball in the half court, maintaining a relentless pace. Except that it only took a few possessions before the favor of points was reciprocated. Three possessions, three turnovers: An errant, overthrown pass from Wall. A fumble by Beal. And Kris Humphries losing it dribbling baseline.
    • But finally, ice was broken by way of a John Wall spot up 3. LET’S GO.

    • Gortat was virtually nonexistent in the first. Defensively, he was okay, squared up against Vucevic and against persistent Orlando lane slashers.
    • What’s undeniable about this Wizards offense is that it simply does not slow down. They do not slow down regardless of what the outcome of the previous defense possession. Whether the ball is possessed off a rebound, or an inbound pass, there is constant pursuit up and down the court and there are plenty of good looks that come out of them. There really..quite literally..is no one better in this league to run this Energizer Bunny type offense.
    • Oh, and Wall was really committed to his midrange J, especially pulling it on the run. He stroked one beautifully against a hounding defender.
    • The Wizards took a 16-7 lead after an Otto pull up 3. Then took an 18-9 lead after Beal splashed a long 2 from the baseline. Thirteen of the Wizards’ 18 first points came by way of the #HouseOfGuards.

    • Meanwhile, Gortat remained chaste on offense and was struggling a bit on defense. He tumbled on a no-call as Vucevic attacked him at the rim for a bucket. Then he got slimed by an Aaron Gordon putback dunk. Sad beginnings for the Polack.
    • The silver lining in the dark clouds of bad defensive possessions for the Wizards? Teams get too happy and feel a bit too complacent after they score to worry about THEIR defense. And the Wizards are simply too fast for that garbage. Bradley Beal had already whistled his way to the rim for an easy layup faster than Buck could say ‘Aaron Gordon’.
    • But Orlando countered, and they countered well. Mario Hezonja, the anti-Jan Vesely, hit a PUJIT 3 as the exchange of fast break points continued.
    • The Drew Gooden-Nene combo is not a very productive frontcourt. The Wizards look lost enough when Wall is resting and an slow, aging tandem like that does very little to compensate.
    • The quarter ended in demoralizing fashion, particularly for Bradley Beal, who was tucked away into a row of photographers after Aaron Gordon once again threw a crotch party under the rim with a putback dunk. Good times.

2nd quarter

  • The Wizards opened up with a 3-guard lineup of Wall, Sessions and Neal to go with their mummified frontcourt of Nene and Gooden.
  • Gary Neal is basically a stuffed petty cash box for the Wizards. He’s very reliable with his midrange shot and he’s really good at finding high percentage ones. He’s got an efficient floater and he’s a great decision maker after pump fakes.
  • Nene,
  • Please, Nene. While the Wizards continued to swing the ball pretty well en route to open looks, it didn’t compensate well when the ball landed in Nene’s hands on this one play. He airballed the mess out of it.
  • How about a Wall chase-down block as a Welcome Back Party favor?

  • Victor Oladipo started to get in a groove. Probably barked “UPPER MARLBORO STAND UP” after a few plays, too. Dipo beat Wall on a backdoor cut for a reverse layup. Then beat Gooden in the same area for another one.
  • Except that Oladipo was also responsible for the first #Hammerdown of the season as well:

  • Is there a stat boy in the building? Because I’d love to know how many missed assists John Wall had last night after all those missed open shots. Wall continually found ways to thread the ball through defeners to guys for open looks but to no avail.
  • Marcin Gortat finally reappeared. After Wall put Fournier on his ass with a few handles, he found ‘Tat under the room on a jump ass for an easy bucket. Wall found him again a few possessions later but Gortat was called for a travel.
  • With Orlando’s defense tightened up a bit, which got the Wizards into a bit of disarray. Miscommunication on some perimeter rotation between Humphries and Beal led to a Wall turnover and some visible angst between all three. No Greg Hardiness tho.
  • Humphries kept the Wizards afloat as the Magic tried to mount on their attack. He got a midrange jumper to roll and hit a corner 3 quickly after the Magic scored.
  • IDEA: Broadcasts really need to stop putting camera on opposing players when they score. The Wiz are too fast bringing ball up and sometimes, you’ll find half of the play gets missed. Several times the Magic scored and by the time cameras settled back on game, Wall had already swung a pass to the corner or someone was already at rim.
  • The 2nd quarter ended a bit sour. Tobias Harris son’d Wall in the post which evidently pissed Wall off enough to take it out on a forced jump shot. Then Bradley Beal missed two free throws.

3rd quarter

  • The 3rd certainly opened up pretty promising with another Wall block. Gortat hit a short jumper followed by a #PandaPaws block on Oladipo.
  • How about a Hump steal off an inbound pass AND TAKING IT THE DISTANCE.

  • On a number of plays, we saw Beal crashing the lane HARD, making strong efforts to get easy buckets at the rim or draw contact.
  • But here came the ratchetness. While the usual ball movement continued with guys spread around the perimeter (including Gortat), open shot after open shot after open shot was missed. For just over five minutes, the Wizards were basketball virgins with their inability to score. The good thing was that the Magic were just as prude, almost equally scoreless.

A quick rundown of the shit-storm:

John Wall misses a wide-open corner 3.
Kris Humphries misses a wide-open 3.
Otto throws a bad pass.
Tobias gets a putback bucket in transition.
Beal has the ball knocked out of his hands by CJ Watson.
Humphries again gets trapped on the baseline after passing on a corner 3. Turnover.
A 24 second violation after the Wizards overdribbled and overpassed into the eventual Otto shot attempt that was blocked.

  • Luckily, a nice Beal drive and bucket followed by an Otto floater preserved our sanity.

  • Despite the trainwreck, the Magic only tied the game after Oladipo’s 3 (his first successful one after six misses), followed by a Dedmon offensive rebound and putback over Gooden.
  • Again, Gooden and Nene: still no bueno. I’m not really sure what to make of Nene just off this game but he seemed to struggle putting it all together.
  • The Wizards scored just 12 points in the 3rd quarter to Orlando’s 16.

4th quarter

  • The Wizards fell 78-70 early on in the 4th. A bit of overplaying their game hurt the Wizards. Another sequence of overdribbling drained the shot clock, forcing Wall to take an awful long 3.
  • The starters returned to the floor around the 8:40 mark and Humphries was greeted by the hardwood quickly after a pump-fake dribble-drive to the rim. Again, this is going to be a problem if Humphries can’t figure out his second option when the long range shot isn’t available.
  • This quarter was essentially the antithesis of the 3rd, simply because John Wall wasn’t having it. Thanks to Wall (and Beal, and on a few plays Gortat), the Wizards went on a 12-0 run to take a 4-point lead.



  • Hezonja, who had a decent career debut, airballed twice in the 4th quarter on possessions where the Magic least needed it. He did, however, knock down a 3 to pull the Magic back up by 5 after that 12-0 run.

Oh yeah. More John Wall defense.

An Otto putback off a Neal missed 3 put the Wizards within one, and Wall took it from there.

Johh Wall, Closer:

Marcin Gortat, Assistant Closer:

Game. Blouses.

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