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Game Notebook 15, Wizards at Cavs: Therapeutic Basketball Making Things ‘Fun’ Again

Wizards 97
Cavaliers 85

December 2, 2015 – Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH

ESPN Box Score

How do you snap out of a 4-game losing streak?

You go into Cleveland to face the top team in the East; force their superstar in LeBron James to commit 9 turnovers; have your superstar in John Wall score a double-double with 35 points and 10 assists to go with 5 steals; you also have your center drop a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds; you go super-small with a lineup that includes a 6 foot 7 center; you dictate the pace of the game and swing the ball efficiently for open shots; and you promptly beat the Cavaliers by double-digits, 97-85.

THAT’S HOW.

Coming into Cleveland, the Wizards had endured a tumultuous work week, which involved a variety of on-the-court futility to go along with expressive off-the-court sadness. After getting bamboozled by the Pacers and Celtics, succumbing a historic collapse against Charlotte, and getting their hearts wrenched at the hands of a buzzer-beating Cory Joseph corner 3 to lose to the Rapotrs, the Wizards were in dire need of something therapeutic. Severing a hated Eastern Conference “rival’s” season-long home winning streak was just the remedy.

The Wizards performed in their utmost ideal fashion: maintain an uptempo pace, swing the ball well in half-court sets, blockade the lane from LeBron, contest shots, and compete on the glass. Of course, much of this doesn’t transpire unless John Wall has a say in it, and this season, he hasn’t said a whole lot.

‘Until I start playing better, we’re not going to do well.’

Of course, after acknowledging his shortcomings, what does John do? He plays well. Wall scored a season-high 35 points (on 24 shots), to go with 10 assists and 5 steals. He gave the Cavs very little chance to counter his pursuit, leaving them backpedaling on defense for most of the night and their announcers in awe of the frantic pace.


Johnny Franchise going behind the back; JR Smith with the missed tackle.


Jared Dudley got the start at the 4 and the cement on him being the right plug for this lineup is starting to dry. His veteranship and awareness on the floor benefits the Wizards in a number of ways. He knows where to be on defense, like, when to stick to his man and when to help. He swings the ball aptly on offense and can hit a long-range shot. He moves well enough off the ball to free up shooters, including himself. A stat filler, Dudley went 5-7 from field last night including two 3’s, scored 12 points to go with two rebounds and three assists.

The Wizards did roll over a bit at some points of the game, but got – as the youngin’s say these days, turnt – when they needed to. A 10-0 run to start the game set the tone; a huge 2nd quarter from Wall and Garrett Temple put them up by 11 at the half; and weathering a terrible 4th quarter shooting the ball by forcing the Cavs to play just as bad propelled the Wizards to the win.

John Wall’s sentiments after a big win:

“This is one game I played well and you see how different our team is.”

Amen.

Things to remember from tonight:

The Tiny-Ball Lineup.

“I had lineups there tonight I don’t know if I would’ve dreamed of.”

Turned out to be a wet dream, thanks partly to the absence of LeBron in it. The Wizards went with this lineup midway thorough the 2nd quarter while Bron rested, and went on a 9-0 run thanks to active defense forcing turnovers, and the Wizards capitalizing with buckets from Wall, Temple and Dudley. The dream was short-lived, as LeBron and Gortat were both quickly reinserted after the Wizards built their first double-digit lead.

Speaking of Marcin Gortat, understated is his impact on this game with his 15 points and 11 rebounds. Gortat was the most vocal (as he usually is) about the Wizards’ recent slide, harping about the influx of negativity surrounding the team via players, coaches and media. He said games were no longer fun. And I think we all know why. The less Gortat is involved, the less he’s happy. How exactly does Gortat get involved more? Part of that task is on him, part of it on his point guard. Gortat opened the game blocking four shots in the 1st quarter, an adequate method of having fun. Gortat also got 10 shots up for the game, making 7 of them. This also sounds fun.

Stopping LeBron is never an easy chore. Limiting LeBron is more plausible, and last night that’s what the Wizards were able to accomplish. The idea is to 1) force James to hit under 50% of his shots (he shot 8-20), 2) not favoring him with 3-point shots (he went 0-3), and 3) force him to turn the ball over (he did that 9 times). Of course, when you’re touted as the best basketball player on the planet, you’ll still manage a double-double (he had 24 and 13 rebounds), but what’s important is that very little of those stats were accumulated when it mattered (he went 2-7 and had 4 turnovers in the 4th).


#WizCavs in a tweet..


The Game’s Top Performer:

John Wall – season high 35 points; 10 assists; 5 steals

John Wall’s reemergence as a complete badass who’s unstoppable by any measure reminds me of when Casey Jones showed up in his hockey outfit in the original Ninja Turtles movie, ready to off a nagging army of Foot Soldiers with that sort of enough is enough attitude.

2117465-casey_jones

Wall’s stat line was similar to Casey’s in that battle. He knocked down 14 shots, probably about the same number of Foot Soldiers Casey knocked out. He had 10 assists, DOUBLE the same number of lives Casey saved as they escaped the fire in the antique shop. His two turnovers had the same impact as allowing Raphael to get knocked out but hey, Raph turned out just fine anyway.

Also making a heroic return: John Wall’s post game. Delly wasn’t ready.

Honorable Mention: Marcin Gortat with 15 points, 11 rebounds, 5 blocked shots.


A forgettable night for..

Timofey Mozgov – 0 points; 4 turnovers; getting trapped in a Polish machine

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