December 21, 2014 – Verizon Center, Washington, DC
[Last night, basically.]
“We’re building habits for a great team; we’re building habits for the playoffs. That’s what im looking for each and every night.”
Quite the profound quote from Paul Pierce as shared by our friend, CSN’s Chris Miller, during last night’s broadcast. It is an esteeming quote, no question, but after last night’s adverse showing against the Suns, let’s just hope one of the ‘Wizards habits for a great team’ is correcting certain bad habits from one game.
While the Wizards managed to play just enough to not let the game squirm out of hand completely (sans the final two minutes of the game), their mistakes were aplenty and it was all rooted from the tone-setting physicality the Suns brought with them from the desert. Although the numbers don’t show it, truth be told it was the Suns who dictated the floor with hustle, speed, and just good old fashioned, tough-nosed defense. This created the ‘stickiness’ of the ball as Randy Wittman likes to describe it and thus, the Wizards outlandishly totaled just 11 assists on 34 buckets.
The Phoenix Suns showed the Wizards up last night and in doing so, proved to the world and all it’s inhabitants how exactly to match up against them. The Suns exposed the Wizards with strength and speed of their own and with a Bulls team with similar traits slated next on the schedule, it’s critical for Wittman and company to regroup and replenish.
The Suns’ physicality. This was a huge factor in the game and perhaps the biggest one because, like I mentioned above, it totally allowed the Suns to dictate the tone of the game early and knock the Wizards out of their flow. While the stat sheet will show that the Wizards did eventually exceed the Suns in second chance points and offensive rebounds, it was the Suns who seemed to have a quicker and tougher step on the ball all throughout the night. Match-up issues, denial of the ball down low and in the post, and critical offensive rebounds – especially on missed free throw attempts – completely put the Wizards out of motion and turned their offense whimsical and unorthodoxed. THAT is one thing the stat sheet will show. The repulsive stagnation of the Wizards’ offense by way of just 11 assists on 34 buckets. The Suns were hounding the Wizards’ ball handlers; they jumped their men trying to gain position down low and in return, the Wizards bailed.
Another rough night for Bradley Beal. Big Panda has been more like Little Cub for much of this season especially in regards to his shooting, but last night was a whole ‘nuhva type of frustration for the kid. The refs knocked Beal with some ticky-tack fouls that had him riding the bench for significant stretches of time, both in the first and second halves of the game. This also created systematic issues for the Wizards as rotation schemes for Wittman got disrupted, and a primary scoring threat was left either unavailable or sorely out of rhythm. Beal attempted zero 3-pointers in the first half and just two for the entire game! That’s just inexplicable on all accounts and while it’s easy to credit the Suns for good defense, Beal’s issues of getting the ball in the basket has been an ongoing, season-long affair.
Kevin Seraphin tossed out the overalls and put on his big boy pants! If you’re looking at the box score and wondering why Marcin Gortat played just 20 minutes and clocked zero of them in the 2nd and 4th quarters, keep gazing your eyes down lower and you’ll notice Kevin Seraphin with cookie crumbs around his mouth as he was the one eating the rest of Gortat’s minutes up. Seraphin subbed into the game in the final minute of the 1st and never took a break until halftime. That was all thanks to his 10 points and four offensive rebounds, which simply gave the Wizards a much better chance at countering the Suns’ dominance on the glass. Seraphin would then clock all 12 minutes at center in the 4th, continuing to provide efficiency at that position. Against a team like the Suns who loooove putting the ball on the floor and moving it well, Seraphin’s agility over Marcin’s was essential.
Moment of the Night
Kevin Seraphin, call him the bus boy the way he cleans up.
Game Notes and Highlights
I’ve been talking about the Suns dictating the game, which surely they did, but looking back now, it’s almost crazy to see that the Wizards were the ones who opened the game on a 6-0 run. After an opening bucket by Humphries, Pierce made a nice defensive play disrupting a passing lane which led to a Wizards fast break. That was followed by a Wall steal on a pass to Bledsoe and an easy fast break dunk. The Suns had four turnovers in under two minutes, initially making it seem like this one would be another cruiser of Wizards basketball.
Bradley Beal fell into the same bad habits early, settling for a midrange shot with time on the shot clock and neglecting to explore better options. It gets sort of frustrating to see that when you KNOW how well Beal can navigate through defenses and find better, more efficient shots closer to the rim. He really does it so well. Alas, Beal has been badgered by his superiors to take the first best shot he sees and it’s clearly stuck with him.
But, this was a nice touch, via the BW Parkway.
Alex Len was pretty annoying last night. He had four offensive rebounds in the 1st quarter as the second chance opportunities just demoralized the Wizards on some possessions. When you give up a board after two missed free throws, it’s almost certain which direction your night is going, at least that’s what last night’s contest proved.
John Wall’s product line items are only offered with free same-day delivery.
The early foul calls on Beal were really iffy. So iffy they almost seemed like a premeditated effort by the refs to oust Beal from the action. He got called with two ticky-tack fouls in one minute, sending him to the bench for the rest of the 1st quarter and halfway into the 2nd. He got called for his third foul on an charge just 30 seconds into 3rd quarter and fourth foul a few minutes later.
Like I mentioned, Marcin Gortat didn’t earn a ton of burn last night thanks to Kevin Seraphin’s play and was kinda sorta quiet when he was on the floor. With Alex Len and the Suns’ interior so active, Gortat was unable to establish his presence like he normally does and thus, he just became ineffective. He did get two blocks and this oop from Wall, though:
Here is some more of that early #KSLife I’ve been raving about.
The Suns began to make their mark in the 2nd quarter with guys like Gerald Green easily beating his defender off the dribble to the rim, knocking down 3’s. The Morris twins – mostly of the Markeef variety – were outstanding. They’re big; they can put the ball on the floor; they’re strong at the rim and they have range from deep. On one play, after Alex Len unsurprisingly gets an offensive rebound, the ball bounced right back to Markeef who hit a 3. A few plays later, Marcus would knock a 16 footer over Pierce off the dribble. The Suns are a very deep team who can find ways to accumulate points from a number of ways. The Morris brothers, meanwhile, combined for 28 points on 12-23 shooting and a few 3’s.
The 3rd quarter is really what put the Wizards away and where the Suns established that mark they set in the first half. Beal got hit with an early offensive foul; another second chance bounce for the Suns; Bledsoe’s peskiness getting steals and buckets; Goran Dragic catching fire. What was a tie game at the half turned into a 13-point lead late in the 3rd and the only thing saving the Wizards were occasional tough shots and players at the right place at the right time to recover a previous bad play. One adjustment the Wizards did make, however, was getting better establishment down low to prevent the Suns from so many offensive boards and put backs. Rasual Butler and Otto Porter were key in this department, each creating second chance opportunities as the Wizards outrebounded the Suns on the offensive glass 5-1 in the 3rd. Still wasn’t enough to reverse the momentum for the Suns.
Despite the dismay of a Wizards loss, I can’t take away from how much of a good matchup John Wall and Eric Bledsoe is. The two ex-Kentucky ‘Cats love to hate one another on the hardwood and the tenacity of the two last night was totally visible. We’ve heard it all throughout their careers how much they (also Demarcus Cousins) enjoy their bragging rights after succeeding against each other and Eric Bledsoe was surely the one to get to bombard John Wall’s text messages last night with taunting emoji’s.