December 23, 2014 – Verizon Center, Washington, DC
[Photo cred: @recordsANDradio]
Chalk ‘em up. The Wizards got thwarted by the Bulls last night at the Verizon Center, getting handed their eighth loss of the season and their second in a row. Of their eight losses this season, six of them have come against playoff-bound teams with considerable winning records (TOR, ATL, CHI, CLE, DAL, PHX), one of them against a team with a losing record but still likely playoff-bound (MIA), and a loss against a team with a losing record but only a game and a half out of 8th place in the Eastern Conference (BOS). The combined winning percentage of the teams the Wizards have lost to: .608.
The Wizards have also won 19 games. However, of those 19 wins, just two came against teams with considerable winning records (CLE, LAC), two against teams blah blah blah you get the picture I’m talking about Miami and Boston again, and the rest have come against teams that are likely going nowhere. The combined winning percentage of the teams the Wizards have beaten: .387.
The moral of these introductory paragraphs: these heat checked Wizards are not quite ready. Not just yet. Chitown rolled into Chinatown last night for a contest that presented one of the finer head-to-head matchups despite its rarity, John Wall vs. Derrick Rose. The two hadn’t squared off against each other since January 30, 2012, a game in which Rose scored 35 points.
And after a tough loss to the Suns on Sunday evening in which the Wizards got slapped around in a pesky manner, the primary objective of their match against the Bulls was to try and dictate the pace, make open shots, and utilize their strengths. The Wizards didn’t do much of any of that. At least not consistently enough. Let’s break it down.
The Wizards scored just 15 points on the fastbreak, nine of them coming in the 4th quarter alone during that John Wall outburst.
Making open shots and taking good shots:
Although Kris Humphries caught some fire in the second half, he missed a good number of his patented baseline midrange jumpers early. A ton of the usual midrange shot attempts off curls was missed by Paul Pierce and Rasual Butler. Nene and Marcin Gortat: a combined 8-for-25 from the field and a dismal performance on jump shots. Gortat made just one of seven shots from 8 feet or longer. Nene, 0-for-5 from that range. The silver lining: Bradley Beal, despite also missing a few open shots, actually had a little bounce back game for himself, which is relieving. He finished with 15 on 6-of-12 shooting.
Um. Yeah. About that. I’m still shuffling through passages of divine revelation from basketball gods, in search of some sort of explanation or apologia that Randy Wittman can use for the league’s top ranked 3-point shooting team percentage-wise attempting just nine total 3-point attempts against Chicago. Wittman’s gameplan frustratingly had the Wizards in a constant dribble-into-a-midrange-shot sequence practically on every play and the dividends weren’t reasonable enough to counter the Bulls. This impious concept of gun-shyness from taking 3-point shots has been an ongoing predicament for this offense and without any further adjustments it’s bound to continue to doom the Wizards.
The real separation between the two teams as it pertains to the Bulls’ ultimate success is that the Bulls simply made play after play after play. Washington’s strength is their defense above all else and again, like the Phoenix game, it was the reason why the game never had a chance to get out of hand. This was key in the 4th quarter and the reason why Wall was able to go on a barrage of fastbreak buckets after the Bulls took an 11-point lead with six minutes left in regulation. But alas, one of the finest basketball minutes of John Wall’s career and our basketball viewing lives went all for nothing without a win. Derrick Rose was simply too good to handle, Pau Gasol was a killer from midrange, and the Chicago Bulls proved to be too well tuned to be defeated.
Moment of the Night
Unquestionably, John Wall.
Game Notes and Highlights
The Wizards broke into a defensive frenzy on the Bulls in the opening minute, getting two straight buckets in transition off Chicago turnovers, both of them created by the #HouseOfGuards. Bradley Beal first picked off a bad Mike Dunleavy pass, then this John Wall slider and dish:
It had been a while since we observed a trademark Gortat-Beal screen-handoff play and it worked to perfection early when it freed Gortat rolling to the rim and a nice pass from Beal. We didn’t capture it on Vine so just go ahead and use your fancy imagination.
Like I mentioned above, the Bulls just continuously made the right plays. First of all, Derrick Rose is a bitch to defend. Coach Thibs mentioned after the game that this was the best he’s seen of Rose this season in terms of health and performance and I agree. He got every step on his defender around screens, he attacked the basket at will and he made some tough shots.
Pau Gasol’s 2010 Laker-ish performance was devastating for the Wizards. He was a savage from the midrange, also made some tough ass shots including that deflating buzzer beater from the corner 3 at the end of the first. He became a matchup nightmare for Marcin Gortat, who praised Gasol after the game, calling his acquisition by the Bulls the team’s “biggest change.”
Okay, let’s make a pit stop off the Bulls love train for a minute and enjoy a little coast-to-coast John Wall.
Besides Andre Miller, the Wizards bench wasn’t terribly great last night. Miller played well in the 2nd quarter, making enough plays to help avoid the Bulls from breaking away by going 3-for-3 from the field. But what really hurt the Wizards bench was their attempt to defend Aaron Brooks. Brooks scored four points in the 2nd, jumped an entry pass from Miller for a steal, and swung a nice pass of his own to E’Twan Moore for a 3. Brooks’ lightening speed also ate the Wizards’ switching defense and none more than when he blew by Nene on a drive to the rim.
For all the headaches he caused, here’s the Professor handing Aaron Brooks a detention slip.
For the second game in a row, the Wizards showed very little rhyme or reason to their offense. Wittman discussed the team’s lack of rhythm in his postgame presser and what was hurtful the most was the bigs taking too many outside shots and not enough at the rim. Also, it seems the Wizards have completely quarantined themselves from the 3-point arc. When they did attempt 3’s, it was like they fell into the shot attempt without any initial intention to take it. Take this nice Nene slapbound that ended up in Beal’s impulsive hands, for example.
50/50 balls and buzzer beaters.
The 3rd quarter offered an elusive 3-point make for the Wizards by way of Paul Pierce and again, it merely served the purpose of staying within reach. As we tweeted during the game, it seemed like it was eternally a 5-point lead for the Bulls all game long. Kris Humphries finally came around and started knocking down the shots he missed in the first half, though, but a few midrange shots too late because Gasol just wouldn’t miss any of his.
Feel like we haven’t seen this nearly enough this season. Actually, I know we haven’t.
John Wall’s 4th quarter rampage was one of the best one-minute stretches of Wizards basketball we’ve seen all season. With the Wizards defense morphing out of a slump and finally forcing some tough shots and misses for the Bulls, Wall fed off of it and cashed out.