January 24, 2015 – Moda Center, Portland, OR
About last night..
Last night’s heart-piercing diminishment in Portland was a sheer tale of two halves. After the Wizards took a 55-45 lead into halftime (and at one point led the Blazers by 14), the Wizards’ gear was stuck on reverse in the second half with a brick planted on the accelerator. Let me explain.
The first half for the Wizards featured an excellent display of execution via swift ball movement and a shooting percentage of 54%.
The Wizards had just about a complete 1st quarter as we’ve seen them have all year. Nene scored 11 of his 15 points (more on this later) during the opening period, complementing John Wall’s 10 points. The Wizards knocked down 14 of 24 shots with 9 of them being assisted. They led the Blazers 32-20 at the end of the 1st.
The Wizards went to Nene early and often. They ran a few side pick and rolls and countered the Blazers’ nagging traps, which freed up Nene for his trademark midrange jumper. He finished the first two quarters shooting 6-for-8 from the field for 13 points.
The Wizards were ridiculously efficient on offense in the first half. Four starters finished in double figures by halftime: Pierce (10), Nene (13), Beal (10), Wall (12). Paul Pierce started out incredibly active, hitting 3 of his first 4 shots, grabbing a few boards and dishing a few nice passes.
There seems to be some conspiracy theories circulating around Wizards Nation regarding the health status of LaMarcus Aldridge. Earlier this week it was announced that LMA would miss the next 6-8 weeks, including the Wizards game, and have surgery done on a torn ligament in his thumb. Just a few hours prior to tip-off, the Blazers announced that Aldridge had decided to forego his surgery and suit up against the Wizards.
Marcin Gortat’s reaction to the sudden news:
Gortat on Aldridge: “It doesn’t change shit. We got to be ready to play. He’s just 1 player. He’s really good but we’re going to go at him.”
— Jorge Castillo (@jorgeccastillo) January 24, 2015
He was right. It didn’t change shit. Aldridge put up 13 shots in the 1st half for 10 points and grabbed 5 rebounds. He remained the go-to man for the Blazers offense and seemed to have absolutely no issue asserting himself as such. I mean, I get that sometimes decisions abruptly change, but to play this well after being slated to be shelved 8 weeks had some of us like:
On to the second half, where the Wizards were outscored by Portland 58-41.
The biggest factor in the Wizards’ complete shrinkage after halftime was the utter negligence to continue operating through Nene. Remember when I said Nene was 6-8 for 13 points in the first half? He finished the game 7-11 for 15 points. Do the 7th grade math.
As the Wizards inexplicably went away from what drove their success in the first half, the 3rd quarter became an utter shit show. The Wizards shot just 33% from the field and scored 15 points. They went through three separate scoring droughts, two of them for 2 minutes each, and one drought of 3 minutes. In the meanwhile, the Blazers pounced on the advantages they were given. Wesely Matthews is a godsend for the Blazers the way he kicks a team’s defense in the balls while their offense struggles. Matthews scored 12 second half points, all of them by way of 3-pointers.
Things that didn’t change from the first half to the second: For one, Marcin Gortat. Gortat will need more than just white walls to stare down as he tries to channel his subconscious for answers. Perhaps white clouds and white snowcaps over the Rockies may trigger some resurgence. Who knows. ‘Tat finished with just 4 points on 2-7 shooting, and struggled to contain Chris Kaman, who grabbed 10 boards including 2 offensive. YUCK.
I’ve said this time and again, the Wizards won’t sniff success in the long term if their bench continues to have terrible outings like last night. The bench was mobbed, going a combined 7-24 for just 17 points. The blame for this can be dispersed to several things. One, Wittman continues to show impotence in the rotation department. It’s like he’s running a youth basketball team which requires a specific allocation of minutes to each of his players. Secondly, it just seems for Andre Miller, facilitating this particular group of guys is like pulling teeth. The offense stagnates down to #MaynorTime levels on more than a few possessions and while I love that Wittman staggers Beal in with the second unit as a scoring option, truth is he’s struggled in that role.
The Wizards, specifically Gortat, Wittman, and his precious bench players have little time to reflect on and resolve what happened last night, let’s just hope they did.