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Game Notebook 52, Wizards vs. Magic: On to the Next One

Wizards 96
Magic 80

February 9, 2015 – Verizon Center, Washington, DC

..and so after the Wizards embraced victory on consecutive nights, it was revealed that, after all, the basketball gods were indeed merciful. Bestowed with the clemency of lighter scheduling following a 5-game slide, the Wizards were determined to be advantageous of such, demolishing the Nets of Brooklyn by 40 on Saturday, and in subsequent fashion defeating the Orlando Magic last night with similar ease.

Much went right for the Wizards right from the opening tip. Nene erupted for a barrage of dunks while, more importantly, his interior counterpart Marcin Gortat finally transposed the lingering afterimages of white wall staring into a frenzy of energy and production. Gortat grabbed five opening quarter rebounds en route to his 15th double-double of the season, but just his first in 12 games.

The key accomplishment for Gortat was his early containment of near-All-Star center Nikola Vučević, which essentially helped the Wizards stave off any real threat from the Magic, especially considering Tobias Harris was out with an injury and the Magic went 0-11 from the arc in the first half. But all didn’t fare so well defensively for the Wizards even with Vučević neutralized. Not in that middle portion of the 2nd quarter, at least, when the Magic went on a cute little 11-4 run to close what was a 10 point gap down to three with just under three minutes left in the half.

How, you ask? Well, let’s just say the Wizards – spearheaded by Rasual Butler – navigated the ball around the 3-point arc and instead of causing floods, they built forts. Forts that read “No Girls 3’s Allowed”. Now, Butler did finish with an alright game, kind of. He managed 15 points and 3-of-9 shooting from downtown by game’s end but in that 2nd quarter, he went 0-4 including a few clanks off wide open looks from the corner. After the game, Butler admitted he done f*cked up:

All would certainly be well, however. Like a bad Magic trick, the Wizards were unfazed by Orlando’s “run” and so tey took an eight point lead into halftime and came out the gates in the second half like rebels on ATVs, smacking fire at the opposition and pillaging Orlando to the tune of a 31-19 third quarter advantage. After both teams were plagued with terrible long range shooting (going 0-18 from downtown) in the first half, it was the Wizards who would greedily nab all the curing syringes with three consecutive 3’s to open up the 3rd quarter.

The third period would also feature a nice head-to-head contest between Vučević and Gortat. Vučević, who only managed two points on 1-4 shooting in the first half, poured in 10 in the 3rd quarter on 4-4 shooting while Gortat went 3-3 for 8 points. But suddenly, the faucet stopped running for the Magic. At the 3:09 mark, they had accumulated 54 points to Washington’s 65. By quarter’s end, their 54 points remained on the scoreboard while the Wizards ran off nine more to take a 20 point lead into the final period.

That’s when Randy Wittman, in all obviousness, would plug in his subs with dear hopes that they could maintain the big lead and provide the starters with the much needed perk of getting a bit more rest before their showdown with the Raptors on Wednesday. Mind you, the bench was awesome last night. They combined for 46 points and provided ample production from just about everyone. But Evan Fournier decided to notch up the annoyance with eight points; Moe Harkless came out of nowhere with seven as the Magic bench scored 17 of the team’s final 26 points and cut the gap to 10 points with under two minutes remaining. Alas, a few clutch free throws from Gortat (which almost never happens) + GOOD3N + BUTL3R closed out the Magic and a second straight win for the Wizards. Rejoice.


The bench: SECOND UNIT SQUAAAAD UP! There’s no secret ingredient to Wizards success. There’s especially no secret to one of success’ primary ingredients which is the productivity of Randy Wittman’s bench unit. Last night, they racked up 46 points, spreading them neatly throughout the contest and by way of just about everyone not named Otto Porter. Porter, who started in place of Beal against the Nets on Saturday, was declined a second consecutive start as Wittman deemed it an unfavorable matchup against Victor Oladipo. Okay, fine.

Porter only clocked 11 minutes and didn’t score. You’d think this was one of those nights where he’d be able to polish himself against a bad team. I wish it were one of those games but Wittman opted for Butler, who kept shooting, and shooting, and shooting. Butler finished 4-of-14 from the field and had a hard time finding his range in the first half but his three 3’s did come at much needed moments, one midway through the 3rd and two in the final three minutes of the 4th.

Kris Humprhies had a great start before he damn near cracked the hardwood with a bad spill late in the 1st quarter. He made his first two shots including a weird dunk, one that he managed to get in despite two defenders contesting him and a ball that seemed to nearly slip out of his grip at the rim. IDK bro.

Also pleasant to watch was Drew Gooden and Martell Webster in the final quarter. Gooden was clocked in for the entire 4th and knocked down a game-sealing 3 late to put the Wizards up by 15. ‘Tell scored all six of his points and showed plenty more strength than we’ve seen in quite a while. This was nice boost for the bench going into the All-Star break.

Marcin Gortat: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the Wizards will almost always be as good as their center allows them to be. Of course, I say ‘almost’ because the Wizards happen to have the league’s top point guard and ‘game changer’ and, well, a player of that stature has the means to do exactly that, change the game at any given time. But when Gortat is on, he’s just freaking AWN. He was totally in tune offensively going 5-6 from the field but better yet, his defense and activeness on the glass was what set the tone for him.

Looking ahead to Toronto: Getting over the 5-game slide with a two consecutive wins is cool and all, but the Wizards need to prove so much more, beginning with showing us the ability to knock off winning teams. Wednesday night will be the Wizards’ third try this season at cracking the Raps, and also a chance to go into the All-Star break with not only the momentum of a 3-game winning streak, but with the gloat of having closed in on the Eastern Conference rankings.

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