home 2014-15, Blogs, Game Coverage Game Notebook 72, Wizards vs. Pacers: A Final Play Blunder Pulls Defeat Out of the Jaws of Victory

Game Notebook 72, Wizards vs. Pacers: A Final Play Blunder Pulls Defeat Out of the Jaws of Victory

Pacers 103
Wizards 101

March 25, 2015 – Verizon Center, Washington, DC



Game Leaders:

[ezcol_1third]WIZARDS[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_1third][/ezcol_1third][ezcol_1third_end]PACERS[/ezcol_1third_end][ezcol_1third]Wall (34)[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_1third]POINTS[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_1third_end]Hill (29)[/ezcol_1third_end][ezcol_1third]Wall (6)[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_1third]ASSISTS[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_1third_end]Hill (9)[/ezcol_1third_end][ezcol_1third]Gortat/Seraphin (7)[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_1third]REBOUNDS[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_1third_end]West (11)[/ezcol_1third_end][ezcol_1third]Gortat (2)[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_1third]BLOCKS[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_1third_end]Allen/Hill (1)[/ezcol_1third_end][ezcol_1third]Wall/Webster (2)[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_1third]STEALS[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_1third_end]Watson (3)[/ezcol_1third_end]


In the words of the great Steve Buchkantz: “Dagger!”

If you thought losing three straight by 23 points per game was bad, this was worse. Much, much worse.

This was not getting beaten by a better team, or just playing an inexplicably awful game. This was having the result in hand, a sure three points, and then losing outright in stoppage time.

The night began with an uncharacteristic optimism; possibly because the Wizards were finally back on their home floor; or possibly because the stars were out to watch. Lionel Messi. Sergio Aguerro. Angel Di Maria. The Argentina national team was on hand to take in the Pacers vs. Wizards fixture (with special interest in fellow countryman Luis Scola, no doubt). And on a night with the world’s most famous athlete on hand, the game did not disappoint.

Except that it did. So, so much disappointment.

The Wizards were in control from the opening tip. And perhaps more positive than anything else, Bradley Beal looked locked in, ready to help John Wall get buckets AND make plays. He finished the first quarter with 5 points and 2 assists.

Fate turned on Beal in a moment, as his torturous misfortune again reared its ugly head:

Optimism quickly turned to concern, and the overwhelming thought going into halftime was “how bad is Brad?” Well, that, and “how are we up by only 2?!”

The Wizards outshot the Pacers 40% to 36%, and at one point had held a 13 point lead. Yet despite outshooting the Pacers from both the field and the free throw line (+7 pts), the Wizards managed to keep Indiana around with costly turnovers and critical offensive rebounds. Tonight, the miscues were far more about quality than quantity.

The second 24 began tenuously, as the Pacers chipped their way back into the game, and then into the lead after consecutive open Solomon Hill 3’s from the left corner.

Then John Wall happened. Wait, this deserves all caps…

THEN JOHN WALL HAPPENED.

With 3-time Balon D’Or winner Messi watching, John Wall put on a “Golden Ball” worthy performance of his own. Highlight after highlight, huge play after huge play.

He began with a little George Gervin impersonation:

Soon after, he followed with a #dc3, because almost nothing gets the crowd going like John Wall hitting from deep:

Then he delivered this perfectly weighted through-ball to set up Marcin Gortat, one of his six assists on the night.

Just for symmetry’s sake, he lofted in this three-point play in the 3rd quarter for good measure.

In the 4th, he simply couldn’t miss, like Aguerro shooting at an empty net, to the tune of 17 fourth quarter points.

With six minutes left, the Wizards had reopened a double-digit lead, this time up by 10. Luis Scola had even come through, providing free chicken for his countrymen courtesy of two missed 4th quarter free throws. Surely, there would be no squandering this one.

However, on this night, John Wall was not left alone in his heroics. George Hill showed up to challenge him for glory, like Ronaldo to Wall’s Messi. Within minutes, momentum had shifted, and the Wizards found themselves down three with just 30 seconds remaining.

But John Wall was not finished. As Wall would tell it, the play was designed first for Pierce, or for Rasual Butler off of a flare screen, but the Pacers marked both men well. So Wall did what great players do. He summoned one final moment of brilliance, a game tying three from the top of the key that brought the DC loyals to their feet in jubilation, and brought his total to 34 on the night.

Yet, like John Wall, George Hill had one final moment of brilliance of his own. Sitting on 27 points, the Pacers ran the same set play the Pacers always run, and the Wizards failed to get the stop they needed. Hill drove right, and when the Wizards failed to trap (as coaches and players agreed was the plan), he drove right around Martell Webster for an easy game winning lay-up, like scoring from the penalty spot while the Wizards 7 foot, 60 million dollar keeper watched from the bench as the ball fell through the bottom of the net.

Game over. As the final buzzer sounded, the Wizards were forced to face the brutal truth. They had given away what should have been an ESPN Classic John Wall performance. They had once again found a way to lose, when victory was firmly in their grasp. The players had given Wittman justification to state after the game that “I don’t trust these guys to do any switching.” Wittman vented his own frustration, stating over and over and over that “we’ve got to have other guys step up.” And Wall had plenty of reasons to express that same frustration with his teammates. He refused.

In the end, the Wizards provided Messi and his soccer buddies with perhaps what they are all most familiar with: A team-wide dive of Ginoblian proportions. A collapse to pull defeat from the jaws of victory.

After a loss like this, the Wizards have but one choice as they try to end this losing streak, and close out their final 10 games strong.

Take us out Taylor.


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