Suns (42-29) at Wizards (36-34)
March 26, 2014 at 7:00 PM
Verizon Center, Washington, DC
TV: CSN Washington
Radio: 106.7FM The Fan
Projected starting lineups:
C- Marcin Gortat
PF- Trevor Booker
SF- Trevor Ariza
SG- Bradley Beal
PG- John Wall
C- Miles Plumlee
PF- Channing Frye
SF- P.J. Tucker
SG- Eric Bledsoe
PG- Goran Dragic
First meeting since..
January 24, 2014 @ Verizon Center
This was pretty much a buzzkill game for the Suns who were just a night removed from destroying the Pacers by 24 points. Credit a chunk of that to Bradley Beal who scored 7 of the Wizards’ final 8 points including a daggerizing dunk to seal the game. Earlier this week, Bill Simmons pointed out that since 1990, only three top 3 picks have accumulated under 500 minutes in one season, including Otto Porter. This is noteworthy because a good helping of those minutes were earned in that Suns game, 19 to be exact. The production was, well, about as slender as his frame. Six shot attempts, one make, six rebounds, an assist and a block.
The Suns are a young and exciting team. They play in a tougher conference than the Wizards and boast a better record. Nevertheless, they are in a 3-team race for the final spot for a Western Conference playoff seed.
The Wizards likely aren’t worried about making the playoffs at this point as much as they are worried about having a chance at homecourt advantage. In relativity to the past, it’s a lot to be grateful for. Then again, the Wizards have more talent than they had in the past. The Wizards seem to lack a feeling inside of them that compels them to keep fighting, to realize it’s not over until the fat lady sings.
After the All-Star Break, we thought the Wizards had “figured it out.” There was a cloud that showered rain upon the Wizards that followed them for years. The inconsistencies. The unpredictability. We never knew how to feel after watching a Wizards game, win or lose. Yes, the Wizards were the Zoloft egg. By extension, we became Zoloft eggs. The pain and anguish that came along with rooting for the Wizards on a day to day basis began to wear us down.
“Symptoms get in the way of daily life.”
“Symptoms persist every day for at least two weeks.”
Translation: The Wizards will win a big game every two weeks just to make you feel like they have a chance to continue to play to their fullest potential. Just when you feel like you’ve given up on them, which can lead to a sense of relief because of your now lowered expectations, they pull you back in.
For most perenially winning teams, the sense of urgency kicks in at around this time of year to the point where every game is of a larger magnitude than just a mark in the standings. Sure, the Pacers are losing when they shouldn’t but they are also still getting used to being top dog. The Miami Heat have been on a relative downward slide, but they’re the two-time defending champs.
The Wizards don’t have these luxuries or bragging rights but still find themselves lacking a killer instinct. If there is a Wizards player who knows it, it’s Marcin Gortat. He’s the guy who was traded here this past summer and knows how it feels to lose and win. He played in an NBA Finals with the Magic and endured losing seasons with the Suns. The Magic are a far cry from what they used to be and now the Suns are a team that can compete with any team in the NBA on a nightly basis. Gortat finds himself on a team that has the talent but lacks the drive. He finds himself stuck in neutral after being in situations where he was going 70 MPH or when he felt like he was stuck in reverse.
Gortat knows it. Do you think he wishes he was back in Phoenix? I’m not going to go that far but it’s a natural thing to wonder. In a piece written by Michael Lee of the Washington Post, Gortat was complimentary of his team but was more complimentary of how the Phoenix Suns have handled things.
“They have that killer instinct every game. We only have that every third or fourth game we win in a row. We two games in a row, then that third or fourth game, we get that killer instinct. But we’ve got to maintain it for 82 games. We got to play better. Bottom line, we got to play better. These guys are playing well. They’ve got a great coaching staff, a great defensive coordinator, Mike Longabardi, from the Boston Celtics, and they all know how to play basketball.”
That quote is one of many that essentially restate what a lot of Wizards fans and bloggers have known. The Wizards can’t keep a lead. The Wizards can’t take advantages of openings that can help them get back in games. The Wizards lack a killer instinct. They aren’t, how do I phrase it…the word is on the tip of my tongue. Forget it. Anyways…not many players in the league have that individual killer instinct that can propel them from okay to good or good to great. The team concept of having a killer instinct has a lot to do with effort. The Wizards are like a guy who’s already gotten to third base with a girl, and maybe even hit the home run. What’s the incentive? We’re up 20, we got this. We’re playing the Milwaukee Bucks, we got this. The Wizards are the kid who just got a brand new Lexus and dreaming about a new Benz while they’re driving on the highway. Watch out! Crash. Burn. Rubbernecking. Here comes Randy Wittman to give us the play-by-play. Quotables galore. If only the Wizards were, I don’t know, what’s the word. had that desire in every game.
Gortat seemed to go on and on in the Michael Lee piece.
“”They want to play basketball. They been losing 50, 60 games a year, they know how it is to lose and at some point they said, ‘[Expletive] it. We want to win the games.’ They just say, ‘We want to win.’ And they come in and put in work.””
The Suns are seemingly a polar opposite. Nobody expected the Suns to win 40+ games this year. They weren’t projected to make the playoffs. If the Suns played in the Eastern Conference, they’d be contending for the third seed. Eric Bledsoe has been in and out of the lineup. Goran Dragic has gone from team to team and has seemingly found a place where he can utilize his unique skill set. The team as a whole plays hard, regardless of whether they are playing a bottom-dweller or an elite squad. The Wizards are still muddled in a lot of facets.
This last quote by Gortat says it all. When asked about the major difference in the Suns this season, Gortat said:
“The coaching staff. That’s it. Just the mentality they brought, the culture the system they built is totally different. Nobody expected anything from these guys over there and they’re just playing freely. They are winning games, they have fun, they enjoying playing basketball. They have a lot of young guys, they still hungry.”
Hungry. That’s the word.