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The Wizards Season Finale in Cleveland: A Meaningless Game Full of Meaning

When watching a game with zero playoff implications, focusing on individual performances is proabably the essential thing to do, kind of like a preseason game. Because after all, plug anyone into a lineup and put them on the court and I’m banking that they’ll give it *100 emoji*, and that is exactly what the Wizards reserves did last night in their season finale in Cleveland.

Yes, the Wizards finally drew the curtain on their 2014-15 regular season campaign and despite it being a finale where both teams had already been locked in their respective seeds, the game still drew the intensity of a meaningful game. In fact, it drew the intensity of a playoff game according to Will Bynum when he spoke to CSN’s Chris Miller at halftime. And for the second game in as many nights, the Wizards accumulated a substantial lead, squandered it, got dragged into extra time, before finally losing. Only against the Cavs, it was DeJuan Blair and his fellow reserves who took the task of recovering from a blown lead, and it was actually fun watching them try.

Basketball is a game operated by humans, which naturally offers a plausible risk of humanly injury. Unfortunately, the risk for injuries to these humans is not exempt in the playoffs, therefore what we typically consider a meaningless game, like the one last night, actually turns out full of meaning, depending on how or why you watch. So let’s break down some of the performances by the reserves last night and discuss what it could mean for the Wizards in the postseason, should they be called upon to perform more than they’re used to.

The Guards

Let’s start with Ramon Sessions, who has obviously established himself as the primary backup to John Wall. Over the past few games, we’ve seen Sessions really notch up the pace and help sustain consistent movement up and down the court. He’s shown the ability to slash to the rim *and he’s actually finishing now*, and he’s good at drawing contact and getting to the line. He was 2-2 from 3-point last night so he’s also proven that his shooting range is not so shabby either. Sessions was also smart with the ball and took care of it well, finishing with a 6:1 assist-to-turnover ratio in 37 minutes. Production like this will be key for the Wizards offense as we know how disabled it can get without John’s facilitation.

Will Bynum will not let an opportunity to put up a shot go wasted. Ever. In 21 minutes of burn last night, Bynum scored 11 points on 15 shots, chucking up five 3-pointers and missing all of them. His knack for shooting could be a possession killer, however, Bynum did manage to control the offense without screwing things up too much. He had eight assists with only one turnover, and did most of his damage in the 2nd quarter where he shot 4-6 from the field for eight points.

The Dusted Vets.

File this play under things you’d never fathom seeing in this Wizards season: a Martell Webster-DeJuan Blair pick and roll play that was actually watchable – and successful. Webster and Blair had long been dusted up on the bench this season but in last night’s meaningless season finale, both got ample burn and both made the most of it.

This was by far the most productive outing of the season for Blair, who has only averaged 6.2 minutes per game in 29 games played. Blair clocked 24 minutes last night including the entire 4th quarter and finished with 10 points on 5-10 shooting. The immobility of his knees still remains and he’s not very dimensional, but if he establishes himself in the right spots at the right time *big ‘if’ alert*, he can be strong enough to make a play. The key stats for Blair from last night that really scream at you are his three offensive rebounds and his three steals, evidencing the awareness of a veteran and former champion. Also, #BlairTouch is a true gem.

Watching Martell make plays this season has merely become an elusive heartwarming pleasure. His ailing back and his slow redevelopment have taken dire tolls on him since his contract extension so when he gets opportunities like the one last night, albeit meaningless, it’s nice to see that he can still put in some work. ‘Tell had a game-high 20 points, knocked down a few 3’s, and best of all, he gave us that patented fall-down sequence after putting up a 3 to draw a foul.

The Butler.

Rasual Butler’s offense will be a necessity for a Wizards team that can really stagnate in that area and my God, how discomforting is it that a 35-year old swingman who’s not done much at all throughout his career is considered a scoring asset. However, the truth is that Butler can be of service if his hand is hot. The issue with him, though, is his extreme liability as a defender. His legs are simply aged and worn and it’s dauntingly noticeable when he’s trying to track down his man or close out on a shooter, something we saw this often last night against Kevin Love and others. The key for the Wizards is to rotate Butler in lineups where his poor defense is sugarcoated, and hope that his stroke is wet.

Hump Day.

I’ve touted Kris Humprhies all season long for his reliability and maybe even called his acquisition the best move the Wizards made this past offseason. He has been one of the brightest spots in Washington’s otherwise laughable half-court offense and it was something that was tremendously missed while he was out with his groin injury. Hump’s presence on the floor improves floor spacing, his off-ball screens free up shooters, and his efficiency from the midrange is supreme. It took Hump a few games to get his groove back and after his monster start last night in Cleveland (4-5, 8 points in the 1st quarter), I think he’s back in full swing. This is huge.

Who is about dat #KSLife? Because Tristan Thompson wasn’t.

We’re still waiting for the moment when Kevin Seraphin draws more of an imbalance between his brainfarts and when he’s actually locked in and making plays, in favor of the latter, of course. For every sweet hook shot, or midrange jumper, or strong play on defense, it seems like Kevin will cancel it out with an illegal moving screen, or an offensive foul away from the ball, or just a shitty bad pass. It’s really weird, actually. On some plays, Seraphin will show this big-body, overwhelming presence shouldering his defender down in the post and finishing him off with a high-percentage hook shot, thumping his chest and shouting choice expletives in French. Other times he’ll end up in an utter state of perplexity, succumbing to a trap and practically ending up looking like Lloyd Christmas lying in the corner of a public bathroom in a fetal position. What the Wizards need is less of Lloyd, and more of what he did to Tristan Thompson last night.

The Wizards, facing the Raptors, have their plate full as it is and it’s the size of a Buffalo Wild Wings appetizer platter, the $17.99 joint with fried pickles. There are plenty of matchup concerns and issues regarding offensive game planning and so on and so forth, things we’ll detail further in tomorrow’s series preview post. But this is why Wittman exposing his backup plan against the Cavs last night was important to see and important for us assess and break down. Some players, like Butler, Humphries, and Sessions are seemingly locks for Wittman’s playoff lineup, while other guys like Bynum, Seraphin and Webster are on the bubble as ready-to-go reserves. DeJuan Blair, though.. we may never see that #BlairTouch again. Because if we do, something has gone devastatingly wrong.

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