December 3, 2014 – Verizon Center, Washington, DC
Confronted by an obnoxious bandwagon crowd of DMV natives who conveniently elected to root for a historically successful franchise, and barraged by a slew of opening quarter Kobe Bryant buckets, the Wizards shunned adversity, silenced the clamor, and mopped the floor with two hands, using gold and purple ’24’ and ‘0’ jerseys.
The Lakers’ two-headed 2-guard monster in Kobe and Swaggy combined for 50 of the team’s 95 points but in the final four minutes of the game, they combined for diddly squat. Two turnovers, 0-5 from the field, and that wonderful 4-point play by John Wall after Kobe fouled him on a 3 and all else would be forgotten as the Wizards tore into the Lakers with a decisive 14-2 run to end the game.
This game was satisfying from just about every facet of the game. First of all, the best show in the league, ‘House Of Guards’ is now officially back for another season after John Wall and Bradley Beal combined for 44 points and 22 assists. Wall was phenomenal in transition, constantly in attack mode and denying defenders from staying in front of him. His activity on defense still remains sorely underrated and under-appreciated and you can ask Jeremy Lin for confirmation. Lin went 0-10 from the field and had four turnovers. Beal had the type of game we’ve been coveting all season long. After a slow start – possibly due to vague post-injury mal-conditioning – Beal poured in a season-high 27 points to go with seven assists. His shot selection was exemplary yet he still told us during his post-game interview that he was “taking what the defense gave him”. Usually that implies falling into the trap of satanic midrange jumpers but against LA, we saw much more of Beal penetrating the ball to the rim to complement some of his other shots. He was also hot from downtown, shooting 3-for-4 from that range.
The Wizards front court combo in Marcin Gortat and Kris Humprhies was excellent. Humphries obliterated the glass for 20 boards while Gortat’s pick and roll game with Wall continued to near perfection. Humphries’ rebound dominance opened up the floor for the Wizards in transition and rendered a few second chance opportunities. Gortat finished with nine made buckets, five of them assisted by Wall and four of those coming off pick and rolls.
As mentioned above, the Wizards had little answer for Kobe Bryant in the first quarter. Defended by Bradley Beal, Kobe made some terribly tough shots, specifically those unreal turnaround fadeaways we’ve been seeing for two decades now. Bryant had 15 in the first quarter but after a few defensive adjustments – primarily the appointment of Paul Pierce to switch over and defend him – Kobe went 0-7 in the second half, scoring all nine of his points at the free throw line.
Moment of the Night
This was the storyline of the evening. Run. Break. Push. John Wall’s speed mixed with the Lakers’ lack of it was a demoralizing situation for LA and you could sense it via the sensible dejection of Laker fans in attendance every time Wall shut them up.
The Wizards dominated the paint, outrebounding LA 53-43; outscoring them 56-20: The Lakers, who clearly are not blessed with the world’s greatest front court, really had zero chance against the Wizards down low. The Wizards, who clearly are blessed with Kris Humphries, got 20 boards out of him and it practically set the tone for the Wizards offensively, especially in transition. Marcin Gortat couldn’t be denied in the paint where he scored all nine of his baskets. Elsewhere, the Wizards simply took advantage of the Lakers’ oft-standstill defense with sleek backdoor cuts, extra passes in the lane, and of course, points in transition.
Game Notes and Highlights
Jeremy Lin vs. John Wall should never happen again. Actually, for my sake as a Wizards fan, I’d wish for it every night. Wall transformed Lin back into a virgin Harvard undergrad, cockblocking him from scoring even once.
Considering the boisterous nature of the bandwagon crowd and the hotness of Kobe Bryant in the first quarter, it was so important for the Wizards to refrain from getting frantic and succumbing into potential disaster. And they did exactly that, resisting the Lakers’ attack and countering it patiently with good plays. The biggest test for the Wizards was a 10-point deficit they faced late in the 2nd quarter in which they responded to with a 20-8 run to take a two-point lead going into the half.
#BigPandaJams also helped shift some momentum.
Back to Wall and Gortat’s pick and roll game…it’s pretty good if I haven’t mentioned it already. The chemistry between the two seems to be fully established as we notice Gortat knowing exactly how to move and shuffle himself to the basket after setting the screen, while Wall knows exactly how and when to dump the ball in to Tat for a smooth finish. Combine that with a bit of northern European ferocity at the rim and it’s becoming damn near unstoppable.
Ugh. Love love love love LOVE how well Gortat runs the break with Wall here.
(Love even more how precise John Wall’s timing is in making the pass to Gortat.)
It’s time to stop calling Rasual Butler the “15th roster spot”.
The Wizards also overcame a few love-calls the refs gave Kobe Bryant. A ghost foul call on Bradley Beal after Kobe pushed him off early in the game and then of course that atrocious clear path foul call on Wall. The only thing clear about that sequence was Kobe tripping over his own footing.
Sure, Kobe love-calls are inevitable, but he can have them. The important thing is that the Wizards were the ones who shimmied away with the victory.