Wizards Weekend Wrap-Up
A thriller in The Rotten Apple; a heat check back in DC.
We’re playing catchup here at Hoop District after a bittersweet back-to-back for the Wizards over this past weekend. After clinching a playoff berth earlier last week, the Wizards were poised to roll the momentum over to basketball’s biggest stage when they faced the Knicks of New York at the Garden. The Wizards showed up, overcame a bombardment of JR Smith three’s, and ultimately conquered the game behind another memorable MSG performance by Bradley Beal.
Things would quiet down pretty quick just 24 hours later when they returned back to Verizon for the Bulls in a game that was never close from the opening tip. The Wizards got smacked, and smacked hard by the tough-nosed Bulls. The Bulls pounced on the Wizards from the opening tip, took a lead as big as 28 and cruised on a big game from DJ Augustine. Interestingly, Randy Wittman and the Wizards didn’t take the loss too hard, but instead were content with using the game as a learning curve and a tool of reference for the postseason. After all, a Bulls-Wizards matchup is more likely than not.
Wizards 90 – Knicks 89
April 4, 2014
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
A Big Panda State of Mind
Call him #BlueMagic. Call him #BigPanda. Call him whatever you like. Just don’t call him late for dinner.
There’s no denying that Shump’s pressing defensive tactics had Beal hampered at various moments of the game, but the Panda was outright magnificent on the Rotten Apple hardwood Friday night. I’ve been an advocate for the evolvement of Beal’s floor game since the day I first watched him play in the Vegas Summer League and as time passes, we’re seeing more and more of what he’s made of. Simply put, he’s en route to becoming an offense-creating monster in this league.
At a the cute age of 20, Beal’s comfort on the big stage and his knack for big time moments screams volumes of his growth and evidences his gradual incline to the top of his game. As JR Smith continued to downpour throughout the night, Beal remained unfazed. Although he couldn’t reciprocate what Smith was doing from behind the arc, Beal succeeded in keeping the Wizards in it by jaw dropping attacks to the rim and beautiful sequences of ball handling to get open shots.
The move he put Shumpert below was just marvelous on all accounts. The hesitation kept Shumpert timid, the pump fake had him foolishly leaping in the air, and the left-handed dribble over to the baseline for a beautiful step back jumper left me fazed with a myriad of internet acronyms tossing around in my heads. OMG. WTF.
The #BlueMagic hatchet.
This play, which ultimately became the fateful dagger for the Knicks, was another work of art. Just look at Beal patiently move around Gortat’s pick and dizzy two Knick defenders before merging to an open spot and shooting over the outstretching arms of Carmelo Anthony. I know I’m totally lionizing this kid but the poise and confidence we’re seeing over the past few games is not only a great pleasure to witness, but also happening at a very timely moment for the playoff-bound Wizards. I cannot wait to see what becomes of all this when the postseason comes around.
More Bealights from the Mecca
Bulls 96 – Wizards 78
April 5, 2014
Verizon Center, Washington, DC
— Randy Wittman
The follow-up to the thriller in Manhattan didn’t exactly render the pleasure of the previous night’s outcome. In fact, it was about as awful of a performance as you could imagine, especially after such a dignifying win over the Knicks.
The Bulls arrived in Chinatown, took the opening tip and gave the Wizards a nice backhanded smack before putting them in time-out with a dunce cap. Behind the marksmanship of DJ Augustine (6-11 from 3) and the 1-2 front court punch of Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer (a combined 37 points and 16 rebounds), the Bulls soared early and never let up. The Wizards trailed by as many as 28 points in the first half while accumulated just 26 total points for themselves. With a terrible shooting night from Trevor Ariza and minimal assistance from the bench unit, the Wizards barely had a chance besides cutting the lead to 11 points late in the 3rd.
But after the game, the Wizards remained collective. Randy Wittman acknowledged a loss like this can only serve as a tool of reference as the postseason looms and that rather than fuming about it, they should learn from it. The Bulls are about a blueprint type of playoff team as you can come across and on Saturday night, they gave the Wizards the business.