It’s been quite the week of milestones for the Wizards. Last night in DC, the franchise was victorious over the Spurs for the first time in a decade and a few nights prior to that, John Wall earned his first set of bragging rights after finally winning a game against Derrick Rose.
Quickly, here’s how that went down:
The Wizards dominated the 1st quarter, forcing the Bulls into two timeouts after runs of 10-2 and 11-4 and led by 30-13 by quarter’s end.
The Bulls bench made a concerted effort in the 2nd quarter to counter the developing onslaught and actually did a decent job. Led by Aaron Brooks, E’Twan Moore and Nikola Mirotec, the Bulls outscored the Wizards 21-11 in the first eight minutes of the 2nd but once the first unit for the Wizards returned, the lead ballooned right back up to 18.
Rasual Butler was huge for the Wizards. After the Bulls committed most of their damage in the 3rd quarter and trimming their deficit to six, the Butler answered the call and countered the Bulls’ comeback attempt with two consecutive 3’s and by the end of the 3rd, the Wizards were still up by double-digits.
The Wizards led by 17 at one point in the 4th when Brooks and Mirotic commenced on a mass launch of 3-balls. Three 3’s in a row, all from 27 and 28 feet, and the lead was right back to single digits. Once again it was Rasual Butler who submerged the Bulls after their pesky attempts to stay above water. Two more consecutive 3’s by him lifted the Wizards back up to a 13 point lead and put the starters in comfortable position to close out.
And by closing out, I mean getting Joakim Noah flustered to a typical state of obnoxiousness.
This is the third meeting between these two in 22 days. The Bulls won the first matchup here in DC 99-91 in what ended up being one of Derrick Rose’s best games of the season. Rose scored 25 points in that game and drove a dagger into our hearts in the 4th quarter after wiping away John Wall’s single-handed attempt at bringing the Wizards back from 11 down. Then he skipped to his Lou all over our hearts and all the way back to the bench. But alas, John Wall proved his fearlessness in the face of defeat (like he has all throughout his career), overcame the adversity, made his adjustments, and finally succeeded with reprisal.
But my concern isn’t John. It’s never John anymore, really. The concern I have is more revolved around the second unit. Or perhaps it’s more so about the Bulls’ second unit, who has outscored the Wizards in both games this season. As noted above, it was the Bulls’ bench that snatched momentum away from the Wizards in the 2nd quarter to trim the lead to 7. It was also the Bulls’ bench that did the same thing later in the 4th.
The Wizards obviously match up very well against the Bulls overall. Wall vs. Rose. Beal or Pierce vs. Butler. Any combination of Nene vs. Noah vs. Gortat vs. Gasol. No one cares about Kirk Hinrich. What we also know is that the Wizards have a group of guys coming off the bench in which any of them can make the night their’s should they be inclined to do so. From Kevin Seraphin last night, to Andre Miller vs. the Thunder a few weeks ago; the consistency of Kris Humphries; Butler’s big money half against Chicago like I mentioned before. The propensity is certainly there, but so needs to be the execution.
Some of Wittman’s rotations usually fluctuate on a game-by-game basis and yes, sometimes (most times) they drive us nuts. The more consistent substitutions are the ones he makes toward the end of 1st quarter and the ones he makes to start the 4th. Then there are ones like the interesting substitution last night against the Spurs when Butler subbed in for Beal midway through the 2nd when we know it’s usually Nene who is the first starter out. *Shrugs* watevz.
Usually when a game is as close as it was last night in the 4th and against a team like the World Champs, you’d imagine it’s the starters riding out to the end. But Wittman had on his thinking cap and a few sips of his own #WittmanJava, understanding the laboriousness an impending second game of a back-to-back can cause by keeping Gortat on the bench while trusting Seraphin to man up and ball out. Just like we all trusted Seraphin to man up and ball out, right? With Wall and Gortat out, Seraphin, Kris Humphries and Andre Miller put in the work needed so that the starters – sans Gortat (he’s special and requires more preservation) – could return to the floor and finish the job.
Tonight, it’s imperative for the second unit to make a strong effort not to let diminish any momentum the starters create. It’s happened in both games against the Bulls this season and with the way guys like Brooks, Mirotic, Moore, Tony Snell and Taj Gibson have been playing all season as a second unit, it could make or break tonight.
Here are some loops from last Friday: