By Ryan Rodriguez
With 12 games on the NBA docket last night and multiple playoff-like matchups taking place (including all four of the teams I will write about for our NBA preview playing), I decided a league pass viewing night was in order. Staggered start times allowed me to take in the majority of four games last night and they all turned out to be drama-filled, down to the wire games. After watching a bunch of college basketball where teams do their best to miss open jumpers and use all of their ridiculous 35 second shot clock, it was great to get back to watching basketball played at the highest order, where players and not coaches control the game. Without further ado, lets get to a rundown of the games.
Charlotte 94–88 Washington
With Washington being one of my teams for the playoffs, I wanted to catch one last full game of the Wiz before I write on them, and what better game to watch than their battle for the 6th seed with the Bobcats. In the first half, we can just say that the Wiz were doing everything in their power to make me regret watching this game and ever jumping on the Wiz bandwagon. As the lead ballooned to 20, I was facilitating between marveling at Al Jefferson’s brilliance and thinking about how the Wiz have gone from blowing every game late to now just getting blown out early. However, you could see the tide changing as the second quarter came to a close, as Marcin Gortat and John Wall made their presence felt within the game.
In the second half, the Wiz showed some great qualities (three point shooting aside), most importantly their defense, as they suffocated the Bobcats offense into missed shot after missed shot and mounted a comeback. They backed this with Gortat going beast mode and turning into the only efficient player on the floor, who finished with a line of 27 (13/18 FG) and 14, putting the team on his back as Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal missed what seemed like shot after shot. However, the most impressive Wizard to me was John Wall, who has morphed into a lead guard who affects the team with leadership and will as much as skill. Just the way he took command in the second half, getting the Wiz the shots they needed as a facilitator, before knocking down a couple midrange J’s (yes I know, I was surprised) to force OT.
Alas, the Wiz do what the Wiz do best, and that was ultimately come unraveled at the end, being outscored 7-1 in the extra period. This game literally gave me the full Wiz experience, as they showed some horrible play, some grit, resiliency, and good play, before reminding me just how they can crumble at the end. It really came down to their lack of ability to consistently knock down jumpers, as Beal and Wall showed they still have work to do to reach a next level. Regression to the mean is expected in close games, suggesting the Wiz will not blow nearly as many late games in the future, but at this stage, I believe they are who they are this season and that is a team that is ultimately shaky down the stretch because they have trouble scoring. Also Randy Whitman sucks as a coach.