Game Report 18: Wizards 98 Magic 80
THE GAME TURNED WHEN… With just under half the second quarter gone and the Wizards trailing 31-30, John Wall and Co. took over the game, out-scoring the Magic 21-9 until halftime. Wall got it started with back-to-back buckets and then Nene scored five straight points. Then Trevor Ariza drained a 3-pointer and followed it up with a steal and breakaway dunk. Washington was in complete control from that point onward and were never seriously threatened.
THE GAME WAS OVER WHEN… Halfway into the third quarter and the Wiz lead cut to 62-55, Washington turned to Wall and center Marcin Gortat to seal the deal. They did. First, Gortat sank a 13-footer to put Washington up by nine. A minute later Gortat made another shot, with Wall getting the assist to put the Wiz up by 11. Then Wall scored to put Washington up 13. The Magic called a timeout, but Wall responded with a 26-foot 3-pointer that put the Wiz up 71-55. Orlando never got close after that.
THE GOOD… The Wizards built up such a big lead by early in the fourth quarter that Coach Randy Wittman could leave his starters on the bench for most, if not all, of the fourth quarter. John Wall [16 points, 13 dimes, +26 court ratio] came out of the game late in the third quarter and never came back in. Wall and Marcin Gortat played only 29 minutes, while Nene and Trevor Ariza played only 31 minutes. Getting the starters a rest is a rare luxury for the Wiz this season and it is especially sweet now, when some players, particularly Nene, are feeling the effects of all the minutes they’ve been logging. Even better news: Washington does not play again until Friday, so the guys will get a really good rest while they enjoy the afterglow of their seventh win in their last nine games.
The Wizards were 9-13 on 3-pointers tonight [69.2%], with Ariza pacing the team by hitting all 4 of his shots behind the arc. In his last two games Ariza has hit 15 of 19 shots and 9 of 10 3-pointers.
Facing a team with one of the best rebounders in the NBA, Nikola Vucevic, the Wiz actually won the battle on the glass, out-rebounding the Magic 42-40. Everyone pitched in, with no one having more than six rebounds and eight players — including every starter — grabbing at least four rebounds.
The Wizards played good defense tonight. The Magic missed some open shots, but they were rested and should have been ready to steal this game in the Phone Booth. The Wizards took this game over midway through the second quarter and did it with good outside shooting and stifling defense. The Magic shot only 39 percent from the field, made only 3-15 from beyond the arc and racked up a paltry 14 assists, only one more than John Wall had by himself. The Wizards rotated nicely to the shooters and were stout in the paint.
Speaking of defense, Nene was fantastic tonight, completely shutting down Glen “Big Baby” Davis, who missed 7 of his 8 shots. Nene blocked Davis’ first shot attempt of the game and then blocked him twice more.
The Wizards got 26 points from their bench, a ton for a team that often struggles to get ten points a game from their backups. The bench was only outscored by two points, a major win for the Wiz almost any night. Washington’s bench actually out-rebounded the Magic bench 17-16.
THE BAD… 17 turnovers is too many. That’s it.
THE UGLY… From the standpoint of the Wizards, nothing. I’d like to see the Wiz get more than 13 fast break points [they held the Magic to just 11], but even there, the fact that Washington won without running up a huge advantage in early offense is impressive.
THE STUDS… John Wall shot poorly [5-14], but he made two three pointers and racked up 13 dimes to go with his 16 points. His +26 court ratio [in only 29 minutes] was high for the game. Trevor Ariza led all scorers with 24 points and was incredibly efficient doing so, hitting 8 of 9 shots, including 4-4 from long range 4-4 from the FT line. His six rebounds also tied for a team high with Nene and Chris Singleton.
THE DUDS… He wasn’t terrible by any means, but Martell Webster scored only five points on six shots tonight. He also grabbed four rebounds and didn’t turn the ball over in 34 minutes, but he was the only Wizards starter who didn’t make much of a contribution on offense. However, he did have a +19 court ratio so it’s not like he was hurting the team.
THE MISSING IN ACTION… None. The game was over midway through the fourth quarter so Wittman got to do something he rarely gets to do — empty his bench. No DNP-CD tonight.
THE WOUNDED… Al Harrington and Bradley Beal did not play, of course.
AND IT ALL MEANS… The Wizards are 9-9, at .500 for the first time since November 3, 2009, when they were 2-2 to start that season. They are now 6-2 at home and have won 7 of their last 9 games. With Atlanta losing to the San Antonio Spurs tonight, the Wiz are all alone in second place in the Southeast Division and in third place in the entire Eastern Conference. [What that says about the Eastern Conference is another matter.] The Wizards are clearly not a good team yet, but they are just as clearly improving. Bradley Beal, who was leading the team in scoring and the NBA in minutes played when he went down with a stress injury, has now missed five games and the Wizards — far from curling up and dying without their young star — have won four of five in his absence. John Wall is becoming a true star and when Nene plays the offense runs smoothly and the defense is much improved. Marcin Gortat gives Washington a real physical presence and is developing pick and roll chemistry with Wall — a very good sign for the future. Meanwhile, either Martell Webster or Trevor Ariza seem to provide the team with an offensive boost every night and sometimes they both do that.
The team now gets a day off and then light practices on Wednesday and Thursday before they get an excellent chance to actually go over .500 by playing the woeful Milwaukee Bucks in the Phone Booth. After playing two stretches of four games in five nights the past two weeks, the rest should do the Wiz, particularly Nene, a world of good. Things are looking up for the Wizards and it has been a long time since I could write that.