WASHINGTON -- At the end of the day, nobody stopped Isaiah Thomas all night. John Wall, despite all of his athletic gifts, never stood a chance. And in the end, neither did Garrett Temple.
Randy Wittman, tired of the poor pick and roll coverage on Thomas, put Temple in for the crucial possession with the game tied and 7.9 seconds left. The Kings got the ball to Thomas, and just like Wall before him, Temple didn't shade Thomas the right way. Thomas dribbled left, got to his sweet spot in the middle of the lane and swished the floater down to give the Kings the 96-94 victory.
So much for playoff talk.
After 46 minutes of uninspired play, the Wizards finally got it together for a couple possessions late. They took a one-point lead when Wall curled around on a cut and Nene found him from the post for a layup, then got a stop when Okafor forced Evans into a horrible crosscourt pass. But Wall then missed a layup, let Thomas go left for the go-ahead hoop and made a silly full-court drive for a missed layup to try to get back at him, giving the Kings the ball with a one-point lead.
A shot-clock violation gave the Wizards some life, but the next possession killed it. Unsurprisingly, the Wizards dumped the ball into the post for Nene, but the timing of the play was all off. Nene ended up holding the ball for several seconds with Chuck Hayes in his grill, tried making a move to the middle and got stoned by Hayes. As is his custom, Nene tried to make a difficult pass instead of forcing a difficult shot, and he turned it over.
But the Kings opened the door. After Wall got a quick two, Tyreke Evans missed one of two free throws with 11.7 seconds left. The Wizards look incredibly confused on their inbounds pass, but eventually, they got the ball into Webster, who pump-faked Evans to space, drove and hit a difficult layup to tie the game. Ultimately, though, that wasn't enough.
The Wizards played uninspired ball throughout the second half, and that carried over early in the fourth quarter. A.J. Priceand Crawford had open Wizards twice, but their passes were a beat off, leading to turnovers. A Jimmer Fredette layup cut Washington's lead to two points with 9:11 left and prompted Wittman to go back to Wall much earlier than he probably anticipated.
And then, the game was on. The Wizards kept flailing around, and finally, the Kings made them pay. A poor transition pickup forced Beal to guard Thomas Robinson in the post, which eventually led to an Isaiah Thomas three that gave Sacramento the lead. Seraphin followed with a layup, but Robinson gave Sacramento the lead again by banking in a long two. On the Wizards' next two possessions, Beal air-balled a contested three from the left corner and Seraphin barely grazed rim on a mid-range jumper. The spacing was abysmal, and once again, the only reason things didn't get out of hand was because the Kings missed mid-range jumpers.
A couple nice breaks allowed the Wizards to tie the game again. Webster hit a difficult three off an inbounds pass, and Wall then got a transition layup on a beautiful pass from Nene. But the Kings continued to milk Isaiah Thomas in pick and rolls, and the Wizards couldn't stop it. Wall and Nene yelled at each other after one breakdown led to a floater. A Thomas free throw gave the Kings an 89-88 lead and set up the end.
- The Wizards made the mistake of helping one pass away in the second quarter. In other words, when a guy drove or posted up, the Wizards contained penetration by having the man guarding the Kings player closest to the ball. That's bad because it makes it easy for the driving/posted up player to find that open man with an easy pass.Trevor Ariza and Wall were especially bad culprits. This allowed Francisco Garcia in particular to get free for a couple three-pointers.
- Wall showed very nice patience in transition situations in the first half. Rather than just charge hard at the rim, he paused for a second to survey the floor before picking the lane he wanted to attack.
- Beal's wrist really doesn't look right. I get the sense that the Wizards want him to learn to play through the pain, but I don't really think it's helping him much. His struggles, along with his four fouls, forced the Wizards to go to a Webster/Ariza wing combination that is far from ideal.
- A.J. Price stunk in this game. One of the underrated keys to the winning streak was his improved play. He reverted back to the guy that made incredibly slow decisions with the ball in the first half of the season.