On Saturday night, we discussed whether or not John Wall is making"the leap." Tonight just adds to the discussion as the Wizards saw their max player close out yet another down-to-the-wire game. In the final 5 minutes of the game, Wall hit three elbow jumpers, whipped a pass to a rolling Nene for a dunk to take the lead, and hit eleven of his twelve free throws that led to their 116-111 victory over the Lakers.
But Wall wasn't the only reason why the Wizards escaped this game with a win on their home floor. With Bradley Beal watching from the sidelines, Martell Webster and Nene turned in huge performances to help shoulder the load on offense. If this team is going to continue their ascension up the Eastern Conference standings, they're going to do it through a collective effort.
The defensive effort was far from great, and giving up 111 points to the Lakers is never ideal, but pulling out these type of victories never came easy for this team in the past.
Here's my game notes in chronological order:
- The offense has found a really nice rhythm the past few days, and you can thank Nene and Gortat for it. Really helps when you have two bigs capable of handling the ball and facilitating from the elbows. Early on we saw Webster get an easy dunk off a backdoor cut, and then followed it up later with a dribble handoff from Nene. It's been a pleasant change-of-pace from the traditional pick and rolls ran with John Wall.
- If there's one thing that has stuck out most about the defense, it's been the undisciplined effort from the wings along the perimeter. Part of it is by design, Ariza and Wall are at their best when they're playing passing lanes and freelancing on the floor, but there has to be some sort of middle ground between that and staying home on shooters. The Lakers had 14 assists on 19 made field goals all before the 5 minute mark of the second quarter, and most came on the Wizards helping one pass away.
- Defensive rotations were a problem the entire night. John Wall in particular was lazy fighting over screens, and fell asleep quite a few times on Steve Blake. We always talk about him struggling against crafty PG's that keep their dribble alive, and it's not hard to see why.
- The offense went away from what was working in the first half, and a lot of it had to do with their insistence on pushing the ball off rebounds. Both Webster and Wall tried splitting two defenders on a fastbreak instead of waiting for his teammates to get back. But it's hard to knock them for doing so when Wall is playing the way he did tonight
- I don't think anyone's getting down on Vesely if he keeps playing like this. He's never going to live up his draft selection and he's never going to fill up the stat sheet, but he's playing productive minutes on a team without many other options at his position. Webster will get most of the credit for leading the second unit's surge at the beginning of the fourth, but it was Vesely who freed up shooters with instinctive back screens and tip outs from the paint.
- The bench is only going to be credited for 7 points on the night, but leaving Webster out there with the second unit was a huge boost to the offense. Obviously this kind of shooting is unsustainable, but you can't blast Wittman for his rotations. It's going to be really interesting how he integrates Otto Porter into the mix.