This was the kind of win the Washington Wizards have needed for awhile. Beginning a one-week stretch that will see them play just three games, and all at home, an easy 98-80 win over a poor Orlando Magic team was just what the doctor ordered for the Wizards' overtaxed starting lineup. Oh, and it got the team to .500 for the first time since November 2009...when Washington had a 2-2 record.
John Wall, Nene, Trevor Ariza and Marcin Gortat all played fewer than 31 minutes, and after letting the Magic briefly take a lead in the second quarter, Washington's reserves were able to actually preserve the comfortable lead the starters handed them at the end of the third quarter.
Wall didn't have a great shooting night, going only 5-for-14 from the field, but he ran a superb floor game, finishing with 16 points and 13 assists to only three turnovers. Most of those assists went to Ariza, who was on fire and led the way offensively with a game-high 24 points on 8-for-9 shooting (4-for-4 from three). Nene and Marcin Gortat were solid per usual, scoring 14 and 13 points, respectively, but their impact was felt most on defense. Nene absolutely shut down Glen Davis, and Gortat made things difficult on Nikola Vucevic, who finished with a pedestrian (for him) 10 points and eight rebounds.
In addition to his offense, Ariza was a game-changer defensively in the second half on Aaron Afflalo, who single-handedly kept the Magic in the game with 17 first-half points. But Ariza clamped down on Afflalo in the second half, allowing him to score only four points after intermission. That as much as anything was what let the Wizards rebuild the lead the bench blew in the first half.
Speaking of which, after starting the game on a 15-2 run thanks to sound defense and smooth offense, the Washington got to liking the smell of its own farts a bit too much. Instead of just sticking with what was working and continuing to run the offense, the Wizards started trying to make plays in isolation, resulting in misses that then led to transition opportunities for the Magic, which was about the only way they could score efficiently. Things only got worse when the bench came in, and by the end of the first the score was knotted at 22-22. The Magic took the lead early in the second quarter and maintained it until Washington's starters came back in and quickly got things under control.
Given a second chance, the Wizards bench finally came through in the second half. Eric Maynor entered for Wall with two minutes remaining in the third quarter and the Wizards sporting a 71-57 lead. Four minutes into the fourth, with Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton in the game alongside Maynor, Nene and Martell Webster, the lead had ballooned to 21. This is more an indictment on Orlando than an endorsement of Washington's reserves, but still, it is nice to see the bench not absolutely implode for once. Randy Wittman was able to empty his bench with three minutes to play and the game well in hand.
Here's your game notes:
- Glen Davis might want to break into the NBA film vault and burn the film of the first half this game to make sure his ugly sequences against Nene are cleared from the historical record. Not only is Nene one of the few NBA players thick enough to hold his ground against Davis in the post, but he's also barely tall enough to block Davis' shot out of a post up.
- If there's a silver lining to Wall losing his man in a pick-and-roll, it's that it makes for an easy fast break following a missed layup.
- The home crowd either cheered Nene as he was coming out in the first quarter, or they were cheering Jan Vesely. #WolfClap?
- Pretty sure Vesely could take a hatchet to the forehead from his man, and the refs would say Airwolf swung his head into the path of said hatchet.
- Chris Singleton made his first jumper of the game (a PUJIT, no less), which is bad, because it gave him the confidence to keep shooting jumpers, with predictably bad results.
- The Wizards started the second quarter with Eric Maynor, Martell Webster, Singleton, Trevor Booker and Nene on the floor, and somehow the offense was not run through Nene.
- Surprise surprise, Wall comes in the game, the turnovers stop, and Singleton decides to stop shooting jumpers and just cut to the hoop once Wall has penetrated and drawn the defense, leading to a couple easy dishes and dunks/layups.
- Oh em gee, did Big Baby get blocked by Nene twice in one half??
- Aaron Afflalo's jumper is pretty much the only thing keeping the Magic in this game.
- An off-the-dribble, off-balance three and steal from Wall to end the first half? Nothing to see here.
- Trevor Ariza has turned into the perfect complementary player alongside Wall. He's mastered the spot-up corner three, and his length defensively made a world of difference on Afflalo in the second half.
- The Wall-Gortat pick-and-roll combo is becoming a thing of beauty. Actually, the *insert player name here*-Gortat pick-and-roll combo is a thing of beauty.
- Vucevic has a lot of potential as a finesse post player. Excellent touch on his turnaround jumper.
- If Oladipo can develop a reliable jump shot, he's going to be a star.
- He missed the bunny layup, but Vesely needs to look for that drive more often. That's a play he can make.
- Vesely missed an open jumper that doubled as a pass off the rim to Booker for an easy layup, and then drew an offensive foul on the other end because opponents get mad and overreact when Vesely tries to play physical with them in the post. Seats on the #WolfWagon are filling up.
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