There's only so much John Wall can do. The Washington Wizards, who entered their game against the Oklahoma City Thunder missing four of their top six players, were reminded of that as they fell, 103-80. Wall and Emeka Okafor played their hearts out, while Kevin Seraphin and Garret Temple both had decent games.
Even at full strength, Washington is going to have a hard time beating the Thunder in Oklahoma City, and all the hustle and aggression in the world isn't enough to offset Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant if you can't put points up yourself. The team ran out of gas in the second half, but the overall performance wasn't that bad. They were beaten by a good team. It happens. You can live with it as long as everyone plays their role to the best of their ability and works hard, and the Wizards did their best.
- It was evident very early on that Washington had no business winning this game. The absence of both Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster sounds bad enough, but watching Trevor Booker and Chris Singleton attempt to play at the same time was just painful. Washington's spacing was bad from the get-go and Booker struggled to contest or make shots in the paint against OKC's length.
- Wall and Okafor played their hearts out in the first quarter. Both were very active, with Wall constantly looking for contact around the basket and Okafor tapping out rebounds left and right. Despite their best efforts, Oklahoma City was just a more talented team and had a 29-23 lead at the end of the first quarter. There's only so much you can do when your most consistent outside shooter is Garrett Temple and your third best player is Kevin Seraphin.
- Jan Vesely played a couple of minutes and looked, well, Jan-like. If his teammates got into the habit of looking for him around the basket more often he would average an extra dunk or two per game.
- Washington's offense went to hell with Wall out. At one point the NBA's fifth best defense had the enviable task of guarding a five man lineup of Temple-Martin-Singleton-Vesely-Seraphin. Shot clock violations and bad turnovers abounded. and Washington only scored two points in the three and a half minutes Wall sat to start the second quarter.
- Seraphin looked really good in the first half, despite a statline that might have you believe otherwise. He was really active, pursued the ball, bullied Hasheem Thabeet a bit, and served as a decent go-to scorer when Wall didn't have the ball in his hands. He's still not where he was at this point in the season last year, but he's a lot better than the guy we saw in December and January.
- Westbrook looked good tonight. He's a lot stronger and faster than Temple, is the beneficiary of his share of veteran calls and his ability to pul up and drain a jumper off the dribble is really underrated. Poor Garrett.
- The team did a complete 180 once Wall came back in the second quarter. They cut a double digit lead to four before the Thunder called time out. As has been the story all year, players like Okafor, Booker, Singleton and Seraphin stink when teams try to run their offense through them. Put a playmaker and willing passer on the floor with them, and they suddenly become really useful.
- Washington was down 53-45 at the start of the second half. After shooting 30 percent from the floor as a team in the first half, the Wizards only hope seems to be either another transcendent performance from Wall or someone like Martin or Singleton hitting three or four three pointers in a row.
- A Sabo Thefolosha (is that a thing?) three made it 74-50 OKC with 7:20 left in the third. The key to the Thunder's run? A bunch of three pointers and an inability to score on Washington's part. The Wizards points tended to come off of free throws brought about by hustle plays, while the Thunder started to make their threes (four in the quarter). There's only so much you can do when only one of your players can handle the ball.
- Some hustle plays from Wall and Okafor cut the Thunder lead to 11. Let me re-state: Neither of these guys are going to look like they did all that well when this game is over, but they're doing everything they're physically capable of to keep the Wizards in this, including putting their bodies on the line. Props
- OKC lead 83-66 at the start of the fourth quarter. Russell Westbrook has been the clear MVP for the Thunder, as Agent 2.0 scored about a point a minute and overwhelmed Temple. Wall could have probably had some luck against him defensively, but with Beal, Nene, Webster and Ariza out, he was too valuable to the offense to risk the foul trouble that Westbrook tends to get guys into.
- Everyone stopped trying around the 5:00 minute mark in the fourth. No joke, it was actually cool to get a look at Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones III, a guy who did nothing in the NBA after I wrote an article suggesting Washington consider using the third pick in the draft on him.
- The last few minutes of the game were uneventful. It's nice seeing Vesely get some burn, but unless you're really into cult players, there was nothing worth mentioning.