This team hates prosperity, doesn't it? Armed with the chance to go over .500 and facing a Detroit Pistons team that was reeling (they were blown out at home by Utah last night. Utah), the Wizards instead blew a double-digit lead and fell, 104-98 at the Verizon Center.
There were strong stretches early that made you think it was only a matter of time before this would be a blowout. The Wizards charged ahead, taking advantage of weird Pistons rotations, then withstood a run by Detroit's small lineup to push the lead back to 10 by halftime. But the devilish third quarter struck again, as the Wizards' offense kept throwing the ball to the Pistons over and over. "Thank you sirs, may I have another," the Pistons said, and the Wizards obliged again and again. Credit the Pistons for ramping up the pressure in a way they rarely have this year, but still, the Wizards needed more movement and fluidity.
The fourth quarter wasn't much better. The Wizards briefly tied the game after a John Wall three and two Nene free throws, but Rodney Stuckey, as he did so often tonight, drove at Martell Webster and hit a floater, plus the foul. The Wizards never were able to knot it up from there, as they kept missing opportunities. Trevor Ariza and Webster bricked open threes. Wall forced a turnover, then lost it in the backcourt, leading to an alley-oop. Bradley Beal snuck behind Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but blew the layup. Wall made a beautiful behind-the-back move, then got his dunk blocked.
From there, all it took were a couple timely buckets from Stuckey and Smith to seal it. Wall tried his darndest, but the Wizards could never get the stops they needed. It officially ended when Nene threw the ball right to a Pistons player in the corner instead of going up for a layup with the Wizards down five.
And thus, we must again confront the structural problems of this team. The lack of anything outside of the top eight was exposed when Trevor Booker went down. The inability to generate offense when perimeter shots weren't falling was exposed when Beal, Webster and Ariza couldn't hit the broad side of the barn. The free-throw issues that have been underplayed all season bubbled to the surface, costing the Wizards a game they would have won otherwise.
Just frustrating. This team should be better than this, but clearly, it's not.
- Boy, it didn't take much to realize how much better Booker is right now than Jan Vesely, did it? I'm almost embarrassed that this was even a question a week ago. Vesely made some nice cuts, but was a fouling machine defensively and couldn't hit a free throw. One has to wonder if he was really mentally ready to play.
- It's getting painful to watch Beal try to score around the rim. There's no explosion there. Could his legs just not be built to finish well? I worry about his injury history.
- You have to appreciate the effort Wall showed throughout the game and especially late when nobody else was doing anything. This loss is by no means on him. I still thought he was often too sloppy, though, contributing to some of the turnover problems the team had. Something to think about, even though without him, things would have been much, much worse.
- Anyone else think it was an odd decision to go with Ariza on Smith and Webster on Stuckey late? Ariza's length lets him play off the quicker Stuckey, and Smith always struggles against Nene.
- The number of possessions where players just weren't moving was disheartening. Even some of the fourth-quarter points came after someone bailed out a bad possession. This team is too deficient in shot creators to not cut and screen forcefully.
- But seriously, YGTMYFT.
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