It's never easy is it? This should have been a bounce-back game to lift everyone's spirits, and frankly, a blowout before heading to Denver. But the Wizards did what they do best: resort to bad habits and play down to their opponents. Despite a strong 28-point, 14-assist performance from John Wall, the Wizards kept the Lakers in it before time finally ran out. In the end, they managed to pick up a win out west, winning in LA, 117-107.
Nothing encapsulates their season quite like that third quarter. Despite a superhuman performance from Wall, who was Chris Paul-like from midrange, the Lakers managed to fall behind by 20 points and cut the lead to six in the span of those twelve minutes. There were major floor balancing issues all night, which should never be the case against a D'Antoni-led team that prides itself on pushing the ball. Multiple players were hunting for offensive rebounds, wings were slow getting back in transition, and no one was accounting for Jodie Meeks leaking out early.
Luckily, these were the Lakers and they were bad enough to allow Washington to hold onto the victory. But again, it wasn't going to come easy, and the floor balancing issues lingered on throughout the game. The Wizards won't play at a pace as frenetic as tonight very often, but it's disconcerting how often they play right to their opponent's hands.
Things got going pretty quickly with Wall nabbing nine assists in the first quarter thanks to a flurry of easy transition opportunities. And much like last night in Portland, they were pushing the ball off misses and taking advantage of an unset defense. When your opponent has the likes of Gasol, Sacre, and Kendall Marshall all on the floor at once, you better be attacking.
But then the script flipped in the second quarter completely. They began to slow it down and post-up more often, which essentially killed all the momentum in the game and allowed Los Angeles to get back in it. Sometimes you can't help it when your second unit features Andre Miller, Al Harrington, and Drew Gooden. They're old and they're not going to run the floor hard, and are a lot more likely to resort to post-ups when their initial action fails. Amin wrote about Beal's sampling period earlier this month, but these lulls in the second unit has to make you wonder how much different the offense would look if Andre Miller had the ball in his hands more often as he did in Denver.
But the defense is the bigger story here. They were inexplicably sending hard-hedges at Steve Nash out of the pick and roll -- which you should never do, ever -- and he picked them apart to the tune of eleven assists in just under 20 minutes of play. That can't happened against a player that isn't a threat to get all the way to the rim and that rarely looks for his shot off the dribble.
Washington was never fully in control of the game, and left a lot to be desired in a game they should have handled. They'll need to string together some convincing victories before the playoffs to really turn some heads because things are beginning to look a little bleak. The win is nice, but man was it hard to watch at times.