You know, a late season matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks didn't look like a must-win with Top 4 playoff seeding on the line. And for a while, this looked even easier than we hoped. Then, #SoWizards. Dread.
Thankfully, Real Deal Beal showed up with this clutchness to punctuate a 114-107 win.
How'd we get here? The Bucks went on an 8-3 run and briefly retook the lead in the middle of the first, and while the Wizards shots started falling again, we had to wonder when the lack of defensive intensity was going to start costing them. As with most difficult questions, the Professor had the answer. Andre Miller keyed an explosion, (SOMECRAZYHOW) getting to the rim at will, dropping dimes, racking up steals and generally looking fresh as hell. By the end of it, Bradley Drew Gooden was taking threes. Drew Gooden. The Wizards were up 28! On to the Heat!
EXCEPT it just wouldn't feel like home without a stomach-dropping collapse in the third quarter, would it? To be entirely honest, feet started dragging at the end of the first half and the Wizards regressed to the mean in a manner that could only be called statistical, racking up zero points over the first 7:02 of the third frame. Careless defense? Ugly turnovers? Zaza Pachulia making Marcin Gortat look silly in the post? Yup. Still, the Bucks were plenty sloppy themselves. Against any other team, that 28-point lead is gone by the time the Wiz managed to score again.
John Wall didn't look like an All-Star tonight and there were stretches where he didn't look like a starter. Brandon Knight torched him on defense, he made poor basketball decisions, looked disinterested...take your pick. Throwing a pass back to a well-defended Gortat in the high post, allowing Milwaukee to cut the lead to four, was the capper for a deeply disconcerting footnote to a needed victory.
The Bucks refused to go away, but while Wall fed them the dagger, it was Bradley Beal refusing to surrender the lead in the closing minutes. He made a tremendous move inside to push it to five, then hit the three you see above. Everything turned out OK, chalk another one up for the home team, at least.
But still. I know everyone became tired of moral victories. Where do we stand on moral defeats?
What's that sinking feeling, you ask? [looks at schedule] Ah. Right.
- Nothing represents this season in microcosm like Beal bricking a designed long two and Trevor Ariza automatic from deep.
- You only want to score in the second and fourth quarter, Bradley? Fine.
- And the obligatory behind-the-back stepback heat check from midrange.
- You know the trouble you can see coming but can't stop? That's Andre Miller.
- Oh, the hot shooting doesn't have to cool off? Kay.
- MARTELL! UNVEIL THE WIZARD, MAN!
- So, that Bradley Beal guy seems okay at shooting threes, coach.
- When Webster is snaking offensive rebounds on missed free throws, it probably isn't your night.
- Both teams extremely flat coming into the second half. Nobody looks like they want to play.
- Ariza feeding a streaking Miller in traffic ... painful to watch.
- And in the second half, Lord Athreeza rested. And so did everyone else, apparently.
- Huge steal and assist from Wall ... but good lord, CAN NO ONE KEEP THE BUCKS OFF THE OFFENSIVE GLASS?
- Bradley Beal will save every one of us. Tremendous fourth quarter, young man.
- John Wall with the dagger? More life out of Wall in the last two minutes than the previous forty-six.