WASHINGTON -- I'm not going to lie: when I witnessed the Wizards falling behind by double digits in the first quarter, I turned to Amin and predicted that they'd rally to make it a seven-point game in the second quarter, then fall behind by 15 and never come back.
Boy, was I wrong. Instead, the Wizards rallied late in the second quarter, took the lead at halftime, pulled further ahead in the third and executed beautifully down the stretch for a 105-97 win. Sure, it was the Magic, but a win is a win at this point. Nothing is guaranteed, and the Wizards still need to take charge, yada yada yada.
You'll find that a lot of these notes is me lauding Garrett Temple's play. He was great. Jordan Crawford piled in the points and Nene and Kevin Seraphin were excellent, but it was Temple that keyed the win. He organized the Wizards offensively and put the clamps down on Jameer Nelson defensively after he went off early in the game. Without Temple, the Wizards lose big.
Here are your notes.
- Shelvin Mack said last game that the Wizards didn't do a good job of reading the scouting report on certain guys. Apparently, that includes himself. In this game, he ducked under two ball screens involving Jameer Nelson even though Nelson is much better pulling up from behind the line for threes than driving to the rim. The third time made me want to scream. Did Mack not see Nelson pull up the previous two times?
- I didn't like the Red Sea parting on Maurice Harkless' dunk. Both Nene and Emeka Okafor had a chance to step up and take a charge. Neither did.
- It was almost like those threes deflated the Wizards' spirit. Defensive rotations that were being made in half-court situations earlier in the game weren't being made after Nelson bombed away. There was very much a sense of "here we go again" pervading the team.
- The Magic's defensive rotations are really on point, and when I say that, I'm saying that they understand angles and know how to guard two men at once when the primary defender is beat. Precise positioning is clearly something they practice.
- J.J. Redick continued to get open looks, exposing Crawford's absolute disintrest in staying with him. In the locker room, the Wizards have a board where they track the percentage of jump shots that the players contest in a game. Crawford's number has been lower than any member of the team all season. He was lucky that Redick missed many of those shots.
- Garrett Temple played pretty well during his stint. I expect him to start tomorrow.
- I might be reading too much into this, BUT ... I thought it was significant that Serpahin took that 17-footer instead of handing it off to Crawford. Crawford obviously got the Wizards back into the game in the second quarter, but it was in typical Crawford fashion. (This is the thing that always happens, and it's fair to ask whether Crawford is selfish or simply responding to the lack of talent around him). On this play, Crawford ran into Seraphin on the drive, and Seraphin may not have been happy about it. I dunno, maybe I'm reading too much into it.
- Orlando let the Wizards back into the game because they lack scorers and go through droughts. Things were really bad when E'Twaun Moore was running the point, and the Wizards were able to take advantage with some early offense on the other end.
- Seraphin very much thinks first about his own scoring and second, third, fourth and fifth about everything else.
- Whoa, I did not know Beal had the kind of hops he showed on that alley-oop dunk.
- Temple really ran the point solidly in this one. I especially liked his crosscourt pass to Crawford for an open three with under two minutes left in the first half. He saw that Crawford's help defender sunk into the middle to prevent the roll man from getting a dunk, and he timed his crosscourt pass just as the help defender moved, which left Crawford WIIIIIIIIDDDDE open.
- The three-guard lineup that closed the half worked out a lot better than I expected. It is workable when Temple is as big as he is and Beal is capable of playing big by rebounding and defending threes.
- Beal's issues shooting the ball are well-documented. He clearly seems to be aiming shots instead of taking them fluidly. But based on how he ended the first half, I completely buy his assertion from Wednesday that he doesn't think about scoring too much on the court. He continued to work with his defensive rotations, and you have to like the way he came down to swat a shot at the rim.
- Okafor really stood up offensive players at the rim in this game. If defense were simply about that, he'd be one of the best in the league.
- Seriously, Temple's defense on Nelson was outstanding. There's a guy with a Spurs background that reads the scouting report. He's longer than Mack, sure, but he also was jumping around high ball screens and channeling Nelson to the basket, where his lack of size proved to be a detriment. Temple proved the age-old axiom: it's one thing to read a scouting report, it's another to process it.
- Orlando's inability to space the floor is very Wizards-like.
- Okafor engaged in some nice defensive rotations in this game. I liked the way he cut off Nelson late in the shot block before Nelson got to the lane, preventing Nelson from even getting an attempt to the basket.
- I think there's some utility to a three-guard lineup with both Crawford and Beal. Beal is potentially a good spot-up player, and having him play more 3 may allow him to attack defenders closing out rather than have to curl off screens. Crawford can do more of the curling, which he has experience doing, and Beal can work a bit off others to get his confidence up. It's a stopgap, but potentially a worthwhile one.
- Not sure why Wittman went back to Cartier Martin over Martell Webster, given the success of the three-guard lineup. The obvious play was to go with Webster, then play three guards to close the game, but he chose to go with Martin, who lost Maurice Harkless on a couple cuts and offensive rebounds early in the fourth quarter.
- The impact of shooters: because the Magic had to account for Webster in the corner, Jordan Crawford had a lane to get the ball to Seraphin for a critical layup on a pick and roll.
- The Wizards did a really nice job of making their off-ball cuts whenever Temple is in the game. I don't think that's a coincidence. When you run a set that is well-executed, it's easier for everyone to know precisely when and where they must make their cuts. If the play is a beat off at the beginning, it affects everything at the end. With Temple in the game, the Wizards were more precise in how they timed every pass, which, in turn, affected how precise they were in timing every cut.
- Another thing that was nice to see: the aggressiveness of Seraphin when he caught a pass in a pick and roll situation. He popped out for most of the game, but in the fourth quarter, the Wizards got him rolling to the rim and he was much more aggressive.
- One more nice thing: the off-ball screening of Seraphin and Nene was excellent. The guards constantly found openings when they curled off screens or went to the basket with the dribble. Nice job by all of those guys.
- I'll refrain from talking about Crawford's dumb foul that nearly cost the Wizards more than it should have.