The Wizards made it three in a row tonight, beating the Milwaukee Bucks in overtime, 100-92. The team was sloppy for most of regulation but really turned it on toward the end of the game. Everyone had a solid game, with Marcin Gortat being particularly effective, shooting 11-12 from the field, making a couple of key, late baskets and finishing with 25 points and eight rebounds in 41 minutes.
The real heros tonight were Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza. They combined for 32 points and 10 assists, hit a couple of enormous shots toward the end of the game, and probably wouldn't have made it to overtime were it not for a key steal by Ariza late in the game. Webster in particular deserves a lot of credit for continuing to be effective despite the heavy minutes load and playing out of position at shooting guard. Ariza wasn't quite as good on offense as Webster, but his defense, especially when he was playing the passing lanes, was excellent.
There are two things about tonight's (otherwise fine) game that may be cause for concern: Three starters played more than 40 minutes tonight (and Wall wasn't far behind with 39) and the ball movement that had been a hallmark of the offense seemed to disappear for long stretches of the game. It's not so much that anyone in particular is trying to play hero ball as it is the team being ill-equipped to take advantage of situations in which they have a size advantage on offense. Even though Nene and Gortat can score in one on one matchups, the team as a whole functions a lot better when everyone is playing through Wall.
Anyways, the next game is Friday on the road against Indiana. That should be a tough one, and a much bigger challenge than the Lakers or Bucks have been. Here are a few notes on tonight's game.
- Washington struggled with Milwaukee's smaller, faster lineup. Wall can't just blow by quicker point guards like Knight so other players have to attempt to make plays with the ball. Webster really struggles in this situation when he's being guarded by shooting guards because his first step is rarely quick enough to get past small forwards, much less even smaller, quicker shooting guards. The Wizards made the mistake of attempting to take advantage of the smaller defenders by isolating, but this killed the ball movement that has been making the offense so effective lately.
- Wall had some really sloppy turnovers tonight, including at least two passes that landed somewhere in the stands. The team as a whole was pretty bad as far as taking care of the ball tonight, too - they shot 50% from the floor through the first four quarters, yet finished regulation with only 87 points. This was largely due to a ton of turnovers and an inability by anyone other than Nene to get to the line. Wall didn't take a single free throw tonight, too, which says a lot about how good a job Milwaukee did of keeping him out of the lane.
- The Wizards' bench played reasonably well in the second quarter and kept the game tied until the starters came back. A lineup with Seraphin, Temple, Maynor Vesely and Webster or Ariza was surprisingly effective, playing decent defense and maybe hitting a couple of lucky shots. They're going to need to be able to hold down the fort when Wall and Nene are out if the team is to have any hope of getting to .500 without Beal.
- The end of regulation went like this: Webster hit the shot of the night, a falling-out-of-bounds three from the corner that he drew a foul on with 0:57 left to tie the game. On the next play Ariza got a steal and breakaway layup to put the Wizards up two. The following Bucks possession was absolutely chaotic, with multiple missed shots, odd bounces and a wide-open, game-tying shot that was airballed by the Bucks' Middleton.
Washington got the ball back and Ariza was fouled. He split the pair, putting the Wizards up by three. Milwaukee got the ball back, swung it around a little, and Mayo hit a high-arching three over Nene, knotting the game up at 87 with :06.9 left.
Coming out of a time out, Wall got the ball at the top of the key, well beyond the three point line, drove to the basket, and just barely missed a left handed floater as regulation ended.
- Washington as a whole looked good in the extra period, with Wall in particular doing a good job of staying aggressive. Everyone seemed to settle down and play more under control down the stretch. The ball movement got better, too, and the equal opportunity offense that had been so fun to watch the last few weeks returned. An Ariza three with 1:35 left in OT put Washington up six and more or less sealed the game.
- Kevin Seraphin returned to the rotation tonight. He looked a little unsure of himself, although at least he played with energy tonight. It'd be great if he could start, you know, producing when he's on the court and soak up some of Gortat and Nene's minutes.
- I've really liked Temple's defense lately. He's doing a good job of using his length and lateral quickness to deflect a lot of passes and bother guards. If he ever becomes a knockdown shooter from the corners he'll actually be a solid fourth guard. Having him, Ariza and Wall on the floor at the same time made life really difficult for the Bucks.