This was a battle between two teams riddled by sloppy play, poor execution, and uninspired play. And for the sixth time this season, the Wizards somehow managed to send this game into overtime before losing in heartbreaking fashion. After Trevor Booker tied the game in overtime with 1.8 seconds remaining, an Al Horford jumper along the baseline gave Atlanta a 101-99 win.
That it was even that close was a surprise. For a third straight game, in typical Wizards fashion, the team failed to get up and decidedly coasted through yet another disappointing game. This didn't look like a team attempting to work out the kinks and shake off the rust following a four day lay-off, nor did it look like a team re-energized and ready to attack a grueling part of their schedule. The entire team looked disinterested on the road against a divisional opponent with playoff seeding on the line.
....and then the max player showed up. Following a Trevor Booker rebound, Wall leaked out, raced down the floor, and hit his defender with his patented behind the back move before finishing the layup in transition with just over three minutes to go. He seemingly flipped the switch on, hit an elbow jumper, and then on the very next possession, nailed a three from 26 feet out. After a few key defensive stops, Wall failed to hit a shot to win the game in regulation, sending the game into overtime.
And in overtime, the front court stepped up. Each time the Hawks scored, the Wizards would follow it up with a basket of their own. Both Ariza and Webster hit huge shots to keep it close, but it was Booker who scored six points, including a nifty reverse layup to tie the game with just over a second to go. But on the very next play, Booker gambled for a steal out of the inbounds, and Al Horford caught it, gathered and sunk the jumper to win the game.
Sure, the Wizards missed an opportunity to steal this game after playing sluggishly for the first 45 minutes. But it goes to show, this team can't afford these type of performances, and they certainly don't have the talent to fight their way back into these contests the way they did tonight. Who knows how the bench plays next time, or if Booker can sustain this level of play. The leaders of this team have to step up and prove their worth.
Here are my game notes:
- Gortat's not near the rim protector that Okafor is, but he does a great job sliding to a spot on the floor in order to cut off his man's path to the basket. Mike pointed this out earlier in the season: the reason why Vesely and Booker get beat so often is because they're trying to stay with their man off the dribble.
- Glen Rice Jr has some serious potential as a perimeter defender in this league. He has the ability to dig far into the lane, and has the balance to make a hard closeout while simultaneously staying with his man following an escape dribble. He still commits his share of rookie mistakes like ball-watching and he did get caught digging too far down without retreating to a wide-open Kyle Korver for three, but the potential is clearly there.
- It's a fine line we walk between the "Wall is settling" narrative and him taking what the defense is giving him. It seems like people jump the gun on the former a little too often; yes he could keep his dribble alive and work for better shots, but that's not always going to be the case. I'd much rather see this than him passing up these looks constantly a la his sophomore season.
- Offense came out of the half really lethargic. The offense kept pounding the ball down low trying to exploit the Milsap on Gortat match-up, but to no avail. Ideally, you'd want more spread pick and roll sets to take advantage of Gortat's elite roll ability, but with Wall looking as disinterested as he did, it may have been for the best.
- Trevor Booker has shown off a really soft touch around the rim. He's no Nene when it comes to facilitating the offense, but he minimized his role and it paid off. He flashed to the high post and sunk a few jumpers, and he was a menace on the boards.
- Kyrie Irving has gotten a lot of flak for his hero-ball tendencies late in games, and Wall is no exception. He's become insistent on dribbling the air out of the ball before shooting up a contested shot. It has to stop.