I'm sorry, guys. This is weird.
This is weird because everything we knew about the 2013-14 Wizards said they would lose this game to Detroit Pistons. Battered inside, sluggish, victimized by the pick and roll and staggering towards a double-digit defeat, the Wizards brought their bench in to start the fourth quarter. A bench unit bolstered by Nene, sure, but still: a bench unit. The previous 27 games of evidence told us this game was toast, that the reserves wouldn't be able to hold the fort to keep them in this game.
But then, odd things happened. Martell Webster cut backdoor and caught a great pass from Nene for a layup. Seven-point game. Chauncey Billups turned it over and Otto Porter missed a layup after running coast-to-coast, but Kevin Seraphin, providing actual quality minutes again, grabbed the board and stuck it back in. Five-point game. A shot-clock violation was forced, followed by another Seraphin layup off the pass from Nene. Three-point game. The Pistons' starters returned, but Josh Smith missed a floater and Porter stepped in confidently for the jumper. One-point game. Another wild Smith miss, a fast break and a three from Webster off the pass from new backup point guard Garrett Temple. Two-point lead. New ballgame.
I mean ... what? Is this life? I guess this is what happens when Nene joins Webster on the second unit and provides some actual punch. Needing a lift from a unit featuring those two and three anonymous bench guys, the Wizards got a lift.
From there, the Wizards just needed to finish things off. Luckily, Detroit's defense stopped rotating, Brandon Jennings stopped thriving and Washington inched ahead. From there, it was a matter of the stars making plays. An out-of-bounds play for a Bradley Beal jumper pushed it back to three. A jumper off the pick and roll from Nene made it five. An amazing swat by Marcin Gortat on Smith saved a dunk. Finally, the max man danced around, drove left, pump faked and nailed another jumper in Jennings' face to seal things. And thus, a 106-99 win.
Grantland's Andrew Sharp said it best:
This would've been such a classic Wiz letdown game, which makes the 4th quarter so much more awesome
— Andrew Sharp (@andrewsharp) December 31, 2013
So, 14-14 as 2013 ends. It's a start. There's much room to grow, but it's definitely a start.
- Hey, how about Porter providing some quality minutes! I was actually disappointed that Wittman took him out with eight minutes to go in the fourth after the way he played. He did a quality job plugging up passing lanes with his wingspan, ran the floor well and was aggressive with his shot. If the Wizards can get 20 minutes of that most games, it'll be a good rookie season.
- Also providing quality minutes: Kevin Seraphin. I thought he stayed in a couple minutes too long, but the Wizards don't win without his contributions at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth.
- All that said, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit's first-round pick, looks like a heck of a player. Locked down Bradley Beal in the first half, hit his three-pointers and ran the floor.
- Once the Wizards stopped messing around off the ball, they won this game. The first three quarters were dominated by too much ball-watching (Trevor Ariza was the primary culprit), too poor an effort on weakside rotations that led to offensive rebounds and poor transition D. That ceased in the fourth quarter, and not a moment too soon.
- Gortat's block was great, but his non-finish when he had the ball at the rim on a pick and roll with just under three minutes left was maddening. Shoot it, Marcin!
- I've barely mentioned Wall to this point, and he only ended up with 29 points and seven assists. Says a lot.
- As much as Greg Monroe's defense frustrates me, that dude can be a load down low. I'd probably gamble on him learning how to defend in a better system than Detroit's.
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