WASHINGTON -- Well, that was a thoroughly dispiriting way for the Washington Wizards to close out their home schedule. As Amin put it sitting next to me while we were trying to remain interested during the closing minutes of this dreadful 97-86 loss to a completely disinterested Philadelphia 76ers squad, "Fan Appreciation Night my ass."
It seemed ironic at the time when prior to the game John Wall walked to halfcourt and, in front of what appeared to be one of the smallest home crowds of the season, thanked the fans for supporting the team through the thick and thin.
But the seats actually filled up fairly quickly once the game got underway, and before long it was the Wizards' players who weren't living up to their end of the deal.
Washington has hung its hat on the fact that they've played above-.500 ball since the return of John Wall. A week ago they were 24-19 with their franchise player in the lineup. Since then they've lost four in a row, and will close out the season with two games on the road against the Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls. Given how mightily the Wiz have struggled on the road this year, the possibility of going 24-25 with Wall seems very real.
We should have expected things to be a little rough with Cartier Martin and Garrett Temple in the starting lineup and Nene playing like a shell of his usual self recently.
But the Sixers checked out a long time ago, and it was evident early on as the Wizards took a 17-12 lead six minutes into the game. As would be expected, John Wall carried the Wizards offensively, knocking down a few open jumpers and getting to the rim a couple times against some lazy Sixers defense. Nene was much more active than he's been of late, grabbing five early rebounds and dishing out a few assists, including a nice no-look pass to Wall for an and-one layup.
Some good ball movement got Garrett Temple an open look from three and easy buckets and the rim for Emeka Okafor and Nene, but overall it was an ugly opening quarter. Neither team seemed all that interested in guarding, which is how the Wizards were able to score 31 first-quarter points and record 10 assists on 13 field goals without being all that precise on offense. During one forgettable sequence of possessions, the Wizards and Sixers traded unforced turnovers, the Wizards bobbled the ball for another turnover, and then the Sixers took a bad shot that might as well have counted as a turnover. Wall closed the quarter out though with a crossover at the top of the key, followed by a ridiculous spin in a crowded lane for a scoop lay-in.
Wall sat for a good chunk of the second quarter, and yet the Wizards were able to maintain a pretty comfortable lead due to Philly's inability to make open shots. That changed towards the end of the half, when the Sixers knocked down some open threes and the Wiz missed some gimmes at the rim to head into intermission ahead 49-48 despite being up by 13 at one point.
Things only got worse from there. Both teams traded baskets through the first half of the third quarter, but then came a stretch where the Wizards went cold as the Sixers took a 67-59 lead. Washington never recovered.
Things fell apart for the Wizards early in the fourth quarter and the Sixers walted to an easy win. Wall finished with a decent line of 24 points and seven assists, but made relatively little impact down the stretch. It was nice to see Nene finish with 10 boards, but other than that there was very little good that came out of this game. You'll find some notes below, but most fans will want to forget this game ever happened.
- Spencer Hawes was making everything early. This is good for the Wizards, because it means he'll keep shooting, even when he starts missing everything.
- Garrett Temple had a sick block on Evan Turner with about 4:30 left in the first quarter. I really think Temple is worth keeping around as a defensive wing and third point guard off the bench.
- Some pretty hearty boos for Nick Young when he entered last in the first quarter. It didn't seem like there were enough people in the arena for that much noise. I was never a huge Young fan, but I'm not sure what he ever did to be disliked so much.
- Let it be known that Wall went up for a jumper, had second thoughts and, stuck in the air, dumped off a pass to Kevin Seraphin, who also happened to be laying on the floor. Somehow Seraphin caught the ball and got rid of it without being called for a travel.
- Wall had his jumper going early, obvi.
- Chris Singleton iso for a jump shot? And he made it? Congratulations Chris, but let's keep those plays to a minimum.
- Cartier Martin seems to panic when he gets near the basket, as if he was unaware that it looks bigger up close.
- Halfway through the second quarter, the big difference has been each team's shooting. The Sixers can't hit anything, whereas the Wizards have made well over half their shots.
- Even Trevor Booker is stroking it. So much so, that on one possession he was waving frantically for A.J. Price to swing the ball so he could post up Thaddeus Young. Booker got the ball, but nothing happened.
- I didn't know Spencer Hawes was capable of drawing a technical foul.
- For their last halftime show of the year, the Wizards held a massive Jazzercise routine, making the Chipotle blimp the intermission highlight for the first time in ever. Naturally, they didn't play any jazz music, which we should all be thankful for, because there's only one thing you can "do" to jazz, but you can't do it in public, and it sure as hell isn't exercise.
- Trevor Booker is a one-man fast break. This is all.
- Meanwhile, Spencer Hawes is punking the Wizards down low. That might be the most dispiriting sentence I've ever written.
- This rarely gets talked about, but Booker might be the best pure athlete on this team. He was the one guy to run a faster 3/4 court sprint time than Wall at the 2010 pre-draft combine, and he's the team's most explosive leaper by a wide margin. He showed it on that dunk midway through the fourth quarter.
- And just as Booker injects some life into the Wizards, Randy Wittman pulls him and put in Jan Vesely. #FreeTheAirwolf