It looked really promising in the throughout most of the first half. The Wizards were playing their best basketball of the preseason, up 16 early on the Hornets. Players were moving, the ball was whipping around and guys were hitting shots.
Then it got ugly. A 68-66 game turned into an 86-69 lead following a 20-1 run to start the fourth quarter. Randy Wittman and John Wall attempted to explain the lackluster offensive performance, but I sensed much more worry than in previous post-game interviews.
Three quick good notes from what I saw:
- Otto Porter. He is a really smart basketball player. Both his one-on-one and team defense are impressive and he uses his length well. Offensively, he moves extremely well without the ball and his instincts are starting to take over, allowing him to play freely and make the right plays without second-guessing himself.
- Paul Pierce looked good offensively. It's still only preseason and there were some uncertainty in movements, knowing when a pass was headed his way coming off of screens, etc. but overall, with the ball in his hand, Pierce showed nicely, reminding me of the Pierce we should expect to see come the regular season.
- Garrett Temple causes problems defensively for other teams. He is a good one-on-one defender, though can still improve staying in tune at times with where his opponent is on the court. His confidence shooting the three-ball is a nice, and necessary, addition to his game.
2. Pierce gives us an injury scare
Setting a screen for Wall in the second quarter, Pierce's collided knees with a Hornets player. He looked to hyperextend his own knee slightly. After lying in pain, he eventually got up and limped his way to the locker room. Fortunately for Wizards fans he would be okay, returning to start the second half.
Pierce just limped off the court to the locker room. This is getting ugly.— Jorge Castillo (@jorgeccastillo) October 18, 2014
Hold your breath: Paul Pierce needed a moment to get off the court. Now limping off the court and walking to locker room. RIght knee.— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) October 18, 2014
Paul Pierce returned. No wheelchair required.— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) October 18, 2014
Resume breathing. Paul Pierce walks back out to the court. No limp. Just scowl. #WizardsTalk— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) October 18, 2014
He eventually left for the locker room for good in the fourth quarter, but seemed in good spirits anyways.
While walking off the court to the locker room, Paul Pierce squeezed the sweat out of his headband and threw it to a lucky fan.— Jorge Castillo (@jorgeccastillo) October 18, 2014
#Wizards say Pierce is fine. He just went to the locker room to get an early start on his treatment and his Friday night.— Jorge Castillo (@jorgeccastillo) October 18, 2014
3. Wittman experiments with different lineups
WIth Glen Rice Jr. out with a sprained ankle, Wittman had to look at some different lineups in his absence. After a starting lineup of Wall, Rice, Porter, DeJuan Blair, and Marcin Gortat against Maccabi Haifa, Wittman went with what could wind up being his starting five in the regular season opener: Wall, Temple, Nene, Pierce, and Gortat.
Xavier Silas and Damion James, who played 24 and 15 minutes respectively vs. Maccabi Haifa, registered DNP-CD's last night, while Rasual Butler played more than 22 minutes and scored nine points. Blair played only seven minutes last night (21 vs. Maccabi Haifa), while Drew Gooden III played 17 minutes (10 vs. Maccabi Haifa).
Porter has apparently been experimented at the shooting guard spot in practice, but hasn't been used there in any games yet. Wittman may want him coming off the bench anyways to bring a spark when he comes in. Wittman has been uninterested in trying Wall together with Andre Miller. So far, it seems as if Temple will continue next to Wall in the backcourt for the time being.
4. The young Wizards are suddenly the oldest team in the NBA
Seriously. Remember when these Wizards were young, inexperienced, youthful...? Well, things changed quickly. With the snap of your fingers, those Wizards have grown up and aged incredibly, now owning the title of Oldest Team in the NBA. The average age on this year's team is 28.7 years old.