That was one of the craziest endings we'll likely ever see from this team this season. From falling behind in typical Wizards fashion, to Trevor Ariza's barrage of threes in the third quarter, I thought I had seen it all. Then, the final moments of regulation occurred, and the Wizards managed to retake and lose the lead in a matter of seconds, falling in heartbreaking fashion, 113-112.
How'd we get there? With about 20 seconds to go and the game tied, Randy Wittman drew up a beautiful set involving some misdirection to get John Wall an open lane to the basket. It took off a good portion of the game clock and got Wall to the line. Wizards up two with four seconds left.
On the very next trip down the floor, the Wizards nearly forced a five second violation. But at the last second, the referees called a foul on Trevor Ariza, giving James Harden a free throw plus the ball back. Plenty of folks are saying that Harden initiated the contact ... I'm not sure based on this GIF. Decide for yourself.
Either way: not a smart play by Ariza to hold Harden right off the bat.
After the converted free throw, Houston inbounds from almost the exact same spot. The result? Harden again, curling off a double screen to get an unimpeded layup at the basket. Kevin Seraphin failed to show more on the screen to impede Harden's lane, and the collapse was completed.
Here's that play. Worth noting: John Wall was definitely held by Dwight Howard. Would it have mattered? You can decide.
Regardless, the Wizards were getting burned on this exact set all night long, and it's really hard to stop it when it involves both Harden getting the ball and Dwight rolling to the basket. But in four seconds, you're not going to see Harden dumping it off to Howard to finish, so it's imperative that the Wizards' big man take away the drive. It's hard seeing Nene, who fouled out a few possessions back, falling for the same mistake Seraphin made, but Wittman didn't really have anyone else to go to.
The result is rough because the Wizards really fought back after it looked like they were going to mail in early, right before the All Star break. They fell behind big early, rallied to take a brief lead, then found themselves down double digits in the third quarter.
But that was before the Ariza three show. At least for one night, we can hold off on selecting his name in the trade machine. He hit seven threes in the third quarter alone, and Houston had no idea what him them. Whether it was spotting up in the corners, hitting threes as a trailer and even side stepping a defender after a pump-fake, he was the only reason why this game wasn't over in the third.
But it wasn't enough. I understand that there were controversial calls that didn't go the Wizards way, but there's no excusing why the Wizards lost the rebounding battle 51-35. Also, the biggest reason the free throw disparity was so wide is that the Rockets drove to the basket and the Wizards settled for jumpers, not the refs.
It's beating a dead horse at this point, and the All Star break couldn't have come at a better time. Randy Wittman says it all the time, and I'm sure we'll hear it tonight: this team has to play a full 48 minutes.
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