Man, what a win. Just when so many are ready to write this team off, they go out and do THAT.
You find out a lot about a team's true character when their back is against the wall. That's a cliche, but it's also true. Nobody would have blamed the Wizards if they came out hot and then lost their way when the Pacers made that big run in the second quarter. This season has already exceeded many of our expectations, even if the end would have left a sour taste in our mouths.
But the Wizards have often done their best work this year when needing to stop a slide. It's why they won as many games as they did even despite some rough patches. The meeting held in early November that is now credited as a season saver was just one of those times. There were also critical road wins on West coast trips in games the Wizards weren't expected to win. Wins in places like Phoenix and Golden State.
Game 5 proved to be no different. It reminded me of the win Washington had in Cleveland in Game 5 in 2008. That's the Caron Butler game for most of us, but it's worth remembering that everyone counted the Wizards out in that one. Instead, that Wizards team showed why they were resilient all season long and scratched out a win, leading for most of the way until holding on. (Here's hoping Game 6 goes better this time).
Speaking of character, John Wall and Marcin Gortat really let it out on the podium after the game. Wall admitted what he didn't admit after Game 4: his confidence was shot and he wasn't sure how to fix it. A pick-me-up from Randy Wittman got him going.
"He came up to me and he told me, 'Listen, I just want you to be aggressive. If you have 20 turnovers, I don't care. I want you to play the way the John Wall I know helped us throughout the season. I told him something that he probably never wanted me to say. I was like, 'I'm frustrated. I don't know how to get out of this slump. I don't know what to do.' And he was like, 'I never want to hear you say that ever again, because I know how confident you are in yourself and I know how competitive you are."
This, more than the Xs and Os, more than the substitution patters, more than the managing of game situations, is coaching. It's knowing how to get players going and the exact words to say to push the right buttons. It's people management, basically. And while Wittman has often frustrated in other ways, this has always been his biggest strength. It's a strength that, frankly, matters more than all else.
Meanwhile, Gortat defended his fellow star eloquently:
"We can't put pressure on the guy who played for the first time in his life in the playoffs and he's, whatever, 23, 24, whatever how old. And we can't just blame the kid for everything. Every time the team lose, we blame him. I understand he's a leader. I understand he's the head of the snake. But there is another 12 guys on the team. There's another six, seven coaches on this team. You can't blame one guy for that."
Gortat certainly absorbed his share of the blame and responded in kind. Wall dominated the third quarter, but Gortat was the key man the whole game. With their backs against the wall, those two responded, and the team followed.
Now, don't get comfortable. It was just one game.
(Quotes via the Twitter feed of Zac Boyer of the Washington Times)
Nice of Marcin to set Shaq straight after this:
Michael Lee with a fabulous lede in his game story:
Feeling that the Washington Wizards' feel-good season was slipping through his hands, John Wall was despondent and distant before Tuesday night's Game 5. Silent on Monday's plane ride from Dulles International Airport, Wall hid in his hotel room and watched movies to block out the criticism - from within and outside - for his uneven play this series against the Indiana Pacers.
Wall responded to a few text messages but mostly ignored phone calls and rejected encouraging words from friends, family and teammates. Before Game 5 tipped off, Marcin Gortat approached Wall, tapped him on his chest and got an immediate eye roll from the all-star point guard, who had no desire to hear another pep talk. Gortat pulled in Wall and told him, "I'm with you. It doesn't matter which way it goes, I'm supporting you."
I noticed some retroactive criticizing on Twitter of Wittman's decision to sit Gortat for the entire fourth quarter in Game 4. Yes, Gortat has largely helped more than he's hurt, but he didn't have it and the Wizards experienced success going small. I can't blame Randy for that one.
Poetry in motion.
Thanks to all who went to Public Bar last night. Hopefully it was great to put a face to different folks' names. Looks like it was packed.
I'll have to talk to Adam from Truth About It to see if it's feasible if there's a Game 7.