There was no reason to worry. For as insanely hot as Wayne Ellington was in that first quarter, what was equally as troubling was Washington's 10 first quarter turnovers. The Wizards fueled the Lakers confidence early on, and they knew it. No this wasn't pretty, and yes, they underestimated an already poor and undermanned Lakers team, but what's important is they edged out a 98-92 win.
Phil Chenier said it best during the telecast, "good teams don't panic and they find ways to win these games." It's one of those platitudes you don't think much of, and historically, we haven't had to. In the past, these were the games the Wizards constantly fell victim to, and it was often them being the one's overlooked.
The circumstances are different now. The Wizards can't afford to lose these games because of the preponderance for playoff positioning. Lose this, and they go into Phoenix with the distinct possibility of falling to third in the standings -- and that's with the Cavaliers right on their tails.
But that never looked like the case, even down the stretch. The starters kept making plays, whether it was Wall hitting a pair of 17-footers with under five minutes to go, Otto Porter sneaking in from the baseline for a putback off a Nene miss, or Nene converting a crucial And-1 to put them up five.
This isn't a win they can hang their hats on, but it was significant nonetheless. A better showing to start the game, and who knows how the outcome winds up being. There's no excusing the 16 turnovers, or Jordan Clarkson and Wayne Ellington going off for career nights. Wall and Beal's narcoleptic defense was the root of the problem, but they were also the two doing all the heavy lifting offensively. This team knows better than to breath life into a putrid team early, but that isn't the concern right now. They're now 21-3 against below .500 teams, and only 10-12 against the rest of the field. The real test is tomorrow in Phoenix.
Here's what we learned:
Here's what Otto brings to the table
Otto Porter's play can be maddening at times. He doesn't always run to the three-point line in transition, often stationing himself right below it which can cramp the floor spacing. He's a midrange player, which theoretically fits the bill in Wittman's offense, but there either hasn't been enough space for hm to fire away with the second unit, or goes against Wall's natural instinct in passing out to shooters along the perimeter.
But it's plays like this which makes him stand out among the Wizards wings:
Normally, Nene will catch the ball with the intent on making the pass to the corner, known as shorting the pick and roll. But Otto isn't a spot-up shooter -- at least not yet -- and he never really gets in position to catch and shoot. So he cuts, grabs the offensive board, and finishes the rest at a critical juncture of the game. He isn't an athletic beast like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and he isn't even wiry-strong like so many other of the top rebounding forwards, but he constantly finds himself in the scrums because he's always moving. That's valuable.
The Andre Miller conundrum
We're gonna dissect the second unit's problems more in-depth in the coming weeks, and a lot of it will land squarely on Andre Miller -- and for good reason. He's about as productive as he was last year, but the offense as a whole has been a lot slower, which comes to no surprise. They're not the bombs-away three-point shooting second unit that they were last year, how can they with Seraphin and Humphries replacing Al Harrington and Drew Gooden? There's no more inverting the floor and letting him play through the post, so they're forced into a playing a traditional half court offense.
But here's where it differs from the offense that Wall runs with the first unit. Where John has the ability to wreak havoc and spring shooters free, Dre is the polar opposite. He can't break down his man on a given possession, so the offense in turn uses more off-ball movement to net open looks. Hence why you see Rasual Butler, Martell Webster, and Otto Porter take turns curling off screens and scrambling around the floor while Miller plays quarterback at the top of floor.
It's no wonder they play with such slow pace, and why they're constantly battling the shot clock.