WASHINGTON - After the Wizards’ 109-106 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Friday night, more than one Wizard compared the game to something you'd see in a game below the NBA level. Otto Porter and Bradley Beal compared it to playing in high school. Ramon Sessions said it was like a "rec league" game.
Despite what you might think, no one meant it as a dig at the quality of the game, even though it was a sloppy affair that featured 41 combined turnovers, a player crossing himself up, and a delay of game technical foul in the closing seconds.
No, the reason they made the comparisons was because the game lacked seven-footers that set the NBA game apart from most other basketball games. Tyson Chandler, Marcin Gortat, Nene, Drew Gooden and Kris Humphries all missed the game, which left only four true centers on either side, which both teams were hesitant to use. Ryan Hollins and DeJuan Blair combined to only play 23:12 for the Wizards, and the Suns only used their two tallest players, Jon Leuer and Alex Len, for a combined 37:49.
The unusual situation forced players to play bigger positions they would normally only play in rec league or high school games. As you'd expect, it made the game was a bizarre, chaotic mess. It was still a basketball game, but it looked more like a spoof of basketball in the 31st century that you’d see on Futurama, where no one is allowed to be taller than 6’9" and where a point guard like John Wall can somehow be the best post-up player and the best rim protector on the floor.
On paper, it sounds like an amazing thing to watch two teams go at it with five guys who can put the ball on the floor and run exotic, guard-on-guard pick and rolls. But as it turns out, when you take the big men off the floor, it’s harder to exploit mismatches because every player is the same, and there's no one on the floor you can dump the ball into inside to force double-teams. It led to a game with lots of movement, but very little action.
But what the game lacked in good basketball action, it made up for in chaotic frenzy. After the game, it was apparent Washington enjoyed the unique challenges the game presented. No one would go as far as to say they prefer playing without big men, but it was clear they enjoyed being pushed to fill different roles. "It was fun," Bradley Beal said after the game. "We definitely miss our bigs but you know whenever it’s a matchup of guards it’s always fun. It’s who’s going to get the most rebounds, who’s going to want it the most because there’s no excuses about height or size because we’re all the same size. It’s just a matter of us having a will to win and we had it."
"It was one of those fun type, odd type things," Ramon Sessions said after the game. "Especially when we win. It worked tonight."
Even Randy Wittman seemed to enjoy the challenge the night presented. "It was different trying to mix and match, It actually was kinda fun," he said. "You don’t get into those situations very often where you are trying to look at what kind of disadvantage you can put the other team at by being so small."
Of course, it’s a lot easier to talk about how fun and exciting a challenge is when you overcome it. Had the Wizards lost, there would have been plenty of quotes about how the Wizards couldn’t find their rhythm without their big men. But for one night at least, it worked, even if it wasn’t glamorous. It was just one of those fun type, odd type things.