After halftime, CSN's Chris Miller told the viewing audience that Marcin Gortat said, in the absence of Bradley Beal, another Wizards guard must step up and take his place for them to win the game. That actually happened--John Wall stepped up and filled in for Beal, and everyone else while he was at it, with a 34 point performance.
The prevailing narrative might be that this was not enough for the Wizards to win the game, but it actually was. Wall's final three points tied the game at 101 after the Wizards scored just six points in five out of the final six minutes of the quarter. But, inexplicably, the Wizards went away from Wall in the waning moments of the game.
Wall scored 12 points in the first half of the fourth quarter and gave the Wizards a 90-80 lead. After that first six minutes? Wall only had one shot for two points. The shot that he took was a 30 foot three point attempt with just four seconds left on the shot clock after a wasteful possession where Wall stood in the corner and the rest of the offense pointlessly wandered into the deep, dark abyss we know as the Pacers' defense.
The only two points Wall scored before hitting that final three point shot were on two free throws he earned after driving to the bucket.
For whatever reason, it seems, the Wizards don't trust their guards to close out games for them. Instead, they consistently go through the post with Kevin Seraphin, who routinely opens fourth quarters, or Nene. They'll turn to dribble handoffs headed toward the baseline with Rasual Butler rather than going with their All-Star point guard in these moments.
There is no other real way to put it--that's a mistake. And it proved to be a costly one for the Wizards. A bulk of the blame should go to this coaching staff for running these sets to get inefficient looks, but Wall has got to demand the ball in these moments and take over just as he did throughout the close of the third quarter, the early fourth quarter and the final possession of the game.
This has got to be one of the more disappointing losses in recent memory. Maybe it stings more because we just witnessed it, but to squander a 10 point lead to a team that really can't score is inexcusable.
Here are three things we learned tonight:
Randy Wittman needs to get a grip
Wittman made a smooth move taking Wall out of the game when he had five fouls the possession before and he needed to give a foul in the situation, but subbing Gortat out because the Pacers put in a big man shooter on the final possession is not a good move.
Damjan Rudez wasn't subbed into the game because he was going to beat anyone of the dribble. Gortat isn't great away from the basket, but he would not have to be in that situation. Just shifting Gortat to West and putting Nene on Rudez on the wing made all of the sense in the world there.
And allowing Martell Webster, who had his first solid game of the season, to guard George Hill who had 27 points before his game-winning lay up was absolutely a mistake. It's understandable not wanting Wall to guard the ball because of the chance of him being disqualified going into overtime, but Webster has never been good defensively. There was no rim protector behind him and there Nene jumped out of the driving lane to try to ward of a 21 footer from David West. This was just an awful defensive possession all-around, but you've got to trust your best player not to foul there if you're Wittman.
Nene might need a break
The Wizards are 1-4 in their last five games. Nene has been plain awful on both ends of the floor throughout this rough patch. He's shooting 39 percent from the floor, scoring just over 10 points per game and turning the ball over 3.6 times per game. The Wizards need him to be good if they're going to be a successful team, and he just hasn't been over the last month and some change.
He's played more games than he's played in 61 games so far this year and there are 10 games left to play. Giving Nene a break with Kris Humprhies still out is a dangerous game to play, but with how bad he's been recently the Wizards may not have a choice.
Bradley Beal's injury history may be troublesome
Bradley Beal went out with just over a minute left in the first quarter because of a sprained ankle. The degree of the sprain hasn't been announced yet, but it looked awful.
He'll likely get a max deal from the Wizards, but if he doesn't this would be the reason why. His production has been spotty, but in a better offensive system he may improve. Injuries, though, can sometimes have long lasting effects on players. I think he'll be fine, but this is something to watch for going forward.