We've all been waiting for this day. The day when Otto Porter finally got a chance to be featured in the Washington Wizards lineup and have a stretch of solid games. His rookie and sophomore years have been disappointing for a third overall pick, but his progress has been mired by inconsistent playing time from Randy Wittman. Wittman was hesitant to give the young forward minutes because of Trevor Ariza's strong play and Martell Webster's large contract during Porter's rookie season, but it didn't help that he was having trouble adjusting to the NBA game. Unfortunately, this led to Porter having no real chance to develop. This year Porter has seen significantly more time due to Webster's injury during the pre-season, but was still stuck behind future hall-of-famer Paul Pierce and early season surprise Rasual Butler in the lineup. This further delayed his growth. As the season wore on Butler cooled down and Porter slowly became Pierce's replacement, getting spot starts when Pierce needed rest. Since this week featured a light schedule, Wittman decided to let Pierce rest his weary bones once again in preparation for the playoffs. This opened up an opportunity for Porter to start three games in a row for the first time in his career — he certainly made the best of it.
During Otto's three starts and his hot game off of the bench in Houston, he has averaged 13.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and two steals per game. He has also been showing both confidence and swagger in his play that we've never seen from him over an extended period of time. Otto is clearly more comfortable in his own skin when he's running alongside John Wall and the rest of the starters as opposed to the Sessions/Miller run bench units. In Otto's 12 starts this season, he has averaged 14.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per 36 minutes. That is a noticeable uptick in his typical production. These numbers are also comparable to what Pierce has been able to produce this season (16.6, 5.4, and 0.8 per 36 respectively).
While you couldn't reasonably suggest that Porter replace Pierce as a starter when the playoffs begin, it's very reasonable to say that Porter has earned himself a spot in the rotation above Rasual Butler and Martell Webster. Butler is a streaky shooter and doesn't offer much in the way of rebounding or an ability to cause turnovers, and Webster just hasn't done much of anything this season. Wittman needs to recognize what Otto has been able to bring to this team and allow him to get some playing time in the postseason. Otto has the potential to be a big part of this team's future and meaningful playoff minutes would be very valuable to his development. If he can't handle the pressure then we can move further down the bench to look for answers, but he's earned the right to give it a shot. The jaded Wizards fan in me has a feeling Randy Wittman won't handle this situation correctly, but even if nothing comes of Otto's strong week at least we can take solace in the fact that he is no longer a feature on Shaqtin' A Fool.
Photo credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Before Kris Humphries went down in late February with a groin injury, you could have made the argument that he was the 6th man for the Wizards. He was the spark off the bench who provided fairly reliable scoring, tenacious rebounding and a reputation for hustle. In his absence, Drew Gooden played amicably, stretching the floor with his ability to shoot the three and gobbling up rebounds well above his average per game. At the beginning of this week Hump finally returned from his 16-game injury absence. While it was great to see him back out there in a Wizards uniform, he still hasn't quite returned to his old form. His minutes in these last three games are comparable to Gooden's but he has just done much less with his time on the floor.
For comparison's sake: Over the last three games Kris Humphries is averaging 10.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per 36 minutes of playing time. While Drew Gooden is averaging 17 points and 9.7 rebounds per 36 minutes. The difference? Well for one, Humphries isn't playing nearly as confident as he was pre-injury. Having to share the spotlight with Gooden isn't helping in that regard. But the real kicker is that Drew Gooden has just gotten red hot from long range. In the last 5 games Gooden has made 63% of his 3-pointers (10-16), making him much more valuable than Humphries at the moment. If this continues, Kris is going to find himself at the end of the rotation when Nene comes back and be a non-factor in the playoffs.
After an uninspired and downright disappointing loss to the Rockets, the Wizards were threatening to begin another backbreaking losing streak. Beating the Hornets in double OT last week had snapped a 4-game losing streak, and the Wizards couldn't afford to do it again. Luckily, this week featured two games against basement-dwelling Eastern Conference teams to get them back in the win column.
Photo credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Despite the final score being 106-93, this game was a blowout from the tip. The Wizards abused the 76ers on offense, putting up 65 points by halftime and a season-high 93 points by the end of the 3rd quarter. Thirteen Wizards got playing time and 6 of them scored in double-digits. Marcin Gortat was Washington's MVP with 23 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks. In response to his huge night, Marcin said simply "I was doing the same thing I'm doing every single game." Riveting stuff Marc. Beal also had solid production with 20 points, despite not making a single 3-pointer. Oh, and he also did this to Luc Mbah a Moute:
Unfortunately, it wasn't all positive for the Wiz that night. Washington's lead swelled to 34 points late in the third quarter, but sloppy play from the bench actually allowed Philadelphia to make things interesting in the 4th. Randy Wittman was forced to reinsert Wall, Gortat and Beal to stop the bleeding, and it worked. However, these types of performances from the bench lead to huge question marks as we get closer to the playoffs. They escaped with the semi-comfortable win, but Washington should be concerned about nearly blowing another lead.
Photo credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
It's no secret that the New York Knicks are the saddest team in the NBA right now. With a 14-62 record and only one player on the roster who is really worth keeping (Melo), they're clearly looking forward to the merciful end of the regular season. The Wizards had three goals that night: limit starters minutes, give Otto Porter playing time and for the love of God — don't lose. Nene and Paul Pierce were able to sit out the entire game which provided an opportunity for Porter and Humphries to get extended run with the team. While Humphries is still getting acclimated after his long injury, Porter has proved he can hold his own when he gets starters minutes. Otto put up 17 points and 8 rebounds in 29 minutes of play, piecing together a strong highlight reel of solid plays. John Wall had a highlight night as well, notching a career-high 18 assists. Many of them were gorgeous and you can see most them here:
Most importantly, the Wizards got another easy win. The Knicks were able to bring it within ten a couple times throughout the game but Washington never seemed to be threatened. Rasual Butler even put an exclamation mark on the contest by dunking a gimme bucket in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter, simultaneously securing the #WIZ50 pizza deal for Wizards fans and enraging Derek Fisher. It was exactly the kind of win the Wizards needed before traveling to Memphis for a statement game against a top Western Conference opponent.
Photo credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Beating up on the Knicks and 76ers is one thing, but Saturday night's game was a true measuring stick for the Wizards. Fresh off of a convincing win against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Memphis Grizzlies needed another win badly to break their tie with Houston for the 2-seed in the West and avoid San Antonio in the first round of the playoffs. But throughout the game it wasn't Memphis who looked desperate for a win. It was Washington who played inspired, featuring lock-down defense and another vintage John Wall performance. The Wizards held the Grizzlies to 42 percent shooting from the field and a downright sad six percent (1-15) from beyond the arc. They also managed to compile nine steals which helped contribute to 26 fast break points opposed to Memphis' five. Defense like this will go a long way in the playoffs, so hopefully this is a sign of good things to come.
John Wall continued his hot streak with 18 points and 14 assists, while Bradley Beal had another 20 point game despite not making a single 3-pointer. Beal's inconsistency from long-range is troubling but it's good to see he's able to score in other ways when his shot isn't falling. The real X-factor Saturday night was Drew Gooden, who has been playing very good basketball as a starter in Nene's absence. Gooden shot 3-5 from deep and tallied 16 points, further strengthening his case for bench minutes over Humphries come playoff time. This was a statement win over a very formidable opponent, and a great way to end the week.
Washington's upcoming week is very sparse. They will only play two games and both are against below .500 teams. It will be interesting to see how Randy Wittman handles the light schedule and balances starters getting rest vs. trying to catch Toronto in the standings. Wins are always great, but avoiding injuries should be priority #1 this week.
Photo credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Wednesday's game will have Washington traveling to Philadelphia exactly a week after their previous game at the Verizon Center. Anytime you play a lower-rung Eastern Conference team, a win should be expected but the Wizards have a little something extra to prove. This week's win was fairly convincing but Washington should take this opportunity to blow out the 76ers properly. Our performance in the fourth quarter of that game was unacceptable, and the bench should take it upon themselves to close this game out. Being able to rest our starters would be a nice bonus since we are nearing the postseason so look to see the bench get extra run and perhaps even have the older players like Nene and Pierce sit out entirely again.
Photo credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
On paper and by reputation, the Brooklyn Nets don't seem to pose much of a threat to the Wizards. However, the Nets have actually played very well recently. They are 10-3 in their last 13 games, and have notched wins against the Cavaliers and Raptors. The Nets still have a fighting chance to avoid Cleveland in the first round by catching Milwaukee in the standings, but also have to avoid a losing streak to keep from dropping out of the playoffs entirely so they will be desperate for a win. Washington will need to take advantage of Brooklyn's lackluster defense and put up points in bunches because Brooklyn has been very strong offensively as of late, averaging 106.1 points per game during this streak of hot play. I foresee the Nets taking the W here as they will simply have more to play for than the Wizards.
In Case You Missed It:
John Wall's new Adidas commercial gave me chills:
The Chicago Bulls celebrated "We Love Nene" day on April Fools Day.
Some of the Wizards were involved with the Special Olympics Unified game in D.C. Here are some of the highlights:
OH GOD G-MAN WHAT ARE YOU DOING... oh, well done G-Man.
The @WashWizards aren't the only ones practicing today...G-Man's jumping over SUV's. pic.twitter.com/VLXDDe4LAX— Dan Nolan (@DanPNolan) April 2, 2015
John Wall and Garrett Temple killing it to "Uptown Funk"
Bradley Beal had an epic dunk and stare down on Beno Udrih.
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John Wall getting it after the Grizzlies game.
<blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned data-instgrm-version="4" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"><div style="padding:8px;"> <div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:50% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"> <div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAAGFBMVEUiIiI9PT0eHh4gIB4hIBkcHBwcHBwcHBydr+JQAAAACHRSTlMABA4YHyQsM5jtaMwAAADfSURBVDjL7ZVBEgMhCAQBAf//42xcNbpAqakcM0ftUmFAAIBE81IqBJdS3lS6zs3bIpB9WED3YYXFPmHRfT8sgyrCP1x8uEUxLMzNWElFOYCV6mHWWwMzdPEKHlhLw7NWJqkHc4uIZphavDzA2JPzUDsBZziNae2S6owH8xPmX8G7zzgKEOPUoYHvGz1TBCxMkd3kwNVbU0gKHkx+iZILf77IofhrY1nYFnB/lQPb79drWOyJVa/DAvg9B/rLB4cC+Nqgdz/TvBbBnr6GBReqn/nRmDgaQEej7WhonozjF+Y2I/fZou/qAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;"></div></div> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"> <a href="https://instagram.com/p/1E2dZaClN1/" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_top">MOOD;; #JohnWall</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A video posted by @t.santoro on <time style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;" datetime="2015-04-05T02:03:44+00:00">Apr 4, 2015 at 7:03pm PDT</time></p></div></blockquote>
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Comment Of The Week:
Props to BmoreBulletsFan for posting my favorite celebratory win photos I've ever seen on this site. This was posted in the Wizards vs. Grizzlies recap thread, but will forever be immortalized as a comment of the week.