The Washington Wizards have been playing from behind all season long. So after a putrid second half where the Wizards shot 28 percent from the field after shooting 59 percent in the first half, it was a surprise the Wizards managed to take a four point lead with just over three minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
What doesn't come as a surprise, though, is how quickly the Wizards were able to squander that lead. Immediately after a John Wall And-1 to give the Wizards a four point lead late, Paul George, who had himself an amazing scoring night, hits a three pointer to pull the Pacers close once again.
George punished Alan Anderson who tried to overplay him and deny him the ball despite him crossing the three point line after receiving a screen.
Sure, it looked like George got away with a bit of a pushoff here. But if you're going to deny someone of the ball, you've got to be more physical with them before they cross the threshold of the three point line. Anderson didn't deter George's cut to the ball at all and, when he tried to, George used his aggression against him.
The Wiz ended up scoring on the next possession behind two Gortat free throws, but the Pacers responded with another midrange jumper from George where he easily gets to the middle of the floor.
At this point, with just under two minutes left to go in the game, the Wizards are in a position to trade buckets with the Pacers being ahead. But the issue is they haven't been able to score throughout the second half, so stops are crucial. And they couldn't get any.
The Pacers eventually took a 98-97 lead, and this is where everything fell apart for Washington. They allowed the Pacers several chances to get back into this game after two offensive rebounds and a turnover from Garrett Temple after driving into transition despite him being on a 2-on-1 fastbreak.
But where the Wizards really dropped the ball was the managing of the final 30 seconds of the game. The Wizards stole a 99-98 lead behind blown Pacers opportunities but mismanaged both the shot clock and personnel down the stretch of the game.
After a missed shot from Paul George with 31 seconds left on the clock, the Morris rebounds George's miss.
Rather than calling a timeout immediately after the rebound, the Wizards advance the ball. Because the ball was dribbled they cannot take it to the other end off of a timeout.
Players wait for a tick and end up advancing the ball on the play despite there being no transition opportunities and no look for an easy bucket. The Pacers are back on defense and the Wizards are just jogging up the floor rather than preserving time.
By the time the Wizards finally call a timeout, there are just 14 seconds left on the shot clock and 21 seconds left in the game.
Wittman said he allowed Wall to push the ball up to look for any opportunities, but it was clear the Pacers were already back and set on defense. Morris took a split second too long to find Wall and Wittman has to recognize that. Many coaches operate under that same philosophy, but it's poor recognition not to call a timeout here.
However, the Wizards did get a good look out of their timeout. Wall ran a pick and roll with Nene with the floor spread and he hit him in stride. Nene made it to the line and made just one of two free throws, which wasn't ideal.
George's ability to beat Anderson to the rim and earn a questionable call was not surprising, and the Wizards even drew up a solid final play that was well defended by Indiana but more of a bail-out by Wall with a rushed shot.
Wall shot the ball just a frame too quickly there. There are multiple options on this play, but he took the secondary option of his shot first. And he had enough time to hesitate and try make his way to the rim instead of taking a tough jumper.
If Wall had waited just a second longer, Jared Dudley sprang wide open after the inbound pass. Wall routinely makes passes off of jumps and should have looked to do so here.
Washington's handling of this game down the stretch was horrendous. They completely botched their clock management, but what was worse was the personnel on the floor. Nene played over Marcin Gortat late despite him being a worse rebounder. Garrett Temple continued to play heavy minutes after Bradley Beal's injury despite his inability to shoot the ball.
Wall's quick shot at the end was the nail in the coffin, but the Wizards weren't able to come up with fruitful offensive possessions going into the waning moments of the game.
Washington had a chance to win this one and it bit them in the behind. It might do the same when the season is all said and done with the Wizards sitting at home outside of the playoffs.