The Wizards said they wanted to make a statement in their final game against the Cavaliers before the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Wizards, that statement appears to be “DON’T EVER TRUST US WITH A LEAD”
Washington blew a 16 point lead over the final 6:06 of regulation and lost to the Cavaliers 119-115 on Thursday night.
Washington was a mess on both ends to close the game. They went small with Markieff Morris and Mike Scott as their big men, which meant LeBron James could get to the rim at ease. James scored 13 of his 33 points in the final six minutes and when Washington was able to cut off his path to the rim, it created easy opportunities for his teammates. He had 3 assists in the final six minutes, including one to set up Kyle Korver for the most open 3-pointer he’s probably had in years which tied the game with 1:13 left.
John Wall responded with a tough jumper on the other end to put Washington on top on the next possession, but that was the last highlight from his 28 point, 14 assist performance. He missed shots on the next two possessions and then he turned the ball over on Washington’s final possession, sealing their fate.
The small lineup doesn’t get it done
Washington has had mixed success playing Markieff Morris at center this season, but typically that success has not come while playing alongside Mike Scott. The Wizards have been outscored by 64 points in the 141 minutes they’ve played together and their struggles closing the game late showed exactly why they have issues.
Neither player is great at protecting the paint on defense and neither is a great screen-setter for Wall or Beal. So what ends up happening is teams can drive and kick all day and then when the Wizards try to get points back on the other end, the opposing team can switch every pick-and-roll to cut off penetration and get Markieff Morris to fire away. He took five shots over the last six minutes.
The Wizards are either going to need to play small with Oubre, warts and all, or stick with a traditional big man in late-game situations. The Morris-Scott combo doesn’t provide enough value on either end to be viable.
John Wall is ready to go
Look, the end of the game was awful, there’s no getting around that. There are still a lot of issues he and the rest of the team have to work out late in games. But the bottom line is the team isn’t even going to be in a position to blow late leads unless Wall is healthy, and he looked very healthy in this one.
He was active in transition, had the pick-and-roll working with Marcin Gortat, and did all the things Wall does when he’s on his game. He even had a nice little stretch with his jumper in the third quarter to help Washington make their run.
Only time will tell if they can figure out their late-game woes in the playoffs, but Wall looks to be about as healthy as you could hope for considering all the time he’s missed this season.
- The good news for the Wizards’ playoff position is that the Bucks lost to the Nets 119-111 on Thursday, which means Washington is still holding on to the seventh seed with three games left to play.
- Kelly Oubre had another rough night. He was 2-of-9 from the field and 0-of-2 from deep. He’s only 2-of-35 (5.7 percent) over his last seven games.
- Jose Calderon missed the game for the Cavaliers with a hamstring injury. His injury, coupled with George Hill’s injury, meant LeBron was the closest thing the Cavaliers had to a traditional point guard.
Next up: The Wizards are back in action on Friday night as they host the Atlanta Hawks.