Wizards Report December 19Posted on December 19, 2012
By Dave Johnson
Basketball is still about making shots. On the heels of their worst game of the year Saturday in Miami, the Washington Wizards returned to competitive form and pushed the Atlanta Hawks to overtime before losing 100-95 Tuesday at Verizon Center.
For all the competitive spirit of the Wizards, in the final analysis they were tripped up by shooting only 37 percent from the field. The Wizards had good looks at the basket, but in the extra session were only 2 of 9 from the field.
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“I can’t fault our effort. It really just kind of boiled down, as it has a lot this year, to making a play, making a shot, making an open shot, making a play coming down the stretch. I thought in the second half I found guys that were going to go out there and play the right way.”
It was the opening game of a stretch of four games in five nights that continues tonight in Orlando against the Magic. The sting of the second loss this year to the Hawks in overtime and third overall is very real, but the Wizards also carry confidence from one of their best managed floor games on offense into the game against the Magic.
Jordan Crawford made the difference for the Wizards with his best game at point guard this season. Crawford, who also plays at the two-guard spot when Shaun Livingston is in the game, finished with 27 points, 11 assists, 11 rebounds and only one turnover. As a team the Wizards had an efficient 28 assists on 36 made field goals.
The return of Nene to the lineup also made a difference for the Wizards. After missing Saturday’s game with a sore left foot, Nene added 18 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench. The Wizards trailed early 10-8, but Nene’s entrance into the game late in the first quarter started a surge that gave the Wizards their first lead of the game at 32-31.
“I think obviously the game is easier for Jordan when Nene is on the floor at that position because we can throw and play through Nene a lot. It gets the ball out of his hands and he does not necessarily have to start every thing. I think obviously having Nene back tonight helped him. He’s a competitive kid to come in and keep fighting. Jordan’s always going to keep fighting. He might not always take the best shots, I might scratch my head and look to the ceiling sometimes, but I do know he’s going to compete. He’s going to try. That’s who he is.”
Bradley Beal played one of his most aggressive games on offense this season. He made six of his first seven shots and finished 17 points. Beal suffered a scare in the third quarter when he hit his head on the floor after getting his baseline drive blocked by the Hawks’ Josh Smith. Beal passed a concussion test in the locker room and returned in the fourth quarter to hit clutch runner in the lane late in the game to give the Wizards and 88-87 lead.
Earl Barron was used off the bench in the first half and then started the second half at power forward. Barron responded in his 26 minutes with 4 points, 14 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots. From the field Barron was only 2 of 10, but both his made field goals were critical. Barron hit the jumper to tie it at 90 and then also scored in overtime.
Wittman on Barron:
This guy didn’t have a play run for him, and he gets 10 shots, 14 rebounds and 4 blocks - activity. I’m not getting enough activity out of that spot. I’m looking for somebody that’s going to step up and show me that, and he did tonight. You can’t just continue along and just go through the motions, and think you’re going to play night-in and night-out.
The Magic: There used to be billboards and signs on the back of bus benches in Orlando that read: Stay Dwight Stay. The power of advertising didn’t work. The Magic has moved on without Dwight Howard and are still competitive in the NBA’s Southeast Division.
Just months removed from one of the NBA’s most riveting soap operas, the Magic has settled into post-Howard life. With Monday’s 101-93 win over Minnesota, the Magic has now won three straight games and sits in third place in the division with an 11-13 record.
In place of Howard in the middle is Nikola Vucevic. The 22-year old former Philadelphia 76ers draft pick is not nicknamed Superman, but he has helped the Magic become the 8th best rebounding team in the NBA. Vucevic has grabbed 30 rebounds over the last two games and is averaging 9.6 points and 10.4 rebounds over the last five games.
Glen Davis has taken over the role of leading scorer for the Magic at 16.1 points per-game. Against the Timberwolves on Monday, Davis scored 28 points and has scored at least 20 points in each of the last five games. Jameer Nelson is still running the point for a team that has already used eight different starting lineups.
The Magic is a team that plays hard on defense. It is not that Magic tries to gamble or force turnovers, but instead will make opponents work for a shot deep into the clock. On offense the Magic would like to keep the pace even, but can be dangerous in transition with three-point shots.