Dave Johnson: Wizards Fizzle After Fast Start


Dave Johnson: Wizards Fizzle After Fast Start

Saturday, March 13, 9:40pm

By Dave Johnson
CSNWashignton.comWashington---Against the Orlando Magic, better was just not good enough for the Washington Wizards. With turnovers under control and a dynamic start the Wizards gave themselves a chance but were overwhelmed by a Magic team with more options in a 109-95 loss.It was a dream beginning for the Wizards who responded to the challenge of playing their third game in as many nights by outscoring the Magic in the first quarter 33-20. The Wizards closed the quarter on an impressive 16-2 run over 4:22 and made seven of their final nine shots.Off the bench Fabricio Oberto played a role in the Wizards late first quarter surge. Oberto not only challenged the Magics Dwight Howard but helped the offense with decisive passes and effective screens. In addition Andray Blatche scored 15 of his team high 32-points in the opening quarter.Blatche is very, very good because he can get that shot off over the top any time he wants, said Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy. He can score in the post. He can put the ball on the floor. Hes a tough matchup. We were prepared to put Dwight on him down the stretch if we needed to. I thought we worked harder on him in the second half but hes a force down there.Dwight Howard is very much a force for the Magic and the Wizards really didnt have an answer for him. Howard led the Magic with 28-points and 14-rebounds including 11- points, five rebounds, and four assists in the pivotal second quarter when the Magic outscored the Wizards 41-22.As much as Howard helped in that second, the real credit for the Magic ability to take control of the game before half-time was the play off the bench especially J.J. Reddick and Brandon Bass.Reddick finished with 18-points and his ability to penetrate and challenge the Wizards defense put him at the free throw line where he was six for six. Bass added 16-points and nine rebounds and was strong at making cuts to the basket and finding open seams when the Wizards went to a 2-3 zone.I thought when Orlandos bench came in during the second quarter and they changed the game, said Wizards coach Flip Saunders. (JJ) Redick and (Brandon) Bass really hurt us a lot. Our main guys tonight at times played well together. During that stretch in the second quarter we didnt have great bench play and were playing behind the eight-ball from that point on.So the great start was wiped out in the second quarter, but the Wizards only trailed 61-55 at halftime. The Magic then opened the second half on a 7-0 run and forced the Wizards to really chase the game.There is no question that we got fatigued, Saunders said. It seemed at halftime we came into rest and started thinking how much we have been playing. It was like we didnt have any juice to start the second half. With 2:05 left in the third quarter the Wizards JaVale McGee was able to slap the ball away from a driving Bass and that led to a transition jump shot by Shaun Livingstron from 17-feet that cut the Magic lead to ten points at 84-74.It was as close as the Wizards would get, but still it was Livingstons best outing in his eight games with the Wizards. Livingston finished with 18-points and 8-assists and in those heady times in the first quarter even had a gliding drive to the basket that was reminiscent of Livingston before he suffered his knee injuries in 2007.I feel that he has a very high basketball I.Q. and seems to calm everyone on the floor down, Saunders said of Livingston. He also has great size so he can back anyone down and get a shot off. He has been playing well when he has been on the floor. I expect a lot out of my point guards. I think he is a natural point guard.The Wizards only had ten turnovers on the night and only made one fewer field goal than the Magic (41-40) but the Magic made six more three-pointers and six more free throws to keep the Wizards at a distance,

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How one half of assertive basketball may turn around the Wizards' season

How one half of assertive basketball may turn around the Wizards' season

The fat lady wasn’t warming up to sing an operatic number, not with 66 games left in the regular season. Then the flailing Washington Wizards, coming off consecutive double-digit losses, came out flat yet again. They trailed the Los Angeles Clippers by 19 points at halftime some 36 hours after the general public heard about their private quarrels and following weeks of basketball nightmares. 

As the Clippers scored 40 points in the first quarter and led 73-54 at halftime. she might have at least begun some mental prep for an upcoming performance. Then came the comeback within the comeback. The Wizards rallied for a 125-118 win when all the world was ready to say sayonara. 

Did Washington indeed save its season by outscoring Los Angeles 71-45 in the second half? Answering 'yes' presumes all is right with the gang that has struggled to defend throughout the season and possibly has chemistry issues even a family therapist couldn’t fix with thrice-weekly sessions. 

The day began with coach Scott Brooks and the team’s stars addressing leaks of intense arguments among players and a scolding by All-Star John Wall directed to the head coach. There was no spark initially even with a different starting lineup. 

The first half served as a season-long microcosm. It’s why rumors of breaking up the team seem plausible. 

Over the remaining 24 minutes, the Wizards finally woke up. They flew around the court defensively and passed to the open man. The stars led. The team played like a group wanting to play for each other, willing to do whatever necessary for a win.

John Wall finished with 30 points. Bradley Beal scored 27. Otto Porter grabbed 14 rebounds to go with 11 points. Six players scored in double figures. Everybody ate. 

“That’s how we need to play,” Beal told NBC Sports Washington. “Not going to say everything is fixed because we were still down [24 points], still have a lot of work to do. Got a lot of to change and get better. Our effort was there in the second half. That’s the type of intensity we have to have for the full 48.”

Numerous moments and performances stood out in the second half beyond the main players. Tomas Satoransky’s hustle helped begin the turnaround. Thomas Bryant, who started with Dwight Howard sidelined, provided interior energy. Jeff Green dropped 20 points. Markieff Morris, coming off the bench for the first time since Feb. 29, 2016, showed more than in recent games.

One play deep in the fourth quarter showed the difference between 16 games of defensive slumber and Tuesday’s resolve. 

The clock ticked under five minutes with Los Angeles leading 109-107. Clippers forward Tobias Harris crushed the Wizards early and finished with 29 points. He had the ball near the left corner when Wall and Beal sprung an aggressive trap as the shot clock wound down. Morris over hustled for support. The late arrival helped. Shot clock violation, Wizards ball. Washington then took the lead with a Morris 3-pointer. They soon pulled away with an 11-2 run. Their main players showed the way.

“We have to,” Beal said to NBC Sports Washington. “When it’s coming from the main guys. John and I have to give more, more and more. That’s something we realize and tell each other that. That’s that only way we’re going to get out of it. We just have to give more.”

The Thanksgiving holiday provides a natural break. Washington resumes game action Friday at Toronto. At 6-11, the Wizards have work to do, but at least they can catch their breath after a surreal span. 

“It’s a whirlwind. It’s a whirlwind,” said Beal, who remained in the game after suffering a cut over his eye following a head-butt collision with Clippers guard Tyrone Wallace. “We embrace it. Everything is a challenge. It’s adversity. We’ve been in this situation before. We’ve been in this situation where everybody thinks we have an issue. I think we did a great job of ignoring it as best we could. Doing what we could to get a win. A  much-needed win at that.”

Clippers coach Doc Rivers monitors the Wizards because his son, Austin, serves Beal’s primary backup. More film work came leading into the second meeting between the teams. Los Angeles hammered Washington 136-104 on Oct. 28. Things were only getting worse for the Wizards. Then came the second half.

“They just forgot about the stuff they’re going through and got back to playing basketball,” Doc Rivers said of the Wizards.

“I’ve always thought that’s what you have to do. Every guy out there on both teams, they played basketball all their lives. Then you get all the, what I call ‘stuff.’ The clutter starts affecting your game. Tonight you could see the clutter was killing them early. Then when they saw they had a chance to win, they started playing basketball again.”

Assume nothing but sunshine and swishes going forward if you must. Ideally, the Wizards do not. They have work remaining. In the second half against the Clippers, Wall, Beal, and crew rose up. In doing so, the fat lady took a seat.

We’ll see for how long.


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Markieff Morris unhappy with leaks coming out of Wizards' locker room

Markieff Morris unhappy with leaks coming out of Wizards' locker room

The Wizards had just completed a 24-point comeback against the L.A. Clippers, but something wasn't sitting right with power forward Markieff Morris.

When asked by a reporter if it was nice to get the win given their recent losing and the media controversy surrounding the team, Morris couldn't help but wonder who it was who leaked comments made by players behind closed doors at a practice last week.

There were very specific quotes cited by several media outlets and Morris wants to know where they came from. 

"It's f***ed up what's going on," he said.

"The comments that's coming from the locker room, that's f***ed up."

Morris went on to say that anonymous sources leaking information shouldn't "happen in sports." Many professional athletes see the locker room and team-only events like practice as sacred. Anyone who breaks that code is, in their eyes, a traitor.

If Morris knew who the information came from, it sounds like he would do something about it.

"I don't know who it is, so it's hard to address. But it's messed up," he said.

Which player or member of the organization spilled the beans could be a question for this team all season. It doesn't sound like Morris will forget that it happened.