Throughout the forty nine games that has been the Wizards unstable season, there is one definitive & consistent element: they compete. However, there's routinely one quarter their performance falters, and the scoreboard favors their opponent. Such has been the case 35 times. Up 20 points at halftime going into the third quarter against the Brooklyn Nets Friday night, a test was put on the Wizards desk. Could Washington maintain a twenty-point lead over an inconsistent, but capable Nets team?
With an 89-74 victory over Brooklyn, they passed. Here's why:
"People may not believe in home court advantage, but there is. You're sleeping in your own bed. You're doing you're own thing in you're own town." - Wizards head coach Randy Wittman
Since John Wall's return, (the only fair way to really judge this club), the Wizards are now 7-1 at the Verizon center. With the attendance & atmosphere at the stadium gradually improving, the team's performance appears to be on the same track when playing on F Street. Playoff teams such as the Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks, and now the Brooklyn Nets have all been recent victims to this teams, "team" mentality that is having it's way with opponents. Emeka Okafur, far from a player whose offensive game kids will model theirs after hit a fade away jumper with the shot clock winding down in the third quarter. You think that's because Emeka, averaging eight ppg has been practicing that shot all week long after practice? No. That's because his team is playing well, at home, and he feels confident in taking shots he has no business taking, at home.
"That's one thing that he (Coach Wittmn) is really keen on in practice. He doesn't really worry about offense because we have guys that can score and get easy shots. We create offense off of our defense." - Wizards Point Guard John Wall
The Wizards forced 15 turnovers, resulting in 19 points. Chances are if Jerry Stackhouse played who was absent due to a stiff neck (let the game go Jerry, let it go) those numbers would have increased. Ariza and Webster played key roles in slowing down Joe Johnson who finished with fourteen points. Johnson repeatedly had a hand in his face and never got going, shooting 6-12 on the night. His inability to create off the dribble played into the Wizards hands as his game was limited to mid-range jump shots that just weren't falling. Williams finished with 20, but it didn't come easy as he went 7-20 from the field. "We're inconsistent. I've been inconsistent. To many ups and downs," said Williams. Williams, Johnson and Brook Lopez combined for 47 points, the rest of the team, a woeful 27. "I thought they were aggressive, they doubled us and they contested inside. Knowing how well those guys have been playing and their effort, we needed to bring some of that ourselves. Their defense had a lot to do with that," said Nets head coach P.J. Carlesimo. The win marked the eighth consecutive game Washington has held their opponent below 100 points. Brooklyn shot a dismal 32.9% from the field, evidence that Wittman's commitment to defense is paying off.
The second quarter was one of the worst seen by an NBA team this season. Brooklyn went eight minutes without a basket, was outscored 30-11 & finished 4-22 in the quarter.
"I really liked our effort in the first and third and for most of the fourth, but the second was really terrible. It was really, really disappointing as a team and also individually." - PJ Carlesimo
"It really (demise of game) started in the second quarter, we just didn't have any continuity; we weren't on the same page. During that second quarter, I don't know what happened. Give them credit, they've been playing well of late. We never bounced back from that second quarter." - Joe Johnson
The Wizards travel to Milwaukee & Detroit before the All Star Break.