Wall's improved February the brightest spot of the Wizards season. Credit: Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE
WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- For the second night in a row it was perimeter defense which did in the Washington Wizards. The Orlando Magic eloquently peppered the bottom of the net from three-point range in Tuesday's 102-95 Wizards loss at the Verizon Center.
"They seemed to hit the big bucket to break your back there at the end," said coach Randy Wittman about Orlando's 15-for-36 night behind the arc.
Now that I've seen him live, I think Magic forward Ryan Anderson should have the NBA's Most Improved Award locked up. Against the Wizards, Anderson scored 23 points and plucked a team-high 15 rebounds. At 6-foot-10, he's is essentially becoming Kevin Love to a lesser degree. The Wizards didn't mean to leave him open for much of the night. It's more that Anderson is so deceptive on the court, because he could be anywhere at once.
I can admit some of the Wizards continued losses -- like the one in Phoenix last week for example -- carry little noteworthy impact in what has utterly been a waste of a season.
But Tuesday stood out against Orlando because:
A) Nick Young and more namely JaVale McGee were benched from the starting lineups and down the stretch:
What Randy Wittman had to say: "It's tough. I've got to get them playing to their levels...and that's what I'm trying to do. There is nothing more than that. I had to reward those guys that dang near pulled off the game for us last night."
What JaVale McGee said about his benching: "I would like a chance to be on the floor...but I wasn't." McGee also said he doesn't understand Wittman's message in the benching.
What I have to say: JaVale, this is Wittman's message: Fourth year players don't make the kind of mental mistakes that you make. Idiotic fouls, repeated goaltending calls and a poor attitude will send you to the sidelines.
Even further, I noticed several Wizard teammates not feeding the ball to McGee when he was open. Why? Because McGee took seven shots alone in his six minutes in the first quarter and was wildly hollering for the ball. He ended with nine points, six boards but a team worst -12 in point differential.
McGee is not happy in Washington. If this Randy Wittman experiment of JaVale only playing 16 minutes a game continues, the Wizards will be hearing from McGee's agent about a trade request. McGee is too fragile to use this benching as motivation. His constant self-analysis on the court leads to lapses. The mental part of basketball is clearly McGee's biggest flaw and isn't worth investing $50 million in.
B) John Wall had 33 points on 13-of-25 shots
What Randy Wittman had to say: "John's playing with confidence right now...tonight we had a tough shooting game around him. So the assists didn't show up, he was a little more aggressive. We put him off the ball a couple of times and the ball swung around to him for scoring opportunities."
What John Wall had to say: "I just got rhythm and made some tough shots and made some easy shots...I'm not fading away as much."
What I have to say: John Wall put on a midrange clinic against the Magic. From 10 feet and beyond, I tabbed Wall at shooting 8-for-13 on the evening, good for 61 percent. The Magic were daring the Wizards oft-criticized point guard to take shots and Wall rose up to the challenge.
It was a February to remember for Wall, who ended the month posting the numbers we've been expecting all season: 18.2 ppg, 9.0 assists, 4.8 rebounds, .9 blocks and 47.4 shooting percentage. In 14 games during the month, Wall had only three stinkers. Flank this 21-year-old with another athletic shooter, and we may be just uncovering who Wall the basketball player could become. That doesn't mean I'm annoiting him a winner yet. It just means that Wall's February was the best thing to happen all season in D.C.
C) Randy Wittman is committed to playing smaller lineups
What Randy Wittman had to say: "Their energy level, it's a tough group. Chris gives us a little better floor spacing because of his ability to shoot it as well as a slower bigger guy running at him...Book just...Dwight couldn't move him."
"That group gives us a little tenacity that I like."
"We hung in there. [I'm] trying to match the right combination. To get something going."
What Mo Evans -- playing up at the small forward position -- had to say: "We've known we have to give more effort. I think over the last two games in searching for veteran players -- players who have been in the mix, I think there is a newfound sense of urgency. [We're] trying to salvage the season in whatever way we can."
What I have to say: If Wittman is willing to go small against Dwight Howard, he isn't playing around with this strategy. Chris Singleton is a lot more effective offensively in these kind of rotations and it looks as if John Wall is too. That's the best thing about Randy Wittman. He is a problem solver and won't rest -- unlike Flip Saunders -- until conventional methods have been tested.
It's a double bonus for the Wizards to play small lineups like this. First, it diminishes McGee to the bench and let's the front office and fans see what life would be like without JaVale. Secondly, the amount of ball-handlers creates offensive sets where Wall can have designed off the ball plays. I think Wall could thrive without the ball, even with Shelvin Mack in a lineup with him.
D) It's the end of the article and I'm just mentioning Dwight Howard
The Wizards completely canceled out the league's best center with mainly Trevor Booker, Kevin Seraphin and a little of McGee. Keep the small lineups coming, coach Wittman.