Jordan Crawford is excelling without Nick Young in the lineup, but his shot selection may be hurting John Wall. Credit: Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE
WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- The Wizards collapsed at the Verizon Center in the fourth quarter for the third time in four games, this time succumbing to the Detroit Pistons 79-77 in one of the ugliest games of the year.
With five seconds left, Rodney Stuckey was able dribble all the way to the foul line without rigid pressure from Wizards guard Jordan Crawford. The fifth year player from Eastern Washington stroked a jumper in Crawford's face with .2 seconds remaining, sending the Wizards to the locker room with a familiar feeling of disgust.
"I was able to get a little separation with my move," said Stuckey, who finished with 24 points. "After I stepped back, I felt like I had a good enough look to get my shot off."
You can make several arguments about the game. The obvious one is that at least the Wizards are playing in close games now. In the final minute with the lead bouncing back and forth like a game of ping-pong, Washington actually executed a reputable late game offense. Two of the three final shots in the game for the Wizards were on gorgeous low post moves from Nene, who had been mostly irrelevant on the night --eight points and nine boards.
So what about the lone miss in the final minute? You guessed it. John Wall.
Down 76-75 with 11 seconds left, Wall was the recipient of a smooth pass from Nene on baseline cutter. The point guard freed himself as much as humanly possible in a close fourth quarter game, launched himself at the rim, and completely short armed what could have been the game winning layup.
"I put a lot of pressure [on myself]. When we lose these games, its me as a point guard to get the best sets and best plays...All we can do is try to make shots," said Wall.
Maybe you don't entirely blame Wall, because the Wizards were able to tie the game back up at 77, before eventually letting Stuckey sucker punch the team in the gut.
Or maybe you do blame Wall. For the third straight home contest, with the game on the line, John Wall failed to prove he can score when it matters the most. And against Detroit, he floundered in his best basketball trait: taking it to the hoop.
Does Cleveland's son Kyrie Irving make that layup? Does New York Knick sensation Jeremy Lin hit the three against the Hawks? Does Ricky Rubio let the clock run off against the Pacers? Whether you hate my argument or not, the NBA, more than any other sport, is a game of comparison.
These losses are pure learning experiences for Wall, as has been the entire 2011-2012 season. If you aren't disappointed in the franchise player repeatedly coming up short, you need to stop giving Wall a break. We should be seeing Wall progressing into a borderline dominant player. Game-changing players are at their best in the fourth quarter. Being mentally elevated above other players late in games isn't something you learn in an off-season. I am starting to get nervous for John Wall.
Offensive rebounding was a big problem in the game -- a 15-8 Detroit advantage -- a common theme during this current four game losing streak. But clearly, the Wizards lack creative scoring options in close games. Both need to be addressed. It's up to Ted Leonsis and either the new general manager or Ernie Grunfeld to prioritize which is a greater need.
If you listen to the Grantland podcast with Bill Simmons and Steve Kerr, both agree that having a top five pick in this year's NBA draft isn't ideal. A player who is selected in the 20's may end up being the second best player in the draft class. The projected depth in the 2012 draft class is what supposedly is going to make this crop of rookies special. It's an interesting dilemma.
Outside of the final four minutes at the Verizon Center, the game was pathetically played by both teams. I feel like both teams wold have been fine forfeiting the game, if such a choice was available. At least there were three entertaining off the court surprises.
A) Michael Phelps was seated alongside owner Ted Leonsis. Maybe he has become Andray Blatche's training partner?
B) A man asked his gorgeous girlfriend to marry him after an awkward kiss cam exchange. I could've sworn they were on the first date with how they completely missed each others lips. Then the dude pulls out a fat rock. Could he have picked a worse game? I'm giving the marriage three years at the most.
C) Brandon Knight dove deep into the stands behind the Pistons bench, chasing after a loose ball. The rookie's acrobatic leap knocked over the water cooler, delaying the game for nearly five minutes. These kinds of things only happen in Wizards-Pistons games.
*Jordan Crawford has now scored more than 20 points in six straight games.
*Kevin Seraphin confirmed to me that he has a bird named April and a snake named Snakey.
*John Wall has had seven straight games without 10 assists.
*Jan Vesely played 28 and 25 minutes against Detroit and Boston respectively. Those are both his two highest minute totals in the month of March. He's averaging 16.8 total minutes in March.
*Trevor Booker sat out with a sore right knee and a left foot issue, something his mom Tracey agreed with.
*In four games played with the Wizards, Nene is averaging 14.8 ppg, 8.8 rebounds and a solid 55.8 shooting percentage, up from the 51 percent he entered the team with.