Who needs to watch the NCAA Men's National Championship game? Who cares about the Washington Capitals must-win match up against the Tampa Bay Lightning?
Apparently, 11,000 people at the Verizon Center last night shared those very same sentiments. With no Nenè and Trevor Booker in the lineup due to injuries, Washington faced a tough challenge. The Bucks entered the game 2 1/2 games behind the surging New York Knicks for the 8th and final playoff spot in the east. Washington was playing a role they've unfortunately known all too well this season: The role of the spoiler.
Unfortunately, they came up empty as the Bucks pulled to within 2 games of the Knicks after beating Washington 112-98
Speaking of National Championships, let me use this platform to go off on a small, but tiny tangent as it relates to the reputation of the professional basketball team that resides in the Nation's Capital.
For days now, The Wizards have been tormented by the media with respect to their comparison to the Kentucky Wildcats. The hypothetical question that people have been asking is that are the Wizards capable of beating the Kentucky Wildcats? Every single member of the media should be absolutely ashamed of themselves for asking such a ridiculously blasphemous question. Not only would they beat them, but they would run them out of the gym. Kentucky may have 4 or 5 "potential NBA players" but last I checked, The Wizards have a whole roster of NBA players. The Wizards have also beaten the Lakers and Thunder. Please, save yourself the embarrassment and stop trying to compare a young, rebuilding team to a college team stacked with illegally recruited 19-20 year olds.
Ok, back to the point. The Wizards were, simply put, out hustled tonight by a Bucks team who really showcased everything that they had to offer. Going in to the game, we knew that Milwaukee could do 3 things: 1. We knew they could score (8th in the league in total points scored per game). 2. We knew they could pass the ball (3rd in the league in assists per game). 3. And we knew they would crash the boards (They entered last night's game 5th in the league in offensive rebounding).
112 points, 25 assists, and 48 rebounds later, you get a final score of 112-98 in favor of the Bucks. It was really quite frustrating to watch. I can't recall how many time I would see Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis or Shawn Livingston dribble around the whole team at will and then, when the shot wouldn't go in, Ilyasova or or Udoh would be there for the rebound and put back. As the two Milwaukee forwards combined for 31 points and 19 rebounds, they effectively drained the life out of the Wizards every time they made a run.
As a fan, it was extremely frustrating to watch. Even though the Wizards were down and out a couple times throughout the course of the game, the team showed tremendous heart. They would make runs and fund ways to cut the Milwaukee from fourteen or fifteen down to single digits. At one point, the Wizards even cut the lead to 2 in the third quarter. Every time Washington found a way to cut the lead and put themselves in a position to take the lead, the Bucks would respond with their own run.
"We cut the lead to 2 and they responded with a 12-0 run" Said Coach Randy Wittman. It was tough on the team and you could feel the energy being sucked out of the "less than capacity" crowd that was in attendance.
"They just played harder than us tonight. They were moving the ball and got to the line" said a noticeably frustrated John Wall who finished with 14 points and 9 rebounds. At one point in the game, the Bucks had shot 15 more free throws than the Wizards and it really seemed like Washington was not going to be the recipients of any whistles. On a night where they could've used some help from the officials, they got none of it. Jordan Crawford put up another great stat line and continues to be an offensive threat for an offensively challenged Wizards team. He finished with a game high 23 points and was 3/4 from behind the arc.
With 13 game left to go and nothing to play for, it's important for this team to finish on a strong note.
"You want to go out there and win as many games as you can" said John Wall. For a lot of the guys on this team, the final 13 games here are an audition to see who's going to be here next season. I think guys like Cartier Martin, Brian Cook, Kevin Seraphin and even some of the rookie class have to really play well down the stretch if they wish to continue to be on this team. Ernie and Ted have shown that they're more than willing to trade away players regardless of talent and "potential" if they've shown to be dead weight on a young team. Contribution is key and for this team, everything has to be positive moving forward.