Last night's game between the hometown Wiz kids and the visiting Indiana Pacers reminded of one of the worst songs I've ever heard in my entire life. No, not that "Call Me Maybe" song, (although that ranks up at the top), but rather, one of Katy Perry's newest and most popular songs, "The One That Got Away." I'm a DJ whose been a suffering Wizards fan my whole, allow me to make my comparisons in peace!
Back to business. Sure, that title could be the summary for multiple games the Wizards have played in this season, but this one hurts.
With a 20-point half time lead; let me repeat that one more time in case you didn't HEAR what I WROTE (yes, I'm fully aware of how I worded that) THE WASHINGTON WIZARDS HAD A 20 POINT HALF TIME LEAD, and found a way to blow in the 2nd half.
So what happened? How did this team collapse the way that they did? More importantly, why has this happened more than once to this team this season? In most cases we can point to the 2nd half lack of productivity, specifically the 3rd quarter and pin point an exact time when it started to unravel for this team, but the problems for this team started in the 2nd quarter.
From the get go, the Wiz Kids came out on fire. They started the game 7 of 7 from the field and at one point, I was having a side bet with my partner, Abdullah as to who would miss the first shot. Ironically it was Chris Singleton who probably had the best offensive game of his NBA career, and it's totally overshadowed by the embarrassing way that this team "Katy Perry'd" the game. The Wizards were attacking the basket, Nene was drawing double teams and able to kick out to guys in the perimeter and most importantly, the guys were hitting the open jump shots.
I was in shock!
Jordan Crawford was looking like an 8 year NBA veteran, Singleton was hitting 3 after 3, the offense had a consistent flow and as a result, the team scored 34 points in the 1st quarter (season high) and were shooting almost 65% from the field. These numbers may just indicate another night for Thunder, Heat, and Nuggets fans, but to the Verizon Center faithful, it was like Katy Perry and Kanye West came down, kidnapped the 11-34 Wizards, and swapped them with another team.
Get it? Katy Perry, "E.T."? Aliens? Kanye….forget it.
Then, just like that, something happened that totally changed the landscape and outcome of the game. With just under 3 minutes left and the Wizards on cruise control, Coach Wittman takes his entire starting 5 out of the game and puts in his reserves.
Wrong move Randy.
I understand the team is fatigued. I understand that the guys are coming off a long road trip and TRUST ME I understand that they're entering a stretch where they play 6 games in 9 nights. I understand that the guys need some rest, but when you're the Wizards and nothing has come easy to you all season, why not put the team away when you have the chance? Granted, even with the reserves in for most of the 2nd quarter, they were able to take a 20 point lead in to the half, but that had nothing to do with our guys being productive as much as it did with Indiana forgetting to get off the team bus until the start of the 3rd quarter. As bad as we were in the 2nd quarter, the Pacers were worse. With 2:30 left and a 15 point lead, the 11-34 Wizards showed that they were content.
Clearly, the Pacers were anything but content.
Why not push the lead? Why not keep the starters in for just a few more minutes? If we're going to use the excuse that the guys are young, well the young legs and endurance of this team should be used to their strengths in situations like this. Indiana was not involved in this game at all in the first half and for whatever reason, Washington allowed them to generate momentum and confidence. Indiana weathered the storm and took advantage of the Wizards youth, inexperience and forced the Wiz Kids to start their offense from half court instead of running up and down like they were in the first quarter. When you have a team down and out, you can't let them think that they have a chance to come back and win the game and that's exactly what the Wizards did. All of a sudden, Roy Hibbert made Nene's life miserable by not allowing him to get down low. Danny Granger woke up and scored 15 of his 16 points in the 2nd half. Combine that with a team like the Wizards who lack confidence and leadership and you get a 2nd half meltdown of epic proportions.
Perhaps the most telling depiction of the game came in coach Wittman's post game interview. Nothing he said really was of a surprise to anyone, but it was the length of his speech that clearly depicted his frustration. As my colleague Abdullah always says to me,
"Sometimes, it's what you don't say that tells the most." I guess by that theory, Coach Wittman could've said more.
It was almost as if he was waiting for the first pause in thought from the media members to say, "Is that it? ok, thanks guys." and left the room faster than Rashard Lewis. He was in shock, members of the media were in shock, even the Verizon Center maintenance crew was shocked. No one knew what to say or do. Clearly, neither did Wittman. I've seen this team blow leads and suffer some heartbreaking losses, but nothing tops this. it was like watching something die right in front of you and you could do nothing to stop it. No amount of medicine or prayer was enough to make the pain go away. Even with the ball and a chance to win the game with 9.5 seconds left on the clock, John Wall wasn't able to release the shot at the right time.
"I was just a second late."
That seems to be the summary of the Washington Wizards 2011-2012 season. Missed opportunities, distractions, and not being able to produce at the right time.
The one that got away…