Plain and simple: this one sucked. A matchup that could have and should have been written off as a victory ended up serving as one of the sloppiest performances of the season for the Washington Wizards.
Although the Wizards did show some production in sporadic portions, they let this one slip away and it’s ALL on them. The Wizards surrendered 30 points to the Timberwolves off 24 committed turnovers, a statistic that doomed them all game, but specifically down the wire.
Nursing a 2-point deficit with about 3 minutes remaining in game, the Wizards were plagued by the same clumsiness that they had displayed all game. On back-to-back possessions we saw a Nene offensive foul, followed by a traveling call on Emeka Okafor. But it was the sequence of plays about a minute later that put this one in the bag for the Wolves when John Wall got robbed of the ball by Ricky Rubio which lead to a J.J. Baraea layup. Following a timeout, Wall nearly lost the ball in the same fashion but instead the ball landed in Trevor Ariza's hands, who threw up an errant 3-point shot from the corner, missing the rim by two continents.
Despite the barrage of turnovers, the Wizards did show promise with efficient shooting, lead by Wall who hit his first five jump shots, all from 15-20 feet. The Wizards made 65% of their shots in the first quarter, but scored only 14 in the second, converting a 5 point lead into a 5 point deficit by halftime.
The game never got out of reach for the Wizards, thanks in most part to the Timberwolves’ poor shooting, both from the field and from the free throw line. But the Wolves made all of that forgettable in the fourth, lead by Rick Rubio and his four steals that was accounted towards seven Wizards turnovers in that period.
There’s definitely no gimme here. While all five Wizards’ starters finished in double figures, none had stand out performances. Trevor Ariza lit a fire on the hardwood in the first half, scoring 16 points and hitting three 3-pointers but never scored after that. Nene produced a few buckets but good God did he also produce some turnovers. Wall was scoring efficiently early and throughout the first three quarters, but was awful down the stretch. All these factors seem to point at Emeka Okafor winning the crown for the night, primarily because of his utter consistency. Mek pulled down 14 boards on the way to his 7th double-double in the last 10 games. He also was accountable for only two turnovers, which is a milestone considering how charitable to the opposition the Wizards were with the ball last night.
John Wall: Jimmy was on fire in the first quarter last night. You can tell he was feeling himself and his shot, hitting his first five shots, all from beyond 15 feet. What he (nor WE) wasn’t feeling was his six turnovers, which was the sixth time in 11 games he’s amounted that many giveaways. Without Beal, Wall obviously struggled more to find teammates in scoring position, specifically from his front court. But again, Wall remained productive for most of the game, until those daunting final few minutes when he became Ricky Rubio’s defensive toy.
Ricky Rubio: WaPo’s Wizards Insider Michael Lee said it best: It almost seemed as if this man had more than two arms the way he was picking off the Wizards left and right last night. Rubio finished with six steals and 11 dimes to go with 15 points as the Wizards struggled countering his basketball prowess all night. The Wolves, who had been relishing the Wizards’ mistakes all night long, really forced the action in the 4th quarter, lead by Rubio and his stingy hands. Rubio was the culprit of four of the seven Wizards’ turnovers in that quarter, which ultimately doomed any chance the Wizards had at regaining the lead. Rubio’s court vision was unsurprisingly sharp as well, finding ways to feed his teammates, even in the narrowest of seams.
I guess that’s just what 5th overall picks from 2009 do, right? Obviously, we wouldn’t know..
The Wizards were very sharp to start the game. Ariza broke ice with a 3-pointer, Wall was hitting his jump shots. Even Nene, as bad an outing as he had overall, was damaging on the boards by getting the Wizards second chance opportunities and converting them. With all the skepticism about the Wizards’ offense without Bradley Beal, it was extremely calming to see Ariza step up and score 16 first half points, while Wall added 12. Unfortunately anything I detail beyond what I’ve just stated would be irrelevant to this segment. So moving on...
The turnovers, what else? It was just horrid. Horrible. Horrific. Horrifying. Horrendous. The Izards committed 24 stinging giveaways, but the venom was definitely applied after the seven balls they turned over in the final quarter. Much credit due to Ricky Rubio and the Wolves D, but a lot of that crap was driven by the Wizards and their mindless play. Like the multiple times we saw Wall or A.J. Price try to force passes to their inside men despite two to three defenders lurking around. Or Wall in the final minutes driving right into Rubio’s arms and coughing up the ball. Or ANY of Nene’s seven turnovers. There’s really no need to badger about this anymore.
That final buck and a half of the game was so upsetting. The Wizards had been nagged by failed closeouts time and again this season and last night was a perfect depiction of that. The Wall turnover, followed by the near turnover, followed by the Ariza shot was just oh #SoWizards.