Washington Wizards Three Takeaways: Wizards Hold Own But LeBron and Co. End The Magical Run In Game Of The Year

Feb 6, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard <a rel=

Washington Wizards held their own, but saw their 17-game home winning streak come to an end against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

WHAT. A. GAME.  

As a fan of the Washington Wizards, I sometimes forget what it feels like to watch a tense back and forth matchup.  The stakes were less high, but I haven’t felt that feeling since the 2015 NBA Playoffs against Atlanta. Both teams wanted this game bad and it showed.

The fans in the Verizon Center showed up and created an exhilarating atmosphere. The Wizards posted their second sellout game of the season, and its back and forth nature has media types calling it the game of the year.

On Saturday, John Wall called it the biggest regular season game of his career.  

Markieff Morris said “You have to beat the best to be the best.”  Bradley Beal told reporters, “We’re climbing in the rankings and we’re going to keep climbing.” It’s safe to say this was a highly anticipated game pitting the number one seed Cavaliers against three seed Washington.

The network executives at TNT made the right call “flexing” the matchup, and replacing a stinker between the Lakers and Knicks.  

As Washington built a 17 game home win streak, the national news and media finally came running.  

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst wrote an excellent profile on John Wall, published earlier on Monday.   Washington was fourth in the ESPN Power Rankings for the second straight week.  

Washington didn’t disappoint in this back and forth affair, and showed exactly why they should be taken seriously as a potential conference finalist.  

As has been the case most of the season, the starters led the way on offense.

The Wizards starters scored 119 of the team’s 135 points, including 41 from Beal.  In the end, it wasn’t enough as Kyrie Irving led the Cavs in overtime after LeBron James fouled out.  

Both teams had plenty of opportunities to win down the stretch, but ultimately, LeBron put a dagger in Washington’s heart.  

Down three, Kevin Love through a beautiful outlet pass up the court to James, who was near the Wizards’ bench.  

Guarded by Beal, James took one dribble to get behind the 3-point line before hitting a ridiculous turnaround three pointer off the glass to tie the game.  

It was basically the most amazing shot he could make.  

On to the three takes.

Feb 6, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards center <a rel=

The fourth quarter

Wall and the Wizards have begun establishing themselves as a confident team in the fourth quarter.  

On Saturday, the Pelicans scored only 8 points the entire final period.  

This game was different as both teams were lights out on offense and defense was sometimes non-existent.  

Both teams routinely left deadeye shooters wide open, and they combined to hit 10 threes in the quarter.  

Cleveland had 7 of those three pointers, with LeBron nailing 3.  

With Love, Irving, Korver, and LeBron on the floor, Washington simply had too many 3-point shooters to cover at times.

For Washington, Bradley Beal emerged as the closer, hitting two three pointers in the fourth, scoring 10 points.  

His last three of the quarter was huge and tied the game at 116 with 43 seconds left.  

Every time the Cavs hit a three, Washington countered with a big basket on the other side.  

The Wizards were able to turn a three point deficit into a three point lead in only 40 seconds, giving Verizon Center life.  

The team was one absurd three pointer away from posting 18 straight wins at home and getting its first 8 game win streak in 16 years.  

This loss, while tough, showed the team’s heart, and hopefully they can parlay that energy into a great finish to the week.

Another great aspect of winning basketball environments is seeing the crowd getting behind the home team, and the Washington Wizards faithful stood the entire last three minutes or so of the fourth and OT.  I’ve been to games where the crowd sat through the final possession of a tie game.

The Wizards will be on national TV two more times in the next week.  Friday vs. Indiana (ESPN) and Monday vs. Oklahoma City (TNT).

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Washington Wizards

The Big Three?

Much is always made of Cleveland’s big three, and rightly so. LeBron and Kyrie helped lead the team back from down 3-1 in the NBA Finals last year while Love will join the duo in New Orleans next weekend for the All-Star game.  

It seems since Dallas won the championship in 2011, you must have a big three to be a contender in the NBA.  With Washington wanting to be a legitimate championship contender, they’ll certainly need to see a “big three” develop.  

So far, the team has seen solid production from all 5 players in the starting lineup, as they lead the league in games with all five starters over 10 points.

But to continue improving, and make “the leap” Wall, Beal, and Porter have to play like the team’s big three.  

They certainly showed the possibilities in this one.  

While Wall ran the offense early, Porter and Beal shot the ball extremely well.  

Beal mixed in some nice drives to go along with his great shooting.  

Porter showed a national audience why he’s currently the best 3-point shooter in the league, by hitting 5 of 7 threes.  

Beal made 6 of his 14 threes.

Porter came into the game averaging 14 points per game and 46 percent shooting from three.  

Matched up against LeBron James most of the night, he got open running off screens and drifting into the corners.

Beal did a great job attacking the Cavs defense all night.  

When matched up with Kyrie Irving, he routinely drove and was able to use crossovers and stepbacks to free himself for jump shots when covered by Iman Shumpert.  

On one such possession, Beal crossed up Shumpert who fell and had to leave the game with a sprained ankle.  He did step on Kevin Love’s foot but that’s besides the point.

Part of the reason the team has become much harder to guard is Beal’s emergence as a playmaker.  Beal had 8 assists in this game, many coming in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Looking at the box score it would seem Wall struggled with his shot (8-19), but most of his misses came around the rim when seeking contact.  Additionally, Wall made six of six from the free throw line, including the two right before LeBron’s three.

The game had playoff intensity throughout, and it seemed that the refs officiated it like one as well. Despite plenty of contact throughout, there were many obvious calls missed on both sides.

Wall ended up with 22 points, Porter had 25 points, and Beal had 41, for a total of 88 points. Washington’s next game gets a little easier with a visit to Brooklyn to face the league worst Nets on Wednesday.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Washington Wizards

Defending the Stars

As Morris said, to be the best you’ve got to beat the best.  

A reason the Washington Wizards couldn’t take a larger lead in the second half was the play of Kevin Love and LeBron James.  Cleveland came out of halftime motivated after being down three at the break, and outscored the Wizards by 7 in the third.

Of their 32 third quarter points, Love had 15 including three 3 pointers. His offensive explosion aligned perfectly with Kevin Harlan and Grant Hill discussing a report from Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.

 According to the report, “LeBron is the one pushing the Cleveland Cavaliers front office to acquire Carmelo even if it potentially means having to include Kevin Love”.

It was fascinating watching the announcers debate who would be better for the team and Love in real time dominating the Wizards inside and out.  Is it possible Love saw the report at halftime?

When guarded by Morris, Love spaced to the 3-point line. When guarded by Porter, Love laid waste to him in the paint.  He showed exactly why Cleveland’s management doesn’t want to trade the All-Star.

LeBron detested the report after the game, saying “It’s trash, and the guy who wrote it is trash too.”  Regardless of that, in this league when players are this hot it’s hard to beat them.  Beal was equally hot on offense, but one team had to lose.

LeBron, even before the late three, hit three threes in the fourth in a 1:30 minute stretch, keeping Washington from leading by more than three points.  Lastly, Irving scored 11 of his 23 points in overtime, reminding everyone that he’s a clutch player as well.

Wall seemed to do a good job on Irving early in the game, and whether by scheme or mismatches, Beal was left on Irving most of the overtime, when he did his damage.

Irving, James and Love combined for 94 points, but the Wiz were really hurt by the play from Tristan Thompson, who scored 22 points and had some huge offensive rebounds late.

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