The Washington Wizards faced a tall task last night, after going 1-1 on the start of the Western road trip, they were faced with the challenge of taking down Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Along with the rest of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Wizards just couldn’t close the deal. In just his second game back from injury, Kevin Durant aka the reigning MVP went off for 34 points. Much of which came when the Thunder needed them most and when the Wizards could ill afford to surrender baskets. Durant was being guarded, well Rasual Butler was assigned to KD in the second half and Durant made Butler and the Wizards pay. The Thunder went on to win, 109-102. They are 17-17, back to .500 after starting the season 3-12. Yes, they’ve gone 14-5 since.
That aside, the Wizards had a chance to tie the game late. After forcing Westbrook into an ill advised shot, the Wizards got the rebound and got the ball to their All-Star point guard. Wall raced down court, before pulling it back out to set something up in the halfcourt. Wall was being guarded by Serge Ibaka at the time. For whatever reason, Wall picked up his dribble. Forced to pass, he tried to get the ball to Bradley Beal. Westbrook jumped the obvious passing lane and raced down court for a layup attempt. Wall took off in pursuit and challenged the layup, possibly even getting a piece of Westbrook’s shot. Fortunately for the Thunder, Ibaka trailed his All-Star point guard and corralled the miss and converted the easy lay in. Beal was the closest Wizard to halfcourt, but on the steal, he slipped so he wasn’t able to get back down court in time.
‘Professor’ Andre Miller went to work last night, taking Westbrook to school during a stretch in the second quarter. Making plays off the pick-and-roll but more importantly he was in peak performance in post-up situations. Creating for others and him self a-la Mark Jackson at times. His 15 points were huge for the Wizards tonight.
While Butler didn’t have a great night on the defensive end, he did have one of the biggest highlights of the game where he came down the lane and dunked on Ibalka. Yes, you read that correctly…..
The game went back and forth in the second half, but every time the Wizards had a lead, Kevin Durant went and took it away. While the Wizards closed the first half strong, the Thunder closed both the third and fourth quarters strong. KD hit back-to-back three pointers to close the third quarter, single handedly erasing the Wizards lead and tying the game. The second of those being a pull-up jumper in Butler’s face.
Kevin Durant’s efficiency has been crazy lately: 32-of-49 shooting (65%) for 99 points in his last 83 minutes (nine quarters).
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) January 3, 2015
Both Paul Pierce and Butler were far too short and didn’t have enough length to defend Durant, well at least bother him. Otto Porter was healthy, but seemed to have lost playing time with Martel Webster’s return. Porter is one of the few on Washington’s roster with the length to try and match Durant’s.
The Wizards didn’t go quietly as Wall found Beal on a two on one fast break, Beal hit the wide open three pointer to cut the Thunder lead to three. After forcing the Thunder miss, the one and only turnover on Wall’s night occured.
Kevin Durant’s last 10 quarters: 108 points on 36-of-55 shooting (15-of-24 from 3).
— Royce Young (@royceyoung) January 3, 2015
Beal looked great last night, showing glimpses of being a complete shooting guard on the offensive end (21 points, 6 assists), he also did a great job on the glass(10 rebounds). Wall did a wonderful job of running the team and not forcing it on the offensive end (14 points, 12 assists). Although, Wall could learn to be a little like Westbrook at times in terms of being assertive. Especially on that last possession, when he had Ibaka on an island in front of him (Westbrook could stand to learn a bit from Wall as well, like running a team and not forcing the issue).
The Wizards could have done a better job getting the ball inside, they also have to cure this recent stretch of high turnover games. That is their biggest issue as of late and the direct point of emphasis when considering losses.
The Wizards play the Spurs tonight, San Antonio will be without Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard, that won’t make the task of defeating the reigning champs that much easier though. Through the years, the Spurs have leaned on their depth when starters are hurt or just needed rest. A Wizards win would put them back to .500 on this road trip before facing the Pelicans.