The Washington Wizards' tank is strong. It is a force of nature more powerful than you or I. The Wizards' tank is mighty and you would do well to respect it.
The Wizards led most of the game tonight, including a 16-point advantage in the third quarter, but fell apart in the fourth quarter for the second straight game and lost 95-92 to the visiting Atlanta Hawks. Guard Joe Johnson was quiet much of the game, but finished with 20 points after pouring in 16 in the fourth quarter and nine of Atlanta's last 11 points. The Wizards had no one to stop him and no one to answer him. Johnson knocked down a 3-pointer with less than a minute to play to give the Hawks a one point lead and when the Wiz couldn't convert on the other end they were forced to foul Johnson, who calmly sank both free throws for a three point Atlanta lead. The Wizards again had trouble on the final play of the game, much as they did against Indiana. John Wall passed to Jordan Crawford, who passed back and Wall circled around the perimeter, looking lost and clearly not running whatever play was called in the huddle during the timeout. Eventually, Wall had to force up a difficult 3-pointer as time expired. The good news is that this time he got the shot off before the clock expired. The bad news is that the shot missed and the Hawks had their win.
The Wizards were plagued by terrible 3-point shooting [4-18], an over-abundance of ill-chosen isolation plays in the second half, and an inability or unwillingness to run their offense properly down the stretch. Only two Wizards starters, Nene and Jordan Crawford, scored in double figures, with Nene contributing a game-high 21 and Crawford 20. However, Crawford didn't score in the fourth quarter and repeatedly missed long 3-pointers [1-6 from long range]. By contrast, four of the five Hawks starters scored in double figures, with Jeff Teague dishing nine assists to go with his nine points. Chris Singleton had a strong first half, but couldn't defend Johnson in the fourth quarter and missed too many key shots in the final minutes, finishing with 9 points on 11 shots. Trevor Booker led the game with 14 rebounds and scored 8 points on 8 shots, but he couldn't prevent Joe Smith from putting in 20 for the Hawks.
Disappointingly, John Wall had another sub-par game, scoring only eight points on 1-10 shooting and dishing a measly 3 assists. The Wizards as a team had only 13 assists and even when the team was leading it didn't seem as if they were running a smooth, flowing offense. It's Wall's responsibility to get the team into its offense and he's not getting it done right now, particularly in crunch time.
The Wizards had a rebounding edge of 11 after three quarters, but wound up losing the rebounding match by two, demonstrating Atlanta's complete mastery of the glass, offensive and defensive, during the decisive fourth quarter.
Washington falls to 11-36, having blown big leads in the second half in their last two games, both at home. The Wizards definitely look more like a professional team with Nene around. They are competitive for at least the first three quarters of games and their two losses since the trade have both been at the end of games, after blowing big leads. That's depressing in its own way, but at least the Wizards are now competitive most of the time, which is more than one could say about the team prior to the trade that got Nick Young and Javale McGee off the roster. The Wizards are clearly still a bad team. At least now, though, they look like a bad professional team.
If you're rooting for the tank to get more ping pong balls in the lottery hopper, you've got to be happy tonight.
WIZARDS PLAYER OF THE GAME
Nene -- 21 points, 9-13 FG, 3-4 FT, 11 reb, 3 blocks, 2 assists, 1 TO, +5 court ratio