In the now defunct Continental Basketball Association, essentially the predecessor to the current NBA D-League, points in the standings were awarded to teams for each quarter they won. It was designed to keep fans interested until the very end regardless of the score.
There is no incentive in the NBA to win quarters, only games. The Wizards didnt need standings as motivation. Head coach Randy Wittman was enough. With the Wizards down by 22 points to the Chicago Bulls in the third quarter, Wittman challenged his players to go for it on defense with a full court press in the fourth quarter.
I said lets go guys, we have one chance to make this a ball game, said Wittman. We got it down to eight points and I told the guys on the bench we have a chance to steal this game.
The Wizards had a chance, but in the end Bulls won the game. In pro sports there are not supposed to be feel-good wins. Still at the end of 12-minutes of watching his players chase the Bulls for 94-feet, Wittman was proud. The Wizards players walked off the court with their heads held high. They high-fived and embraced each other in a show of respect for the fight they showed for each other on the court.
Our pressure has been good, Wittman added. We havent been able to work on our five-guy full court press. I do have my point guards defending 84 to 94 feet from the basket.(Trevor)Booker has the ability to cover a lot of ground and I thought he did a heck of a job trying to get the ball out of Roses (Derrick) hands early.
In the fourth quarter against the Bulls the Wizards had six steals and three blocked shots. The Wizards scored 14 of their 29 points in the quarter off eight Bulls turnovers. There was Nick Young, shall we say not known for his defense, playing maybe the best defense of his career. Young blocked two shots, had one steal, and helped force a jump ball.
It felt great to come back because of how hard we are playing, said Young. I can play that way (pressure defense). That was one of Tim Floyds (Youngs coach when he played at USC) things because we were all long and athletic. It can work if you really dig down and play hard.
The Wizards have the long and athletic part down. For the final 12 minutes of Mondays game against the Bulls, the Wizards showed they were able to use those physical attributes to narrow the talent and experience gap they will need to bridge in most games.
For the record it was the 17th loss of the year, but it may be the one that goes a long way to making the Wizards more of a team.