After Heat win, evolution of a new Wizards team?
Fine, we promise this is the last Robert Griffin III at Wizards-Heat reference, until the next one anyway. Still, it's rather ironic that on the night the Redskins dynamic quarterback sat courtside the Wizards turned in their most effective passing performance of the season.
Then again, considering Randy Wittman's pass over dribble mantra has been a talking point throughout the season, maybe it was just a matter of time.
Flashback to the tail end of Sunday's practice. The Wizards went with a split-squad scrimmage, but after only a few sketchy offensive possessions, the frustrated coach hit the pause button. "I don't want dribble, dribble, dribble. I want ball movement," Wittman barked. Similar edicts have been uttered on the practice court and to the media.
Two days later, Wittman got the pass-heavy, sharing is caring style he wanted. In Tuesday's stunning 105-101 win over the reigning NBA champions, Washington tallied a season-high 31 assists on 38 baskets.
“That was a complete game for us; from start to finish. That’s as good as we’ve moved the ball all year," Wittman said following the Wizards' second win in three games. "We had 31 assists to 38 baskets, that’s hard to do. The ball didn’t stick as much tonight. The dribbling didn’t happen nearly as much tonight."
Bradley Beal's surprised reaction to the lofty assist totals seemed to trump any astonishment over the win itself. "They said when we came in the locker room and I was like 'Really?' That's the way we're supposed to play at all times. We were moving the ball, playing very unselfish and we were having fun for the most part. If we keep doing that I like our chances against anybody."
Miami is not just anybody. The starry Heat credited the plucky Wizards on their execution.
"They moved the ball. They had a season-high in assists," LeBron James said postgame, scanning the final box score while trying to explain the inexplicable loss to a then one-win team. "We understand teams are going to play better when they play against us. They're up for it and we have to be for teams as well."
Washington led after every quarter and by 12 in the third, and then fended off the visitors after Miami briefly tied the game midway through the final quarter. Finding Kevin Seraphin inside for baskets plus Jordan Crawford's timely scores proved key.
Dwyane Wade said, "They run some great sets. We knew that they ran some great sets, a lot of movement. Their coach is doing a great job with that. It was challenging defensively, but when we turned it up, we made it a little tougher on them. But by then they were in a rhythm, in a groove. They made some nice plays, some nice shots, some big shots.”
Seven Wizards had at least three assists, including Shaun Livingston, who offered his own take on what transpired.
“I think trust was big," Livingston said. "We trusted our teammates, trusted ourselves and offensively, just moving the ball against a defensive team like the Heat where they help and rotations are there. They are a really good defensive team and the numbers prove it so we got to move the ball to score.”
As Wade noted Miami turned up its defensive execution late - though considering the Heat's first half effort hardly matched their championship caliber best, they had nowhere to go but up. Regardless, the Wizards performance came against arguably the best ball-stopping team in the league.
Funny what passing on excessive dribbling can do, especially when the desired alternative is pitching and catching. RGIII surely approves.