February 28, 2018 | Capital One Arena | Washington, D.C.
For the second straight year, the Washington Wizards welcomed in the Golden State Warriors to the Nation’s Capital on the last day of February. Unlike last season, the Wizards did not get off to a fast start and Kevin Durant did not get hurt in the opening minutes. Obviously, no one wants to see a player injured, but both of those factors led to the home team’s eventual demise. The Wizards lost their fourth game since John Wall’s need for surgery as they struggled to score in the third quarter.
“Our defense dictated our offense in the third quarter,” Markieff Morris said. “We was making mental mistakes that was affecting our offense. A lot of the stuff we knew they were going to do, but we still couldn’t stop it.”
(Photo: Ned Dishman via Getty Images)
Otto Porter Keeps Washington Alive
The max money wing looked like it again against the Warriors as he had 29 points for the second straight game against the defending champs. Porter had 11 of the Wizards first 14 points in the opening eight minutes, which was good for more than half of Washington’s 21 first quarter points. In 32 minutes of action, the forward made 10-of-17 shots including 4-of-6 from deep to go along with 10 rebounds. Unfortunately, he did not have nearly enough help to overtake Golden State.
“He was making shots, the ball was popping around the court and we were making shots,” head coach Scott Brooks said. “Otto, particularly, he had the hot hand – had a great game for us. Our starters just couldn’t get a nice rhythm. Brad (Beal) usually doesn’t have a game like he had tonight. We will bounce back. I am confident in our guys. We didn’t give in, we just had a tough night; third quarter really. We talked about it before the game, we talked about it at halftime and we knew how they would play in that the third quarter. We had some careless turnovers and some bad defensive lapse.”
Bradley Beal Targeted
Without Wall, Beal is now used to being the number one offensive threat for Washington and despite that, he has still been having a lot of success in the last 13 games in which his team has won 10 games. That was not the case on Wednesday night as the Warriors nearly eliminated him offensively. Beal finished with eight points on 3-of-15 shooting, five assists, four rebounds, five turnovers, and four fouls. The shooting guard did not score his first point until midway through the third quarter. Golden State made it a point to limit the All-Star and they executed to a tee.
“It was not one of his normal games,” Brooks said. “They are good defensive team. They were switching, they were being physical with him. He couldn’t get anything at the free throw line. He had a tough shooting night.”
“Their main objective was to take the ball out of my hands,” Beal explained. “There were 10 seconds left on the clock and they denied me at half court. It was just one of those games. You respect it at the end of the day. I just got to go back and watch film, see where I can get better and see how I can beat teams in that type of situation because John’s not going to be here for a while. Teams are probably going to take advantage of our situation, but they have a team who can switch one through four, one through five, load up in the paint and force you to pass. It was just one of those games.”
“We wanted to put as many bodies on him as possible,” Durant detailed. “It’s hard for a player to make shots in that type of defense where we trap him, chasing him off the line, we’re meeting him as soon as he dribbles the ball. All eyes are on him right now. I’m sure everybody in the league has a game plan for him that way. So it’s not that Brad’s not a good player, he wasn’t a good player tonight. I think we locked in a little bit more on him just by himself as one of their only scoring threats at the wing, a guy that can go off and score a lot of points. We just wanted to make sure we had all eyes on him.”
Including Wednesday night, Washington has at least 18 turnovers in three of their past eight games, which is a problem that has been creeping up on them since Wall’s departure. Against Golden State, they have five in the first quarter that directly led to 11 points for the road team. Overall, they had 18 miscues that led to 26 points for the Warriors. The defending champs on the run in transition is a dangerous thing and the Wizards helped them show that off.
“Especially in that first half it seems like every turnover led to a two on one or a one on zero,” Brooks said about the turnovers. “It was a live ball turnover and they scored on just about every single one of our turnovers and tonight 18 turnovers. Unfortunately for us that’s been sneaking up on us. For how well we have been playing and moving the basketball, we have been sharing it with other teams also and not just with ourselves. We have got to clean that up when you play against one of the best teams in basketball. Can’t have 18 turnovers and expect to win. But we did fight, we did fight and had a chance to win.”
“Yeah, a few of them, I even had a lot of them,” Beal said about his five miscues. “Just careless ones, just losing the ball while slipping. Those definitely hurt, especially, the live ball ones. It’s different if it goes out of bounds, you can get your defense set. When you got KD [Kevin Durant] going out on the break, guys getting out on the break, those are easy points for them. We were still able to move the ball and share it, knock down some shots, but the turnovers hurt, especially like I said before, the live ones. I think if we diminish those as much as possible, we will be alright.”
Kevin Durant’s Reigns Supreme at Home
Exactly a year ago, Durant left Verizon Center with an injury that would sideline him for weeks when Zaza Pachulia flopped into him two minutes into the game. Tonight, the hometown baller showed out in front of friends and family. The former MVP dropped 32 on Washington on efficient 12-of-20 shooting. He also had six rebounds and four assists in a +17 performance over 37 minutes. Kelly Oubre sometimes inexplicably helped off of Durant leading to open shots for the latter. The Wizards simply had no answer for the guy they dreamed would be on their side after the summer of 2016.
“I just told him tonight was a little better than last year and he agreed so,” Steve Kerr joked. “He was great. He’s been fantastic since the break. I mean, four straight games where he’s just been monstrous offensively and active defensively. I thought he was tremendous tonight.”
Non-Point Guard Lineup Remains
For nearly five minutes in the fourth quarter, from 8:19 to 3:31 remaining in the game, the Wizards did not have a point guard on the floor once Beal came in for Tim Frazier and Tomas Satoransky remained on the bench. Instead, Jodie Meeks got extra run and played 16 minutes, which was second most to Kelly Oubre off the bench. During the time that Beal was playing point guard, Washington had three turnovers and stagnant offense. If Satoransky is not fatigued, he needs to be on the court to facilitate the offense. Brooks needs to abandon the non-point guard lineup once and for all.
“I felt like we just needed an extra shooter,” Brooks responded to me about Meeks’ fourth quarter playing time. “He hasn’t shot the ball well from three this year, but he gives a threat, and everybody knows that you have to guard him. We just needed that extra scoring because that third quarter we didn’t have much scoring. But in the fourth quarter we came back and scored 31.”
Next Game: The Wizards will look to rebound against the Raptors on Friday night.