March 27, 2018 | Capital One Arena | Washington, D.C.
It has become commonplace for the Washington Wizards do the unexpected during the course of 2017-18 regular season. They lose to sub-.500 teams just to beat the likes of Toronto or Houston. That continued to be the case on Tuesday as they beat a San Antonio Spurs team that they lost to last week after losing to the woeful New York Knicks on Sunday. As John Wall continues to near his return following left knee surgery, everybody ate in Washington’s victor at home.
“I’m gonna tweet on my burner account ‘It was a good team win,’” head coach Scott Brooks joked after the game.
(Photo: Ned Dishman via Getty Images)
Bench Surge Leads The Way
Early in the second quarter, Washington found themselves down eight, 31-23, as their hot shooting to start the game had worn off and San Antonio was hitting their stride. Although they have been weaknesses as some points in the season, one can see the clear-cut improvement from the second unit in this game. In less than three minutes, the Wizards’ backups led a 16-1 run. Jodie Meeks and Mike Scott hit three-pointers, Meeks had an and-1, Ian Mahinmi had a dunk, Kelly Oubre had an and-1, and Mike Scott hit a turnaround jumper. The road team went nearly five minutes without a bucket and the home team took advantage. Because of the nature of the game, the bench combined for 61 points to seal the deal.
“I thought the guys played extremely hard on both ends,” Brooks evaluated. “I like the fact that we didn’t make shots in that first quarter but we kept competing, we kept moving the basketball, we kept sharing the ball. Sooner or later you’re going to get rewarded with some good opportunities, and in that second quarter, we did. I thought we came out in the third quarter with a defensive mindset, which we did. It was a good win all the way around. A lot of guys chipped in. A lot of good shooting performances by our starting five.”
“Probably their communication,” Beal assessed about the bench clicking. “Honestly, from both us starters and the bench it’s our defense. I think the bench was definitely active and very talkative tonight which is something that’s been kind of our downfall. When we’re active and talkative, and when they do that we’re really good. They trusted each other on offense to make the right simple plays, right reason, [unselfish] plays and it’s always better when everyone is making some shots. It just made it that much better.”
Forwards Were Efficient
Markieff Morris had the best shooting performance of his career as he was a perfect 7-for-7 from the field after only going 3-for-3 twice in his career prior to tonight. In just 17 minutes, mainly because of foul trouble, the power forward scored 15 points as the hoop looked like an ocean for the former Jayhawk. When he is playing his best basketball, Washington is usually a force to be reckoned with.
“Because I worked my ass off every day,” Morris said when asked about his career-high 49 percent shooting from the field and 38.2 percent from beyond the arc. “And I can remember in the beginning of the year when I was struggling, mouther fuckers said, ‘Keef ain’t got it, Keef ain’t doing this.’ That type of shit and I was angry.”
Not to be overshadowed, but Otto Porter Jr. had 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting including two three-pointers. The max money wing’s first eight points came in the first eight minutes of the game as he had two early steals.
“It was great, it was great,” Beal said of his forwards. “It was a great sign, especially whenever Keef [Markieff] has a good game. We know we have a lot of things rolling. Otto’s always been terrific throughout the year, Keef has been the same, but as of late that’s been really good for us to be able [to] get out to good starts offensively. [It] takes a lot of pressure off of us because as long we do it defensively the offense will take care of itself.”
Time To Rest
For once, the Wizards were able to get out to a large lead and maintain it, for the most part, down the home stretch. Washington built up a 25-point lead with nine minutes to play and were able to let the bench finish the game. Oubre played a game-high 28 minutes, while Beal played under 28 minutes for just the seventh time this season. The starters only played 115 minutes out of a possible 240, which all of them can use and they are feeling the fatigue of an 82-game season. Porter has continued to deal with bumps and bruises related to his hip that requires him to get stretched out or ride the stationary bike during games, while Beal is on pace to log a career-high in minutes that are also of the high usage variety. While on the bench, Beal still got some work in by urging on the fans before Brandon Paul missed his second fourth quarter free throw to provide The Vault’s attendees with free Chik-fil-A.
“It was good, I enjoyed it,” Beal shared. “Get a little rest every now and then. We should have had a lot of games like this, leading up to this point, but you take them when you can.”
Still Areas To Improve
A big reason why Washington was able to pull away was a left knee contusion to LaMarcus Aldridge before halftime that sidelined the All-Star big for the rest of the game. It is unknown how serious the ailment is pending an MRI. He had 27 points last Wednesday in San Antonio and already had 13 points on 4-for-6 shooting in 18 minutes on Tuesday before exiting.
The Wizards were also extremely sloppy defensively in the fourth quarter by allowing 40 points to a team that composed of Kyle Anderson, Tony Parker, Bryn Forbes, Davis Bertans, Joffrey Lauvergne, and Brandon Paul. The Spurs had just 42 points in the second and third quarters combined. Moreover, and even though it did not cost them, Washington had 17 turnovers that San Antonio turned into 23 points.
“We don’t need to talk about that,” Brooks said about the fourth quarter.
Gregg Popovich Remains Prominent On And Off The Court
Before the game, Popovich addressed topics of race, the Second Amendment about the right to bear arms, and President Donald Trump. As usual, his wisdom was thought provoking and eye-opening all at the same time. The Spurs visited the Supreme Court during this season’s trip to Washington, D.C.
“I think it’s in some ways more important for white people to talk about it because we are the ones that perpetrated it,” Popovich said when asked if he has one not experiencing racism should take such a prominent role in discussing it.
“I think we have a situation where we’re going backwards, at least as far as race is concerned and it has to be pointed out,” Popovich said. “Our current president hopes to bore us to death with all these new issues day after day after day that keep him in the news. You can talk about one comment or scandal after another and it becomes commonplace, forgotten about, and we don’t even know what’s going on behind the scenes like what’s happening to our environment and health and all this sort of thing. All the laws that are kind of sliding and all the people who are being removed and being replaced. Like scientists replaced by politicians. We take our eye off the ball, and he’s great at it. He brings out the dark side of human beings for his own purpose, which is himself. And if it’s not pointed out and people don’t stand up and point it out, it will become commonplace, and it’s not the world that I want to live in. That’s why the kids, they give me hope that I’m actually living in the country I thought I was living in.”
Next Game: Washington will head to Detroit to face the Pistons on Thursday in what could be John Wall’s return game.