The Washington Wizards won a game that might have been considered a must-win even though it was November 4th by defeating the New York Knicks, 108-95. You can read the three takeaways here and check out the postgame coverage below. The postgame mood was the exact opposite of what occurred the previous five games, from negative to positive. Scott Brooks praised Dwight Howard. Markieff Morris stressed the importance of winning this game against a sub-.500 team. John Wall was pleased with the effort on both sides of the ball. Bradley Beal noted the play of the game and Dwight Howard couldn’t stop smiling.
On Dwight Howard:
“I like his enthusiasm. I like his smile. He’s a good-looking guy.”
This quote of the night was the Wizards’ head coach on Howard’s play and attitude. My first introduction to Dwight Howard came from the final preseason game. He was still recovering from a piriformis injury but in the locker room after the game while we were waiting for players to talk, he euro stepped and pretended to drive to the hoop as he dribbled an invisible basketball through a crowd of media.
Sunday night he even pretended he was a member of Wizards PR by giving John Wall an introduction before his postgame scrum. We’ll get to John Wall later but let’s talk about how Howard played on the court. The center, who was the biggest Wizards offseason acquisition, had a better scoring game in Friday night’s loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder when he scored 20 points, but on Sunday he contributed in other ways. For the first time this season, someone besides Otto Porter recorded double-digit boards as Howard led the team with 10 total. He only had three Friday night.
Scoring wise, Howard reached double figures for the second straight game, finishing with 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting. Keep in mind this was only his second game and he is still getting his legs under him.
On John Wall:
“He took over with playmaking. He took care of the basketball. He sprinkled the offense all the way around. He had Dwight (Howard) a couple times, he had Brad (Beal), he had Austin (Rivers), he had Jeff (Green) for the lob. And he took a jump shot himself, but when we do that, we are hard to beat, cause you don’t want the (opposing) team to know that it’s so predictable. With our angle pick and roll, he had everybody involved.”
John Wall paced the Wizards with 26 points on 9-of-16 shooting for 56.2 percent. He also hit three of the six three-pointers he attempted and added seven assists. 17 of Wall’s 26 points came in the second half.
On the enthusiasm he showed throughout the game:
“I was smiling because I kept saying to myself, ‘I can’t get off the ground tonight.’ I told [Coach Scott Brooks] and he called a play for me to catch a lob pass. But I told him my legs aren’t there yet. I just had to keep smiling my way through it. I’m just happy to be back out on the floor, happy we got a good win tonight. We needed something to break the ice and tonight was good for us to do so. I think from here on out we know how we’ve got to play. We have to communicate on defense, we have to stay positive, and we have to stay locked in on what our mission is. That’s to win a championship. We dug ourselves a little hole by coming out slow, but we got our opportunity to make it up.”
Howard is well aware of the Wizards slow start without him and they have a big week coming up with road contests in Dallas, Orlando, and Miami. The latter two is a back-to-back.
On looking ahead and the importance of communication:
“I think we should just continue to communicate with each other and understand that whatever happened in the past we’ve got to leave it there.”
Teams that look to their past mistakes are the ones who struggle the most. It’s both in sports and in life. Howard knows the importance of looking ahead and communication. We are not allowed to watch practices but I can imagine following another demoralizing loss on Friday night, it was a very vocal and spirited workout. It carried over into the game Sunday night.
On the sub .500 opponents:
“These are the games we must take care of.”
Markieff Morris is well aware of the importance of not playing down to the competition. This was a narrative that haunted the Wizards last year. Their lone win heading into Sunday night was over the Trail Blazers who are currently 7-3. Beating the 3-6 Knicks is a start in changing that narrative but they must keep it going. The Mavericks are one of the worst teams in the Western Conference at 2-7. The Magic and Heat are also both below .500 as are the Cavaliers and the Nets who come to town in a couple weeks. If the Wizards win at least four of these six games, they’ll be right back in this thing.
On the team’s play in the fourth quarter:
“We continued to bring defensive pressure”
Markieff Morris didn’t see the floor in the final quarter but the Wizards as a team had a pair of steals and five blocked shots in the final 12 minutes. Two by Wall, two by Tomas Satoransky and one by Jason Smith.
On his block on Mitchell Robinson:
“Big play, he’s been jawing a little bit throughout the game. What better way to shut him up than a block?”
Beal tied his career-high with four blocked shots but none was bigger than his block on Mitchell Robinson, which happened under the rim. This came in the middle of the fourth quarter and helped stall any chance of a Knicks comeback.
On the difference Sunday night:
“I thought it was just the effort. I think it was put together for whole 48 minutes for the first time. The game’s fast, we played a good first half, we played a good second half, or we just played the whole game without trying to come back from being down such a large deficit. So it was good to be on the other side of it this time and be able to get after it.”
On the overall play Sunday night:
“I think we had great defensive intensity to start the game early on and we moved the ball better. Guys got shots. Guys got into a rhythm, and we just played with a lot more effort.”
For the first time this season, the Wizards held their opponents to under 100 points. The Wizards as a team had 11 blocked shots and forced 20 turnovers leading to 22 points. The team also had 32 defensive rebounds.
On how Saturday’s practice carried over to the game:
“The way we’ve been competing in practice has been great. I wish the way we’ve been competing all year in practice we did and in the games we’ve had so far. But it hasn’t been like that and I think we kind of finally translated it from practice to the game so that is key to giving ourselves a chance.”
I asked Wall about Saturday’s practice which Howard said was a good session. For the most part, they’ve all been competitive but didn’t translate into their performance in the game. As we saw Sunday, things were different.