January 17, 2019 | The O2 Arena London | London, U.K.
It has been an eventful few days for the Washington Wizards since they lost to Toronto Raptors in double-overtime on Sunday. Because of weather delays and as a result a pilot that had been working for too many hours in a row, the team did not arrive in London until Tuesday morning local time. Between Tower (London) Bridge, Kensington Palace, and Abbey Road, the team had a variety of tourist attractions before arriving at The O2 Arena. Despite nearly blowing the game against a lottery-bound squad, the Wizards pulled it together to win in walk-off fashion for their sixth victory in their last nine games. At 19-26, Washington is 3.5 games back of the No. 6 seed and 2.5 games back of the No. 8 seed.
Defense Overcomes Big Hole
New York was up by as many as 19 points during the course of the game and things were not pretty. Midway through the third quarter the Knicks were still up 15 and took a dozen point lead to start the fourth quarter. That is when Washington seemingly had a breakthrough. New York going ice cold also helped the cause as they did not score until over five minutes into the quarter and had just two points with 3:14 left in the frame. The home Wizards forced nine turnovers in the final quarter and converted them into 11 points. Winning the rebounding battle for the game also proved pivotal as Washington improved to 10-0 when outrebounding their opponent this season. They are 9-26 (.257) when tying or losing the battle of the boards. After allowing Luke Kornet to pop off for four triples in the first quarter and New York as a team to drop 33 in the second quarter, the Wizards were eventually able to right the ship defensively.
Walk-Off Play Breakdown
Despite holding the Knicks to a mere 11 points in the fourth quarter, the road team was up a point in the final seconds when Noah Vonleh dropped a four-foot baby hook on Thomas Bryant. Bradley Beal missed a three-point attempt seconds later. Instead of fouling when the Knicks had the ball with 26.2 seconds left to play, Scott Brooks boldly had his team play it out. A shot clock violation was forced and with 3.3 seconds left Brooks drew up an ATO play.
The ball was inbounded to Beal as Bryant set a pick before the ball was passed allowing Beal to gain steam. However, the All-Star guard began to slip when trapped by Vonleh and Beal had to quickly get rid of the ball to the rolling Bryant. The 21-year old had been instructed early this season to bail as soon as setting a split-second pick. Rumbling down the lane with the final seconds ticking down, Bryant laid the ball up and we will never know whether it would have gone in or not. Thankfully for Washington, Allonzo Trier foolishly committed defensive goaltending to give the Wizards two points and the win.
Ted Leonsis Ends Tank Talk
Even though it might be in the best interest of the organization, the Wizards majority owner emphatically put to bed any ideas of the team tanking this season. This made sense simply because the businessman wants the revenue that playoff home games entail and future home game attendances could be bleaker during down times. Leonsis says that the players he has spoken to expressed that they can still make the playoffs, which is true and what they have shared with the media over the last month, but what else are they going to say? At the end of the day, fans care less about tanking and more about who is running the team in the future, namely Team President Ernie Grunfeld. Should he trade another draft pick for a deadline player that will likely walk in free agency, I do not want to be around some fans.
“I think it’s unfair [to tank] to the coach, to the players, to the fans to say, ‘let’s lose.’ I don’t think people pay their hard-earned money, I don’t think that the players will respect us. … I’ve gone man-to-man, every player I’ve been interviewing and talking to, they all think we have enough to make the playoffs and win a first round and so I got to believe in what they’re saying.”
Next Game: The Wizards will return to D.C. on Friday afternoon to begin preparation for a matchup with the Detroit Pistons on MLK Day at 2 p.m.