The Washington Wizards took down the star-studded Brooklyn Nets last Saturday night in an upset win. The Nets had entered the game as 7.5 point favorites against the 1-5 Wizards. It was a high scoring affair, with both teams scoring over 120 points. The Wizards had three players score over 20 points and five players score in double figures.
The game ultimately came down to a few possessions at the end of the game. Bradley Beal hit a tough layup over the outstretched arms of Jeff Green and Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot to go up 121-120 with 1:10 left. Russell Westbrook, who had 24 points and 10 assists on the night, tried to put the game even further out of reach with a deep 3-point attempt with 33 seconds left, but it clanged off the rim into the arms of Kevin Durant, who threw a beautiful full-court outlet pass to Luwawu-Cabarrot for an easy basket. 122-121 Nets.
Luckily, the Wizards had one more trick up their sleeves. Bradley Beal had 27 points at that point, and with 28 seconds left on the clock, it made sense for him to take the potential game winner. Thomas Bryant inbounded the ball to Beal, and Bryant and Davis Bertans set a double screen for Beal. Beal drove right and got double teamed on the baseline by Joe Harris and Jeff Green, but Green’s rotation onto Beal left the paint wide open. Bryant rolled into the paint off of the screen he set for Beal, and Beal dropped it off to him right under the basket for an easy dunk. 123-122 Wizards. Beal utilized his gravity as a scorer to perfection to create an easy bucket, and Bryant finished the night with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
The Nets had 15 seconds to potentially hit a game winner, but despite both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant getting decent shots off, they both missed, and the Wizards hung on to win the game. The loss dropped the Nets to 3-4. Irving finished with 30 points and 10 assists, and Durant had 28 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists.
This is a great win for the Wizards against a team they were not expected to beat and showcases their ceiling. When all cylinders are firing, they are one of the best offensive teams in the league. They have a plethora of players who can score the ball at a high level. Beal averaged over 30 points per game a season ago and has continued to be an offensive machine this season. He has now scored 20 or more points in 30 straight games, the longest such streak in the NBA currently. Westbrook has had some inefficient nights as a scorer, but anyone who has watched the Wizards play this year realizes how much he brings to the table offensively with his playmaking, energy and transition scoring. Davis Bertans is one of the best shooters in the NBA, and was a huge reason the Wizards were able to compete in this game as he scored 15 points and made four 3-pointers. Thomas Bryant has looked like one of the best offensive centers in the NBA thus far, and Rui Hachimura has looked sharp coming off of his injury and showcased a willingness to shoot more 3-pointers. They are certainly not lacking offensive firepower.
A Flawed Strategy
With their roster’s scoring ability, the Wizards are capable of competing against anybody. On the contrary, their defense makes them capable of losing to almost anybody as well. A big win like this makes it easy to forget that this team also dropped two straight games to the Orlando Magic just a week prior and allowed them to score 120 or more in both games despite them being one of the league’s worst offenses last season. Every game with this Wizards team turns into a shootout. Most teams aren’t able to stop the Wizards from scoring, but they can’t stop anybody from scoring on them either. They are also currently fouling teams at the third highest rate in the NBA thus far, at almost 25 a game. These easy points at the free throw line often allow teams to hang around.
Their recipe for success is to try to score at will, and hope the other team misses some shots down the stretch. The problem is that you cannot count on other teams to miss shots if you play poor defense, or let them get to the charity stripe. At that point, you’re relying on your offense and your stars to win the game for you, and Beal and Westbrook are often tired from shouldering such a large offensive load throughout the game, causing them to settle for inefficient mid-range jumpers or defer to teammates who are not as skilled as shot creators. The Wizards were fortunate against the Nets; it can’t always be expected that the other team will turn the ball over 20 times in a game, or that two of the NBA’s premiere offensive superstars will miss open game winning shots.
There’s still a lot to be optimistic about, the Wizards are currently the second best scoring offense in the league at 118.6 points per game, and Thomas Bryant’s continued emergence is encouraging for fans to see. They have now rattled off two straight wins, and if they can figure out a way to become just a top-20 defense in the league, it would make them a force to be reckoned with.
All stats courtesy of ESPN and Basketball-Reference
‘From our Haus to yours’