Just when I thought I was out on this Washington Wizards team, they pull me back in. Two days after their worst effort of the season, the Wizards came through with one of their best, controlling tempo throughout the second half and putting away a really good Phoenix Suns team on the road, 101-95.
This is the kind of game that shows you what this team should be most nights. Their defense swarmed, confusing a Suns offense that just made the vaunted Pacers D look like a high school team. Their offense wasn't always pretty, but they ran their sets crisply, stayed committed to their movement and and kept the game in the half court. Toss in a couple timely hoops, and that's the formula for success. The Wizards won't win every night, of course, but giving that sort of effort should be the expectation.
Nevertheless, if you're like me, you were sweating bullets throughout that fourth quarter, figuring the Wizards would Wizard it away. It wasn't until Bradley Beal delivered that sneaky hesitation move, drove towards the lane, planted that back foot and threw up that sweet stepback J to push the lead to four with 28 seconds left that I felt comfortable. But he hit the shot, and we could breathe easy.
The Wizards really took this game over in the third quarter, but you knew the Suns would eventually a run. That happened midway through the fourth quarter, and at one point, they had the game tied with P.J. Tucker going to the line looking to break the deadlock. But he ended up missing, and the Wizards marched down and got Beal a wide open three when Gerald Green fell asleep. The Suns would never recover.
I will not talk about getting over .500 tomorrow I will not talk about getting over .500 tomorrow I will not talk about getting over .500 tomorrow I will not talk about getting over .500 tomorrow I will not talk about getting over .500 tomorrow I will not talk about getting over .500 tomorrow I will not talk about getting over .500 tomorrow I will not talk about getting over .500 tomorrow.
- The Wizards switched more than usual tonight, but I think it worked out for them because it was strategic, not lazy. The Suns spread you out so well and take advantage of slivers of daylight when you trap or drop back, so effective switching takes that away from them. You'll recall Nene getting grilled by Channing Frye when trying to defend him traditionally; that's why Randy Wittman changed strategies. Given the score, I think it worked out well.
- The one downside: Switching left Washington vulnerable on the offensive glass, and the Suns love to attack there. I guess you have to give up something.
- Nice game for Otto Porter, even though he's still struggling to get the ball in the hoop. The seven rebounds were nice, obviously, but I also liked the way he clogged up passing lanes on the other end. Eventually, he'll need to become better at the corner three and at trying to create his own offense when needed. He threw up a wild floater when he got his one chance to navigate a pick and roll.
- John Wall's defense still can drive me crazy. Goran Dragic's a really tough cover, but many of the plays he created were too easy and due to poor pressure at the point of attack. Nevertheless, Wall kept his composure down the stretch and helped the Wizards close things out.
- Obviously, Beal's late-game heroics will get most of the attention. That said, I was also encouraged by the way he got rid of the ball on the pick and roll when the Suns trapped. Beal has a tendency to make up his mind a beat too late, so he's vulnerable to hard traps. Tonight, he didn't hesitate, and many of the Wizards' points in the third quarter happened because Beal moved the ball and someone eventually got open later in the chain.