LAS VEGAS -- What a difference a day makes.
One night after looking a step and a half slow in a blowout loss to a not-so-talented Atlanta Hawks summer league team, the Washington Wizards were a step and a half faster than a much deeper Houston Rockets squad in their second contest. The final score was 76-70, but the game effectively ended late in the first half, when a devastating run opened up a 17-point halftime lead. From there, only a late Rockets charge made the score respectable.
There were many standout players in the victory. Bradley Beal's stats weren't as impressive as they were in the opener, but he set the tone early with his aggressive defense and take-charge attitude running pick and roll. Jan Vesely continued to hit his shot and stayed out of foul trouble. Chris Singleton was active even if his shot wasn't falling. Shelvin Mack was hit or miss, but he showed his tighter handle a couple times on drives to the basket. Finally, Tomas Satoransky was ... well, by now, you know.
One game isn't enough to overreact in either case, but it was nice to see a stronger effort from the Wizards. Going up against a team full of combo forwards, they displayed a significant athletic advantage, using that defensively and in the open floor. That's the kind of speed they need to show in the regular season.
More notes, in chronological order (and mostly from the first half) below the jump.
- What a start by Bradley Beal. The problem with him sometimes is he tries too hard to fit in, but in this game, he was assertive from the start. The Wizards involved him in a couple pick and rolls, and he always found a way to get to the middle and kick to the open shooters. One play in particular was enjoyable to me. He had Marcus Morris on a switch, and initially was cut off when he declined the pick. Rather than panic, though, he executed a dribble handoff with Shavlik Randolph, got back to the middle and kicked to an open Singleton for three. That was great, great patience.
- He was also into Jeremy Lamb defensively. It's hard to jump over screens to cut off a driver's space, but Beal did it several times, forcing Lamb into turnovers.
- I really liked the adjustment to push the ball more after last night's troubles. Rather than having Shelvin Mack dribble it up himself, they had him pitch it ahead to a wing player (either Singleton or Beal) and let Beal initiate the offense. Mack was therefore able to play more off the ball in these situations.
- The Wizards' defense was active early, if a bit out of position. Sometimes, their athleticism can handle breakdowns. Often times, it can't. Early on, it was.
- It felt like the Wizards ran every single play through Beal early on in the game. It speaks to his versatility that he can come off a pindown and go right into a pick and roll. The Wizards wished Nick Young could have done that, but he couldn't. Beal can.
- Jan Vesely, after a poor rebounding effort defensively in the Summer League opener, wasn't much better early on in this game. He is often way too slow at turning his body and finding someone to clear out, still thinking he can rebound with his athleticism. He can't.
- I don't have a stat for this, but it seemed like the Wizards were far more efficient on the possessions Beal initiated than on possessions anyone else initiated. Shelvin Mack still struggles creating good looks for his teammates. He's almost better playing off a more ball-dominant player like Beal.
- I liked what I saw from Chris Singleton on both ends in the first quarter, even though his shot wasn't falling. He was getting deflections, taking charges and making strong rotations defensively. He just needs to hit those open corner threes. All shots were short, so he needs to get down into his shot.
- Tomas Satoransky can use his body well to shield the ball, but he has to run the offense more decisively. If you have a point guard that is a beat off with the first pass, it ruins the harmony of the entire play.
- A bit disappointed with Singleton's first shot fake and drive. He held up instead of attacking and settled for a fadeaway.
- It was really striking to see how many times a wing brought the ball up the floor on the break. You can almost see how the Wizards are envisioning a similar role for Trevor Ariza, who is way better in transition than he is in a half-court set.
- The Rockets' transition defense was pretty terrible all game, but part of that is because it's hard to know who is the one pushing the ball. When you can tell the point guard is always the one leading the break, it's easier to match up. When you don't know, you get confusion, which is exactly what happened with Lamb when Satoransky flew down the lane for his lefty dunk. Nobody stopped ball and that's what resulted.
- It was nice to see Mack get to the paint twice to create good shots for himself. He needs to do that more often. In general, his handle looked far tighter -- he gets in trouble when he's too upright, which limits his explosiveness because he has to take that extra split second and sit down to change speeds. Hopefully, this game shows him an example of how he needs to play every game.
- The one-on-one defense on Lamb left a lot to be desired in the second quarter, but that's on Steven Gray, not Beal. Seeing as Gray won't be on the roster in the fall, I'm not too concerned.
- Way too many offensive rebounds surrendered off missed free throws. That's unacceptable.
- Beal took a backseat in the second quarter, shifting into spot-up shooter mode. I think he's a more effective player when he's attacking the hoop off the dribble, but as we all know, he won't get those opportunities. His willingness to fade into the background can be beneficial.
- The Wizards were all over the passing lanes in that second quarter. In a perfect world, that's the kind of team they end up being. Obviously, it won't always work out well as it did tonight, but it's good to see it can work.
- Mack expended a lot of energy pushing the ball up the floor in the third quarter. It seemed like he tired a bit by the midway point. I'd like to see him get in better condition to withstand the pace of the game he must exhibit.
- Beal was kind of quiet in the second half too, but he had a really nice cut along the baseline for a dunk. Again: if he can be a spot-up player, that improves his effectiveness.
- I liked the way Satoransky used his body to get to his spots on the floor in the third quarter. It made it look like he was quicker, when really, he's just more refined.
- I liked seeing the Wizards make good cuts to the basket when the point guard penetrated. This has to be a thing that carries over to the regular season, though. Otherwise, their lack of perimeter shooting is going to become an even more glaring need.
- (I tuned out during the fourth quarter, sorry y'all).
The Wizards next play against the D-League Select team on Sunday night. It'll be interesting to see if they can maintain that level of energy in their third game in three nights, especially since they played late tonight.