WASHINGTON -- As the rout of the Magic grew more entertaining through the evening, I couldn't help but notice one thing: the Wizards shut Arron Afflalo down. Hard.
Two nights prior in Los Angeles, Afflalo led the way for the Magic with 30 points on 19 shots in a win over the red-hot Clippers. The Wizards held him to two points on 11 shots. J.J. Redick got off a few jumpers last night, too, but after dropping 21 on the Clippers, his 12 points off the bench didn't really help the team in their 29 point loss to the Wizards.
Take a look at what Afflalo was able to accomplish against the 3rd best defensive team in the league:
Afflalo is the leading scorer on the Magic,averaging 17.4 points per game (Redick averages 14.6). I mean, Caron Butler (aka Tuff Juice) and Matt Barnes (aka I'm going to try to punk Kobe) are no slouches, and they got 51 points from those wings dropped on them. Last night against the Wizards?: 14. And only two of those belonged to Afflalo (in 37+ minutes).
How did the Wizards do it? I decided to find some answers, so I asked the man who I assumed was tasked with guarding Afflalo, Bradley Beal. I wanted to know exactly what Beal did to guard Afflalo so well.
"I didn't go up against him. It was all Martell Webster," he said.
If I had been paying closer attention, I would have noticed that Webster was stuck on Afflalo from the get-go, not Beal.
"But I mean, it was a great team effort; we helped 'Tell," Beal said. "But 'Tell did a great job of finding him in the post, limiting his shots."
"He took everything away from him and what he wanted to do," Beal added.
"It was a great, tremendous job by him, [Trevor] Ariza and all the guys who guarded him by making him uncomfortable," Beal continued. "We made him real uncomfortable tonight and limited him to the long shots he took."
"It was just a great defensive effort," he finished.
It was clear from watching the game that the Wizards SMOTHERED Afflalo. They didn't let him do anything easily, and the Magic's offense kind of just ... shut down.
Beal's praise of Webster and Ariza took me all the way back to October, when the small forward situation was still up in the air. For a team that had lacked shooters for the past infinity years, the fans seemed to want to see Webster in the starting role. Over the course of this season, both Webster and Ariza have seen time as starters, but it has becoming increasingly clear that who does or does not start starts doesn't seem to matter on this team. It certainly doesn't matter to Randy Wittman. They both play around 25 minutes per game, and they bring different -- but necessary -- components to the team. Wittman even mentioned last night that Webster brings spacing, while Ariza helps the team run the floor slightly better than his counterpart.
For a team that's trying to rid itself of its bottom-feeder moniker, the focus of the its success stems from the defensive end. As Washington continues to enjoy its rank as a top-10 defensive team in the league, it's clear that the length and strength of Webster and Ariza are integral to its new reputation.