Welcome back, Bradley Beal.
In his first game after missing a few weeks with a stress injury to his fibula, Beal caught fire in the fourth quarter against the New York Knicks and hit the game-winning layup with 6.9 seconds remaining to lead the Washington Wizards to a much-needed 102-101 road win, snapping a four-game losing streak and 10-game skid at Madison Square Garden.
Beal finished with 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting (3-of-5 from three) and seven rebounds, but his heroics late in the fourth quarter wouldn't have been possible without a huge game from Martell Webster, who scored a season-high 30 points on only 13 shots. John Wall also helped stake the Wizards out to a big lead with 19 first-half points, but he only scored one point after intermission and generally dragged down the otherwise stellar play from Beal and Webster.
Overall, the first half was very strange. Washington didn't seem to do much special on offense, and yet shot 55.6 percent, with Marcin Gorat the only Wizard to make less than half of his shots. The Wizards committed 14 first-half turnovers, ten more than the Knicks, and yet somehow finished with more points off turnovers than New York. The Wizards didn't seem to be playing great defense either, and yet the Knicks shot worse than 35 percent.
Washington really got lucky with how cold the Knicks went about halfway through the first quarter, but turnovers kept them from fully raking advantage. It was really frustrating to see New York incapable of hitting anything from any spot on the floor, and the Wizards repeatedly give the ball back on offense.
Wall went bananas at the end of the first half, scoring Washington's last nine points heading into intermission, including an and-1 jumper with 2.1 seconds left. He ended the half with 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting, five assists and four rebounds. He seemed catch fire once a certain New York writer questioned Wall's intensity with an ill-timed tweet that certainly caught the attention of Wizards bloggers (more on this in Magical Pixels tomorrow morning).
The Wizards pushed their lead to 15 early in the third quarter, but the Knicks went on a quick 12-0 run highlighted by two heat-check threes from J.R. Smith. The Knicks suddenly began sinking the open jumpers they missed in the first half, and the Wizards didn't adjust. They kept cheating off their man trying to get steals or double-teaming Carmelo Anthony rather than staying home and playing solid defense, and they got burned to the tune of 35 third-quarter Knicks points, just seven shy of New York's first-half total.
Meanwhile, Wall didn't carry over his first-half success, scoring only one point in the second half on a free throw. Thankfully, Webster remained brilliant when he was in the game. Beal was a little off with his jumper early in the second half, whether due to fatigue, rust, or both. Either way, given how hot Webster was in the first half, it took forever for him to be reinserted in the third quarter. Lo and behold, it took Webster seconds upon re-entering the game to hit his fifth three of the night.
The Wizards somehow regained their mojo in the fourth quarter with Wall on the bench and the offense coming predominantly off long Beal twos (go figure). Also big was Garrett Temple's defense on Beno Udrih, which likely contributed to Randy Wittman's decision to leave Wall on the bench until five minutes were left in the game.
And with the Wizards down one with 24 seconds to play, Wizards fans were undoubtedly happy to see something other than an isolation for Wall, which hasn't worked out well in the past. This time, Wittman got creative and drew up an iso for Beal, who actually made something of his opportunity and, sensing no one under the basket to contest his drive, took Udrih to the hole and sank the deciding layup. It's good to have the kid back.
Here's some game notes:
- Gortat falling for Bargnani's pump fake on a long jumper makes me angry. Grrr.
- Early on the offense seemed to consist of Wall iso's or Gortat post ups. This didn't work well.
- You could tell the Knicks made it a point to sprint back on defense, but Wall was still able to get behind them. He's so fast with the ball.
- J.R. Smith started 0-for-4 from the field. He's guaranteed to shoot another 20 times.
- Beal was clearly taking it slow in his first game back. He had a nice drive to the hoop for an easy lay-in, but otherwise wasn't involved in the offense and started sucking wind about five minutes into the first quarter.
- Kevin Seraphin looks determined to make the most of his minutes, on both ends of the floor. Still not sure if this is a good thing.
- Bradley Beal threes are the best threes. Missed that.
- How the mighty have fallen. Seraphin and Jan Vesely made Amare Stoudemire look old and slow.
- Garrett Temple isn't that good, but at least the offense doesn't completely fall apart with him running point like it does with Eric Maynor running things.
- Booker's ability to competently defend Melo is one of the more random inexplicable things about the NBA.
- The Knicks lost Pablo Prigioni to a fractured toe in the third quarter, and Beno Udrih commenced the lead the Knicks comeback, because Wizards.
- I have no idea why the Wizards started double-teaming Melo in the third quarter. This just led to scrambling rotations and wide open Knicks jumpers.
- Someone needs to ask Webster if he knowingly does something to draw fouls on three-point attempts. It happens so often, maybe it's not an accident.
- STOP DOUBLING MELO HOLY CRAP.
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