That's how you snap a three game losing streak.
The Wizards received huge contributions from two players mired in what seemed to be a two-week slump. Both Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat proved to be the difference tonight. Beal turned in one of his cleanest shooting nights of the season -- 21 points on 10-18 shooting -- while Gortat completely shut down the paint, contesting a number of shots while pulling down 13 boards. All in all, it was a team effort that led to the Wizards' 97-84 road triumph over the Charlotte Bobcats.
The first half featured the two aforementioned players taking major steps toward breaking out of their respective slumps. Beal poured in eight points on 4-8 shooting, while Gortat pulled down seven boards, more than he had in his previous four outings. The Wizards made it a point to get the ball to Beal early, and he made the most of his opportunities, going coast to coast on a few drives while finding his shooting touch out of the pick and roll. Charlotte stayed in it with some hot shooting from Gerald Henderson, while their stingy defense held the Wizards to just 19 points in the second quarter.
Then, the Wizards defied all odds and came out of halftime firing from all cylinders. They continued to fight over screens and contest shots, leading to a ton of one-and-done possessions by the 'Cats offense. At one point the Wizards surged to a 17-0 run that featured two plays we may never see again: A Trevor Booker to John Wall alley-oop in transition and a miraculous 33-foot three-pointer by Wall as the shot clock expired. And I'll be remiss to not mention Booker's 4-5 shooting, which tied the amount of field goals Charlotte had in the quarter.
But the Wizards weren't in the clear just yet heading into the fourth quarter, and they knew it. They let their foot off the gas toward the end of the third quarter, and there was an ominous feeling that a Bobcats run was coming. Henderson did a little bit of everything as he led all scores with 27 points. He curled off screens, took defenders off the dribble, and drew fouls.
But then there was Beal again, knocking down big jumper after big jumper, including a huge one to snap Charlotte's 8-0 run to cut the deficit to single digits. A Martell Webster three officially ended it.
Here are my game notes:
- Really liked seeing Beal get the ball off a defensive rebound to push it up the floor. Booker set a nice drag screen as soon as he crossed half-court, and Beal took full advantage of a wide-open lane to the basket for a layup. It's always Wall looking to push in semi-transition, but Beal has the speed to be effective enough to get himself some easy shots at the basket. Hopefully more of these looks will earn him some much-needed trips to the free throw line.
- Just imagine where this offense would be had Nene suffered from another down year shooting the ball. He shot just 30 percent from midrange last season, but has bumped that average way up to an impressive 43 percent.
- Didn't mind seeing Beal take an early-in-the-shot-clock jumper at the 6:26 mark of the second quarter. Again, it comes off a drag screen in semi-transition, with the floor spaced and defenders still making their way up court. Obviously you'd like to see him probe the defense a little more, but he had so much space to fire away.
- Gortat played a masterful game defensively in the first half. He hung back on more pick and rolls, contested shots at the rim, and pulled down seven rebounds. He's always a bit of a wildcard here, since the numbers really tell a different story in terms of him as a rim protector, but it's infinitely better than having him guard in space.
- Wow is Booker fast. He recovered a loose ball, raced down the floor and threw a beautiful lob to Wall for the alley-oop.
- A huge reason for the Wizards run in the third quarter was their ability to fight over Charlotte screens and recover in time to contest their shots. If this isn't reason enough to abandon switching, I don't know what is.
- A major reason why Nene hardly draws fouls deep in the post is because he's so off-balanced once he hits his defender with his up-and-under move. He'll often spin back toward the baseline before attempting the shot, but because his momentum is carrying him out of bounds, he's not able to sell the foul.