It's doubtful that anyone is going to remember tonight's Washington Wizards win over the New Orleans Pelicans a year from now. The Wizards led for most of the game, a slow-paced affair that saw them come out on top, 83-80, as they snapped a two game losing streak despite the absence of Nene, who sat out due to plantar fasciitis.
That's not to say that the game didn't have some good moments. Washington played awesome defense, John Wall had a few unbelieveable plays and Anthony Davis continued to dominate like some unholy combination of a young Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan. Wall and Paul Pierce were quiet for much of the first three quarters, largely content to play a complementary role to Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat, but they took over down the stretch and helped Washington to overcome a late push by the Pelicans.
A few things we learned:
1. Marcin Gortat can be one hell of a force in the paint.
With Nene out The Polish Hammer went Super Saiyan, finishing with 24 points and 12 boards in a game where his box score statistics don't even tell the half of what he did. Gortat repeatedly stymied New Orlean's attempts at scoring in the paint and forced awkward floater after awkward floater while anchoring what was an all-around strong defensive effort. Gortat's ability to prevent opponents from getting all the way to the basket is underrated and a large part of why his massive contract is justifiable. Centers who can play both ends of the court and own the glass are few and far between.
2. Bradley Beal is Washington's secret weapon in low-scoring games.
Beal's at his best in transition, running the floor and feasting on layups and corner threes. While it's wise for teams to avoid the mid-range, when high efficiency shots aren't available, having a player like Beal who can create a shot almost at will when coming off screens and paired with Wall's ability to penetrate can be crucial. Beal finished with 12 points off of 11 field goal attempts and continued to shine in his sixth game of the season.
3. Drew Gooden is continuing to struggle.
Gooden shot one of five from the floor and played poor defense. Gooden is largely useless when his jumper isn't falling. While he's shown flashes of passing ability, he tends to need to make a few jumpers before looking for his teammates on a regular basis. Anthony Davis finished with 30 points on the night but only really went off when being guarded by Gooden. Kris Humphries was more effective tonight and is at worst as good of a jump shooter as Gooden.