After last night's debacle, it's nice to talk about a win, even if it was against a shorthanded and reeling Atlanta Hawks team. There were times when things got a little too hairy for comfort, but a strong finish propelled the Wizards to a much-needed 114-97 win against a team they are battling for playoff positioning.
This was definitely a get-well game. Seven players scored in double figures, led by 21 and 12 from John Wall. Marcin Gortat continued his strong recent play with 14 and 12, though his frontcourt defense left a bit to be desired. Trevor Booker and Martell Webster provided much-needed scoring off the bench. Thirty of the 46 field goals were assisted, so the offense was generally flowing. And while the defense let off during the third quarter, it was fantastic otherwise.
Things got going quickly with a beautiful first quarter. The Wizards moved the ball well and got their assortment of open looks, nailing them every time and playing with the kind of flow you see when things are going well. More importantly, the defense clamped down on Atlanta's pick and roll attack, holding Jeff Teague in check while simultaneously limiting Kyle Korver and Paul Millsap. It was a classic display of this team at its finest.
Of course, that stretch was eventually followed by a classic display of this team at its worst. The pick and roll defense started leaking, and Atlanta feasted on that Teague/Elton Brand middle pick and roll over and over again. The offense had no cohesion, as Wall was inactive and none of the other Wizards were capable of making a play. What was a 20-point lead dropped to one at one point in the third quarter. A spark was needed.
Thankfully, it came. Two huge shots at the end of the third quarter -- a Webster three off a screen and a miracle 57-footer by Trevor Ariza -- pushed the lead back to eight. Then, Booker came in and provided huge minutes, helping the Wizards extend the lead with the bench on the floor. Booker thrives in games like these against smaller, quicker frontcourts, and he really thrived tonight, shutting down Millsap at key moments and hitting critical jumpers.
Eventually, the Hawks folded. The starters came in with the Wizards back up nine and took over. The injury-riddled Hawks had no response.
This is the kind of game the Wizards should have won and they did. That, in and of itself, is nothing to write home about. But we've seen this team fall plenty of times when they shouldn't have, so now is no time to take victories for granted. Credit the Wizards for responding to Atlanta's run.
- While his statistical production wasn't anything to write home about, I thought Kevin Seraphin gave good minutes. I know Gortat is playing well, but Nene isn't, necessarily. It might be good to work Seraphin in a little more.
- Nice bounce-back game from Ariza. Nineteen points and nine rebounds on 7-12 from the floor, plus generally nice defense on Kyle Korver. Smart teams can still find ways to take him away, but that was more like it.
- There are still too many times where the Wizards' bigs are not totally in sync with the guards when defending pick and roll. The guards don't fight over screens hard enough and the bigs are coming out too high, which creates openings. If the guards are going to be a little lax getting through the picks, it pays to lay off a bit and cut off the ball-handler's angle instead of coming up high and opening up a drive or a pocket pass to the rolling big.