There were many heroes in the Wizards 101-99 overtime win over the Bulls on Tuesday, but we have to reserve a special place at the table for Trevor Ariza. That's because Ariza shut down the one Bull that the Wizards could not account for in Game 2: D.J. Augustin.
When the under-six timeout of the fourth quarter arrived, Augustin had 25 points. The Wizards tried John Wall, Bradley Beal and Andre Miller on him, hoping to collectively push him to undesirable spots on the floor. The problem? Augustin's jumper was falling and he was slithering away, often by declining the ball screen, as we suggested he might in our preview.
Faced without any answers, Randy Wittman called on his small forward to lock D.J. down. And lock him down Trevor did.
From that point on, Augustin didn't score. More significantly, he only took three shots, and at least one of those came when the Wizards were caught in switches and Augustin found a different defender on him. The Wizards had no answer for Augustin when he had the ball, so Ariza simply didn't let him get it. The Bulls were forced to run their offense through Kirk Hinrich, and the former Wizard kept clanking jumpers and failing to find open players. Chicago's offense, for the second straight night, was toast.
This is the Wizards' major luxury. Any one of their starting perimeter players can cross-match effectively and not only get away with it, but thrive. Wall and Beal are the same size, and Ariza has stepped up in past games when the two youngsters struggled defensively. Very few teams have that kind of perimeter defensive versatility. It's allowed the Wizards to stifle one of the Bulls' most effective two-man combinations this year: Augustin and Hinrich (+9.4 points/100 possessions when sharing the court).
It also shows Ariza's value. As we all know, Ariza is a free agent to be, and the Wizards have a lot of people at his position. The salary cap is expected to rise, so there's a chance the Wizards can afford to keep him and Marcin Gortat while still upgrading the roster. Is it worth doing that, even if it means less opportunities for Otto Porter? Who knows, but last night showed that Ariza is going to be tough to replace if he does walk.