Friday night's loss to the Philadelphia 76ers was rock bottom for this season. Tears were (probably) shed. Shade was thrown at Randy Wittman and Ernie Grunfeld.
Saturday's 99-95 win over the Pistons was by no means amazing, but at least it wasn't rock bottom.
The Wizards did manage to lose a 21-point lead to a Spencer Dinwiddie-led lineup, but in the end, they made some pick shots in the final few minutes and had a huge security blanket to fall back on that they built up in the first half.
John Wall's buzzer-beating spin move at the end was probably the high point of this one:
Bradley Beal made his return after missing eight games:
(GIF via Hardwood Paroxysm)
And for some reason Reggie Jackson was wearing skiing gloves:
So, it was a weird and fun game, but it was nice to see a healthy team (sans Kris Humphries) get out to a hot start and break a six-game losing streak. Here's what we can take away from this roller coaster of a game.
Marcin Gortat played a legitimate complete game
Beal's return was obviously the lead story heading into this one, but seeing Gortat start out strong in the first quarter and finish a game in the fourth was really nice.
In the first quarter alone, Gortat had eight points and six rebounds (all of them defensive). John Wall did a great job of getting all of the big men involved in this one, but Gortat started rolling early and he carried that momentum over into the rest of the game.
This season, Gortat has played so few minutes in the fourth quarter of games that he's attempted just 38 shots all season in the final period (for comparison's sake, he's attempted 208 shots in the third quarter of games), according to Basketball-Reference.com.
Instead of rolling with Kevin Seraphin down the stretch, head coach Randy Wittman kept Gortat in the game in crunch time. He had a huge offensive rebound after Beal missed a free throw with seven seconds remaining in the game that basically iced this one. In the final seven minutes of action, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond combined to make just one basket (it came from Monroe).
Rim protection was a problem in the second half, but Gortat and Nene both did an excellent job of shutting down Detroit's big men when it counted.
Gortat finished the game with 16 points and 17 rebounds in over 35 minutes of action.
Kris Humphries' inevitable return could nudge Wittman toward moving away from Gortat in the fourth quarter again, but Saturday's game was promising for the Polish Hammer.
The Wizards really, really need Bradley Beal and Paul Pierce
Friday, both Beal and Pierce sat out and were replaced in the starting lineup by Otto Porter Jr. and Garrett Temple. I'm going to present that without comment.
Having Beal and Pierce back against the Pistons was huge. Although Beal only scored eight points, he attempted four shots from beyond the arc. Taking contested twos was still a serious problem, but it was just nice to have a legitimate perimeter threat on the floor.
While Temple can be an effective defender at times, he's just not nearly as good on the offensive end, and Porter has problems knocking down open threes.
Pierce certainly held his own, scoring 14 points in almost 34 minutes and was 4-for-8 from three.
During this losing streak, there was a lot of talk about how much the Wizards miss Trevor Ariza. Ariza was so effective last season at knocking down threes off of John Wall drives.
While Pierce may not be as spry as he once was and can't really take over a game, he can lag behind Wall on fastbreaks and stand at the perimeter waiting for a pass to knock down.
When the Wizards stormed out to a 12-4 lead, Pierce had already made two threes, which was a huge momentum boost for the rest of the game.
Yes, every NBA team deals with injuries, and the lack of depth for Washington is certainly one of its weaknesses. But there's no doubt that the Wizards' offense is ridiculously better with Beal and Pierce than without them.
There was more movement and energy on the floor with the two of them out there, and the offense wasn't nearly as stagnant as it was against the Sixers.
The second unit's defense will be a serious problem going forward
The real reason Detroit was able to claw back into this game was due to poor defense on the Wizards' second unit. Dinwiddie scored a season-high (and career-high) 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting.
Dinwiddie was mainly responsible for the Pistons' comeback, turning it on in the third and fourth quarters and sending (and keeping) Reggie Jackson on the bench. For a good stretch of that, Ramon Sessions was on the floor guarding him.
Jodie Meeks also drained a couple of threes and the Pistons had all of a sudden taken a lead.
Shooters for any team can take advantage of the poor defense by the second unit. Porter has a ton of length, but Sessions is a liability on defense and taking Gortat and Nene off the floor at any point in time opens a hole on defense.
Kevin Seraphin has a defensive rating of just 104 this season, per Basketball-Reference.com, and Drew Gooden looks like he's not even putting in effort at times on the defensive end of the floor.
If the Wizards want to avoid falling below the Milwaukee Bucks in the playoff standings, they should at least be able to protect a 21-point lead, and players such as Spencer Dinwiddie shouldn't be scoring 20 points.