The narrative about this Wizards team is not going to shift much with this win. As strong as it may have been, they still do not have a stellar record against the upper echelon of the NBA and they still have been awful on the road in this latter stretch of the season.
Even with that being the case, though, a win is still a win and this is a very good one, even with the little scare at the end of the game. This one was never really in doubt. This is the first time in a long time that the Wizards have looked like the team that made franchise history with a 19-6 start through the first 25 games of the season. Spacing was optimal, John Wall was able to get to where he wanted on the floor, Bradley Beal played well on both ends and Gortat only missed one shot all night thanks to a difficult lob finish.
The Wizards shot a season high 58 percent on the game and a number of players played well. Beal and Gortat combined for 43 points on the night, but Wall was the catalyst on the offensive end finishing with 13 points and 15 assists. Nene only played 13 minutes, but wasn't really needed because of how well Drew Gooden played.
Gooden scored 10 points on six shots and provided a nice change of pace for the Wizards off the bench. While he's not the best shooter, defenses still have to make an effort to close out on him because of his ability to drain the longest of two point shots and even occasional threes. Because of that, Wall and Gortat were able to break down the defense with plenty of space to work with. Gortat finished 10-11 largely because of the space provided from Gooden's feaux-spacing.
Otto Porter got the start tonight over Paul Pierce, who was inactive. Porter played well in his first look at extended minutes since playing Memphis at home in March. He is the Wizards' best slasher and always made himself available to the ball. He finished with 15 points on 5-12 shooting and he also hustled his way to seven rebounds.
Kris Humprhies also made his return tonight as well and looked great doing it. His first bucket was a dunk around the defense, and then he drained two midrange shots to finish with 6 points.
Great job all around from the Wizards with this one. Here is what we've learned.
Porter needs to play
Otto Porter is not your typical number 3 overall pick. He's not a great shot creator or a great shooter and he's a solid rebounder. Defensively, he's up and down and he can be an offensive liability at times when he's forced into a role. But he does some really good things that many other players on the team aren't able to do.
He's easily the best slasher on the team right now. For a team that lacks shooting, slashing is the very next way to create space and find easy looks at the rim. If you watch the Memphis Grizzlies play, they've traditionally been a very good slashing team and it's a large part of why their offense is so productive without being a great shooting team.
Porter always finds his way to the nose of the rim and sneaks in for rebounds consistently. He has length, can play both forward spots depending on the matchup and so bad a shooter that teams don't have to pay him any attention. No, he's not an All-Star, but he definitely deserves minutes over Martell Webster and Rasual Butler who have both struggled throughout the year.
Gortat is the Wizards second fiddle
The Wizards don't have another All-Star to couple with Wall right now, but he and Gortat make a pretty difficult combination to stop when the floor is balanced properly. So many times tonight there were open lanes for Gortat to dive in after setting solid screens. He finished 10-11 on the game.
A portion of that goes to the 76ers defense, which is solid, but they weren't able to keep bodies on Gortat or chuck him going down the lane. But Gortat has traditionally been a solid pick and roll big man, is finishing at a rate over 70 percent at the rim and is a solid pick and pop player when he can get easy baseline looks. This is the Wizards second best player and they need to make sure he's involved down the stretch. He thinks so, too.