Good teams blow out bad teams. It’s why average point differential is one of the best predictors of future success: A friendly bounce or a bad whistle can determine the outcome of a close game, but over time good teams rack up huge differentials against weaker opponents.
The Nets are not a good team. Neither are the Wizards, at least so far, but based on their roster they should be a lot better than the Nets. So it was a bit troubling when a team that started the season stressing defense allowed the Nets to score 66 points in the first half.
It wasn’t hard to see what was going wrong: Individual Wizards’ could not keep their men in front of them, and help was late or absent. Trevor Booker looked like DeMarcus Cousins, with jabs and step-throughs that gave him a clear path to the rim. Bojan Bogdanovic took advantage of the Wizards’ confusion to drain wide open threes.
On the other end of the floor, the Wizards left points on the board, missing free throws and layups, including this future Shaqtin highlight:
Here’s the maddening thing about this Wizards team: The starting unit has all the pieces to be a good defensive squad. And whatever it is that they are usually missing, they found it to the start the third quarter. Despite trailing by fifteen at the end of the half, they quickly got themselves back into the game with a 13-0 run. They refused to let the Nets get into their sets, and forced them into 10 turnovers in the third quarter. The Wizards retook the lead, 83-81.
The Wizards couldn’t maintain control of the game, however. A blown defensive assignment here or there, and some inopportune hero ball let the Nets stay in the game.
Lucky for Washington fans everywhere, John Wall and Bradley Beal put on the show we’ve been waiting for. The backcourt took over the game: Beal hit the go-ahead shot to put the Wizards up 107-106, and Wall immediately followed it up with a deflection and slam.
The Wizards found themselves up 116-113 with nine seconds to go. Defending the three has not been a strength of this team for a few years now, but thankfully they didn’t have to: Beal stole the ball, forcing the Nets to foul him. The Wizards eventually managed to inbound the ball to Wall, who was quickly fouled. Wall made both of his free throws. The Wizards won, 118-113.
Wall finished the night with 25 points and 13 assists. Beal had 18 points and 4 assists, and Porter continued his career year with 18 points before fouling out in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t a good win, but it would have been a terrible loss.