Thursday was a pivotal game for the Wizards, who are on the first night of a back-to-back-to-back (yuck). And they need to win approximately 60 percent of their games for the rest of the season to make the playoffs. Fortunately, they responded with one of their most complete games this season as the defeated the Jazz, 103-89
Their energy and intensity were high on both ends of the floor, their defense stole the show. You wouldn’t necessarily know from the box score, but Garrett Temple made life extremely difficult for Gordon Hayward. But it wasn’t really any one player: The whole team locked in, pressuring ball handlers and fronting Derek Favors in the post.
On offense, the Wizards moved the ball extremely well, with possessions like this one:
And some half-skill-half-luck possessions like this one:
The Jazz made a threatening run early in the second half, but the Wizards really controlled this one all the way through, outscoring the Jazz in every single quarter. John Wall had a slightly inefficient but highlight-filled 17 points and 11 assists. Marcin Gortat was unstoppable rolling to the rim and running in transition, finishing with a game-high 22 points and 10 rebounds.
Feasting in transition
It’s no secret that the Wizards rely more heavily on transition points than most teams. And transition points require transition opportunities. The Wizards were on point tonight, with 10 blocks (five from Gortat) and forcing an incredible 23 turnovers (Wall and Temple had four steals a piece, Otto Porter had three). 34 of the Wizards 103 points came on the break, and over half came in the paint. The Wizards had just 11 turnovers.
Bradley Beal overcomes first half slump
Beal, who came off the bench tonight (presumably as a tactic for keeping his minutes down), looked rusty to start the game. His shot was off, and his decision making was questionable, frequently missing open teammates and stopping the Wizards otherwise solid ball movement. But it all came together in the beginning of the fourth quarter. As the Jazz leveraged their size for second chance points, it was Beal who took over the offense.
Eventually the Wizards defense found their footing again, but Beal was instrumental in allow the Wizards to survive a late surge from the Jazz.
Nene and Gortat still don’t work together
Randy Wittman elected to start Nene and Gortat together to match up against Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors.
It worked, defensively, but the offense was a mess. With Temple starting in place of Beal, Wall was the best shooter in the starting lineup. The Jazz packed the paint accordingly, cutting into Wall’s effectiveness as both a scorer and a distributor.
Unsurprisingly, Jared Dudley coming into the game for Gortat coincided with a 11-2 Wizards run after a slow start. It’s notable that while Wittman started both halves with a two-big lineup, we never saw them on the floor together again once one of them subbed out.
New Wizard Markieff Morris will hopefully allow Nene to again get all of his minutes backing up Gortat.