The Wizards have won 12 straight at home for the first time since 1989
The wins just keep on coming at home for the Washington Wizards, who beat the 76ers by 16 on Saturday and beat the Blazers by 19 on Monday afternoon. They’ll wrap up their homestand on Wednesday evening against the Memphis Grizzlies. Lucky 13? Maybe.
Now if they can only take this show on the road, then my friends, we could be looking at a top-four team in the Eastern Conference.
John Wall will play through anything
Wall injured his right pinkie against the Chicago Bulls, said he believes it may have gotten caught on someone's jersey. In a back-to-back against the Celtics, Wall fell on his left wrist after an incredible pass to Otto Porter. He used the two days off after the Celtics game to find a way to stabilize his right pinkie--which caused significant trouble to his shooting motion--by using a mini splint that pulls the pinkie finger closer to the ring finger.
The splint worked. He had 25 points on 9-17 shooting against the 76ers and 24 points on 10-17 shooting against the Blazers. Bradley Beal expected Wall to play at full-strength despite his pinkie and wrist injuries, “That’s how he is. If he’s not broke, he’s going to play. He’s a little hard-headed, but he’ll manage and he’ll be alright.”
Coach Scott Brooks applauded his efforts to take advantage of the two days off and play like an NBA All-Star again. “[It was] huge. The guy plays. He loves the game. You never want guys to be out there if they’re hurt, but if you’re nicked-up, banged-up, we’re going to do our best to keep you out there and feeling that you can compete and play at a high level, and he does. That guy, he’s a gamer. He loves to play, he loves playing here, and he loves playing with this team. He has that burning desire to compete. It’s about competition, you want guys like that, and we have a team full of guys that like to compete.”
Kelly Oubre Jr. and Marcin Gortat embarrassed Gerald Henderson
Last season in Portland, Gerald Henderson, who never gives up on a play, swatted away a potential game-winning lay-up attempt by Marcin Gortat in the closing seconds that forced overtime and helped the Blazers hold on for a victory. On Saturday, the Wizards made sure on two separate occasions that they didn’t let Henderson pull the same move again.
Two posters on the same man in one evening! I don’t know what made him jump into the air with one arm out and the other by his side, I think in his mind he figured he could make the play, but Gortat and Kelly Oubre punished him both times.
Gerald Henderson did have one moment of fun, a testament to his gritty play, with a hard block on a Wall transition three attempt. Wall had just made three straight shots and went up for the fourth before Henderson snuffed him. “ I didn't see him,” Wall said. “I had made like three in a row. And, I’m like ‘I’m shooting it again.’ I was too tired to go shoot a layup. So, I was just going to go shoot it.”
The Wizards’ defense stepped up
After a sluggish start on Saturday, the Wizards played impressive defense in the second half, per Scott Brooks request: “I thought we did a better job of making them miss. It always goes back to when I tell our guys that the schemes – the number one scheme that we have to continue to focus on is the play hard scheme, and then we can get into our coverages.”
The Wiz held the Sixers to 15 points and 28 percent shooting in the third quarter. Saric, Henderson, Stauskas, Ilyasova, and Covington were all held scoreless during this stretch.
“I thought we didn’t have any mishaps in transition, our switches were on point, we didn’t give up open threes -- in the first half we did – and that’s the difference of the ballgame right there. I thought the guys really responded after halftime,” Brooks said.
On Monday, the Wizards brought the defense from the get-go. They held the Blazers to 21 points in the first quarter as they built up a 16 point lead they wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the game. "Our start was much better,” Brooks said. “We were making them miss shots. We were moving the basketball offensively, and then we were making shots. All the three's we made in that first quarter, were all from good ball movement and extra passing. We've been focusing on that, and it was good. They didn't play well, they missed some shots, it wasn't all us, but I thought we did a pretty good job throughout the game of making them miss."
The Wizards have won 10 games where they’ve been down by double digits
The Wizards’ offense and defense relies heavily on John Wall. When he is out of sync, it affects everyone around him. “It all starts with me,” Wall said after Saturday’s game. “Beginning of the game I just tried to get everybody involved and not be aggressive offensively and defensively.”
The Wizards were down 13 in the first quarter before Wall and co. took over the game and never looked back. “When I'm not aggressive on both ends of the floor it kind of slows our team down, so I have to do a better job of that. In the last two games that's what happened, then when I started to pick it up everybody else started to pick it up, and we started to play better, ” he said.
Their ability to recover from slow starts and turn things around has been a theme for several games and for the season as a whole. This is a team that strives on adversity, even when it’s self-imposed. Still, it’s impressive to see that they’ve been able to recover from slow starts and pull out wins in spite of them.
Tomas Satoransky scored big minutes
Tomas has had an up-and-down year, and his comfort level with playing point guard in the NBA has not caught up with his talent, but it looked like that might be starting to change. He played 21 minutes against the Sixers but only attempted three shots, he was also 4-4 from the free throw line, in addition to 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal.
He followed it up on Monday with one of the best performances of his NBA career. He put up 10 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists in less than 20 minutes of action against Portland.
Otto Porter playing through hip pain
Otto Porter did not make an appearance in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game after leaving the game during the third with a strained right hip. When he was asked about it after the game, Porter said, “I want to make sure I stay on top of it.” He has a history of playing through hip soreness, dating as far back as his rookie year. Porter mentioned he will use off days to “rest up and try to get back on the [court].”
Thankfully, on Monday he was back on the court and didn’t show any ill effects from Saturday’s injury, but it also helped that Porter only had to play 30 minutes thanks to Washington’s blowout win.
Sixers fans followed through on “The Process”
There were more Sixers fans in the Verizon Center than I had anticipated. Joel Embiid stated earlier in the week that he “wants to change the culture around the team,” and about 350 fans took a two-hour bus ride to see Joel “The Process” Embiid up close and personal as he worked out prior to tipoff.
In the first half, they made their presence known before the Wizards took over, with loud chants of “Trust the Process,” and “MVP,” for Robert Covington and Jahlil Okafor, who finished with a season-high 26 points after missing three straight games.
The Wizards fans in attendance got their revenge later on as the team pulled away in the third quarter and got free chicken in the fourth thanks to Jahlil Okafor missing free throws. “Our crowd has been amazing. We feel that energy and we’re always going to continue to need their support,” Beal said after Saturday’s game.
Wall and Beal get fourth quarter rest
I’m still shocked that this even happened. It just doesn't seem real. When was the last time the Wizards won a home game with both Bradley Beal and John Wall resting on the bench the entire fourth quarter? They pulled it off Saturday against the 76ers and were only used sparingly on Monday.
When asked about getting rest in the fourth, Beal confessed he still wanted to be on the floor. “I wanted to play a little bit. I’m not going to lie. But it was good, it was good to see us close out a game, you know, the right way. If everybody gets a chance to play and everybody gets minutes, then that’s always a great feeling.”
Wall, on the other hand, compared sitting in the fourth to “a day off.”