For once, we can’t blame it on the bench: The Wizards survived a third quarter meltdown by their stating lineup to beat the visiting Timberwolves 112-105. While Washington’s defensive struggles continue to be alarming, there were some positive takeaways from Friday’s win.
A big night for the backcourt
John Wall picked apart the Timberwolves with ease, tallying a season high 18 assists with just three turnovers. There are a lot of cracks in the young Timberwolves’ defense, and Wall found every one of them, leading to wide open dunks for Marcin Gortat and three after three after three for Bradley Beal and Otto Porter. Wall also had an efficient 18 points and two steals.
Beal lead the Wizards with 22 points, including an impressive 5-7 three point shooting performance. He was also one of the few Wizards consistently locked in on the defensive end, playing a big role in Zach LaVine’s woeful shooting night (3-14 from the field).
Andrew Wiggins was unstoppable
Andrew Wiggins torched the Wizards, following an all too familiar problem of ball dominant wings having their way with the Wizards, finishing the night with 41 points (just six off of his career high). Wiggins skill and athleticism was on full display tonight, drawing a sharp contrast with Otto Porter. Porter, to his credit, didn’t let his defensive struggles with Wiggins effect him on the offensive end, where he scored an efficient 17 points.
Gortat locked in vs. Towns
Karl-Anthony Towns, reigning Rookie of the Year and poster child for the modern NBA center, is a nightmare for virtually anyone. Coaches frequently counter his mobility by cross-matching their power forward on Towns defensively, but Scott Brooks’ elected to start the game with Marcin Gortat on Towns.
The move paid off. Gortat played Towns with discipline and veteran savvy, sticking with him on drives to the rim and drawing two charges in the first half. Towns ended the night with 17 points, but with an inefficient 18 shots.
Third quarter woes
After a back and fourth first quarter, the Wizards seem to get things under control to close out the half. They out-executed the Timberwolves on both ends, baiting them into turnovers and patiently working for good shots on offense. They ended the second quarter with a 14-3 run, going into halftime with a comfortable 12 point lead.
It was almost as if a different team came out of the locker room to start the second half. The Wizards began throwing the ball away (including a bizarre sequence where Gortat and Jason Smith played hot potato with the ball after chasing the same rebound). Wiggins continued his rampage, and the Wizards’ 12-point lead turned into a 5-point deficit.