Washington improved to 2-0 in preseason action with a 104-100 win over the Knicks on Friday night, despite an uneven performance from their starters.
The Wizards got off to a sloppy start. There were miscues on defense, careless passes on offense, and a general malaise that felt a lot like the 2015-16 season. It would be something worrisome if it wasn’t a game against a shorthanded Knicks team in the preseason.
Things started going Washington’s way in the second quarter as John Wall found his rhythm and started asserting his speed and athleticism on the game, racking up 8 points and 4 assists in the quarter. Still, they couldn’t quite pull away, as the Knicks made 7 of their 12 threes in the first half to keep it a one-point game going into halftime.
It looked like the Knicks were going to cruise to an easy win as the starters came out and New York’s bench opened up a ten point lead in the third quarter. But just when the game was about to get out of hand, Kelly Oubre spearheaded a 10-1 with a steal and a pair of quick threes to keep the game close.
Washington’s deep reserves put the game away late; especially Sheldon Mac and Mike Scott, who both made some key plays late to ice the game. More importantly, Washington’s defense, which had struggled through most of the game, came through at the right time, holding the Knicks to just six points over the final six minutes of the game.
The Wizards are back in action on Sunday afternoon at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
John Wall was good in all the right ways
Strictly from an efficiency perspective, Wall didn’t have his best game. He committed five turnovers in under 24 minutes of action and didn’t earn a trip to the foul line. But if you were just paying attention to how he looked on the floor, there was a lot to be happy about.
It just looked like he had a little more burst than we’ve seen the past couple of years, thanks in part to finally having an offseason to train instead of just rehabbing from surgery.
Michael Beasley certainly seemed to notice the difference:
Kelly Oubre shows more confidence
Like Wall, Oubre didn’t have the best game from a statistical perspective, but he showed some very encouraging signs for when the regular season rolls around. He was smarter about picking the right times to make plays on the ball defensively, and seemed more confident in his shot selection, even though the results weren’t there in this one.
Last season, Oubre had some good games where the results were there even though the process that got him there felt a little flimsy. Tonight’s performance felt a lot more sustainable. Hopefully it’s something the Wizards can leverage more reliably this season.
Jason Smith still trying to find the range
The early experimenting with Jason Smith replacing Markieff Morris in the starting lineup has not gone well. He’s 1-7 from deep so far this preseason including going 0-4 against the Knicks. Overall, he finished 0-5 from the field with just three rebounds and a steal in a little over 15 minutes of action. Everyone has their cold streaks, but Smith just didn’t look comfortable at all out there, and even got blocked by Joakim Noah on one of his threes.
Perhaps Smith is just a slow-starter (Remember how poorly he started last season?) and it’s still too early to panic, but it might be worth at least experimenting to see what happens with Mike Scott out there.