In the NBA preseason, it’s hard to be too concerned about the final outcome—what fans really want to see are improvements from returning players and whether the new acquisitions fit in.
On Friday night, Wizards fans wanted to see John Wall shake off some more rust, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter stay aggressive, and Markieff Morris, uh, not get ejected. Luckily, Washington went three-for-three on their way to a 121-114 win over the scrappy Miami Heat.
The Wizards’ starting unit opened up the game looking solid in a fairly uneventful first quarter. At one point, back-to-back steals by the lengthy Porter led to open threes for Beal and Porter himself, and the Wizards eventually opened up a 19-13 lead over Miami.
Once the starters subbed out, Dwyane Wade came in and turned back the clock, scoring 10 quick points and dragging the Heat back into the game with a 28-26 lead at the end of one quarter.
From there, the two teams traded buckets back and forth until around halfway through the second quarter, when Miami started to pull ahead. Washington had held a slim lead until Wall and Beal re-entered with around seven minutes left in the period, but it was all Miami from there. The Heat scored repeatedly from inside the three-point line, shooting 51 percent in the first half to Washington’s 40 percent and leading 59-51 at the break.
In the second half, the Heat elected to rest Goran Dragic and start Briante Weber at the point. Scott Brooks quickly noticed the mismatch and decided to unleash John Wall. Facing the diminutive Weber, Wall orchestrated a dazzling sequence of plays, including two passes out of the post for jumpers and a cherry-picked fast break layup to tie the game at 65 with 7:11 to play in the third.
He also threw the ball through Weber’s legs, just for... kicks. Or lack thereof.
Wall’s hot streak included seven assists over the first seven minutes of the third quarter. He looked solid in the post and great on the fast break, reminding D.C. how much fun it can be when their star point guard is healthy enough to take over.
The Wizards went on a 22-6 run on the Heat over that stretch to open up a 10-point lead. In all, the Wizards had scored 38 third quarter points and led 89-84 heading into the final period.
Things turned quickly after that, but by then most starters had exited the game. The Heat quickly closed the gap in the fourth, taking a 95-92 lead in under two minutes’ time, but the Wizards’ reserves held the line from then until crunch time.
Then, as the Wizards will not likely do often this season, Scott Brooks went to his closers: reserves Chris Chiozza, Chasson Randle and Devin Robinson. That trio managed to lock down the Heat late and secure the 121-114 victory.
John Wall Watch: Mostly Positive
Wall absolutely flooded the box score Friday night, tallying 9 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks across 24 minutes of action. He showed his trademark mix of style and substance, including some flashy work in the passing game. One wonders if he noticed his lack of votes in the NBA GM Survey that released earlier this week.
Of note, Wall looked very aware of his tendency to fire up midrange jumpers and actively sought to avoid them. In one instance, he paused, read the floor a second time, and found Mahinmi cutting under the basket for a dunk. If Wall can continue to avoid those bad shots throughout the season, the Wizards’ offense will eliminate some of their least efficient possessions.
The Three-Point Shooting Will Continue Until Morale Improves
After firing off 38 threes in their first preseason game against New York, the Wizards launched 39 against Miami at just a 31 percent clip. That number still represents an improvement from Monday’s 8-for-38 performance, but it’s still less than ideal.
On the downside, Wall and Beal combined for a brickish 3-for-16 stat line from distance, with Wall’s 0-for-5 contributing heavily to that failure. Despite his great game, Wall’s jumper still looks a little bit off thus far. Hopefully it’s nothing more than part of Wall working his way back to full strength in game action.
On the upside, Jeff Green looked like Cavaliers Playoff Jeff Green on Friday, as he knocked down 3-of-4 three-pointers on his way to 15 points off the bench.
Watching the game, it was clear the Wizards have drilled hard on finding threes both on the fast break and during regular half-court play.
One would expect some regression and/or laziness to settle back in at some point this season, but the concerted effort to fire the long-ball thus far is much appreciated after ranking fourth in the league in midrange frequency last year.
Markieff Morris Keeps Calm, Carries On
Morris’s fiery outburst against the Knicks, which resulted in a second-quarter ejection in the team’s first preseason game, may have left some wondering whether he would be able to withstand the Heat. Thankfully, no extinguishers were necessary as ‘Kieff cooly notched 13 points and 10 rebounds in 26 minutes of action.