The Wizards captured their first winning streak of the season in maybe the most non-Wizards’ way possible. John Wall and Bradley Beal were both spectacular—the two combined for 46 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds as a tandem.
But that’s not what won the Wizards the game. For the first time in what feels like years, it was really the bench that put the game away for Washington. Every sub finished on the positive side of the plus-minus column. Austin Rivers and Tomas Satoransky were both productive and aggressive on drives, scoring 13 combined points. Kelly Oubre Jr. didn’t score it well, but was everywhere defensively. Jeff Green was the most noteworthy sub, scoring 18 points off the bench and hitting four 3-pointers as the Wizards traded buckets with the Magic.
The game wasn’t perfect. The Magic still shot 50 percent from deep and made 15 threes on the night. Terrence Ross managed to score 21 off the bench and torched the Wizards once again. But behind a newfound small ball lineup in the fourth quarter, the Wizards finished strong and got their fourth win on the season.
Washington’s knockout lineup
I won’t go as far as calling it a “death” lineup after just three games, but the Wizards have really found something with the four man combination of Beal, Wall, Oubre and Green. Plug in whoever you want as the fifth guy—Morris finished tonight, but we’ve seen Rivers in that slot.
This lineup is somehow working. There’s been enough shooting between Green’s hot streak, Oubre finding his shot again and Beal being Beal. The lineup is also everywhere, scrambling defensively. The Wizards, when their defense works, are blitzing from left to right, working to pressure the ball to force turnovers and bad shots. We saw that a few times tonight on Oubre’s steal late in the fourth and Wall’s block in the corner, to name a couple. It’s been effective. When you add offense? It’s dangerous.
How long will this last? I have no idea. Their competition hasn’t been great and Green is also shooting the lights out. This offense likely won’t remain hot, but if they can keep their same energy up defensively this should be a staple for the season.
Otto Porter’s role
Porter’s role seems to be shrinking game by game. He’s been on the bench in multiple fourth quarters this season and hasn’t been part of the Wizards closing lineups in their last few games. It’s a bit early at this point, but questioning how committed this team is to Porter moving forward is fair.
Let me be clear: I’m not advocating for trading Porter. He’s been a staple in their best lineup for the last three years and should be seeing more minutes with Oubre and more minutes in crunch time, but he’s not. This is something we’ll have to keep an eye on as the season moves forward.
The defense is still trash
Don’t let this win fool you. The Wizards weren’t good defensively tonight. The Magic were amazing from deep and much of that was due to the Wizards scheme. They consistently help one pass away, and that’s their biggest problem. Even if someone recovers to contest, it’s too late and the shot drops or there’s a foul.
The switching is also still off. There were more than a few instances where guards were lost in the shuffle and got easy looks at the rim because of blown coverages. It’s something that the Wizards have to take care of moving forward.
Next up: The Wizards host the Cavaliers on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. Eastern Time.