Riding their best win streak of the season, wearing brand-new black jerseys, and featuring Converse’s new star athlete, the Wizards simply needed to put away the stumbling Brooklyn Nets to head into the weekend in the best shape they’ve been all season.
Of course, nothing could be that simple for the Wizards, who came out uninspired for the first time in weeks and suffered a 115-104 home loss on Friday night. It was the same trademark lackadaisical team effort that has maligned this team for years, and it reared its ugly head once again.
They played all the hits — not fighting through screens on defense, settling for mid-range jumpers on offense, complaining to the refs instead of getting back on defense. The Wizards even put on a fake rally late in the fourth quarter for the true diehards who’d yet to turn the game off. But from start to finish, experienced observers of the art form knew how this one would end.
Kinda feel like the Wizards are gonna be in a bad spot if they continue to lack the attention to detail that they have thus far. Too many midrange jumpers, too little defensive intensity.— Bullets Forever (@BulletsForever) November 17, 2018
The Wizards initially jumped out to a 12-6 lead over a sloppy first five minutes, with Dwight Howard providing most of the lift. On the other side, D’Angelo Russell scored 11 of the Nets’ first 13 points. His array of floaters kept Brooklyn in the game early in spite of a rash of confusing turnovers, but the Wizards still led 30-26 at the end of the first quarter. Howard’s 11 points and five rebounds, on five-of-five shooting no less, were key in forging the Wizards’ early lead.
Washington’s much-maligned all-bench unit managed to keep the lead steady until the cavalry returned and the Wizards led 40-36 with seven minutes to play in the second quarter. Tomas Satoransky in particular looked quite active, securing a couple of nifty buckets in his seven first-half minutes.
The lead didn’t last long, though. Washington’s starters seemed to laze through the first half a bit, and it cost the Wizards their advantage by halftime. Russell (13 points) and Spencer Dinwiddie (16 points) carried Brooklyn to a 56-54 lead through two periods.
Unfortunately for Wizards fans, Washington’s lack of effort did not fade away in the third quarter. Brooklyn opened the second half playing with a fire that perhaps only Beal and Howard had shown among Wizards starters, and the Nets gradually extended their lead to double digits. The deficit got as large as 15, and Washington trailed 91-79 after three.
The fourth quarter didn’t hold any positive prospects for the Wizards either. Washington simply could not stop fouling on defense, and Brooklyn’s lead swelled to nearly 20 points. The bleeding only stopped when the Wizards’ starters re-entered the game, save Markieff Morris whose effort had waned all night. Washington’s best line-up, with Oubre Jr. in for Morris, found a way to cut the lead to 107-94 with a few minutes left to play, but the home team never got any closer until it was far too late.
Dwight Howard had his best game yet
Dwight Howard was pretty clearly the best Wizard tonight, which will hopefully not be a regular happenstance on a team with such dynamic guards. Credit where it’s due, though — Howard had 17 points and nine rebounds in the first half alone, a near double-double in just 17 minutes.
He eventually fouled out of the game with four minutes to play, but Howard tallied 25 points and 17 rebounds in total on the night. He also did so on an efficient nine-of-13 shooting and with more consistent effort than anyone else on the floor for Washington.
Washington’s House of Guards was outshined
Despite a couple moments of individual prowess, John Wall and Bradley Beal were clearly outplayed by Brooklyn’s two lead guards, Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell. Russell opened the game with some hot shooting and scored 13 first quarter points, while Dinwiddie carried the Brooklyn offense for stretches in each of the final three quarters.
By the end, their lines were spectacular. Dinwiddie scored 25 points on 13 shot attempts and added eight assists and four rebounds. Russell, meanwhile, scored 23 points on 16 shot attempts with six assists of his own. Though Beal and Wall played 38 minutes each, they simply could not get it going on offense, combining for 14-of-38 shooting on the night.
The Wizards couldn’t find the Nets
Brooklyn’s defense came into this game with a reputation for forcing opponents into difficult mid-range shots as much as any other team in the league — and the Nets lived up to it.
Washington notched their season-low in three-point makes and attempts, shooting just three-for-17 (17.6 percent) from beyond the arc. The Wizards’ starting guards repeatedly settled for contested long twos and steadfastly refused to challenge Jarrett Allen and Ed Davis at the rim.
Maybe it was fatigue or some other unknown factor that led to the rampant settling. Either way, it was disheartening to see the Wizards go back so often on their primary stated goal leading up to the season.
Next up: The Wizards (5-10) will welcome the Portland Trail Blazers (10-5) to Capital One Arena on Sunday.