The streak is finally over. After losing five straight, the Wizards got a much needed win over the Knicks. The best part? There was nothing flashy about it. It wasn’t one of the high scoring 140 point games we’ve seen in the NBA so far this season. They did it with everything they’ve lacked so far — defense, intensity, rebounding and under pressure.
It wasn’t a smooth ride. The Knicks cut what was a 13 point lead from the Wizards down to just 3 heading into the fourth quarter and tied the game up two separate times before the Wizards eventually pulled away. But it was the late game heroics of John Wall and Bradley Beal, who both combined for 48 points, that put the game away with about two minutes to go.
Whether the Wizards will be able to crawl into relevancy again remains to be seen, but they had to take this step before doing it. Tonight is just one game, but a win is a win. Here are some thoughts.
Wall and Beal were an incredible combo once again
This was missing on that road trip. The two just didn’t seem to be in sync so often and it showed. But tonight, they performed well on both ends of the floor with Wall dropping 26 points, seven assists and five steals.
Beal, in particular, showed an excellent floor game despite his shot not falling. He only shot 1-7 from deep, but hit 7-14 from the field overall. Along with that, he had eight rebounds, four blocks and three assists. Two seasons ago, I just don’t think he has this type of game. It’s amazing to see the player he’s blossomed into.
But the shots are still a problem
The Wizards still aren’t a good shooting team right now. Even when Otto Porter was in the lineup, the shots weren’t falling. But tonight, they looked even worse. The team only shot 23% from deep and the only Wizard to make more than one three was Wall who went 3-6 from deep.
They have to get some better looks. So many of their threes come late in the clock and from above the break. It’s harder to generate corner threes because of switching in today’s NBA, but they’ve got to find a way to do it. Defense can get things rolling, as we saw in that third quarter. But they’ve got to keep that effort up consistently to become a threat from deep again.
Dwight Howard matters
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Sure, his best days are behind him. He’s not going to be defensive player of the year Dwight anymore. But here’s the thing: Just a fraction of that helps this team a ton.
Howard was a menace on the glass tonight and snatched 10 boards in just 31 minutes. He didn’t finish well, but created a real vertical presence in the pick and roll with as a threat to catch lobs. His second and third efforts on the glass made a difference in the Wizards corralling some of the 50-50 balls they missed on earlier in the year.
He finished as a +27 and had a clear impact on both ends. If this team is going to get better, they’ll need a lot more of that from him. If the cost is just a few post touches sprinkled in here and there? So be it.