The Washington Wizards are in the midst of challenging stretch of the schedule coming out of the All-Star break, and faced one of their most important games on Sunday at home against the Philadelphia 76ers.
After winning the season opener at the Capital One Arena back in October, the Wizards had dropped two straight to the 76ers. The team that has made “Trust the Process” into a rallying cry came into the District on an seven game win streak with a chance to win the head-to-head tiebreaker over Washington.
This was an opportunity for Washington to put it all on the line against a team that many consider to be next in the Eastern Conference, a team which the Wizards will have to face head on for years to come.
The Wizards decisively defeated the 76ers 109-94, thanks in large part to a masterful 29-16 second quarter run which defined the game and highlighted everything the Wizards have done well recently as they’ve won nine of their last twelve games.
The play that got the ball rolling is a perfect embodiment of what we’ve seen from this Wizards team over this recent stretch. Four of the five player’s touch the basketball and the only reason Otto Porter doesn’t here is because Kelly Oubre Jr. made a wise decision to shoot it himself after Ben Simmons hedged to Porter.
If you missed the 2nd quarter of the Wizards it was a great combination of team basketball and great individual play. 4 of the 5 players touch the ball on this possession. Good decision by Kelly Oubre to shoot as Ben Simmons hedges towards Otto. pic.twitter.com/AAl6JufJcc— Oz (@OBtoojiveforyou) February 26, 2018
A few possessions later, Porter gets the ball with less than five seconds on the shot clock. He squares up J.J. Redick and uses his height advantage to get off a clean shot. Earlier in the season, this is a play that probably ends with Bradley Beal or John Wall getting forced into a poor attempt.
This is just Otto flat out making a play. pic.twitter.com/sWBMzliEel— Oz (@OBtoojiveforyou) February 26, 2018
The very next possession we have simple, but well-executed, two-man basketball between Beal and Markieff Morris. The Wizards were able to execute this quickly and with good tempo because Bradley Beal kept his feet moving and didn’t start from a standstill position.
The next time down the floor we have a crisp two man game between Brad and Markieff. pic.twitter.com/Pl2Kf9fENW— Oz (@OBtoojiveforyou) February 26, 2018
On the next possession, Porter once again makes a tough shot with the shot clock winding down.
Otto just making a play Part 2 pic.twitter.com/TEYVdhj8Tj— Oz (@OBtoojiveforyou) February 26, 2018
Porter has shot 50.7 percent from the field since the start of last season and his effective field goal percentage with less than four seconds left on the shot clock this season is 56.1 percent, the eleventh-best mark in the league among players who have taken at least 30 attempts in those situations.
Simply put, he needs more opportunities in these difficult situations because he’s one of the Wizards’ two best shooters. His ability to create for himself has been questioned, but he has the size to shoot over small defenders and can create some room versus bigger defenders.
On the next possession, we see a play Tomas Satoransky would not have made a year ago. He has developed an effective floater in the lane and is shooting 64 percent on shots within eight feet of the rim this season. His willingness to attack the mismatch versus Amir Johnson and his effectiveness near the basket forces Ben Simmons to collapse which creates an opportunity to kick the ball out to Oubre:
Satoransky has made himself a threat to score which forces the defense to collapse, leaving the kickout to an open Kelly Oubre. pic.twitter.com/7y8LwByyGu— Oz (@OBtoojiveforyou) February 26, 2018
Satoransky goes on the attack again on the next play. He keeps his head up and spots Porter cutting to the basket. From there, Porter does what he does, finishing in the restricted area where he’s shooting over 74 percent on the season.
The next time down Satoransky again is on the attack and Otto does a great job cutting to the basket and making himself available. pic.twitter.com/QYxiARqtnW— Oz (@OBtoojiveforyou) February 26, 2018
Satoransky pushes the pace again on the next possession, and Porter finds a seam to attack the basket off that movement. Ben Simmons is there to contest the shot, but Porter uses his length and strength to finish over the potential Rookie of the Year.
When you stay on the attack and keep moving, good things happen. pic.twitter.com/JkBT6leDqj— Oz (@OBtoojiveforyou) February 26, 2018
Now, it’s Bradley Beal’s turn to get in on the fun. He’s playing with the confidence of a player who has embraced and accepted the challenge of taking the Wizards to the next level, while they wait for John Wall to recover. Here, he utilizes his beautiful step back move to get off a clean shot to keep the run going. It’s a move that was not in Beal’s repertoire earlier in his career and has helped him rise to the occasion with Wall out and more pressure on him to create his own opportunities.
Now it’s Brad’s turn to just make a play!! pic.twitter.com/Oyx3Ykpf7G— Oz (@OBtoojiveforyou) February 26, 2018
On the next possession he flaunts that step back move even more:
When you’re just feeling it.... pic.twitter.com/JEurCQEZAn— Oz (@OBtoojiveforyou) February 26, 2018
Wasington capped off their impressive quarter with a sequence that perfectly captures all the good things we’ve seen lately. Beal attacks aggressively off the high screen from Marcin Gortat and kicks the ball out to Tomas Satoransky, a capable 3-point shooter. But instead of settling, he attacks the closeout which allows him to find Porter on the move for another buzzer-beater.
Multiple drive and kicks on this play. A perfect way to cap off a 37 point quarter, 29 of which came in the last 7:15. The game was over here. pic.twitter.com/sJG0H1wCNu— Oz (@OBtoojiveforyou) February 26, 2018
This is team basketball at its apex. (See Marcin, you can type team without quotation marks).
The Wizards had 310 total passes in the game and 35 assists as a team. They are playing a refreshing style that has allowed them to play their best basketball of the season. Individual players are playing at levels which we haven’t seen and the team is playing a brand of basketball which can lead to sustained success. As long as the team continues to trust each other on the floor and as they continue to grow individually, they'll show up more often that not in these critical games in the final stretch of the season.