NBA players and coaches often speak about “another level” to the game of basketball that fans simply aren’t capable of seeing. This extra level of knowledge required means that most people can’t comprehend the full ramifications of various X’s and O’s adjustments.
But sometimes, the adjustments are just as easy as they seem on the surface. With Detroit center Andre Drummond out on Monday, the Wizards’ strategy became one that any amateur could have suggested: attack the rim. And it worked to perfection.
Washington beat the Detroit Pistons 101-87 on Martin Luther King Day, pulling the Wizards level with the Pistons for the ninth spot in the Eastern Conference. As of the end of the game, that put both teams just two games behind the Charlotte Hornets for the final playoff spot in the East.
As they have been so often during this recent stretch of strong play, the wings led the way for the Wizards. Trevor Ariza scored 20 points with 12 rebounds, while Otto Porter again provided double-digit points (19) off the bench. For the Pistons, Blake Griffin led the way in Drummond’s absence with 29.
From the opening tip, Washington attacked his replacement Zaza Pachulia at the rim with abandon. The Wizards’ first six baskets came in or around the paint as they took a 12-7 lead into the first break of the game. Tomas Satoransky even nutmegged Pachulia out of the pick-and-roll, for good measure.
Tomas Satoransky just nutmegged Zaza pic.twitter.com/Cu2lupx0F7— Hoop District (@HoopDistrictDC) January 21, 2019
The effective offensive continued late into the first quarter. Washington led 24-12 with two minutes remaining in the first period after an Otto Porter and-one bucket out of the post. They ended up winning the first quarter 29-17 after holding the Pistons to a mere 6-of-19 shooting.
Only three of the Wizards’ first 40 points came from the three-point line as the Wizards renewed their assault in the second quarter. Washington stretched its lead to 20 points as the Wizards took a 45-25 lead with four minutes to play in the half.
The only first-half hiccup was a confusing flagrant foul call on Thomas Bryant, whose elbow clearly accidentally caught a Piston in the face. Still, the Wizards led 50-34 at halftime, marking their best half of defense of the entire season.
In just the first two minutes of the second half, Detroit cut the Washington lead to just 10 points, but the Wizards stuck to their strategy and eventually extended it back up to 17 points at 65-48. As Washington’s broadcast team amusingly zoned out on the topic of tribute videos (too few? too many?), the Wizards carried that same lead into the fourth quarter at 81-64.
Though Detroit at one point cut the Washington lead to just 12, it was too little too late for the road squad as the Wizards finally put Detroit away, 101-87.
Forget about Dre
As mentioned in the recap, Washington dominated inside the paint on both ends Monday. The Wizards held the Pistons to just 32 points in the paint, while scoring 46 of their own. Additionally, Washington held the Pistons to just two offensive rebounds on the day. On the season, the Pistons are tied for third in the league with 11.7 offensive rebounds per game.
Happy MLK Day!
Next up: The Wizards will be back in action on Thursday as they host the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors at 8 pm Eastern Time.