The Wizards continued their road tour in Oklahoma City tonight after a disappointing loss in their regular season opener against Dallas. They earned their first win, 97 to 85.
Although he finished strong with 17 points and 6 rebounds, Bradley Beal is still struggling in an unusual fashion - missing shots he usually makes, forcing shots he usually doesn’t, committing bad fouls, you get the picture. He shot 7-22 from the field (3-11 from 3), and turned the ball over 3 times while recording only a single assist. It is disappointing to watch, but unlikely to continue as we progress through the first week back in the office. Don’t expect Beal’s slump to last much longer.
The real story of the game, however, was the emergence of Thomas Bryant as a big man capable of giving problems to one of the league’s best rim protectors in Steven Adams. Bryant finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds shooting 9 for 16 from the field (3-7 from 3) while also recording 2 steals and 3 blocks in an impressive performance. Thomas made big plays on both sides of the floor all game long--fighting for second chance buckets, knocking down 3s, clogging the lane, standing his ground on defense, proving why he earned a starting spot.
The storytelling play of the night came mid-way through the 3rd quarter where Bryant blocked two of Adams’ shots back to back, and then knocked down a three in transition. Adams had no idea what to do with this matchup, and this can be an interesting piece to the blueprint for Scott Brooks to consider when deciding how to use Bryant within this roster.
then— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) October 26, 2019
TB can do it all! pic.twitter.com/9IyjlXWpb7
The second unit, consisting of Chris Chiozza, Davis Bertans, Moe Wagner and Admiral Schofield, also came up big and did not miss a beat while the starters rested on the bench. This group of guys play together with a chemistry as if they’ve played together for 2-3 seasons. Chiozza is the floor general, while Bertans provides trusty spot up shooting. Schofield and Wagner bring grit and energy that the Wizards bench has lacked in recent years. It’s fun and refreshing to watch.
One thing to watch out for, however, is the 3 point shooting. As a team, the Wiz are still shooting terribly from beyond the arc - 11 for 41 tonight (26.8%). Scott Brooks needs to hone in on taking smarter shots, and not forcing up three pointers so early in the shot clock. With guys like Beal and Hachimura who are fully capable of hitting shots from mid-range at a high percentage or attacking inside to draw more fouls, let’s hope this is something that they work on.
Speaking of fouls, when they did visit the foul line, they shot well - finishing at 80%.
The most impressive sequence of this game came late in the fourth, where the Wizards showed poise, maturity and maximum effort to force a 14-0 run in the final 4 minutes of the game. They paced themselves, hit clutch shot after clutch shot, knocked down free throws, and defended without fouling. Part of this can be attributed to Beal’s leadership in late game situations, but other parts can be attributed to the grit of this team that Scott Brooks has been preaching for several months now. Let’s hope this trend continues as the Wizards travel to San Antonio tomorrow to take on the Spurs.