Isaiah Thomas debuted as a starter, C.J. Miles returned to action, and Troy Brown Jr. stepped up his minutes load: For these reasons and more, Monday night’s game against the Detroit Pistons was the closest all year the Wizards have come to deploying the rotation they expected heading into the season.
Perhaps relatedly, Washington put together their best effort of the young season and maintained a double-digit lead for most of the second half, eventually winning 115-99 for their first home victory of 2019-20.
Bradley Beal led the way as usual with 22 points, including a couple of nifty and-one finishes and some dimes to Thomas Bryant. He also ascended to 5th on the Wizards’ all-time scoring leaderboard. Most notable was the play of two back-ups: Brown Jr. earned the first double-double of his career with 14 points and 10 rebounds, to go with 3 steals. Meanwhile, Mo Wagner showed unexpected defensive prowess in racking up 2 steals and 4 blocks along with 12 points in the win.
In the first quarter, it was encouraging to see Rui Hachimura get going early: an and-one jumper and contested three-pointer gave him 6 points in the first two minutes — already more than the 4 points he scored total against Minnesota on Saturday. He would end the first quarter with 10 points and 3 rebounds, but not make much noise after that due to foul trouble.
RUI with the AND ONE! pic.twitter.com/OOSLgMJS2t— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) November 5, 2019
Detroit and Washington traded baskets — and the occasional poster dunk attempt — throughout the first quarter. The game slowed to a crawl after both benches entered the game, but a Troy Brown Jr. putback lay-in gave Washington a 31-30 lead after one quarter.
In the second quarter, Brown Jr. led a strong bench run, putting up 8 points and 6 rebounds across a 10-minute stretch to push the Wizards ahead. The lead crested to 54-37 after a dramatic Hachimura alley-oop, but Detroit shot the ball well enough to stay in the game. At the half, the Wizards’ lead was cut to just 2 points.
Washington opened the second half strongly though, surging out to a double-digit lead once again. The Wizards spread the love around quite a bit during the third period — by the early fourth quarter, eight different Wizards had scored at least 9 points and Washington boosted its advantage back up to 17 points.
The bench units were noticeably prolific against Detroit’s languid reserves throughout the game, and that was no more true than in the third quarter. The quartet of Brown Jr., C.J. Miles, Mo Wagner and Davis Bertans combined for some delightful team basketball, stretching the floor on offense and forcing constant deflections at the other end.
Once the Wizards had extended their lead again, they never looked back — Washington won an uneventful fourth quarter 22-to-21 to seal the 16-point win.
Troy Brown Jr. Flashes Brilliance
Though his season also started off with injury, the Wizards’ sophomore do-it-all wing had some promising moments in extended minutes off the bench. Brown Jr. earned his 30 minutes of playing time with some spectacular defensive plays and intriguing playmaking. Brown Jr. showed so much verve early on that Scott Brooks actually led him lead a unit as the point guard in the second half — and it was well-deserved.
Very nice sequence from Troy Brown Jr.: got a bucket on a fake handoff, then a steal, then a no-look assist to Bonga. pic.twitter.com/nwrhZgFKfX— Chase Hughes (@ChaseHughesNBCS) November 5, 2019
The key to Brown Jr.’s career is obviously the three-ball, but he can make himself some money if he brings these same unique skills to the floor every night. A 14-and-10 double-double with a handful of steals and assists is more than enough action for a defensive-minded fringe starter. Few guards are better rebounders, and Brown Jr. should develop into a pretty threatening defender.
One of the best parts of Brown Jr.’s college film was his ability to keep his head on a swivel on both ends, using that awareness in both his passing and his defensive playmaking — it was consistently reminiscent of an Andre Iguodala-type player. We saw that dream come to fruition for 30 minutes tonight, and it was a joy to watch.
Isaiah Thomas Underwhelms In First Start
After coming off the bench with a minutes restriction to begin the season, Isaiah Thomas officially stepped into a starting role for the first time on Monday night. Thomas looked adequate in the role, though he shot poorly from the field: IT2 finished with 9 points on 4-of-12 shooting (1-of-5 from 3) and 6 assists over 24 minutes.
He seemed to fit in a bit awkwardly with the starters at times, and his shots certainly did not go in at the rate you’d want. With how little Thomas gives a team on the defensive end, he needs to be quite productive on offense to justify a starting role — that dichotomy was well-reflected in his minus-6 on-court point differential for the game. Given that the bench had to perform very well for the Wizards to win tonight, IT2’s fit with the starters is something to watch moving forward.
Your Moment of Zen
Next Up: The Wizards will travel to the Midwest in search of back-to-back wins when they play the injury-laden Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. ET.