Perhaps the defining characteristic of the John Wall-Bradley Beal era in Washington has been the outsized impact of the team’s starters. The Wizards have consistently had one of the league’s best starting lineups, but have never put together a bench good enough to complement that group.
On Wednesday, the Wall-less Wizards turned that tradition on its head. Washington knocked off the playoff-hopeful Orlando Magic 100-90, and did so almost entirely on the strength of their bench units. The Wizards’ reserves accounted for 59 points, nearly tripling the Magic bench’s output of 20.
Among the leaders were Thomas Bryant, who finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Jabari Parker, who put up 19 and 9. Though the Wizards’ non-Beal starters shot a grotesque 6-of-30 from the field, the back-ups more than made up for their shortcomings.
Early in the game, Orlando and Washington traded buckets. The first quarter alone saw 10 lead changes, the latest of which occurred when Washington took a 25-24 lead — after which they would not trail until late in the third quarter.
The Wizards’ main offensive strategy early on was getting to the rim: Washington scored 22 in the painted area to Orlando’s 10 during the first 12 minutes. Bradley Beal led the way with 10 points and four assists, providing the all-around effort he so often does.
In the second quarter, Wizards fans got to see the young future of the team take off a bit. Thomas Bryant and Troy Brown Jr. combined to lead a delightful 9-0 Washington run, featuring a couple of fabulous dimes by the Wizards’ first-round pick.
Troy Brown Jr in his bag tonight pic.twitter.com/1y9MOh7IDe— Wiz of Awes (@WizOfAwes) March 13, 2019
Beyond the Brown emergence (detailed further below), Bryant’s consistent production should not be overlooked. The young big man had 9 points and 6 rebounds in just 10 first-half minutes. I’m a broken record on this subject, but there was never any reason to take him out of the starting line-up — the Wizards need his contagious energy. Scott Brooks kept Bryant in the game down the stretch, but he shouldn’t have to be this good to earn a starter’s minutes. He should have them no matter what.
The second half was mostly a continuation of the first. Though Washington managed just 15 points in the third quarter — their lowest Q3 output of the season — they played solid enough defense to hold a 76-74 lead into the fourth. To his credit, much of the second-half offense came from Jabari Parker, who hit 9-of-12 shots in the game for his 19 points. Jabari has been an up-and-down contributor since joining the Wizards this season, but this game was one of his best since his explosive first couple of games.
Though Orlando briefly took the lead back late in the third quarter, the Wizards’ bench once again owned most of the fourth quarter. Chasson Randle scored several of his 13 points in the fourth and finished with a team-high plus-23 in the box score. His contributions were particularly important given a surprisingly empty night for the normally consistent Tomas Satoransky.
With the bench running hot, Brooks left most of them in the game and added only Beal and Satoransky for the closing stretch. It was then that Beal finally woke up, dishing out of the pick-and-roll and scoring just enough to lift the Wizards over the top. His transition 3-pointer put Washington up 94-84 with just under four minutes to play, and the rest was elementary.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Troy Brown
Though it was just a five-minute stretch in the first half of a meaningless March game — okay, I think we hit all the caveats — Troy Brown looked great tonight.
It’s hard not to notice how much finally having a consistent role has helped Brown make the most of his time with the Wizards over the last few weeks. You can’t develop basketball chemistry off the court, which is why it was so frustrating to see Brooks yank around the Wizards’ first-round pick’s minutes over the first two-thirds of the season.
Now, Brown has a defined purpose: He enters the game last in the first quarter to play an auxiliary role with the starters, and then plays a more ball-dominant role with the bench at the beginning of the second quarter. In this one, Brown’s passing and creation were on display and even amplified by his budding chemistry with teammates Thomas Bryant and Jabari Parker.
TB --> TB is something we can get behind more often pic.twitter.com/0FUYPMR2Rn— Hoop District (@HoopDistrictDC) March 13, 2019
Brown was really impressive in his limited minutes, offering solid rebounding and defense for his position while thriving on offense. Though he still has plenty of work to do on his shot, Wizards fans haven’t had a young player to watch grow like this since the early days of Kelly Oubre Jr.
Brown is a very different player from Oubre; he’s much more cerebral and measured. But even when the game broke down, Brown showed the confidence to take matters into his own hands. He is gonna be fun (and the highlight below doesn’t even show his adjusted-in-mid-air pass to Bryant, followed by the immediate pass back that set up the initial three).
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. pic.twitter.com/TasX7mnX30— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) March 13, 2019
Next up: The Wizards continue their homestand on Friday night when they host the Charlotte Hornets at 7 pm Eastern Time.