It was a bit closer than we would have liked. But the Washington Wizards won, 99-96 over the Detroit Pistons in their final preseason game on Saturday night. If you missed the game, here’s how it went down.
In Russell Westbrook’s first game as a member of the Wizards, the former MVP demonstrated why the team traded for him this offseason. With Westbrook inserted into the starting lineup, there was a noticeable increase in energy and intensity.
Having started the previous two preseason games flat, which led to large deficits early in games, the Wizards flipped the script against the Pistons. Thomas Bryant — whose momentum started the moment he won the tipoff — finished the night with 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Late in the first, Bryant even made a tough and-one over Mason Plumlee. Most impressively, Bryant was 3-of-6 from behind the arc in the contest.
A frenetic start to the second quarter saw Westbrook put back a third-effort attempt. Despite only playing in the first half, Westbrook finished the game with eight points, seven rebounds, three assists and shot 40-percent from the field. For the lack of rust displayed by Westbrook, Dāvis Bertāns struggled in his first game back in the nation’s capital — the Latvian Laser had three points and shot 1–7 from three.
Leading 63–49 at halftime, the difference in this game was the vigor and spirit with which Westbrook galvanized the rest of his teammates. The Wizards were tough on defense (13 steals) and careful with the ball (six turnovers). With strong defense, had Beal — who was 0-of-2 from but had 15 points and five assists in 27 minutes — or Bertāns found their shots, the Wizards easily could have led by 20.
With Westbrook not suiting up for the entirety of the second half, the Wizards struggled to match the same intensity that buoyed the team in the first. Other than Bryant and Deni Avdija (nine points, 10 rebounds, three steals on 50-percent shooting from three), the team was cold from behind the arc. A sloppy end to the third saw the score finish 83–76 in favor of the home side.
Even though Detroit stormed back in the fourth, the Wizards managed to see out the match, winning 99–96. With late-game minutes being afforded to players fighting for rotation spots, Troy Brown Jr. impressed, finishing with nine points, three steals and 60-percent from three off the bench. In a backup role at the five, Robin Lopez had 13 points, three rebounds and made a three.
The Wizards’ next game is on Wednesday December 23rd at 7 p.m. ET against the Philadelphia 76ers and will be televised on NBCSW.