Deluge (noun): A seemingly never-ending barrage of points raining down on an unprepared opponent.
Tuesday night was hardly the first time this season that the Wizards have found themselves trading deluges with an opponent, and it likely won’t be the last — but Sacramento’s 133-126 win over Washington induced more whiplash than perhaps any other game this season.
This game saw the Kings build a 27-point lead in one half of play, then saw that same lead evaporate entirely just 12 minutes later... only to see the Kings go on to win by 7 points anyway. Just another day in Washington’s turbulent second half of the season, which has included horrible losses to the Bulls and Cavaliers alongside encouraging wins over Golden State and Brooklyn.
Count this performance squarely in the former category: Washington showed in its dominant third quarter — in which the Wizards outscored the Kings 46-19 — that this team could absolutely have won this game with a more complete performance. Instead, a horrendous first-half defensive effort and doomed last-minute flurry left them unable to secure the win.
The Wizards’ sloppiness in Sacramento started right from the opening tip, as early turnovers forced by Sacramento’s timely double teams led to an early 8-0 deficit. Before long, Beal and the Wizards smartly pivoted to letting Beal isolate Sacramento’s weaker defenders instead of getting trapped in the pick-and-roll. But that only led to a brief spurt of points, and the improved offense simply could not cover for Washington’s abysmal performance on the other end.
Sacramento finished the first quarter with a 39-23 lead, with those 39 points coming on a 159 offensive rating — nearly 50% better than the league average.
Many hoped for relief in the second quarter, but none would come. Sacramento kept the pressure on Beal and repeatedly turned steals into points. Eventually, a Buddy Hield 4-point play and Bogdan Bogdanovic jumper with 4:30 to play in the half put Sacramento’s lead up to 28 points, 65-37. By the end of the second period, Sacramento’s advantage was a seemingly insurmountable 27 points.
Though Beal was practically the only Wizard capable of scoring in the first half, his team-worst minus-29 through two quarters was indicative of just how badly the Wizards were blasted by the Kings’ starters in the early going, and it did not bode well for the second half.
But something curious happened in the third quarter — Washington came out of the gates absolutely locked in on defense, and the game began to turn. At various points, the Wizards went on runs of 20-6 and 13-0. They had fought their way back into contention and the Kings were all-too-happy to let them do so.
The comeback tune crescendoed into a full-blown symphony when a missed foul on Cory Joseph sent Kings coach Luke Walton into a tirade. Just as Thomas Bryant deposited a tough basket on the other end, the referees summarily ejected Walton from the game.
Luke Walton was not having fun here, but the Wizards were. pic.twitter.com/jQofkXpozm— NBC Sports Wizards (@NBCSWizards) March 4, 2020
Walton’s emotion did little to slow the Wizards’ pace, as they quickly closed the gap even further. By the end of the third quarter, Washington and Sacramento were sprinting up and down the court, trading (and making) ill-advised 3-pointers and blowing dunks left and right. The chaos culminated in an astonishing conclusion — with less than a minute to play in the period, Davis Bertans drilled a straightaway 3-pointer to tie the game and cap off a 46-19 quarter.
DAVIS. BERTANS.— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) March 4, 2020
That's it. That's the tweet. pic.twitter.com/CLYOBFQ63h
In the fourth though, Washington’s magic faded away. The offense sputtered without Beal on the floor, and he struggled to survive upon his return. Beal did just enough to extend his franchise-record streak of scoring 25 or more points to 19 games, but his poor shooting from beyond the arc did little to help the Wizards in crunch time.
Unsurprisingly, the defense did little to pick up the slack when the offense was lagging, and Sacramento rode a timely shooting spurt to a lead they would not relinquish. Though some late-game flagrant foul drama nearly gave Washington a chance to cut the lead to one possession, they never again came as close as they’d been at the end of the third. Sacramento hit its free throws and closed out the win, 133-126.
Next Up: The Wizards were off to Portland shortly after the game tonight, as they’ll play the Trailblazers on the road there tomorrow at 10 PM ET. Damian Lillard is not expected to dress for the game, so it should be another opportunity for a much-needed west coast win.