The Phoenix Suns fought back from a 22-point deficit to top the Washington Wizards 122-116. It took a career-high 40 points and 10 rebounds from TJ Warren, but Phoenix didn’t flinch at the large deficit and continued to play hard and it paid off. Bradley Beal led Washington with a 40 point effort of his own, but Washington did little to nothing on the defensive end for nearly three quarters and they paid dearly for it. Devin Booker only had 22 points, but he attracted a ton of attention from the Wizards defense and took advantage of it by making plays for others. John Wall had 21 points, but struggled with his shot from the floor and foul line.
One of the biggest issues for the Washington Wizards has been their defense, well them playing at a high level consistently on that end of the floor. They have the pieces in place from a personnel standpoint to be a good defensive team, it’s about executing and sustaining. For the third time this season, the effort or lack there of on the defensive end played the biggest role in a Wizards loss.
That being said, Washington got out to a tremendous start against the visiting Phoenix Suns by playing disciplined defense. There was a great attention to detail by everyone on the floor and a good alertness of where Devin Booker was at all times. The work done on that end of the floor coupled with a good start from Bradley Beal and a strong showing from the bench allowed Washington to race out to a 22 point lead at one point. The second quarter, things changed a bit, mostly due to the Suns choosing to attack the rim versus settle for jump shots. The Suns outscored the Wizards 37-32 in the period to cut the deficit, shooting 19 free throws in the half, hitting 17 of them.
The visiting team started the third quarter where they left off the first, attacking the rim and moving the ball. Not only were they getting to the rim, they were finishing. Booker continued to score, but it was TJ Warren that got going by scoring 19 of his 40 points in the quarter. The attention paid to Booker started to work against the Wizards as the youngster realized that he could create for others simply by the gravity he had when moving with or without the ball. He was attracting two Washington players on close to every touch, especially when he drove. The only positives for Wahsington in that quarter was that Wall started to get going, he couldn’t find the mark on his jumpshots, but he started to go into attack mode off the bounce. Beal was a calming force as well, but the team got little production from the other three starters. Phoenix went from scoring just 15 in the first quarter to having back to back 30 point quarters. Still, Washington would keep the lead heading into the fourth courtesy of a tough shot over Tyson Chandler from Bradley Beal.
The Suns took the lead just a couple minutes into the final period, when Tyler Ulis got fouled and hit two free throws. From there it was topsy turvy for a bit, but Washington didn’t reclaim the lead until 5:24 left in the game courtesy of a John Wall reverse layup. Oubre, who struggled with foul trouble all game, hit a huge corner three but Marquese Chriss responded with a triple of his own. Then it was Brad’s turn again, as he snaked over the screen and calmly sank the three-ball.
With 3:17 left, Washington committed their fifth team foul, meaning that the Suns would be shooting the rest of the game on every whistle in their favor.
Washington had a chance to cut the lead to one, when Wall got fouled by Booker on a fast break, but he missed both free throws. On the other end, the red-hot Warren scored his 39th point of the night on a short runner. Wall took a very ill-advised shot coming out of the timeout, Chriss got a put-back dunk on the other end. Trailing by five, Washington declined to foul with 40 seconds left and Mike James found Tyson Chandler for the easy dunk.
Things don’t get any easier for Washington as they host Cleveland on Friday, the positive in this is that they don’t have a problem getting up for games. More often than not, it’s games against teams like the Suns and Lakers that Washington struggles to bring the same energy. Both Bradley Beal and John Wall talked about Washington being the hunted versus the hunter in the sense that opposing teams are ready to give them their best shot. Most importantly is that the two captains talked about holding each other “accountable” on the defensive end. The Wizards were without Otto Porter Jr in this contest, but Beal made it abundantly clear post game that his absence wasn’t an excuse for the loss.
The Wizards get their next opportunity to put together a full game of defense in less than 48 hours.