A slumping Hawks(2-10) team came to Capital One Arena last night and Washington made sure they wouldn’t be leaving with their third victory of the season. John Wall was feeling under the weather and originally wasn’t expecting to play. It was Dennis Schroder who wound up feeling sick after his performance against Washington. The Wizards had their first back-to-back solid defensive outings this season, they held Schroder to 7 points on 2-of-16 shooting. The Hawks were held to just 41% shooting on the evening. Markieff Morris scored 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting, Bradley Beal scored 19 points, and John Wall had 13 points and another two big blocks. Atlanta was led by Taurean Prince with 19 points. The Wizards won 113-94, showing that they are a very different team when they are committed to the defensive end of the floor.
The Wizards have gotten out to slow starts nearly every games this season, specifically on the defensive end. Against Atlanta however, it would be the defense that was ahead of the offense. Washington was engaged on that end of the floor very early and it led to a few easy baskets, the problem for Washington was ball security. They had five turnovers in the first quarter, while they didn’t all turn into Atlanta baskets they broke the flow of the offense and kept them from making a run. One of the positives for Washington was the fast start by Markieff Morris, the forward scored 6 points and looked to have regained his rhythm and timing.
“Just playing team defense. We’ve emphasized that the last couple days. Took a couple of bad losses by not playing D. That’s got to be our identity.” -Markieff Morris, Wizards Forward
Virginia Tech alum Malcolm Delaney led the Atlanta charge to start the second period, scoring all of his 11 points in the period. He gave the Hawks a boost off the bench and Atlanta started to crawl away from the Wizards, getting the lead up to 7 at one point. The Vault and the Wizards were void of energy for at least the first four mintues of the quarter. That changed when John Wall got past Dennis Schroder and made a tough, hanging layup despite the contact by a rotating big. The crowd erupted and shortly thereafter, Morris would break Washington’s drought from the three point line and hit their first of the game. The Wizards closed the half with a 19-5 run to lead 49-42 at the break. The trio of Wall, Beal, and Morris combined to score 36 of Washington’s 49 points.
Washington couldn’t push the lead much in the third quarter as the Hawks scored just two points less than them.
“Tonight, was one of his best defensive games. He didn’t gamble, he didn’t get beat on backdoors. He just played solid basketball and he was terrific on offense.” -Scott Brooks, Wizards Head Coach
The fourth period however, Washington started the quarter on a 10-run and never looked back. It was a great display of their depth as their second unit closed the game out. Kelly Oubre Jr. had a huge game, not in terms of the points but his overall impact. He had 18 points and 7 rebounds, but he was a star in his defensive role. Doing the little things, not gambling, being disruptive. Mike Scott also got going in the fourth quarter, he had 10 points and 4 rebounds in the contest. Washington’s second unit played the remaining 8 minutes of the game, allowing Scott Brooks to avoid having any of his starters play more than 27 minutes. Every member of the bench that got minutes against Atlanta scored at least one basket.
“I’m a risky player so I’m in the passing lanes a lot. I like to hack, I like to reach. I’ll do anything I can do to pretty much get the upper edge, and sometimes it works to my detriment. Being solid means just staying solid and don’t reach and don’t go for steals.” – Kelly Oubre, Wizards Forward
There have been some who have questioned why Brooks has put five bench player lineups out this season. The reasoning is so they can get comfortable with each other, so they can grow to the level that they can impact or sway games in Washington’s favor without relying on a starter being on the floor. More importantly it gives the second unit confidence and can pay off later in the season.
The Wizards host the Sacramento Kings on Monday night.