For one night at least, the Washington Wizards play on the defensive end led them to a 108-95 victory. On the surface it was against the New York Knicks, but under Fizdale they play extremely hard and don’t quit. Two things that Washington does not do consistently on both ends. Otto Porter was ruled out with a toe injury and Kelly Oubre started in his place, he only scored nine points but had a bigger impact than the box score suggests. John Wall and Bradley Beal led the way with 26 and 22 points respectively, but it’s what they did defensively. Beal had four blocks, Wall had five steals. Markieff Morris didn’t shoot it well, but he did a little bit of everything with 16 points, six rebounds, five assists and two blocks. Dwight Howard had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, while anchoring their defense, leading the way with his communication on the back end.
New York got big performances from their bench with 18 points from Enes Kanter, 13 from Hezonja and 10 from Trier. Their issue was they couldn’t sustain anything on the offensive end. They still played good defense as a team though, holding the Wizards to just 43% from the floor and 23% from beyond the arc. Ball pressure played a big role in this game, the Wizards forced 20 turnovers for 22 points. The Knicks force 13 turnovers for 19 points. Mitchell Robinson flashed yet again, his athleticism is otherworldly on his way to 10 points and six rebounds.
Oubre set the tone early for the way Washington planned to play on the defensive end. He got a steal on the first possession of the game and Wall followed it up with a few steals in the first quarter as well. Neither team shot it well, but mostly due to both teams playing quality defense. Washington held New York to 27.3% shooting from the floor and just 25% from beyond the arc. Dwight was doing a great job keeping the bigs, Kanter and Robinson off the glass despite not having his lift yet. Simply by establishing good position he was able to help limit the Knicks to one shot most possessions. The Wizards guards and wings did a solid job of refusing to be screened, they fought overtop of them and with Howard waiting in the paint, they were able to stifle the New York offense for the most part. The Wizards held the Knicks to 27% in the opening period, the first time in a while they didn’t surrender a 30 point quarter to their opponents.
One of the biggest issues this season has been that all second unit lineup for the Wizards. After the loss to the Thunder, it appears that Brooks no longer wishes to deal with that. He staggered the rotations and always had at least one starter on the floor. It made an impact as Keef was able to get into a rhythm. Having Green and Morris as the bigs gave Washington the ability to cause mismatches while keeping the flexibility defensively. As expected the Knicks wouldn’t go away, Kanter scored six of his 18 points in that span to cut Washington’s 12 point lead in half. Brooks called timeout and reinserted Beal and Howard, Washington wasn’t able to extend the lead, but they were able to head into the half with an eight point lead. Morris 14 points, five rebounds, and four assists at the break.
As has been the case for this young Knicks team, their “Knicks DNA” as Fizdale likes to call it, wouldn’t allow them to just lay down and quit. Area (DMV) native Alonzo Trier had a fun sequence with Wall in which they went at it for a couple of possessions, the kid held his own and the crowd loved it. Mario Hezonja scored five, along with Trier in the period and Kanter added four as the Knicks cut Washington’s 12 point lead to six. Their bench really bolstered them in as they cut the lead to just three, but Washington played a part in this as well. Bradley Beal made a couple of bad decisions to close the quarter, wasting a 2-for-1 by taking a contested three early in the clock and then followed it up with a turnover.
With Howard having picked up his fourth foul in the third, Jason Smith started the fourth quarter for Washington. Kanter sees his matchup and immediately attacked him, scoring four consecutive points. New York even regained the lead at one point, but John Wall responded by blowing past Kanter on a switch. Beal got a huge block by rotating down to pin a Mitchell Robinson shot to the glass, the Wizards used their defense to close this one out. Wall and Howard put some pressure on the Knicks defense with the 1/5 screen-roll, Howard rolling opened things up and John picked apart the defense with his passing. Beal had scored just 11 points in the first three quarters, he got hot in the fourth by scoring 11 points on three-of-four shooting and getting to the line six times.
With Tim Hardaway having gotten banged up in the first half, Fizdale closed the game with a three guard lineup and Washington did the same. The Wizards finished things off with a Wall-Beal-Rivers-Green-Howard lineup, that group defensively played a big role in the Knicks shooting just 29% for the quarter. Washington outscored New York 27-17.
Fizdale is going to continue to develop these youngsters and Kristaps will love what he’ll come back to, they’re on a good path to rebuild this franchise. For the Wizards, simply put, they needed the win. It was both refreshing and frustrating to see them commit on the defensive end, but it was just one game. To dig themselves out of this hole, which they still have an opportunity to do, it starts and ends with the defensive intensity and execution.
Oubre: He didn’t shoot it particularly well, but again his overall impact was tremendous in this game. Blocking a shot, getting a steal and causing disruption on countless other plays. We don’t know how long Porter will be out, but that battle for minutes between those two is going to be worth keeping an eye on going forward.
Howard: He doesn’t have his lift yet and still made an impact on both ends of the floor. From positioning for rebounds to setting good screens, it’s only two games, but the Wizards are going to hit another notch once he gets his legs back. He’s always been a good anchor on the defensive end and it’s apparent as he was constantly talking to his guards during his 30 minutes on the court.
Wall/Beal: They showed how disruptive they could be when focused on the defensive end on the floor. They combined for five steals, four blocks and 10 rebounds. They were moving the ball on the offensive end and both for the most part, played under control outside of a few possessions in which bad decisions were made.
Green: Jeff had 14 points, nine rebounds and two blocks in 27 minutes. With Brooks shortening the rotation, Green was on the court a bit more and he made the most of it. He and Morris were the bigs when Howard sat outside of the fourth when Jason Smith came on. The Wizards also played through Green a bit more and he showed why he’s a tough cover for opposing teams. He got the ball a bit more in the high post and created for others as well as for himself.
Brooks: There were no all-second unit lineups in this one, staggering a starter or two on the floor versus the former option. Mahinmi didn’t play at all and Smith only played five minutes, part of which I think just happened because of Howard’s foul trouble. He was also much quicker with calling timeouts when the Wizards were slipping a bit, instead of letting them play through it. Just one game, but it’s definitely worth taking note of.