Mike Scott bet on himself this season and is about to reap the rewards

Just one year ago, Mike Scott was contemplating his place in the NBA. He only played in 18 games during the 2016-17 season as he spent most of that year trying to recover from knee and ankle injuries. Couple that with an off the court incident, many thought the end of Scott’s NBA career would be arriving sooner rather than later.

Most shrugged their collective shoulders after the Wizards signed Scott to a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum. The bar was set so low that any production he could provide would have been an added bonus for one of the league’s worst benches.

Boy were we in for a surprise. Not only did Scott exceed expectations, he turned in arguably the best season of his career while also proving to be the most consistent player off the Wizards’ bench. He averaged 8.8 points on a career-best 52.7 percent shooting while knocking down 40.5 percent of his three-point attempts, also a career-best.

With Markieff Morris injured to start the season and Jason Smith, who was filling in for Morris also getting dinged up, Scott would get his opportunity earlier than he probably expected. Even as Washington stumbled out of the gate to start the season, Scott surprised most by scoring in double figures in four straight games off the bench against the WarriorsKingsSuns, and Cavaliers.

With Smith out, Scott solidified his role at the backup power forward position and turned in an incredible December. He averaged 11.7 points per game on an unthinkable, 61.5 percent shooting. Scott quickly became the first player off the Wizards’ bench and created an instant spark as he rarely missed his first shot of the game.

His absurd production that month was unsustainable though. His numbers didn’t nosedive, but while everyone was eating in February, Scott’s numbers took a hit. He shot a pedestrian 43.2 percent from the field and 29.2 percent from three-point range. Scott’s minutes dipped as well during that time as Scott Brooks went small more often with Otto Porter at the four.

Scott was able to pick up his play once again as he caught his stride towards the end of the season. His improved play carried over into the playoffs as he was the team’s second-best player through the first two games of the postseason. He made 14 of his 20 shots from the field through the first two games including four of his five 3-point attempts. He was a big part of why Washington was able to stay within striking distance to steal one of the first two games on the road against the Toronto Raptors.

Scott bet on himself and now he’s going to cash out. Last year, Patrick Patterson and Ersan Ilyasova fetched over $5 million per year after putting up similar numbers at a similar age, so Scott should be in line for a nice raise this summer. The bad news for the Wizards is, it would take some serious salary cap gymnastics to keep Scott around at that price. Even if Scott gets a little bit less than that in this year’s tight market, the Wizards would need to use a big chunk of their taxpayer mid-level exception to keep him, which would limit them to offering minimum contracts to everyone else to fill out the roster.

A crystal ball would be much more valuable than last year’s game film in determining whether or not it’s worth keeping Scott at the expense of pursuing other free agents worth more than the minimum. If they pay him based on a fluke year, they’ll be making the same mistake they made with Martell Webster. But if they let him walk, they’ll be in the same position they were last season, betting on their ability to find a productive player willing to bet on themselves for a year.

Advertisements

Bradley Beal took another step forward in spite of new challenges

In February 2017, Kevin Love was sidelined with a knee injury which forced him to miss the All-Star game that season. Bradley Beal, on the heels of signing a five-year $127 million dollar deal and turning in his best season to date, seemed like the obvious choice to replace Love. However, Commissioner Adam Silver went with established veteran Carmelo Anthony as Love’s replacement, forcing Beal to wait yet another year for his first All-Star game appearance.

The extra year was worth the wait as Beal undoubtedly earned his spot this season. He averaged 22.6 points per game on 46 percent shooting while playing in all 82 games for the first time in his career.

It was clear from the start of the season that Beal was on a mission to take his game to the next level. In the first week of November, Beal averaged 38 points per game over a three-game stretch against the SunsCavaliers, and Raptors. A little over a month later and with John Wall sidelined, Beal exploded for a career-high 51 points against the Portland Trail Blazers.

On January 25th, Beal and the Wizards hit a fork in the road. News broke that Wall would miss 6-8 weeks for minor knee surgery after a 121-112 loss in Oklahoma City. It looked like the season could spiral out of control and quickly but after back-to-back home wins against the Thunder and Raptors at home, Washington stabilized and Bradley Beal delivered the ‘Everybody Eats’ soundbite that encapsulated their approach to surviving Wall’s absence.

Even though the ball was spread around, Beal was spearheading the Wizards’ attack, as Washington went 8-4 in February to stay among the top five teams in the East. He became the team’s de facto backup point guard behind Tomas Satoransky and showed off how much work he had put into diversifying his game as he averaged 6.7 assists during the month of February.

Beal’s improved ability to drive and finish in traffic forced defenders to send extra help and create easy opportunities for his teammates.

He also got significantly better at making quick decisions off the curl. His ability to read the floor opened up easier scoring opportunities for everyone. In the clip below against the Celtics, he reads the Celtics’ defense before they can make the switch and delivers the ball to Ian Mahinmi rolling to the hole for the easy dunk.

His passing wasn’t the only part of his game that took a big step forward – his ability to create his own shot did too. 52 percent of his made field goals were unassisted, up from 40 percent last season. He became much more adept at driving and finishing through traffic and improved his step-back jumper, something he’ll need to continue to refine if he wants to be in the discussion with elite scorers like James Harden and Stephen Curry.

But just like the Wizards, his production dipped once the ‘Everyone Eats’ honeymoon ended. He averaged 20 points and 5 assists per game over the last two months of the season, however, he exerted a ton of energy to do so. He was often forced to play upwards of 40 minutes per night and against sub .500 teams like the Hawks, Knicks, and a very shorthanded Celtics team.

The heavy mileage he racked up took a toll on him after the All-Star Break. His numbers slipped across the board and as he slid, so did the team. Washington stumbled into the playoffs losing 11 of their final 16 games, even as Beal maintained a heavy workload. The tumble culminated with a 13-point performance in the Wizards’ loss to the Magic in the regular season finale.

It looked like that the fatigue carried over into the playoffs. Beal was nearly invisible in the first two games of the playoffs before he caught a second wind. Over the final four games, he averaged 27.8 points per game while shooting 47.5 percent from the field and going 18-of-34 from deep.

When you’re the third overall pick, the pressure and expectation to perform right away is enormous. Beal did not ascend to this All-Star level right away but rather, made improvements to his game every year for six straight years. He’s proven that he can shoulder the load of the team and his nagging injury problems appear to be in the rearview mirror.

In the summer of 2016, it looked like a very risky deal giving an injury-plagued player a max deal. But over the past two years, Beal has been more than deserving of that contract and is one of the few free agents in the 2016 class whose production mirrors their paycheck.

The arrow is still ascending up for the sixth-year shooting guard who will turn just 25 this summer. And with all the chatter surrounding the Wizards and if they should make a trade or chop up their core; it’s really hard to imagine a scenario where Beal isn’t in Washington for the foreseeable future.

Nothing will change until the Wizards get fed up with just being okay

The Washington Post’s Candace Buckner first broke the news early Thursday morning that the Washington Wizards extended Ernie Grunfeld’s contract for another year in what was a hush-hush deal kept quiet from everyone outside of the organization.

Ben Standig of The Sports Capitol confirmed this report and also added that: “The deal was done before the calendar flipped to 2018.” The timing of the extension is extremely suspicious considering that the Wizards spent most of December hovering around .500 before going on a mini-run to end the month. But are we surprised that Grunfeld was extended for yet another year? He’s the only executive in the league who’s been in his current position for over 15 years who hasn’t won a championship or even made a conference finals appearance during his tenure.

Ted Leonsis declined to comment on Grunfeld’s reported extension, but his decision to stick with the current front office sends a crystal clear message that he’s satisfied with the current direction of the team.

Ever since he bought a majority stake in the team back in 2010 from the Pollin family, he’s talked about the importance of consistency and stability. Now he’s doubling down on that strategy. Though the Wizards might not make the same knee-jerk reactions that plague some other teams, they often wait far too long to make changes. For instance, Randy Wittman could have been let go in 2014 when it became clear he wasn’t going to maximize the offensive potential of his roster, but instead, they chose to wait until they missed the postseason altogether in 2016 before making a change.

The Wizards seem to be stuck in another rut now. They’re set to be in the playoff hunt for the foreseeable future, but they have the fifth-largest payroll in the NBA and they will be paying millions of dollars in luxury tax payments for a team that finished just four games over .500 for the season. With their core locked in on max deals and with John Wall’s supermax deal set to kick in starting in next summer, the Wizards are well on their way to paying repeater tax penalties in the future for a core that has failed to finish better than fourth in the Eastern Conference.

This raises an eyebrow as one would think ownership would be more eager to make big changes to get more out of how much they’ve invested in the team. It’s even more confusing when you consider the Wizards reportedly lost money last season despite putting together their best season in recent memory.

Even if you want to dispute the accounting on the Wizards’ profitability last season, there’s no question the Wizards are in a good position to make money moving forward. Their new local television deal with NBC Washington is now in effect, they’re starting to get new money from the lucrative naming rights deal they signed with Capital One last summer, and they’re one of only ten teams that has yet to sign a jersey sponsorship deal. With all of this new money pouring in, they don’t need to put together a better team to make money. The only thing that will push the Wizards to be better is a desire to get off the treadmill of mediocrity.

While it’s clear the Wizards won’t make changes in the front office this summer, there are still ways they can make positive changes if winning a championship is truly their “first and only priority.” All they have to do is look at what the team that knocked them out of the playoffs did to get out of their rut. Yes, the Raptors are currently down 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals but they followed the right blueprint on how to change the culture and get the most out of what they have. That’s more than what the Wizards can say right now.

Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri (along with the fans and the rest of the front office) were fed up with their team’s annual early exits from the playoffs. But rather than chop up their All-Star backcourt in hopes of receiving a return package of greater or equal value, they went a different route. They put together a clear vision on how to get the most of their roster, got their stars to buy in, and it paved the way for a franchise-record 59 win season.

They also got there because player development is something they take seriously, not just something they talk about. They’ve poured money into resources that don’t show up on the salary cap like coaching, scouting, and their successful G-League affiliate, which helped develop some of their key bench players like Fred VanVleetPascal Siakam, and Jakob Poeltl. They maintained their focus on the draft and built a team stockpiled with cheap, young talent. The Raptors only have five players on the roster that make at least $3 million dollars annually. Washington has nine.

The window of opportunity in the NBA doesn’t stay open for long and feels all but shut for Washington with this iteration of the team unless they can make some serious changes. Until the Wizards get sick of tired of just being ‘relevant’ while running on the treadmill of mediocrity and make the necessary changes to get off of it, we shouldn’t expect much to change on the court.

Raptors at Wizards Game 6 Final Score: Washington falls apart in the fourth quarter again as Raptors win 102-92, closing out the series

Kyle Lowry led the Raptors with 24 points and DeMar DeRozan added 16 as the Raptors beat the Wizards 102-92 and close out the series in Washington. Bradley Beal (32 points) and John Wall (23 points) combined to score 55 of Washington’s 92 points but like other games in this series, a third scorer never emerged to help carry the load.

The Wizards jumped on the Raptors 20-9 to start this game and it looked very well like we’d be heading back to Toronto for a Game 7.

Washington started the game 7-9 from the field and 3-3 from distance as they were clearly boosted by the home cooking. Toronto’s bench, which has been a strength for them all season long, came in at the beginning of the second quarter and was able to trim Washington’s lead to one, 34-33 at the blink of an eye.

The Wizards could have built this lead out to double-digits but there was a huge momentum swing in the Raptors favor to end the quarter. John Wall found a cutting Marcin Gortat who was swatted at the rim and in turn, ending in a three-pointer for the Raptors on the other end. Next time down, Bradley Beal threw an alley-oop pass to Wall that was just out of his reach resulting in another turnover. Again, the Raptors hit a three the next time down.

Rather than being up double-digits, Washington led by just three, 53-50 at halftime.

Bradley Beal carried the Wizards in the third quarter where he scored 12 of his 32 points. Beal was attacking the hole, getting to the line, and knocking down timely three-pointers for the Wizards.

After losing the lead, Washington looked to regain the momentum as Tomas Satoransky tipped in a Beal miss with time expiring as the Wizards led 78-73 entering the fourth quarter.

But then, everything fell apart. The Wizards looked tired and uninterested (more on that in a bit) in the fourth quarter and as a result, got blown out 29-14 in the final period.

Washington losses 102-92 and it’s finally time to stick a fork in this disappointing and frustrating season.

Washington falls apart again in the fourth quarter

The Wizards held a 78-73 lead entering the fourth quarter and had the momentum – but that’s when things started to fall apart. The Raptors, starting the period with all five reserves and outscored the Wizards playing four of their starters 10-2 to start the period.

Washington’s offense came to a screeching halt in the fourth quarter. The Wizards showed no energy to start the period and looked just as gassed as they did in the fourth quarter of Game 5. Washington built out the lead in the first half by getting out in transition but that all disappeared in the fourth quarter. On top of that, John Wall stopped driving to the hole and the Wizards reverted back to their bad habits in turning the ball over on lazy passes.

Toronto didn’t reinsert their starters until there were just over five minutes to play and even then, the reserves had already brought the team back. Kyle Lowry was excellent tonight and iced this game on two drives to the hole and finishing over Gortat to put the Raptors up 92-85 to bury the Wizards.

Washington, who held a five-point lead entering the fourth quarter, was outscored 29-14 in the final period.

They are who we thought they were

For a team who has blown countless fourth-quarter leads this season, we were crazy to think that bad habit amongst others would change once the playoffs started. Reminiscent of too many games in the past, the Wizards reverted to hero-ball, the opposite of everyone eats, for the entire fourth quarter and to no surprise, the predictable offense didn’t fool anyone.

From an outsider’s perspective, if I had told you in the fourth quarter that this was an elimination game, you wouldn’t have believed me. Washington committed 14 turnovers tonight, which isn’t terrible, but many of them came in the fourth quarter. What’s worse is, too many were of the live-ball variety leading to easy layups or wide-open shots in transition for the Raptors.

Lastly, a third scorer never emerged for the Wizards and they had no legs to close the game. Dennis Smith infamously said: “We are who they thought we were” and shame on us for thinking otherwise about this Wizards’ team.

A very important offseason looms

Here we are. The Wizards, a tax team for the first time in recent memory underachieved with just a 43-39 regular season record and got bounced in the first round by the one-seed, Toronto Raptors. Yes, injuries played a huge part in this season but there were so many other factors that played into this disappointment of a season. Poor roster construction, questionable coaching moves, locker room tension; you name it.

Will Ernie Grunfeld be around for much longer? Have we seen the last game of the Wall, Beal, and Porter trio? There are a lot of questions for a franchise that suddenly finds itself at a crossroads. And if the Wizards to plan on taking that next step, change must come.

Wizards at Raptors Game 5 final score: Washington falls apart late in 108-98 loss to Toronto

The Wizards had no answer for DeMar DeRozan who scored a game-high 32 points as the Raptors beat the Wizards 108-98 taking a 3-2 series lead. Kyle Lowry scored 17 points but Delon Wright exploded for 18 off the bench for a Toronto team who can now close this series out on Friday night.

John Wall tried to will the Wizards to victory with 26 points, 9 assists, and 9 rebounds, but he ran out of gas late and none of the other Washington players were able to pick up the slack.

Bradley Beal scored 20 points and Kelly Oubre had a nice game with 14 points but it wouldn’t be enough as the Wizards now find themselves on the brink of elimination.

Washington falls apart in the fourth quarter

Washington played outstanding tonight – through three quarters. The Wizards took every punch from the Raptors but the one Toronto landed in the fourth quarter was just too much for Washington to overcome.

The Wizards led by five, 87-82 on a Kelly Oubre dunk just minutes into the fourth quarter and it looked like they might go on a run.

But that’s when everything started to fall apart as Toronto outscored the Wizards 26-11 to close out the game after that play. Regular season bad habits like turnovers, being loose with the ball, and taking very tough shots reared their ugly heads late in the game as Washington started the quarter just 6-17 from the field and scored just 20 points in the period.

Tip your cap to the Raptors’ bench, mainly, Delon Wright who came alive in the fourth quarter. With Toronto up one and the shot clock winding down, Wright hit a three from the right wing to put Toronto up 97-93 and the scoring onslaught ensued. The Wizards looked gassed down the stretch and showed no life over the final six minutes of the game as the final score wasn’t indicative of how close this game was.

Washington needs a complete 48-minute effort on Friday if they’re going to keep their season alive. Because like we saw in Game 1 and again tonight, playing the Raptors tough for 3.5 quarters isn’t enough to come away with the win.

A third scorer never emerges

John Wall continued to stuff the stat sheet with 26 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists. Bradley Beal chipped in with 20 (just 3 in the fourth quarter) but the team didn’t get a whole lot of offense from anyone else aside from Kelly Oubre (14 points).

The Wizards looked like they were trying to get Otto Porter going early on as he scored four points on 2-3 shooting in the opening minutes of the game. But Porter never really got going after that opening stretch as he ended the night with just nine points on 4-9 shooting.

Bradley Beal struggled once again in the fourth quarter as he only scored three points – on a three-pointer in garbage time. With Beal missing shots and Wall looking gassed in the fourth quarter, no one else emerged to get baskets for the Wizards.

That was the difference tonight as the backcourts essentially canceled each other out but Toronto had a third guy (Wright) explode for 18 points whereas Washington did not.

Washington couldn’t buy a basket in the second quarter

Ty Lawson drove into the teeth of the defense finding Kelly Oubre on the left wing for a three-pointer at the 9:02 mark giving Washington a 33-31 lead. After that bucket, the Wizards would go ice cold from the field.

Washington’s next made field goal came on a runner at the 3:56 mark to end what was a five minute and six second drought without a made basket. Fortunately for the Wizards, they were playing stout defense and were and were getting to the line where they knocked down 8-11 attempts in the first half.

Washington shot just 7-21 (33 percent) in the period and all things considered, it could have been a whole lot worse as the Wizards were down just one, 48-47 at halftime.

If I told you before the game that the Wizards would shoot 37.5 percent from the field in the first half yet would trail by just one, 48-47 at halftime; we’d all take it.

Game Notes

  • Marcin Gortat turned in another nice game with 10 points and 12 rebounds
  • The rotations and late game play calls remain a head-scratcher for this Washington team
  • The Wizards shot just 5-26 from three-point range
  • When a series is tied at two games apiece, the winner of Game 5 goes on to win the series 83 percent of the time

Raptors at Wizards Game 4: Washington turns in a gritty performance for a 106-98 victory over Toronto

Bradley Beal fouled out with just under four minutes to play with the game tied at 92 sucking all the life out of Capital One Arena. Even though the game was tied, the Wizards looked defeated. But the Wizards, the up-and-down Wizards, they don’t know what to expect next Wizards persevered and closed the game on a 14-4 run and beat the Raptors 106-98 evening the series at two games apiece.

Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 31 points and John Wall added 27 as the Washington backcourt one-ups the Toronto backcourt of Lowry and DeRozan outscoring them 58-54 tonight. Otto Porter was quiet in the first half but scored 11 in the second half for the Wizards who have now won eight straight home playoff games dating back to last season.

Things looked bleak for the home squad early on. With the refs calling the game tight, the Raptors, well mainly DeMar DeRozan were in ultra-attack mode. DeRozan went right at the Wizards and as a result, got 12 free throw attempts (made 9) in just the first quarter alone. The Wizards, on the other hand, couldn’t buy a bucket. Washington shot just 36 percent from the field in the first quarter and trailed 30-22 after one period.

That stagnant offense carried over to the second quarter where John Wall and Bradley Beal took turns going one-on-one against the Toronto defense. To no one’s surprise, that didn’t work either and the Wizards managed to shoot even worse (34 percent) in the second quarter trailing 51-40 at halftime.

Washington’s offense finally got going in the third quarter, once they were able to run. The Wizards got out in transition and Porter was the beneficiary knocking down two three-pointers in as many possessions to cut into the Raptors lead. Marcin Gortat, who scored 12 points tonight had two buckets from close is as Washington used a 13-2 run to tie the game at 58 in the third period.

Washington opened the period 13-20 from the field and matched their first-half point production with 40 in the third quarter, as we’d be all tied up at 80 after three.

All that excitement looked like it would be short-lived as the Raptors opened the period on an 8-0 run taking an 88-80 lead. But Bradley Beal would come alive knocking down a three in transition and two free throws to tie the game again at 90.

That’s when all hell broke loose. With just four minutes to play, DeMar DeRozan stumbled over Beal’s foot in what was a very questionable foul call, fouling Beal out of the game. With the game tied at 92, the Wizards would have to play the last three minutes and change without their best scorer.

But that’s when the Wizards locked in defensively. Washington was able to limit Lowry and DeRozan down the stretch who’d been killing them all night. DeRozan missed four of his last five shots to end the game and the Wizards knocked down their free throws to ice it.

We’ve got a brand new series as we’re all tied up at two games apiece now.

Wall and Beal outduel DeRozan and Lowry for a second straight game

John Wall and Bradley Beal got the best of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry as the duo combined for 58 points. Wall scored 27 of those to go along with 14 assists and six rebounds in the Wizards victory.

Bradley Beal continued his hot shooting out of the gate with nine points on 4-6 shooting in the first quarter. Wall and Beal were the only Wizards players who could do anything on the offensive end in the first half scoring 23 of the Wizards’ 40 points.

Beal got going yet again in the third quarter with five quick points to get the Wizards back within striking distance. John Wall’s jumper was falling too as he was knocking down his pull-up and elbow jumper with consistency. Wall was able to get to the line tonight but knocked down just 7 of his 10 attempts. But as Wall does best, he was getting others involved, dishing out most of his 14 assists after halftime.

DeMar DeRozan was unstoppable tonight scoring a game-high 35 points this evening. The Wizards had no answer for DeRozan early on as he got in the paint, knocked down long twos, and was able to get to the line evidenced by his 18 free throw attempts. The Wizards had no answer for the All-Star through three quarters but were able to put the clamps on him in the fourth quarter.

To no one’s surprise, another ‘House of Guards’ game results in another Washington victory.

Good Oubre Bad Oubre was on full display tonight

Kelly Oubre’s rollercoaster of a season continued tonight as the third-year player could not knock down a jump shot. However, that didn’t prevent him from attacking the hole and getting to the line. Once Oubre realized his shot wasn’t falling, he’d stick his head down and attack the hole – sometimes resulting in a layup, sometimes resulting in a foul, and other times, resulting in a turnover. Oubre’s 10 points off the bench were highest amongst Washington reserves tonight and the Wizards needed every one of them.

Oubre came up big for the Wizards on the defensive end with the role of stopping DeRozan in the second half. He did about as good as a job as one could in stopping the All-NBA scorer. With Beal fouled out, Oubre did a terrific job snagging loose balls and coming up with two steals in the final four minutes.

The Wizards need this type of effort from Oubre if they are going to win this series.

Tip Ins

  • Marcin Gortat had another very nice game with 12 points (6-8 shooting) to go along with 6 rebounds

  • Otto Porter, who scored just one point in the first half ended the game with 12 including many timely buckets as the Wizards were mounting their comeback
  • The Wizards had another nice game defensively coming up with 10 steals and 8 blocks for the evening

Raptors at Wizards Game 3: Washington protects home court with 122-103 blowout win

John Wall and Bradley Beal explode for 28 points each as the Wizards stay alive in the series, blowing out the Raptors 122-103 on Friday night. Marcin Gortat had a throwback game with 16 points and five rebounds and Otto Porter chipped in with 8 points and 8 rebounds as the Wizards win their seventh straight home playoff game dating back to last season.

Everyone not named Bradley Beal looked tight for the Wizards to start this game. Beal, who took just 11 shots and scored only nine points in Game 2 was ultra aggressive early on scoring 12 points on 5-7 shooting in the first quarter.

But it was the energy from Kelly Oubre that jumpstarted the Wizards. Oubre was very active on the defensive end deflecting passes while also diving on the floor for loose balls. That activated an 11-2 run in the second quarter for the Wizards to take control of the game 69-61, at the break.

The second half was very chippy and will be something to keep an eye on as the series progresses. In the opening minutes of the third quarter, Wall threw an outlet pass to Beal who went up for the dunk and got hit across the head by Kyle Lowry resulting in a flagrant-1 foul. Just minutes later, Jonas Valanciunas got called for an offensive foul and when Beal went to grab the ball from Valanciunas, he wasn’t having it. The two got tangled up but it was Wall and Serge Ibaka who ended up getting into it and both picking up technical fouls.

That sparked another jolt into the Wizards as they went on a 12-2 run to go up 94-76 and never looked back in this one. Aside from a mini lag in the fourth quarter where the Raptors were able to claw within 13, Washington had this one in the bag.

Washington protects home court and are on the series scoreboard, 2-1.

We finally get a House of Guards game

One of these guys isn’t enough – the Wizards need both Bradley Beal and John Wall to play well if they’re going to win this series, and tonight they got it. The duo combined for 56 points, 18 assists (Wall with 14), and seven steals in this one. John Wall got off to a slow start connecting on just 1-4 field goal attempts but Beal snapped out of his mini-funk with 12 points on 5-7 shooting in the first quarter.

Wall looked to push the ball in transition tonight finding Beal in the corner for wide-open threes. In the halfcourt, Wall would drive baseline or into a crowded painted area only to kick it out to Beal for the wide-open jumper.

The House of Guards (do we still call them that?) combined for 40 of the Wizards 69 first-half points this evening.

In games 1 and 2, Wall was outstanding but Beal never arrived to the party. It’s nights like tonight that remind you what this team is capable of when both guys show up.

Washington shows up on the defensive end

This isn’t brain surgery here but when the Wizards lock in defensively, they’re a very good team. The Wizards played much better defense to start this one but you couldn’t tell by looking at the score as Toronto started the game 5-7 from the field including 3-4 from three-point range. But, active hands defensively, starting with Oubre, flipped the script for the Wizards in this one.

The Wizards got their hands on passes, were first to the floor, and forced Toronto into many mistakes as they turned 13 Raptors turnovers into 22 points in the first half alone. Many of those turnovers were of the live-ball variety and there’s no one better than Wall to push the ball on an odd-man break off of those live-ball turnovers.

Marcin Gortat had a bit of a throwback game tonight and played much better on Valanciunas even though he scored 14 points. Mahinmi stepped in and played his role as a rim protector with three blocks (all in the first half) and Mike Scott held his own against the likes of Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl.

The difference in defensive effort from Games 1 & 2 and tonight was night and day.

Tip Ins

  • Mike Scott was a perfect 4-4 from the field for 12 points and the dagger to all but end this one

  • Otto Porter only scored eight points tonight but knocked down two timely three-pointers at times where the Wizards’ lead was dwindling
  • Ty Lawson continues to provide value with 5 points, 2 assists, and 4 rebounds in just 15 minutes of play