Wizards pull away late to beat Hawks 114-98

The Wizards started 2019 off on the right foot with a 114-98 win over a frisky Atlanta Hawks squad on Wednesday night.

Five Wizards players scored in double-figures led by Bradley Beal with 24 points and Jeff Green with 22. Thomas Bryant continued his outstanding play with 16 points and a career-high 15 rebounds and Tomas Satoransky was also terrific posting a near triple-double with 14 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists.

Washington controlled the first-half but the scoreboard showed otherwise. The Wizards opened the game shooting 57 percent in the first quarter but had trouble slowing down Atlanta as they only led by six, 35-29 after one quarter.

Alex Len, the University of Maryland product, had an out of body performance this evening (24 points) playing just a few miles away from his alma mater. He came off the bench and had his way against the Wizards’ undersized bench and even hit a three to give Atlanta a spark.

Len and John Collins combined for 28 first-half points to keep it from being an early rout. Washington took a comfortable but not too cozy, 11 point lead into halftime.

Like we’ve seen in too many games this season, the Wizards had the Hawks at bay, but their offense went ice-cold for an extended stretch in the third quarter. With Washington leading 83-73, Atlanta cut into the lead with an 8-0 run and trimmed the deficit to four heading into the fourth quarter.

With the game tied at 94 and another #sowizards loss looming, Washington flipped the switch. The Wizards clamped down and forced Atlanta into one too many turnovers which created easy transition opportunities. Washington used the 17-2 run to pull away for a comfortable 114-98 victory.

Takeaways

Washington makes all of the crucial plays in the fourth quarter

Alex Len put back a missed floater by Trae Young to tie the game at 94 with 6:44 left in the game and it looked like the Wizards were in store for another #SoWizards ending.

But that’s when things took a drastic change in Washington’s favor. Bradley Beal, who was held to just 13 points prior to the fourth quarter, snaked his way into the lane for a tough layup. Next time down the floor, Satoransky found a trailing Beal for three quickly putting the Wizards up 99-94. Next time down, Bradley Beal drove baseline, kicked the ball to Satoransky who found Green in the corner for three to go on an 8-0 run in just 91 seconds.

That sparked an extended 17-2 run in which Washington would take control of the game and never look back.

Thomas Bryant continues to roll

Bryant continues to improve every single night.

No, it wasn’t a historic performance like Bryant had a few weeks ago against the Suns where he went 14-of-14 from the field — but it was close. The second-year big man continued to impress this time to the tune of 16 points and a career-high 15 rebounds including going a perfect 5-of-5 in the first half and almost logging a double-double by halftime with 16 points and 9 rebounds.

At first, Bryant was the beneficiary of the Wizards guards being able to penetrate the paint as that created easy opportunities for him close in. But then, all of his intangibles, which have earned him this extra playing time, were on display. First, it was doing the dirty work by setting hard screens, rolling hard to the basket, and crashing the offensive glass followed by him sprinting the floor for easy transition opportunities.

Bryant’s production slowed down significantly in the second half but that still didn’t stop him from notching his third double-double of the season.


Up Next: No time for an extended celebration as the Wizards have a brutal six-game stretch leading up to their trip to London later this month. It stars on in Miami on Friday night at 8 pm Eastern Time when they face the Heat, who have won seven of their last nine games.

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Thomas Bryant is making the most of his opportunity

It’s not often that second round picks get an opportunity to play meaningful minutes. And after the Wizards signed Dwight Howard in free agency this past summer, it looked like Thomas Bryant, the 42nd overall pick in the 2017 draft was going to learn that lesson the hard way.

The Wizards acquired the 21-year-old prospect off waivers this summer after the Los Angeles Lakers decided that he wasn’t going to be part of their future plans. Bryant, who bounced back and forth from their G-League affiliate, the South Bay Lakers, posted very good numbers earning him All NBA G-League honors but he never saw any meaningful playing time with the varsity squad.

When the Wizards acquired Bryant this summer, the Wizards fanbase didn’t think, well, much of anything as Bryant was an unknown. This move became an even bigger question mark after the Wizards inked Howard as it was assumed he would be the starter and Ian Mahinmi would be the backup as he’d already received a vote of confidence from the front office. Not to mention, the Wizards don’t have the best track record when it comes to developing young prospects.

But when news came out in November that Dwight Howard would miss significant time due to injury and the Ian Mahinmi starting at center experiment was going about as one would have expected, the second year player got his opportunity to show that he belongs in the league — and boy as he seized the opportunity.

When watching Bryant play, it’s the intangibles, not the stats that immediately jump out at you. Bryant sprints the floor, moves his feet well defensively, and has a relentless motor.

It isn’t sexy nor does it fill up the stat sheet, but you’ll never have to ask Bryant to ramp up his energy on a given night — something that cant be said for most guys on this roster.

As Jake Whitacre pointed out, he’s done a nice job doing the dirty work that his predecessor, Marcin Gortat, did before him. He’s in the same ballpark as Gortat when it comes to screen assists, averaging 7.2 per 36 minutes and has shown that he’s more than capable of producing as the roll man in the pick-and-roll game.

Since being inserted into the starting lineup, Bryant has been averaging 13.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per 36 minutes — the only thing is, he’s averaging just 18.1 minutes of playing time per game. More often than not, Bryant’s time is limited to starting the game and starting the second half. On occasion, Brooks will insert Bryant to close out the first half but as of late, Brooks prefers to play small with Jeff Green and Markieff Morris as the frontline without a true center in the game.

Now, this isn’t to say that Bryant is the long-term solution at center for the Wizards. However, with Dwight Howard looking like he’s going to miss the most of the season and Ian Mahinmi being, well, Ian Mahinmi, why not give Bryant more and more minutes? Night after night, Scott Brooks gives the media an audio clip which some way or another, he begs for more energy from his guys saying that it’ll get rewarded with playing time. Meanwhile, it’s the guy in his starting lineup that he never has to plea to crank up the intensity who still hasn’t seen his minutes significantly increase yet.

Opportunity doesn’t come around often for most second-round picks. But due to injury, inefficiency, and a little bit of luck, Thomas Bryant got his and has shown that he should be in this team’s long-term plan regardless if it’s in a starting role or a rotation player coming off of the bench.

Scott Brooks’ lineup changes have provided a minor jolt for the Wizards

Change is hard. And oftentimes, most people are apprehensive to change unless things get really bad and reach the point where there’s no other option. Scott Brooks and the Washington Wizards are no different.

After Washington stumbled out of the gate to a 5-11 start to the season and on the heels of yet another embarrassing loss to Portland at home, there were no imminent signs that Scott Brooks planned on shaking up his starting lineup. That is, until the very next day when it was reported that just days prior, the Wizards had a very heated practice which included multiple verbal altercations with some of them directed at the coaching staff and front office.

Brooks was backed into a corner. There was no way he could trot out the same inefficient starting five once it became not-so-surprising public information that there was chaos swirling through the organization. So he did. Rather than plugging Ian Mahinmi in for a banged up Dwight Howard(because we know how that experiment went), starting on the November 20th contest against the Los Angeles Clippers, he opted to start second-year player Thomas Bryant in his place and also promoted Kelly Oubre Jr. to the starting lineup, sending Markieff Morris to the bench.

Save for a lifeless performance against the Pelicans, and their loss to the 76ers where they were missing Otto Porter, the lineup change injected a jolt into this team as they’ve gone 3-3 since the change and they’ve seen better production from the starters and the bench.

This change looks to have affected Markieff Morris. Night after night, time and time again, there have been too many instances this season where Morris looks like he doesn’t want to be out on the court. Whether it’s standing still as his man drives by him or being a spectator while his man either out-jumps or out-hustles him for a rebound – the fanbase and Brooks were sick of it.

Since being relegated to the bench, Morris has scored in double figures in five of the six games and has eclipsed the 15-point mark in four the of those six contests — something he did just three times over the first 16 games of the season. Not only is his shooting up over this stretch, but it’s also lit a fire under him on the glass. Morris has ripped down 7.7 rebounds per game over this five-game stretch, up from his season average of 5.2 per contest.

The irony in all of this is that Morris is getting essentially the same minutes that he was prior to the demotion, the only difference is, he’s coming off the pine. The bench can either be a major motivator or can break a guy, and in what has been somewhat of a pleasant surprise (save for Friday’s debacle against Philadelphia), it’s been the former for Morris.

Rather than going with the vanilla option and re-inserting Mahinmi back into the starting lineup, Brooks pulled somewhat of a surprising move in giving second-year player Thomas Bryant the nod. It looked like Bryant might not get much playing time this season but he has played well in his limited time with the starters and he’s likely going to get more minutes now that Dwight Howard is going to be sidelined for 2-3 months.

His 5.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per contest aren’t going to turn any heads but he does all of the intangibles that don’t show up in the box score. He has a relentless motor, is unafraid of banging down low and boxing out his guy, and most importantly; he runs the floor, hard.

The Wizards have talent on their roster, it’s just that everyone knows that the effort is going to be inconsistent at best from its main cast of players. That’s not the case for Bryant and is a much-welcomed sign. Bryant has just played between 12 and 19 minutes since being inserted into the starting lineup and if he continues keeps his energy up and engine revving, I’d be surprised if his minutes didn’t increase.

And what to make of Kelly Oubre? Rather than trying to lead the reserve unit, we’re instead getting the starting version of the Kelly Oubre experience. He’s still had the head-scratching performances but we’re also treated to his occasional one-game explosions like we saw in New Orleans the other night which continues to have fans thinking ‘what if?’ However, until proven otherwise, Oubre is a consistently inconsistent player. It’s just now, he’s getting more time with the starters.

Make no mistake about it, this lineup change and overall roster changes are long overdue. In the meantime, this seems to be an ok option to band-aid this problem before inevitable trades are made and new guys arrive. However, the bigger question still hovers over this team like a stormy cloud — will the franchise need to hit rock bottom again or have internal information become public knowledge before yet another change is made?

Wizards vs. 76ers final score: Philadelphia blows out shorthanded Washington squad 123-98

Eight players scored in double figures on Friday evening as the Philadelphia 76ers rolled through the Wizards 123-98 for their fifth loss of over 20 points this season. Joel Embiid led the Sixers with 16 points and 15 rebounds and Ben Simmons had a near triple-double with 13 points, 8 rebounds and 10 assists as this game was decided by halftime with Philly barely needing to break a sweat against a Wizards squad missing Dwight Howard and Otto Porter.

We’ve all seen this movie before. Washington didn’t bring any effort on the defensive end nor the defensive glass and before you knew it, the Wizards found themselves in a 25-14 hole. Philly didn’t shoot particularly well as they were just 11-of-29 from the field in the first quarter, but Washington gave them plenty of second-chance opportunities. The 76ers corralled nine offensive rebounds off of their 18 misses — a 50 percent offensive rebounding rate — leading to easy putbacks from close in.

And for the umpteenth time in this season, the Wizards found themselves in a double-digit hole at the end of one quarter as they trailed 31-19.

After a Jimmy Butler steal and a dunk 90 seconds into the second quarter, the Wizards found themselves in an even deeper 18-point deficit, 37-19. But you know the drill now. Washington locked in defensively for a couple of minutes and was able to trim the deficit to nine, but Philly countered with 20-7 run to close the half as the rout was on 68-46 at halftime.

Scott Brooks yanked the starters with three minutes remaining in the third quarter as the lead ballooned to 31 and it became clear it was time to shift focus to Saturday’s game against the Nets.

Takeaways

All of the Wizards poor habits were on full display tonight.

Terrible defense, poor shot selection, no effort on the glass –- the list goes on and on. I think we’re all getting serious #contentfatigue talking about this team’s flaws over and over again so let’s check in on the young guys why don’t we?

Thomas Bryant turns in another solid performance

Thomas Bryant got his sixth start of the season and after he was tasked with checking Anthony Davis on Wednesday, he had to try to lock down Joel Embiid tonight.

Like we’ve seen with Bryant over this stretch, his skill-set won’t wow you but it’s the intangibles that catch your eye. Early on after a nice defensive possession, Bryant sprinted the floor beating Embiid down court and John Wall rewarded him hitting the big man with a nice pass for an easy dunk.

In the second half, there was a defensive sequence where Embiid caught the ball on the low post and started backing down on Bryant. Bryant was able to stand his ground and challenged Embiid, swatting his shot away. Yes, it was just one play and Embiid clearly won the head-to-head battle; however, it was a pleasant sight seeing the second-year player attempt to challenge Embiid.

Troy Brown Jr. gets real NBA minutes

Up until tonight, Troy Brown Jr. had only seen the floor in garbage time of blowout games. But due to the Wizards being shorthanded with Porter out, combined with some early foul trouble, Brown ended up getting 4-plus minutes of meaningful playing time late in the first quarter and early into the second.

In his ‘welcome to the league, rookie’ moment, Brown was tasked with guarding Jimmy Butler. All things considered Brown did about as good of a job as you could have expected. He was sound defensively, played under control, and aside from one turnover in semi-transition, played fine during that 4:18 stretch.

Brown’s individual highlight in non-garbage time came on a backdoor pass to a cutting Tomas Satoransky for a reverse layup.

Brown re-entered the contest when this game reached garbage time late in the third quarter. He ended the night with 6 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. If there are any positives to take away from tonight, it’s that Brown was able to get more experience and a few real NBA minutes.