On a very special holiday when we honor the great Martin Luther King Jr., the Washington Wizards hosted the Detroit Pistons in what was a highly competitive affair. Both teams have dealt with a plethora of health issues throughout the season. Today’s game was no different for either team, with starters Blake Griffin and Luke Kennard out for the Pistons, and Anzejs Pasecniks, Garrison Mathews, Mo Wagner and Rui Hachimura out for the Wizards.
The Wizards, coming off a blowout loss to the Toronto Raptors, looked to bounce back and get in the win column. The Pistons came in on a 2 game winning streak, sitting 3 games back of the 8th seed in the East.
The Wizards played with a ton of effort on both ends of the floor and secured a win over the Pistons, 106-100.
Here are some key takeaways from this MLK Day matchup.
Beal looked like Beal again
After a few unBeal-like performances, the Big Panda was able to bounce back in a big way, dazzling his way to 29 points. Not only did Beal emphatically cross Andre Drummond out of his shoes. But, he was also able to get into a rhythm early and give the Wizards offense a boost.
His jumper late in the 4th helped to secure the W for the home team. Beal finished with 29 points and 6 assists on 10 of 21 shooting from the floor.
GPII has fully cemented himself as the team’s best wing defender
Kudos to GM Tommy Sheppard for finding Gary Payton II and plucking him out of the G-League. While Payton isn’t a huge threat on offense, he has a place in this league because of his ability to defend at a high-level. The Wizards are in desperate need of defensive-minded players like him.
Payton was tasked with slowing down the lethal Derrick Rose, and did so by picking up Rose full-court the bulk of his minutes in the game. Payton didn’t stop Rose from scoring 20-plus points. But he made Rose work for it, which is all one can ask.
In just under 20 minutes of play, Payton came up with 4 steals, 8 deflections, and recovered 3 loose balls.
Locking up Payton II for the rest of the season was a wise move for Washington. He’s the type of guy that helps in building a winning culture with his effort and willingness to do the little things.
Ian Mahinmi’s revival is in full effect
Mahinmi’s tenure in Washington has been far from spectacular, to say the least. After signing a hefty 4 year, $64 million contract in the 2016 offseason, Mahinmi’s career immediately fell off a cliff. There’s no need to breakdown his struggles. These were due to an unfortunate mix of injuries and poor play since the moment he stepped on the court in DC.
This season, which happens to be the final year on his 4 year contract, we’ve seen a completely different version of Mahinmi. He’s been one of the few positives on the defensive end with his ability to protect the rim, improved ability to finish around the rim, and he’s even demonstrated the ability to knock down the three-ball.
Those skills were on display against the Pistons, as Mahinmi got off to a quick start and was a consistent impact player throughout the game. He scored 21 points on 9-10 shooting from the field, including knocking in his only 3 point attempt. In addition to his impressive scoring output, Mahinmi grabbed 7 boards, swiped 2 steals, and blocked 3 shots.
Mahinmi made things tough on Andre Drummond throughout the evening, and played a major role in the Wizards securing a victory. His revival has been impressive so far this season, especially given how poorly he’s played the past 3 seasons in Washington.
Thomas Bryant is finding his groove
Since returning to the lineup from a foot injury, Thomas Bryant has produced very modest numbers in his limited minutes. Against the Pistons, the Wizards big man was able to find his groove as he saw his minutes increased a tick.
In 22 minutes, Bryant put up 13 points to go along with 6 rebounds and a block coming off the bench. These numbers aren’t eye-popping, but it was nice to see Bryant looking like his old self while playing some solid minutes for the second unit.
Beal and Bryant’s pick and roll chemistry was on display, especially in the second half. This was a staple of the Wizards’ offense much of last season, and it’s a welcome sight to see them incorporating it again.
Hopefully, Bryant will earn his starting spot back within the next few games, as he regains his footing after an extended time on the mend.
The Wizards will look to start a winning streak when they travel to Miami to take on the Heat this Wednesday, January 22nd.