The Washington Wizards concluded their four-game Western Conference road trip on Sunday evening. The trip saw them take on the Nuggets, Suns, Lakers, and Clippers over the course of a week.
After starting their road trip 1-2, the Wizards aimed to steal one against Paul George and the Clippers before heading back to the Nation’s Capital. The Wizards entered Sunday’s contest without C.J. Miles and Moe Wagner, due to injury.
In what started as a competitive contest quickly turned into a blowout, as the Clippers highly talented group proved to be entirely too much for the Wizards to handle. Paul George turned in one of his best games of the season against the Wizards lackluster defense.
The Wiz gave up a season-high in first-half points, as the Clips put up 82 in the 1st half. The Clips cruised the rest of the way to an easy victory, defeating the Wizards 150-125.
The Wizards finished their four-game road trip 1-3. They’ll return home to square off against the Orlando Magic on Tuesday, December 3rd.
Here are 5 takeaways from Wizards vs. Clippers:
Paul George and Kawhi Leonard are a terror
We knew once the Clippers acquired George and Leonard that they’d be one of the elite teams in the league and an immediate title contender. However, there were some questions about how PG and Kawhi would mesh at least as they first got to know each other on the court. They’ve quickly answered those questions with their seamless fit and dominant play on both sides of the ball.
The duo combined for 65 points against the Wizards with PG putting 31 points and Kawhi adding 34. The Wizards couldn’t contain them at any point in the game, as they pretty much got any shot they desired. Their ability to score with ease and impact the game on defense makes them perhaps the league’s most lethal tandem.
Thomas Bryant has underwhelmed
Most Wizards fans were extremely excited to see what TB would look like in his second season with the Wizards and first full season as a starter. With a newly inked 3 year deal, Bryant was poised for a breakout year.
As much as we all want TB to be a rim-running double-double machine, the truth is he’s been a bit underwhelming so far this season. And his performance against the Clippers depicted the main issues that have plagued his season thus far.
Bryant finished the game with 9 points on 3-11 shooting, 8 rebounds, and he went 3-6 from the FT line in 31 minutes. He finished with a -28 plus/minus, according to ESPN.
Bryant has gotten away from his bread and butter, which was making plays around the basket. Much of his game last year was predicated on hustle, heart, and will to make the tough buckets in the paint. This season, Bryant has shot far too many jumpers and threes, which has negated much of what made him a must re-sign player going into last off-season.
The coaching staff and Bryant himself need to get back to pick-and-roll offense, so that can Bryant easier looks around the rim. While it’s important for Bryant to stretch the floor with his shot from range, the defense will live with those shots for the most part. In order for Bryant to get his season back on track, he needs to get back to doing what made him so special last season when he got his opportunity to play.
Davis Bertans continues to impress
Despite the Wizards losing 3 of their last 4 games, their bench play has been a strong point throughout the season. The leader of the bench mob has been the Latvian Laser, Davis Bertans, who may be one of the best bench players the Wizards have had in the John Wall/Bradley Beal era.
Bertans is certainly the best shooter the Wizards have had in some time. His ability to get off his 3 anytime he wants has really been a welcomed sight for Wizards fans.
On the season Bertans is shooting 44% from 3 on 7.5 attempts per night. He continued his stellar shooting against the Clips, knocking in 6 threes. He shined for the Wizards bench mob chipping in 20 points.
Bertans is going to be a hot commodity on the free-agent market this summer if he keeps playing anywhere near this level. Elite shooting is a premium skill in today’s NBA. Bertans has been money for the Wiz all season, and he’s making himself some money with unrestricted free agency right around the corner.
The defense shouldn’t be THIS bad
Look, if we’re being 100% honest we all knew the Wizards weren’t going to be a good team this season. This season was about development from day 1. With that said, there is absolutely no excuse for the Wizards being this poor on defense.
The Wizards don’t have any plus defenders on the roster outside of Wagner, and maybe Beal, who honestly carries such an offensive burden that we can’t expect him to give his all on defense each possession.
Even though the Wiz don’t have many good defenders on the roster, many of their mistakes come from lack of communication and mental lapses. This Wizards team does play hard and at least try, however more often than not they’re just out of position. That is on Scott Brooks and the coaching staff.
I hate to pick on IT, but Isaiah Thomas is the giant elephant in the room. He’s such a poor defender that it really impacts the rest of the team when he’s on the floor. Ish Smith isn’t even a good defender himself, but the team is significantly more competent on defense when he’s in the game in place of IT.
At this point, I’m not sure IT should be playing many minutes at all if the goal is to actually win games. He isn’t the only problem on defense, but he’s a big part of the issue.
The Clippers diced up the Wizards, which is what we anticipated. However, allowing over 150 points to be scored by an opponent in regulation is simply unacceptable.
Rui tallies up a career-high performance
Despite an overall lackluster night, one major silver lining was the play of rookie Rui Hachimura. Rui’s defense has a ways to go, but there is no denying that he has the talent to be a 20-plus per game scorer in this league. He showed that tonight while going against one of the league’s elite defensive teams.
Rui posted a career-high 30 points, as he knocked shots around the rim, from mid-range, and from 3. It’s very encouraging to see Rui have these types of performances against elite teams. Even in a loss, seeing Rui put up numbers is welcomed sight.
The Wizards will look to get back on track Tuesday at home against the Magic.