Dare I say it? The Wizards are a better defensive team after the trade deadline!
Bradley Beal came up big for the Wizards Wednesday night, leading the team in scoring with 30 points. The Wizards managed to edge out the Knicks down the stretch, winning 114-96.
During the first half, the Wizards looked as if they were going to let the Knicks hang around. However, the Wiz finally focused on playing team defense in the fourth quarter and pulled away. This is only the fourth time this season that the Wizards have held their opponent to under 100 points. This team is on a roll picking up wins, and it is fun to watch. I can’t help but wonder if the All-Star break is coming at the wrong time.
Great team defense down the stretch
Don’t get it confused: this was an all-around team win. Lots of players stepped up to beat the Knicks. Hell, even Isaac Bonga made all three of his three-point shots. Beal continued to prove he was snubbed from All-Star weekend against a weak Knicks defense. Beal had 30 on the night, shooting 11-23 from the field.
The Knicks may have traded Marcus Morris Sr., but that does not mean they lost their fighters mentality. As the game got more physical in the second half, the Wizards began to build their lead. The game got chippy and the refs were quick with the whistle. Early in the fourth quarter, Bobby Portis appeared to throw the ball at Shabazz Napier. It hit him so lightly that it seemed inconsequential. Still, the refs deemed it worthy of ejection. Moe Wagner was also ejected for reasons unknown, though he was sharing words with the official before getting tossed.
All smiles before some much-deserved rest
Scott Brooks used several different lineups against the Knicks. One of my favorites is running Rui Hachimura at the 5. With Rui playing at the center position, the Wizards are able to keep skilled players out on the court without giving up a lack of interior defense or rebounding. Rui’s versatility cannot be overlooked. He was guarding the likes of Taj Gibson and Mitchell Robinson, but was still able to switch out onto the Knicks’ guards and hold his own. It is worth noting the Gibson and Robinson combined for 13 points on the night. I like seeing Rui get some run at the center and I hope to see more of this post-All-Star Break.
History is not kind to teams that play a back-to-back before the All-Star break, but the Wizards were able to buck this trend. Now, Washington can enjoy the All-Star break fresh off a victory. The NBA All-Star break is a lengthy one, too. The Wiz won’t play again until Friday, February 21st.