Coming off an extremely disappointing three-game West Coast trip, the Washington Wizards are on a five-game skid. On the other hand, the Detroit Pistons, 3.5 games ahead of Washington for the eighth and final playoffs spot, have won 7 of their last 10. If there was any chance of the Wizards making a late season surge, they would have to defend their home court against the Pistons.
Every time the Washington Wizards embarrass themselves and everyone is writing them off from playoff contention, they do something spectacular that makes you scratch your head. That is exactly what happened at Verizon Center tonight when the Wizards made fools of the Pistons. Washington led from start to finish with efficient and balanced offense. leading to a season-high in points, complemented by suffocating defense on their way to 124-81 beatdown of Detroit on national television. Almost as important as the win is the Wizards securing a tiebreak over the Pistons, essentially putting them one less game back of the playoffs.
Bradley Beal has missed the last three games with a sprained pelvis, while Marcin Gortat had just 10 points, six rebounds, and nine personal fouls in the past two games. After the Polish Machine hit his first two shots against Andre Drummond, Beal hit a floater and subsequently a 3-point field goal. Detroit struggled miserably on offense by starting the game 2 of 15 (13.3 percent) from the field with six first quarter turnovers. John Wall was running the Washington offense to perfection with six assists complementing 60 percent (12 of 20) shooting to start the game including four straight 3-pointers. The Wizards had a commanding 30-7 lead late in the first quarter and ended up taking a 34-15 advantage to the second quarter.
While the bench continued to get it done defensively, they got an offensive boost from Nene. The big Brazilian had eight points on five shot attempts including and a drive and slam that got the Washington bench doing the “Hold Me Back” celebration. The Wizards got sloppy towards the end of the second quarter with three turnovers and an airball 3-pointer in five possessions but they were still able to maintain a twenty point advantage. Playing in front of his mom and against his twin brother, Markieff Morris quietly put together an excellent half with 11 points, three boards, and even a couple assists. At intermission, Washington led 60-39 as they could seemingly do no wrong.
Midway through the third quarter all five Wizards starters were in double-figures in the scoring department, which gave the, a then game-high 32 point advantage. Washington followed the same recipe as before with balanced scoring, strong defense, and a bench presence to secure a 93-63 lead headed into the fourth quarter. The only thing left to decide was how much trust Randy Wittman had in his bench to not blow a lead, a speciality of this year’s squad.
With Washington up 33 with under 10 minutes to play, Wittman decided to take out Bradley Beal, the last starter in the game, and free rookie Kelly Oubre. Nene finished the game with a season-high 19 points. When engaged, the fluent Portuguese speaker is a dominant force on both ends of the court and gives Washington a difference maker between the second units. Garbage time commenced for the final eight minutes that allowed all Wizards starters, except Otto Porter (32), to play under 29 minutes. There might not be a back-to-back, but the extra rest might allow the Wiz to have an extra pep in their step next game. By the end of the ESPN broadcast Washington beat Detroit 124-81.
Washington has another extremely important matchup with a team ahead of them in the standings, the Chicago Bulls, on Wednesday with a 7 pm tip.