3 times in a row! (Jiggy dance)
The Washington Wizards get punched in the mouth early but fight back hard to obtain a slither through the crack win against the Denver Nuggets, 130-128. Bradley Beal makes two free throws with 0.1 seconds left to secure the win for the Wizards. Washington is now on a three-game winning streak making it their first time since 2018 and snaps a 158 game skid. As you could imagine, Washington was number one in that statistical category.
The Wizards end their home stance 3-2 and are 5-5 in the last 10 games. Even though the Wizards are 9-17 and rank 13th in the Eastern Conference, they are only 4 games behind 4th place. We don’t want to speak of the “P” word too soon but as KG says “Anything is possible”.
Ok, I’ll stop.
Since Scott Brooks has added Moe Wagner and Garrison Matthews in the starting lineup, Washington has been playing more aggressively on the defensive end and making smarter plays on the offensive end. Unfortunately, another start for Moe meant that he had to defend Nikola “The Joker” Jokic. Let’s just say that it was not pretty.
Moe was pulled from the game very early with two quick fouls on Jokic. He was biting on pump fakes and not catching the referee’s favor when going for charges. With that said, Jokic was unstoppable against Moe scoring 6 early points. Wizards were not closing out on Jokic off-ball and gave him way too much room to operate in the paint and on the perimeter. Jokic burns Washington for 17 in the first quarter and the Nuggets score 41.
Scott Brooks was forced to make consecutive changes to the lineup to try and get Jokic bothered and off his hot streak in any way. After sitting out a few games, Alex Len gets called to the frontline for Operation: Stop Joker. Jokic had absolutely no regard for the substitution because he drains a 3 after.
Once Len shook off the rust, he started making Jokic uncomfortable, commit turnovers and miss shots he would normally make. Jokic ended with 33 points and 7 rebounds but with the way he was shooting in the first quarter, things could have gotten out of hand quickly. Alex Len finished with 10 points and 8 rebounds off the bench in 17 minutes.
In the second quarter and down by 17, the Washington Wizards buckled down and answer back. Washington secured runs of 22-7 to bring them within 5, 11-2 run to gain a 2 point lead and close out the quarter on a 9-0 run to go up by 6 leading into halftime. Kudos to the bench for outscoring the starters 38-32, the Washington defense for forcing 6 turnovers, and limiting Joker to two points.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Latvian Laser is back. Davis Bertans breaks a franchise record off the bench by hitting 9 three-pointers and broke his career-high with 35 points. In the last two games, Davis has increased his 2021 3-point shooting percentage from 33.1&% to 37.7%. Last season, Bertans was shooting over 40%, hence why the league was guarding him close during the regular season and wanted to sign him during the off.
“When those shots went down, they started looking for me even more, running more plays for me, and I took advantage of that,” Bertans said. “My shots are falling, and sometimes there’s not much the defense can do.”
Nuggets had a nightmare closing out on Bertans and there was nothing they could do about it. Bertans’ form was in top shape and you could tell that his legs were back under him based on the elevation of his shots. If he wasn’t draining a three then he was getting fouled behind the three-point line including three major three throws to put Washington up by 3 with 8.8 seconds left.
Here is where things get interesting…
Washington had only committed 3 team fouls prior to 8.8 seconds left so in theory when the Nuggets inbound the ball, Washington could foul with no penalties. Well, let’s go back to the Miami Heat game and the Washington Wizards were in the same predicament, and similar to that time, the Wizards drop the ball.
The Denver Nuggets inbound the ball and Washington fouls with about 5.5 seconds left which is still a to of time for Denver to get up a shot. Since Washington used their final foul, their best option now would be to just foul as soon as the ball is inbounded, well Jamal Murray had other plans. Jamal Murray, 35 points and 9 rebounds, shoots a 30-foot bomb from the logo to tie the game at 128-128.
Beal bails the Wizards out when the refs call a shooting foul with a tenth of a second left in the 4th to lift the Wizards to victory, 130-128. Palms are sweaty, knees weak and arms are heavy. Scott Brooks really makes me want to pull my hair out sometimes. Just foul and end the game. Stop with the theatrics.
When Scott Brooks is asked about the fouling situation, the coach explained. “Had some couple of mess-ups in that situation throughout this year and then we had a few of them in practice. I wasn’t confident enough to do it again. I know we haven’t practiced a lot, we’ve got a lot of young, inexperienced players on the floor, but I would like to do that especially over five seconds.”
Terrible logic if you ask me, in order for a defensive system to be successful, there must be communication and trust in one another. This situation is not rocket science and if the Wizards do this again, they will be the ones getting burned rather than saved from the Basketball Gods.
Garrison Matthews had his hands full with guarding Michael Porter Jr and did a great job defending. Matthews was not only actively guarding MPJ but he was all over the floor helping from weak sides and always providing a hand in the face. MPJ was coming off a scoreless night, shooting 0-8 but a 5-inch height advantage could make it a tuff night defending for anyone. Garry is shooting with confidence and deserves to stay in the starting lineup.
Ish Smith has been ruled out for 6-8 weeks due to a right quadriceps injury and will be reevaluated in 4. With Ish Smith out, Scott Brooks has expressed that he is going to give those minutes to Raul Neto. Raul Neto has been playing very well since fully recovering from his groin injury. Last night, he contributed a silent but deadly 14 points and shot 5/5 from the field in 20 minutes.
Rui Hachimura needs to start going up with two hands when driving to the paint. He has a tendency to go up with one, soft and get bodied. His to-the-hoop contact and success in getting to the free-throw line would go up exceptionally if he went up with two.
Bradley Beal is a very impressive passer. Beal posted 25 points and 10 assists last night in the win. His passes in transition are spot on and he has the ability to get centers involved. He is such a great scorer and his facilitating is greatly overshadowed by that.
Dropping dimes! Dropping dimes!
Washington has to close out games better. Wizards had an 11 point lead in the 4th and went on a 17-4 run after the Rui Hachimura and-one dunk. This team had plenty of opportunities to put this game away but they like to make sure fans are alive but raising their blood pressure.
Overall, this was a very fun game and I had the opportunity to see this contest last year on January 4th. That game was very fun as well and brought back great memories. Great win Washington but the job is not done!