What John Wall and Bradley Beal openly warned their teammates about throughout the summer has proven to be true in their eyes, that after all the success they enjoyed last season, the Wizards are no longer a team that will surprise their opponents. Everyone knows they are among the upper-echelon teams in the NBA and with that status follows the best effort from the opposition each and every night.
That was the case in Wednesday's loss to the Phoenix Suns. After building a 22-point lead, the worst fears of Beal and Wall were realized. The Wizards let up defensively and fell into habits they may have gotten away with in years past.
Now a team with 18 national TV games on their schedule, an All-NBA point guard and playoff success, the Wizards are a foe teams like the Suns come gunning for.
"That's how every game is going to be. Everybody is going to give us their best," Beal said. "For us to sit here and act like we're somebody; we're not jack-ish right now. We haven't proved nothing, we haven't done nothing. We've gotta stay aggressive at all times. We've gotta realize that we're a targeted team. Teams want to beat us. Until we get that into the back of our heads, we're going to continue to play this way."
"I think every game has been like that," Wall said. "We could easily say we're 7-0 or 4-3 like we are. We had leads in all these games and opportunities to close them out. We had leads, but we let those fall and collapsed. In the past we might have been able to get away with those, but now teams know what we're capable of. They know we're a good team. To take that next step and become an elite team, we've gotta close them out."
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Much like their defeat to the Lakers last week, the Wizards couldn't get defensive stops late and momentum evaded them. After the Wizards held the Suns to 15 points in the first quarter, they scored a combined 107 across the final three frames.
T.J. Warren had 40 points, exceeding his previous career-high by 10. Devin Booker had 22 points. The Suns knocked down 31-of-38 free throws. Phoenix committed just nine turnovers, half their season average.
The numbers are one thing. It was the effort the Wizards put forth that really sickened Beal.
"We're going to start holding guys accountable because this is unacceptable," Beal said. "We weren't undisciplined. We were too cool. We thought it was gonna be a cakewalk and they bust our ass, plain and simple. We can't let anyone come in here and score 40."
Head coach Scott Brooks took the podium visibly frustrated, though he kept his characteristic calm while answering questions. He harped over and over on the Wizards' defensive focus and effort.
Brooks sang a tune reminiscent of their lowest moments in the 2016-17 season. He wants his team to be hyper-aware on both ends of the floor.
"If we don’t have the defensive urgency you’re not going to have success. We have to change the way we approach every possession. You can’t just pick and choose possessions," he said.
Veteran Wizards players like Wall and Beal knew things would be different this season and now they are feeling the correction made by their opponents. Now the Wizards must adjust, or they will be in danger of more losses like Wednesday night's.
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