A 66-51 halftime deficit to the Brooklyn Nets was stunning to the Wizards, who were 6-12 at the time and desperate for a win. They turned it on in the second half with better defense, quickly erasing the disadvantage out of the locker room to pull out a 118-113 victory.
John Wall led eight players in double figures with 25 points and 13 assists. But a major key to the comeback was Markieff Morris.
The power forward had 16 points, five rebounds and four steals but his help defense was a key component as he held his man, Trevor Booker, in check and disrupted the Nets' half-court offense with Bogan Bogdanovic.
The Wizards have won seven of 10 games and a large part of the reason is defense. This was the first real signs of it in the second half of this game and they've been on a roll ever since.
The evidence, most of which is from the second half:
— Booker tries to isolate vs. Morris on the low block which is a mistake. His offensive game isn't strong enough as he's left-hand dominant, doesn't have the ball-handling, strength or the finesse in his game to draw Morris out of position. Morris can have difficulty defending bigger, stronger post players by relying too much on reach-ins which is why he gets into a lot of foul trouble. Booker can't exploit that tendency. Instead of a bucket it's a turnover for Brooklyn.
— Morris plays off this screen-and-roll because Booker isn't a threat to pop to the three-point arc. It allows him to sag to help on any dribble penetration by Randy Foye, who goes to Lopez's side of the double screen and makes the errant pass. It leads to a transition dunk for Morris.
— Bogdanovic curls around Booker's screen from the other side of the floor. Porter goes over the top for the deflection and misses, but Morris is there. He's bigger, stronger and longer than Porter and creates the miss that would be a layup for Bogdanovic.
— Another example of Morris leaving Booker away from the rim where he's not a threat to close down Bogdanovic catching and finishing at the rim.
— Morris goes at Booker to finish at the rim. Then he gets back to create a turnover. This is a staple of the Nets' offense with Bogdanovic curling around screens from the weakside to get the ball running full speed into the lane. If he catches it cleanly it's difficult to stop without help. Porter has had trouble with blowing up this action but Rondae Hollis-Jefferson doesn't acccount for Morris, who correctly reads the biggest threat isn't his man. It's Bogdanovic. He gets the steal and forces a foul.
— J. Michael (@ThisIsJMichael) December 30, 2016
— This is how Wall routinely picks apart the defense from the slot. Brook Lopez is playing what his coach, Kenny Atkinson, calls the MIG position -- Most Important Guy. That's because that post player, which is loading up on Wall to stop dribble penetration (also called the 2.9 position because of the defensive three-second rule), also has to keep the man he's defending (Gortat) from scoring. Gortat isn't a threat at that distance from the rim but the moment Lopez takes one more step in his direction behind Booker who has no prayer in stopping Wall from getting into the paint, the dive happens. Lopez can't recover in time and it's a dunk.
— This is basically the same type of read from a different spot on the floor by Wall. If you're in crunch time, who commands the most attention on a set? Beal. The entire defense is loading up on him. Gortat is setting a backscreen and his man, Lopez, is facing away from the strong side to provide containment. Thanks to all of this activity -- and Booker zooming in on Wall to back up Joe Harris who has no prayer of keeping the point guard out of the paint -- Morris backdoor cuts for the slip pass to make it a two-possession game with less than a minute left.