With the Wizards at 9-13, there's no such thing as "turning the corner" until they actually turn the corner on a season that started out according to the worst-possible scenario. But Saturday's 110-105 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, when for the second game in a row they relied on defense to bail them out, is something they could look back on if they're able to get over .500 and call it a pivotal moment.
"We're having an edge on the defensive end and are competing and making people feel us and I think it's helped us," said John Wall, after the Wizards had six consecutive defensive stops in the fourth quarter to erase a 98-92 deficit. They would go on a 10-0 run to take a five-point lead.
The Wizards were a better team on both ends of the floor. They fell down 32-23 entering the second quarter but came back because the second unit was as crisp as the starters at recognizing the defensive scheme and exploiting. The Bucks are long everywhere, and they're aggressive in how they trap the ball on pick-and-rolls. The keys are to anticipate, accept and get rid of the ball to exploit use their aggression against them.
Almost every player in every quarter for the Wizards did just that:
Matthew Dellavedova and Mirza Teletovic do a terrible job containing the ball and keeping it in front. They're too aggressive over the top on Trey Burke, who splits them easily for the bounce pass to the screener, Markieff Morris, who doesn't have to make any contact because the defense runs by him, as he dives to the basket.
Andrew Nicholson brush screens Jason Terry, and as Marcus Thornton comes off to get the ball he's surrounded by three defenders. A quick flick of the ball to Nicholson rolling to the basket results in an easy layup.
Wall misses the jumper here, but this is a good look created by ball movement that attacks Greg Monroe who opens up and is unable to catch up to the ball on this action between Thornton and Nicholson. The extra pass is made from Otto Porter as he's closed out. Monroe's foot speed is too much of a liability and he can't get out to contest Wall.
Tony Snell and Monroe sprint out to Bradley Beal on the catch and see how quickly he feeds Marcin Gortat and then how quickly Gortat gives up the ball to the open shooter. Kelly Oubre puts it on the floor and hits the runner, but this is smart basketball all around.
Morris accepted the trap from Monroe and Teletovic and found Oubre spotting up weakside. He immediately figured out where the soft spot was in the defense and made them pay for it -- again.