Early in the season, John Wall and Bradley Beal were handling a disproportionate amount of the workload for the Wizards as they won three of their first four games. Now, they don't have to as coach Randy Wittman seems to be making the right adjustments with his bench.
But this week is the first serious test of the Wizards' resolve. They will have four games in five days, starting with vs. the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday and at the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday. They have Thanksgiving off and then another back-to-back set, on the road at the Boston Celtics on Friday and vs. the Toronto Raptors on Saturday at Verizon Center.
Not one of these games will be a walkover, especially the Celtics who already beat the Wizards (6-4) by 20 points in their first meeting.
Wittman summed it up best after his team erased an 11-point deficit in the second half to beat the Detroit Pistons 97-95 over the weekend: "I thought our bench saved the day, twice for us. They were huge. Eighty-two game season that's what it takes. It's good to have strong bench play. Our bench isn't going to play good (every night) and our starters are going to save the day."
Wall and Beal combined to score 91 points in their first two wins. During this current three-game win streak, however, Wall has scored a total of 42 points. Beal, who was out with a left shoulder contusion until coming back against Detroit, only contributed seven.
While Otto Porter has increased his output during this streak (15 points, 47.2% shooting, 5.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 3.0 steals) and Marcin Gortat is averaging near a double-double (13 points, nine rebounds), it's the bench production that's eye-catching:
- Nene is averaging 11.7 points on 62.5% shooting (15 of 24), 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists in just 19 minutes
- Jared Dudley is averaging 9.0 points on 67% shooting (8 of 12), including 75% on three-pointers (6 of 8) and 4.3 rebounds
- Garrett Temple is averaging 8.7 points and shooting 46% on three-pointers (6 of 13), 80% on free throws (8 of 10)
- Ramon Sessions is averaging 8.7 points, 5.0 assists, 2.3 rebounds and has been to the foul line 17 times
This offensive spike also is a product of their defense, which has allowed them to get into the open court and get quality shots using pace and space. Drew Gooden and Gary Neal, for the moment, have taken a step back in the rotation.
To make it through four games in five days, this is where the play of the bench escalates of importance. Ideally, the starters will hand them leads instead of deficits.