It's going to be difficult to sell any upside to the Wizards' season now that they've lost four of their last five games, but the second unit performed well enough in Monday's loss to give them hope in the bigger picture that's the playoffs.
The starters were flat in the 110-102 loss at the Boston Celtics. Otto Porter only played 22 minutes and didn't make a three-pointer (eight points). Marcin Gortat played a season-low 12 minutes (four points and four rebounds). John Wall didn't get a double-double for the second game in a row and Bradley Beal went cold after a hot start when he scored 12 points in 12 minutes but finished with just 19.
But it was Kelly Oubre leading an effort in the fourth quarter as the Wizards trimmed what had been a 20-point deficit to 106-100 by harassing Isaiah Thomas into mistakes to make it momentarily uncomfortable. Oubre's stat line of four points and four rebounds won't blow anyone away, but when the Wizards won the previous meeting coach Scott Brooks put Oubre on Thomas in the fourth quarter and held him to one field goal.
"That's what we need. He's actually been good for three games defensively," Brooks said. "There's no secret how I feel about that. I love his energy. I love his toughness. But I like to ssee it every time on the court. It's not a sometimey league. That's your role. You got to be speical in it. He has a chance to be speical, being that defensive guy."
Trailing 96-82 with 7:31 left, Brandon Jennings buried a three-pointer. After a timeout, Oubre jarred the ball loose from Jae Crowder to disrupt a possession and it led to a bad look for Avery Bradley as Boston's offense was disjointed.
There was good ball movement on the next possession from Jennings to Jason Smith to Bojan Bogdanovic that led to free throws for the latter. A two-man game between Smith and Bogdanovic, who combined for 27 points and 11 rebounds, created a three-pointer for the former at 98-89. That cut the deficit to less than 10 for the first time since it was 58-49 just 32 seconds into the third quarter.
The Celtics had a spurt that put the lead back at 15 points with five minutes left, but Oubre then took the assignment on the NBA's top fourth-quarter scorer. He stripped Thomas and both went diving into the backcourt for the loose ball. Oubre then got switched onto 6-10 post player Al Horford, defended him without help and blocked his jumper to force an airball. Oubre switched back onto Thomas and smothered his drive to help block his shot with Morris and gain possession.
Then as Thomas took the ball up the court following two free throws from Wall, Oubre picked his pocket and went in for a dunk to cut the deficit to six with 2:04 left.
Jennings had 10 points and seven assists in just 15 minutes so when adding all of that up the Wizards have something with their reserves, particularly when they go smaller with Smith or Morris in the middle.
The starters, however, have to get back up to speed for it to matter.