Bradley Beal didn’t play for the fourth time this season, and it turns out the Wizards didn’t need him with Trey Burke setting his season-high.
Burke (27 points) had his best game of the season and was aided by the hustle play of Jason Smith (10 points, eight rebounds) and Marcus Thornton (eight points, five assists) off the bench, too, in a 118-95 win over the Brooklyn Nets to get the Wizards (16-16) to .500 for the first time to end the calendar year.
John Wall (19 points, 14 assists) had his way with Brooklyn, too, and Otto Porter (12 points, four rebounds) got the Wizards out to 57% shooting in the first quarter.
Marcin Gortat (19 points, 13 rebounds) was dominant inside and Markieff Morris (10 points, six rebounds) was an early spark as he took advantage of his mismatch with Trevor Booker (16 points, seven rebounds), who had a good statistical game but a bulk of that came with the game out of reach.
The Wizards end December 10-5 and have won eight in a row at Verizon Center to improve to 13-6 for the season. They lead the season series with Brooklyn 2-0.
-- When the Wizards had to come back to win in Brooklyn 118-113, they had to erase a 66-51 deficit after halftime. They flipped the script in this one almost exactly. They led 66-50 at the break because of 12-0 edge in fast-break points, 13-4 on second chance, 23-17 in rebounding, 57.4% shooting (27 of 47) and 50% on threes (7-for-14).
--Morris picked up three fouls by 4:13 of the second quarter to ruin his rhythm. But he also got away with a shove of Isaiah Whitehead, who had fallen to the floor, that went uncalled or he would’ve gone to the bench quicker. Morris’ early buckets contributed to the fast start as his rolls to the basket were mostly straight lines. The Nets didn’t stop the ball or the roller in screen-roll action.
--Porter came up limp on a blocked shot on Bojan Bogdanovic (12 points) towards the end of the first half but he started the third quarter. He only scored two after a 10-point first quarter but otherwise seemed OK. He played 31 minutes. Bogdanovich likes to get curls off the ball and catch it running in full stride to the rim, an action that Porter had difficulty defending the first time. The Wizards took those away with good help.
--Gortat had five dunks in the second half because Brooklyn’s coverage of the pick-and-roll was non-existent. He had free dives to the basket and there wasn’t even an attempt at rotating to prevent the finish. Lopez got the better of him in their first meeting when he had 25 points but Gortat dominated this one. The Wizards’ big man made 8 of 13 shots.
--Scott Brooks had to call a timeout after Booker and Lopez drained threes to cut the deficit to 76-65. They responded with consecutive dunks from Gortat and Porter to push the lead back to 15 points at 5:57. Wall responded with a chasedown block of Bogdanovic to prevent a layup and then sliced down the paint and threw down a vicious one-hand dunk over 7-footer Justin Hamilton.
--Wall has 20 double-doubles, 10 coming in December and eight in the last nine games. Wall had a special December last season, too, when the NBA named him Player of the Month. Wall, however, hasn’t won player of the week. Still, he’ll be in the running with averages of 24.5 points and 10.7 assists in 15 games.