Quick Links

Wizards don't have to sacrifice offense to play vise-like defense


Wizards don't have to sacrifice offense to play vise-like defense

The defense that was absent for most of the season -- blamed on the Wizards playing at too fast of a pace on offense -- looks more like the top-10 scoring unit that they've had the last three seasons. The Milwaukee Bucks were plastered 115-86, as their point guard Michael Carter-Williams (0 assists) and best post player, Greg Monroe (four points), couldn't do anything right.

It was the second win in a row for the Wizards (5-4), who held an opponent to less than 100 points in as many games after giving up 118, 114 and 125 in consecutive losses last week.

"I think probably so. From start to finish," said Wizards coach Randy Wittman when asked if this was his team's best performance of the season, even better than their 102-99 win vs. the San Antonio Spurs. "After the first quarter I think we got settled in with what we wanted to do from a defensive standpoint. We did a nice job of holding them to 57 (points) in the last three quarters. Had a lot of deflections. We were active. This is a top 10 offensive rebounding team. When we defensive rebound like that it allows us to play with better pace. Our pace was going to be an important factor. They don't want to play at a high pace and we do."

The stats tell the story. Milwaukee was held to just six offensive rebounds, were outrebounded 42-34 overall, 18-2 in transition, 13-7 on second-chance points, 38-30 in the paint and had seven more turnovers with 19.

The backcourt of John Wall and Garrett Temple, filling in for an injured Bradley Beal, set the tone with their ball pressure on Carter-Williams and Jerryd Bayless. They had trouble getting into their offensive sets and Monroe didn't have space in the low post.

Marcin Gortat took it away from him and the perimeter players made Monroe play at a pace much faster than he prefers.

"We're not going to let post players anymore just get four or five dribbles," said Jared Dudley, who played 23 minutes off the bench because the Bucks started Giannis Antetokounmpo at power forward. "When they start dribbling and their backs are turned, we're going to come and double them. We can use our athleticism and speed defensively so when those shots come up, long rebounds start to hit and we can go out in flow."

The easy baskets came. The Wizards shot 53% from the field (37 of 70) and tied their season high with 12 made three-pointers. 

"Tried to get some fast-break points because they got a tough half-court defense," Temple said. "We really stymied them on the offensive end which led to the (29)-point victory."

Quick Links

Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener


Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener

Dwight Howard may play in the Wizards' regular-season opener on Thursday night against the Miami Heat, but the team will not know until the day of the game and likely won't announce the decision either way until head coach Scott Brooks addresses the media about two hours before tipoff.

Howard only has three practices under his belt but has made significant progress throughout this week after missing all five of the team's preseason games due to a strain in his piriformis muscle.

Head coach Scott Brooks said Howard has looked good in those three practices but has a lot of missed time to make up for.

"I think he's definitely winded at times, but that's part of it," Brooks said.

Brooks added that Howard is not getting the same lift when jumping that he's used to. Howard, 32, is used to playing above the rim and his vertical leap is an important part of his game.

The Wizards play their first two games at home, the second on Saturday against the Raptors. They then embark on a Western Conference road trip beginning with the Blazers on Monday.

Brooks said Howard will "definitely" make that trip with the team, which gives a good indication of how close he is to returning to game action. When Howard is ready to play will be left up to the team's medical staff.

If Howard does miss time, the Wizards are expected to rely on his backup Ian Mahinmi as the starting center. Jason Smith would then become the No. 2 center on the depth chart, though they could use forwards like Markieff Morris or Jeff Green at the five-spot.

Howard signed a two-year free-agent deal worth $11 million to join the Wizards in July.


Quick Links

John Wall and Bradley Beal will depend on each other more than ever in year 7

John Wall and Bradley Beal will depend on each other more than ever in year 7

The Wizards will only go as far as John Wall and Bradley Beal take them. There's just no other way around it.

The chemistry between Wall and Beal has been the dominant topic for years surrounding this team, and the magnifying glass will only be pushed closer this season, despite all of the other additions the Wizards made this offseason.

It's all about the backcourt. 

Luckily, both Wizards All-Stars understand and embrace the pressure. 

"We're opposites, but we're the same in a way," Beal told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller. "He's more loud and outspoken, I'm more chill and relaxed, but you put us together, it's peanut butter and jelly."

Have you noticed that peanut butter and jelly always seems to be the go-to "good combination" for people? At least Beal didn't say something weird like tuna and bananas, although to each his own if that's what you like.

Anyway, more importantly, Wall understands this sandwich dynamic just as much as Beal does. Especially when the topic of a championship comes up. 

"I couldn't get it without him, and he couldn't do it without me," Wall said.  "I think that's the bond we have built, and it's gotten so much better each year."

One of the biggest reasons for divorce that we see in pro sports is ego. So many players don't understand what Wall alluded to. No matter how good you are, you can't do it alone. You need your wingman.

There were certainly rumblings or worries that Wall and Beal had their issues chemistry-wise earlier in their careers, but we're seeing two young stars grow as each season passes. 

That doesn't mean there still won't be times where they don't click. That's natural.

Keep in mind though, this is the seventh season the two will play together. The NBA is known to chew up and spit out young, inexperienced teams. The grind is part of the journey. Wall and Beal have had playoff success and failures, but they went through it together.

Now comes the time where those learning experiences become something they grow from, and use it to fuel a push to their ultimate goal – a championship.

And maybe a better peanut butter and jelly sandwich.