Wizards

Quick Links

Wizards walk the walk after talking plenty about Celtics

Wizards walk the walk after talking plenty about Celtics

The excitement couldn't be contained by the court, so as the Wizards exited with a season-high 123 points in a blowout of the Boston Celtics, second-year forward Kelly Oubre shouted -- though not in these exact words -- "I told you so."

It was just a regular-season game, but Paul Pierce would be proud of his old team led by a mid-20s backcourt.

The Wizards (25-20) were salty over what transpired 13 days ago at TD Garden. Then, the Celtics came back to win 117-108 but played what Otto Porter called "dirty" basketball. They responded by following through on a promise to wear all back at Verizon Center, with John Wall calling it a "funeral" game.

They knocked their nemesis dead behind a game-high 31 points from Bradley Beal and Wall with 27 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and three steals. And Oubre locked down Isaiah Thomas, who burned them for 20 fourth-quarter points on Jan. 11, as he was held to four points on 1-for-7 shooting this time.

"We said it in the media and it kind of blew out of proportion," said Oubre, who had 11 points as three of his four made field goals came from the three-point arc. "Everybody was behind everybody. Me and John were the faces of it. We backed it up and got the win. The Celtics are a great team and a great organization. We just gave our fans something to look forward to when they come to the house."

Because of the chatter, it was a must-win game though there's still a lot of basketball to be played. Oubre helped create it following a 109-99 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Monday. All-black games are rare, but when they occur it's usually in the playoffs.

The N.Y. Knicks did it in a potential close-out Game 5 in 2013 and were humiliated by losing. Their coach at the time, Mike Woodson, was irate. Unknown to many at the time, the Dallas Mavericks had an all-black Game 6 for the NBA championship vs. the Miami Heat. Unlike the Knicks, they didn't let it be known but players packed only one suit for the trip when they cut short the run of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh at American Airlines Arena. 

Like Pierce believed about the Toronto Raptors before the Wizards began a first-round series with them in 2015, these Wizards don't believe the Celtics are a better team. Pierce was correct. Despite their regular-season difficulty beating Toronto, they swept them 4-0. The jury is still out on this budding rivalry but the Wizards lead the season series 2-1. They beat Boston here on Nov. 9 by 25.

"The hype around the game obviously was probably bigger than normal but it wasn't moreso in the locker room," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "We were focused on scouting them like we always do and we felt that we made some mistakes down the stretch the last time we played them that we wanted to correct."

RELATED: TAKEAWAYS FROM WIZARDS' WIN OVER CELTICS

Wall erupted for 11 points in the third quarter, five coming after Boston had got the deficit down to 84-78. When the Wizards' lead was trimmed to 101-93 midway through the fourth quarter, Beal scored 11 of the Wizards' 13 points in a 3:30 stretch to put the game away.

Instead of Wall clashing with Jae Crowder at the end of this game, which is what happened in Boston and carried into the locker rooms, it was Marcus Smart who was arguing with his own coaching staff. 

The Wizards have won both games of a back-to-back for the second time in two weeks after not doing that previously this season. While this is only one win, given the importance they placed on this game they had to win. And though Boston laughed it off as silly, they treated it with extra importance, too.

"We are not (a tough team) and that's the problem," Smart said. "Last year, we were the team that guys hated to play against. Now this year everybody wants to play us because we are not doing everything that we used to do on the defensive end."

The Wizards have been on a roll. They scored 66 first-half points which marked the fifth time they've accomplished the feat in the last six games. Markieff Morris had his fifth double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Marcin Gortat made 7 of 8 shots for 16 points and eight rebounds. 

"It was a team thing. We just wanted to have fun," said Beal after making 12 of 18 shots. "It was nothing personal. Of course it was subliminal."

When Porter entered the locker room before the game, his Men In Black suit, complete with black shades, drew cheers from his teammates. They didn't fear the position they put themselves in, with the national attention to the outcome for this game greater than what they faced in a national TV game last week at Madison Square Garden. 

"It's going to be pressure. Yeah, I think it was," Wall said of the decision to wear all black. "They saw everything that we said and we heard what they said. I think it was just a great, clean game today. Nobody did anything dirty. To teams competed today and tried to get a win."

Morris sat at his locker Jan. 11 with disgust on his face. Not only had they lost the game but the Wizards allowed them to get under their skin. They returned the favor. 

"We just wanted to be professional about it," said Morris, who picked up his sixth technical foul after tangling with Crowder on the free-throw line. "We said a lot by wearing all black. Just wanted to keep it on the court, go out there and play hard and try to get the (win)."

The Wizards don't play again until Friday at the Atlanta Hawks, a team that was their most fierce rival after their East semifinals series two years ago. A win there and they go up 2-1 in that season series, too. They play the Celtics one last time, March 20 on the road. 

Any new motivational techniques on the horizon for the Wizards?

"If that's what you all want, we'll give it to you all," Morris said. "Wear all white next game."

RELATED: 5 (10) MUST-SEE MOMENTS FROM WIZARDS' BIG WIN

Quick Links

What the Wizards hope to clean up in their final two games of the season

What the Wizards hope to clean up in their final two games of the season

Individual progress and development has taken a front seat over wins and losses for the Wizards in Orlando, as Washington remains winless in the NBA's restart, now at 0-6 and 0-9 overall, if you include the exhibition schedule. So, as they ponder their final two games of the season - against the Celtics and Bucks - what would more would the coaching staff like to see?

Head coach Scott Brooks has been trying to drill in some lessons to his young players and he wants to see some strides in key areas. He held a lengthy film session on Saturday, but did not get what he was hoping for in Sunday's loss to Oklahoma City.

"They’re all teachable moments," Brooks said. "We can’t keep making the same mistakes over and over. I said [at halftime] ‘either you’re not understanding it or I’m not doing a good job of explaining it.’"

As for specifics, Brooks said he wants his team to do a better job of stopping the ball on defense. Opponents are getting into the lane off the dribble far too easily and it is dismantling their defensive gameplan.

He also wants his team to execute better with outside shots. The Wizards are 21st out of the 22 teams in Orlando in three-pointers made (9.0/g), attempts (27.8/g) and percentage (32.3%). Not having Davis Bertans and Bradley Beal has done them no favors in those categories.

RELATED: WIZARDS FALL TO 0-6 IN BUBBLE

And perhaps most noticeable to Brooks has been the team's tendency to be pushed around physically. 

"You’ve gotta make a stand," Brooks said. "I thought [the Thunder's] physicality in the start of the game bothered us and it put us back on our heels. We played timid."

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE WIZARDS TALK PODCAST

Brooks highlighted rookie Rui Hachimura as a player who could put up more of a fight. On Sunday, Hachimura matched up at times with Chris Paul, who did a good job preventing him from reaching his favorite spots on the floor.

"You have to catch it deeper and go right through the guy’s chest. He’s going to learn that," Brooks said. "He’s still learning the league and the defenses that are going to be thrown at him."

Ish Smith is the most experienced player in the Wizards' rotation with 10 years of NBA service. He thinks the Wizards collectively are allowing other teams to be the aggressors. He says they need to cut harder on offense and be more assertive initiating contact on defense.

But overall, he thinks the young players on the team are learning that games with higher stakes are played differently.

"It’s such a good time for us because everybody that’s here is trying to get to the playoffs. So, they’re playing at a high, high level," he said. 

"Sometimes, no offense to the regular season and all 82 games, but some games you catch a team on a back-to-back or with injuries and different things. This is a good thing for all of us, to show us the level that you have to play at. The physicality that you have to play with, the level that you have to play at not just to make it to the playoffs but to be a champion."

Stay connected to the Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS:

Quick Links

5 takeaways from Wizards' loss to Thunder, as they fall to 0-6 in restart

5 takeaways from Wizards' loss to Thunder, as they fall to 0-6 in restart

The Washington Wizards lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder 121-103 on Sunday afternoon in Orlando. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

The losing continues

Disney World is said to be the place 'Where Dreams Come True,' but after nine total games in the restart the Wizards are still dreaming of their first win.

Okay, that was corny. But there are only so many ways to say the same thing over and over. The Wizards are getting what they wanted in terms of player development but have done nothing to dispute the fact they were the worst team in the standings invited to Orlando.

On Sunday against the Thunder, they never once looked like a team capable of the upset. They went down 10-0 early and never recovered, ultimately losing by 18 points.

The more the Wizards lose, the stranger things could get in the standings. They now have to win their final two games to avoid the bizarre situation of having a worse record, but also worse lottery odds, than the Charlotte Hornets. And if they lose their final two, they will also pass the Chicago Bulls in that regard.

We are close to being ensured of total draft lottery chaos. It seems obvious one of the three teams is going to get really unlucky thanks to the NBA's lottery rule change.

No offense

The Wizards were predicted by many to have some trouble offensively in the bubble without Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans and their combined 45.9 points per game. That has gone according to expectations, as their scoring has dropped off a cliff through six games now.

The Wizards entered Sunday's game with a 102.7 offensive rating, which is third-worst among the 22 teams in Orlando and nearly eight points below their season average (110.5). And they struggled yet again, only scoring 103 points against the Thunder. They had only 48 points at halftime.

The Wizards shot just 41.3 percent from the field. They went 9-for-36 (25%) from three in what was just a dreadful day from the perimeter.

It didn't help their cause that Shabazz Napier was out with an ankle injury. He is one of the most gifted scorers and best shooters remaining on the roster. 

It might be tough for the Wizards to reverse this trend before they head home. Their two remaining opponents -- the Celtics and Bucks -- each rank top-four in defensive rating.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE WIZARDS TALK PODCAST

Bonga played well

The biggest bright spot for the Wizards in this game was arguably Isaac Bonga, who came through with a solid game of 14 points and eight rebounds. He had some rough moments defensively guarding some really good players like Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari, but overall he played well and showed flashes of what he could provide the Wizards next season if he sticks around.

Bonga is in an interesting category of the Wizards' roster where it is difficult to project whether he will be a part of the rotation next season, without knowing the makeup of their roster. Other young guys like Rui Hachimura, Thomas Bryant and Troy Brown Jr. are pretty much certain to play key roles, barring something unforeseen. But Bonga is right on the line because he plays a position the Wizards could stand to upgrade in the offseason.

RELATED: HABERSTROH BELIEVES HACHIMURA SHOULD BE NBA ALL-ROOKIE FIRST TEAM

There is value in what he does due to his versatility and length. But the Wizards may also be able to find someone who gives them more at the three-spot. His best role next season is probably as a glue guy for the second unit.

Though his numbers were boosted by garbage time, Jerome Robinson also had himself a day in what was a bounceback performance. He had 19 points and shot 4-for-9 from three.

A model for Schofield

There is no getting around the fact that Admiral Schofield has not had the best showing in the restart. He lost a bunch of weight and came into camp by all accounts in great shape, but it just hasn't translated to the floor.

Schofield continues to look like a player who doesn't have a defined role or a good idea of what his niche will ultimately be. But that's okay, he is still a rookie and was a second round pick. Overnight success was never expected for him.

The role that could lead to long-term success for Schofield may have been on display in this game with Thunder wing Luguentz Dort. He went undrafted last summer, but has quickly become a reliable piece for OKC as a physical defensive disruptor. He is built a bit like Schofield, just a few inches shorter. And he uses his strength and quickness to wreak havoc on players of all positions.

Schofield could bring some of the same attributes to the table, but in watching the two play you can see a big difference in their approach. Dort is relentlessly aggressive, initiating contact all over the place, likely knowing that no one can match his strength. Schofield has that type of force, he just hasn't found a way to use it yet. 

Napier should be careful

Napier's injury was just the latest negative development for him in what has not been a great stay at Disney World. In five games, he's averaging just 10.2 points on 41.9 percent shooting. It is a small sample size, but he just hasn't taken off as one of the team's primary scorers as it seemed he likely would.

Now that he's injured, it would make sense if Napier plays things very safely in the final two games. He is set to hit free agency at the end of the season and, with less money set to go around due to the coronavirus' effect on league finances, he can't afford to hurt his stock any further. He definitely can't risk a serious injury.

The other side of that coin would be that maybe Napier sees an opportunity to finish strong. If he doesn't do that, it will be fair to wonder if he should have opted out of the restart like Bertans did.

Stay connected to the Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: