WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards beat the San Antonio Spurs 138-132 on Wednesday night at Capital One Arena. Here are five takeaways from what went down...
The Wizards play the Hornets on Friday at 7 p.m. EST on NBC Sports Washington.
1. Maybe it's because he didn't shoot well early on, maybe it's because the Wizards have a losing record or because others around the league like James Harden and Luka Doncic have secured the national spotlight; but it feels like Bradley Beal's season so far has been overlooked.
The Wizards All-Star had another monster offensive game on Wednesday with 33 points on 14-of-24 shooting. He pushed his season average to 30.3 points per game, which most years gets you a scoring title.
Against the Spurs, Beal was slow to get going with six points in the first half before he erupted for 21 in the third quarter alone, making all nine of his shots. The Spurs have had major problems with perimeter defense this season and it was only a matter of time before he broke out.
Beal has proven in recent years when John Wall has been injured that he can get buckets no matter the opponent, and no matter if his outside shots are falling. But what he's doing this year seems to be on a different level, as he is far and away the best shot creator on the team.
For others to score, the ball has to move. But for him, the surrounding elements do not matter. He's like one of those life-proof phone cases. No matter water, extreme heat or hard falls; it's going to work.
2. By now everyone knows the Wizards struggle defensively, but it may be surprising to some that the Spurs have similar issues given their history. But they came into this match-up with the fourth-worst defensive rating in the NBA, not far off from the Wizards who are second from the bottom.
That predictably led to a high-scoring game between the teams. Both teams eclipsed 130 points and the halftime score was 69-63 in favor of the Spurs with both teams shooting 59 percent or better from the field.
For the full game, both teams shot over 50 percent. The Wizards made 18 threes and the Spurs made 12 of them.
It is still relatively early in the season, so there is a chance the Wizards get at least slightly better on defense. But right now it looks like this is the new reality for them: great offense and absolutely dreadful defense.
It could end up looking a lot like the Denver Nuggets of the 1980s and early 1990s. They once led the NBA in offensive rating and were dead-last in defensive rating, back in 1981-82, and they made the playoffs.
3. This season is all about learning and for Troy Brown Jr. that has meant some 'throw him into the fire' moments on defense. His first game included a match-up with James Harden and in this one he was deployed to guard DeMar DeRozan for much of the night.
Brown had mixed results against DeRozan, who ended up with 31 points on 9-for-13 from the field, but there were some good moments where Brown stayed in front of him and gave him fits. In the first quarter, DeRozan tried dribbling to his left and right after facing up in the midrange and Brown anticipated each move to force a turnover.
Much of the focus for young players is on offense, as that is stuff that sells and it's usually the side of the court where guys find earlier success. But don't forget that Brown's defensive ceiling is quite high with his size, basketball IQ and length (he has a 6-foot-10 wingspan).
The Wizards don't have many players on their roster who profile as good defenders, but Brown has the potential to be one. Having him cut his teeth against the best wings and guards on opposing teams is a good way to get that process going.
4. Speaking of Brown, the Wizards chose him in the 2018 draft over Spurs guard Lonnie Walker IV, who was taken three spots later at 18th overall. The Wizards considered Walker carefully, but ended up going with Brown and so far that has decently for them.
At least Brown is playing for the Wizards, because Walker can't even say that. He did not appear in Wednesday's game and has only played a total of 40 minutes this season.
Basically, he is in Gregg Popovich's dog house and, according to those who cover the team, it is partly because of effort. Walker hasn't been trying hard enough for Popovich's taste and especially on the defensive end.
No one should be written off after basically one season, and the Spurs have a knack for developing players, but so far it looks like the Wizards made the right choice by not going with Walker, who offers intriguing upside because of his athleticism and smarts.
5. If only Davis Bertans could play against the Spurs more often. He lit up his former team in the Wizards' third game of the season for 23 points and he did it again on Wednesday.
Bertans poured in 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting and 4-for-7 from three. Two of his three highest scoring games as a Wizard have come against the Spurs.
Ish Smith isn't a former Spurs player, but he also had a huge night off the bench. He scored 21 points on 9-for-12 from the field in 24 minutes.
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