Wizards

5 takeaways from Wizards-Suns including Jerome Robinson's emergence

Wizards

The Washington Wizards lost to the Phoenix Suns 125-112 on Friday afternoon in their first game of the NBA's restart in Orlando. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

Playoff hopes dinged

Though they have publicly declared their playoff aspirations, far more important than the win-or-loss result of the Wizards' games in Orlando is how the young players looked, as they have an eye towards next year, hoping to develop a capable supporting cast for John Wall and Bradley Beal. So, although they lost to the Suns on Friday in their opener, the Wizards should feel great about how things have started.

Many of their young players had good games, including the headliners. Rui Hachimura, their 2019 first round pick, looked the part as the primary scoring option with 21 points and eight rebounds despite battling early foul trouble. And 2018 first round pick Troy Brown Jr. did his part with 15 points.

Ultimately, they had no answer for Devin Booker or DeAndre Ayton, the two blue-chip standouts on a Suns team overflowing with recent lottery picks. Booker mostly cruised to 27 points and Ayton dominated the boards with 12 rebounds to complement his 24 points and two blocks.

The playoff hopes for the Wizards, though, took a significant hit with this game. It was one of the few manageable opponents on their schedule, which is backloaded with top teams like the Thunder, Bucks and Celtics. Now the Wizards look forward to the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday, the one team they can directly help their playoff chances against.

 

If they lose that one, it will be very difficult to qualify for even the play-in tournament as their schedule will get much tougher from there.

Robinson stood out

The Wizards talk often about how Jerome Robinson is a completely different player when he plays with confidence. Head coach Scott Brooks has said it and so have others like Beal. On Friday, we saw exactly what they are talking about.

Robinson looked like a new man from even what we saw in the exhibition games. He was decisive and aggressive on both ends, knocking down a variety of shots and even playing some solid defense on Devin Booker.

Robinson had 20 points on 7-for-9 shooting, including 4-for-6 from three. He had 13 points in 13 minutes in the first half alone. That included a pair of corner threes, a fadeaway in the lane and a couple of tough finishes off the backboard.

If Robinson can combine some semblance of that offensive production with his physical perimeter defense, the Wizards could see him develop into the best option they have had to back up Beal at shooting guard since they drafted him. Maybe Beal won't have to play so many minutes in the near future.

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Bonga continues to improve

We may not be able to refer to Isaac Bonga as a 'raw' offensive player much longer because the 20-year-old is adding to his skillset seemingly by the game. Bonga finished with a modest nine points and four rebounds, but it was the way he got his buckets that stood out.

On one play, Bonga drove the length of the floor and kissed it off the glass. He had another and-one where he drew contact, then finger-rolled it in. And another play where he didn't score, but he threw a beautiful no-look bounce pass to Brown for an easy dunk.

Sometimes it is easy to forget Bonga came into the NBA as a point guard. He is not often asked to create plays off the dribble. But he did that several times in Friday's game and in one singular performance may have raised his ceiling in a lot of peoples' eyes.

Offense was decent

Where the scoring would come from was a big question coming into the restart with Beal and Davis Bertans out. The Wizards then averaged fewer points than any other team during the exhibition schedule.

But in their first game that actually counts, the Wizards didn't do all that bad offensively. They managed 112 points, which is below their season average of 115.6 per game, but it was still a step in the right direction. It helped they shot better from three (36.4%) after coming in below 30 percent in all three of their exhibition games.

That was against the Suns, though. Phoenix is 21st in points allowed, giving up 113.9 per game. We will learn plenty about the Wizards' stripped-down offense when they see the Pacers and Sixers next week.

 

National anthem

The game began with both teams kneeling for the national anthem and locking arms in a show of unity as they all wore 'Black Lives Matter' t-shirts. It was a similar display to what we saw the four teams that played on Thursday night do before their games. The Wizards were able to use their platform to draw some attention to social justice matters, which they are keen on continuing to do moving forward.

The anthem itself was performed by D.C. Washington, which was an excellent choice. The Wizards were the 'home team' despite playing many miles away from Washington. But they had one of D.C.'s most iconic anthem singers to kick things off. Bravo to whomever made that call. Now they just need to invite him to more games in D.C. once that can happen again.

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