Wizards

Wizards

The Washington Wizards lost to the Toronto Raptors 140-138 in double overtime on Sunday afternoon. Here are five observations from the game...

1. It has only been a few weeks, but the in-season transformation the Wizards have undergone has been something to behold. For months, they were roundly criticized for their effort and commitment to team basketball. But now, those weaknesses have turned to strengths, and it's refreshing to watch.

Though the Wizards lost this game, they erased a 23-point deficit, including a 14-point hole entering the fourth, pulling all the way back to force two overtimes. 

They did it thanks to a masterpiece performance by Bradley Beal, who is going to make it extremely difficult to leave him off the All-Star team. He had 43 points, including 21 in the fourth quarter alone. Beal also added 15 assists, 10 rebounds, three steals and two blocks. That's an unreal stat-line.

Trevor Ariza was also great with 23 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds, a steal and a block. He fouled out in the second overtime one boards short of a triple-double. Otto Porter Jr. (27 points, eight rebounds) and Thomas Bryant (18 points, 11 rebounds) also were standouts.

The Wizards are now 18-26 on the season, but with the Hornets losing three straight, they are only two games out of a playoff spot.

2. As good as this game was for Beal, it took a long time to heat up. He had an uncharacteristically rough first half where his shot wasn't falling and his handle wasn't tight. The result was a lot of bad misses and turnovers that you just don't see often from the All-Star guard.

 

Beal, though, got it going in the second half, but first without making long-range shots. He had to make an adjustment and switch to almost exclusively attacking the rim. By the fourth quarter, his threes were falling and then there wasn't much the Raptors could do to counter.

Beal has become a well-rounded enough scorer to where it's extremely rare he doesn't figure it out against an opponent, sometimes it just takes him a while.

3. Once again, the Wizards had a heck of a time with Kawhi Leonard. The Raptors forward made mincemeat of Washington's defense, proving too strong, too quick and too deadly from long range to be contained.

Leonard made his first four shots and had 14 by halftime. He finished with 41 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks. His points came casually, he scored inside and out and not even Ariza could do much to limit him.

Leonard is having one of those years where he will be just about unstoppable in some games. The Wizards haven't been able to find an answer for him yet through two meetings this season. He used to be the Western Conference's problem, but now that he's in the East the Wizards will see him more often.

4. Troy Brown Jr. hadn't received meaningful minutes in weeks, but with the Wizards needing a spark defensively, he was summoned off the bench. Brown played quite well, too, with seven points on 3-for-3 shooting in 11 minutes.

What was most interesting about Brown's time on the floor was that he got minutes at point guard. We hadn't seen much of that at all this season despite the front office's belief that he can someday be a fixture at that position.

Brown produced a mixed bag with some lapses on defense, but he was solid on offense. He had two quick buckets, one a floater where he drove left and the next on a corner three. Even after he's been completely out of the rotation, he shows no lack of confidence once he gets back on the floor. Some young players have trouble with that.

5. Next up for the Wizards is a long flight over the Atlantic ocean. They leave Sunday night for London, England where they will play the New York Knicks on Thursday in an international showcase game. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

Before Sunday's game, head coach Scott Brooks confirmed the list of guys who will travel. Markieff Morris will go despite being out with a stiff neck, but John Wall (heel surgery) and Dwight Howard (back surgery) will not. 

Rookie Troy Brown Jr. and two-way player Devin Robinson will go with the team, but Jordan McRae will not. He will instead rejoin the Capital City Go-Go and face the Lakeland Magic on Tuesday on the road.

If you don't already, you might want to follow the Wizards players on Instagram. It is sure to be an entertaining week.

 

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: