With half their roster comprised of new players and a new coaching staff led by Wes Unseld Jr., each game in the earlygoings of this Wizards season represents a measuring stick of sorts. They passed their first two exams against the Raptors and Pacers, but no one knows what those teams will amount to this season yet, either. They have playoff-level talent, but didn't make the playoffs last year.
On Monday night, the Wizards saw a team everyone is certain will be very good this season, the Brooklyn Nets, who have Kevin Durant, James Harden and so much depth they can still be title contenders without seven-time All-Star Kyrie Irving. It was a tale of two halves, as the Wizards got pummeled initially, but fared better as the game transpired.
Wizards star Bradley Beal remains the face of the franchise and gave an honest and detailed assessment of what he gleaned from the loss, which dropped the Wizards to 2-1.
"We started off 2-0 and we came in here a little bit bigheaded. It's what we needed. It kind of kicked us in the (expletive) and now we get to go back and be humble about it," Beal said.
Beal returned from a one-game absence due to a right hip contusion to lead the team with 19 points, but according to Unseld Jr. he didn't quite have his legs under him. That was evidenced by his 8-for-22 (36.4%) shooting night which featured zero free throws. It was only the third time in the last three seasons he didn't get to the line.
Beal said he needs to be better "all-around" and that the team top-to-bottom wasn't aggressive enough in the first half. They allowed the Nets to hit first and by the time they punched back, the hole was too deep to dig out of.
"That was my message after the game. We can't just flip on a light switch. That's what we tried to do in the second half," Beal said. "We would get stops, go on a good run, we got it down to 10. If we did that throughout the first half, it would have been a lot closer, we would have been more engaged. We're not good enough to come out here and just say we're ready to turn it up. We're not developed like that."
The Wizards held the Nets, who feature two of the greatest scorers in NBA history (Durant and Harden), to 104 points, but they only scored 90. That led to more critiques of their offense than their defense.
Some of the problem areas highlighted by Beal and others were a lack of ball movement and a lack of communication against the Nets' switch defense. That led to a host of players coming up short in the scoring department. Spencer Dinwiddie had six points, Deni Avdija and Raul Neto had two points apiece and Davis Bertans went scoreless.
This, however, was Game 3 of an 82-game season. The Wizards will see the Nets three more times in the regular season and then possibly in a playoff series. Their next meeting is nearly two months away, on Dec. 21 in Brooklyn.
The new-look Wizards should have a different level of chemistry by then. Perhaps the result will be different.
Beal, for one, did like how they responded in the second half when they outscored the Nets 48-45.
"I like it. We definitely compete. We're not a soft team. We go out and compete," Beal said.