The Washington Wizards beat the Milwaukee Bucks 113-106 on Friday night. Here are five observations from the game...
1. Far too often in recent years, the Wizards have squandered opportunities against opponents missing their best players. Perhaps in some of those games, they let their guard down, making assumptions about the result.
But the current version of the Wizards take no chances. They know their margin for error is extremely small with the injuries that have beset them.
On Friday night, the Wizards took out the best team in the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks. Milwaukee was missing Giannis Antetokounmpo, the current favorite for MVP. While his absence would be a clear advantage for most teams, history has shown that may not be the case for the Wizards.
But they got the job done and again with a balanced scoring attack. All five starters reached double figures and five hit at least two threes.
The Wizards, in fact, hit 18 threes as a team. That tied the franchise record.
The Wizards are now 5-2 since they learned John Wall will miss the rest of the season with left heel surgery. They are playing their best basketball of the season without Wall, Markieff Morris or Dwight Howard. This run has been thoroughly impressive.
2. Tomas Satoransky has been impressive once again filling in for Wall, but this was his best game yet. The three-year pro stuffed the box score across the board with 18 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists and two steals. It was his first career triple-double.
The Bucks began the game with Malcolm Brogdon guarding him, which was a bit of a surprise. Last year, albeit under a different coaching staff, Brogdon was often deployed on Beal. But putting him on Satoransky says something about the reputation the Wizards guard is building, as Brogdon is one of the best perimeter defenders in the game.
Satoransky, though, had no trouble with him. In his first eight minutes alone, he racked up nine points, five rebounds and four assists.
The only issue with Satoransky was his turnovers, and some of them were costly. He had six giveaways, including a series of them early in the third quarter that allowed the Bucks to draw within two points.
Still, all in all it was a solid night for Satoransky, who appears to be taking another step, going from a guy capable of filling in to someone who can change a game with his scoring on a given night.
3. Satoransky was so good, he over-shadowed an All-Star. Bradley Beal also had himself a game with 32 points, seven assists and five rebounds. He shot 11-for-21 overall and 3-for-4 from three.
Keep in mind Beal did all of this against some of the toughest defensive guards in the game. He was being tracked by Eric Bledsoe for much of the night and also squared off with Brogdon and Khris Middleton. Those three are physical and smart, and they did everything they could to throw Beal off of his spots.
It just didn't work. Beal may have been helped a bit by the Bucks missing Antetokounmpo, their primary rim protector, but it was one of those nights where Beal was essentially unstoppable. He has been scoring on everyone this season and now his threes are falling. He was bound to get hot at some point this season and now that he is, look out.
The fact Beal outshined Middleton, Brogdon and Bledsoe also has some significance. Those guys are gunning for All-Star spots, with the potential one of them gets one with the Bucks currently boasting the best record in the NBA. This game made it clear Beal is on a different level.
4. The Wizards had a monster first quarter with 40 points compared to just 26 for the Bucks. It was the second time this season they have dropped 40 in the opening frame, but the 14 points were the most they have led by after one this year.
All of that convinced me to look up some numbers you may or may not be interested in. The biggest lead the Wizards have ever had after one quarter in franchise history is an insane 33 points, all the way back in 1972 when they were up 45-12 on the St. Louis Hawks. It's a guarantee no one reading this remembers that game.
Also, the biggest lead the Wizards have ever had after the first quarter in a loss was 18 points. They were up 18 on the Timberwolves in 1991 after one, having scored 36 points, yet they lost 89-87. Scott Brooks was on that Minnesota team.
5. The Wizards brought in Trevor Ariza to do many things, among them to help provide leadership. One man can't provide a culture change all by himself, but Ariza is a smart and dedicated player who even when he doesn't speak up can lead by example.
In this game, Ariza's vocal leadership skills were on display. After a defensive breakdown in the third quarter that led to a wide open three off a screen, Thomas Bryant was taken out by Brooks. Ariza walked over and had a spirited talk with Bryant during a dead-ball, explaining to him what he did wrong.
Bryant showed some frustration, but by the end of it was nodding his head, realizing it was smart to listen to a guy who has been in the NBA 15 years.
Ariza also played quite well. He had 20 points and shot 7-for-14 from the field and 6-for-12 from three.
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