WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards lost to the Phoenix Suns 95-80 on Saturday night at Capital One Arena. Here are five observations from what went down...
For much of this season, it seemed like the Wizards would get better offensively the healthier they got. The players they were missing were scorers by trade. Others had for so long been shooting below their career norms. Water would find its level.
The Wizards were missing their top scorer, Bradley Beal, on Saturday night, but that was no excuse for the performance they had against the Suns. Yes, Phoenix has one of the best defenses in the NBA, it's a big reason why they are championship contenders. But the Wizards only scored 80 points, their lowest total in a game since 2018.
Washington shot 35.3% overall and 20.8% (5-24) from three. It was just plain ugly, as they trailed by as many as 36 points, matching their biggest deficit of the season.
The Wizards slid back into the loss column following an impressive win over the Sixers on Wednesday. They have now lost seven of their last eight and eight of their last 10.
Washington is 24-28 on the season with one game left until the trade deadline arrives on Feb. 10. You have to think some significant change is coming.
Rough second quarter
Things started getting out of hand for the Wizards towards the end of the first quarter, as the Suns closed the frame on a 28-11 run and led by 12 entering the second. The second quarter, though, was a complete nightmare. The Wizards were held to only 11 points, their lowest scoring total in any quarter this season. The Suns only scored 26 themselves, which is pretty average, yet they had a 15-point advantage in the quarter and reached halftime up 27.
The Wizards only had one turnover in the second quarter, so that wasn't the problem. They just couldn't hit the broad side of a barn shooting the basketball. They went 0-for-9 from three and 4-for-21 (19%) overall. The Suns have the third-ranked defense and hold opponents to the fourth-lowest field goal percentage on the season. When they cracked down, the Wizards had major trouble scoring, especially without Beal.
Once it was confirmed that Thomas Bryant would be returning after a one-game absence with a right ankle sprain, head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said in his pregame press conference that the team would be going back to its two-center plan with Bryant as the starter, Montrezl Harrell as his backup and with Gafford as the odd-man-out. Unseld Jr. indicated that will be the plan for the next several games. Gafford did end up playing in this one, but only after the Wizards were down by 31 points.
Gafford was okay, he had a nice 3-point play and grabbed three boards in seven minutes. Bryant, meanwhile, continues to struggle since he was promoted to a starting role and after he was playing great as a back-up. Unseld Jr. says the team wants to see how he meshes with the starting group, but he's averaged just 4.7 points in the three games since that move was made. It makes sense why they wouldn't want to start Harrell, given he's so uniquely good as a sixth man. But Bryant might be better in that type of role as well.
Ayton was a monster
The Wizards stuck with their new center rotation for much of the game despite the fact they had absolutely no answer for Suns big man Deandre Ayton. He got going early with nine points in the first quarter and never slowed down. He put up big-time numbers with 20 points, 16 rebounds and two steals.
Before the game, Unseld Jr. mentioned how dangerous Chris Paul is in the pick-and-roll and that was a key component of Ayton's night. Ayton is a tough guy to cover as a roll man because he's big and fast. The Wizards don't have anyone who can match his size and, unfortunately in this particular game, his effort. Ayton killed them with six offensive rebounds, some of which had to infuriate Unseld Jr.
Holiday was good
With Beal out, Aaron Holiday got the start once again and you could make the argument he was their best player in this game. He had 11 points, shooting 5-for-10 from the field. He also had three assists. It was a solid all-around game for him, but pretty much no one else on the team played well, at least offensively. Holiday had a heck of a time trying to guard Paul on the other end.
There were some ugly stat-lines from the rest of the Wizards. Spencer Dinwiddie had four points on 1-for-5 shooting, while Kyle Kuzma went 3-for-12. Rui Hachimura shot 2-for7 and Bryant went 2-for-6. Gafford was 1-for-4.