Wizards

Wizards coast to blowout first victory of the season

Wizards

The Washington Wizards beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 130-109 on Friday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down.

Sigh of relief

No one in the Wizards' organization expected this season to start like it did, with five straight losses, some of which included epic fourth quarter meltdowns. One win won't solve all of their problems, but they desperately needed the victory they got on Friday night in Minnesota, on the second night of a back-to-back.

The fourth quarter didn't matter much in this one, as the Wizards obliterated Minnesota in the third, 40-14, to build a 29-point lead and allow them to coast to victory. Their third quarter was their best single quarter of the season so far.

The 21-point victory matched the Wizards' biggest win from last season. That also came against the Timberwolves. Washington, though, was up by as many as 37 points in this one.

Bradley Beal led the way for the Wizards with 31 points and seven assists. He helped fill the void of Russell Westbrook, who rested on the second night of a back-to-back. The Timberwolves were missing Karl-Anthony Towns due to a dislocated wrist, which does not sound fun.

Westbrook still provided one of the best moments of the night. Late in the third quarter, Beal converted an and-1 and then did Westbrook's signature taunt, the 'rock the baby.' Westbrook did it right back at him. Finally, this team was able to have some fun.

 

Bertans got going

Davis Bertans had quite literally the worst game of his Wizards career in Thursday's loss to the Bulls, going 0-for-8 from the field and 0-for-6 from three. That came on the heels of him admitting he is only about 60-to-70 percent in shape after his long offseason. The combination of those comments and his performance seemed to irk quite a few fans.

Bertans, though, bounced back convincingly against the Timberwolves with 11 points, including 3-of-7 from three. After missing short a lot on Thursday night, Bertans looked like he had more push from his legs and he shot confidently like he usually does.

Bertans' uneven start to the season will be forgivable as long as he can turn things around soon. The Wizards need his production, especially now that he's the third-highest paid player on the team.

Rui's passing

Early in Rui Hachimura's sophomore season, it looks like he has improved his passing vision. He mentioned that as an offseason goal over the summer, specifically being able to keep his head up while dribbling in transition. But in two games, we've seen Hachimura with some nice dimes in the halfcourt.

He had a slick behind-the-back feed to Thomas Bryant on Thursday and in this game found teammates while operating in the post. He got assists from the block on threes by Bryant and Deni Avdija. That could be a valuable skill, as Hachimura is effective around the rim and with his back to the basket. If he can flip the offense by passing out of the post, it will make things more difficult for the defense.

Hachimura was fine, but not spectacular against the Wolves. He finished with 11 points and five rebounds, with a few plays he'd like to have back. There was a play in the first half where he got stuffed at the rim by Naz Reid. That same thing happened a lot last year and head coach Scott Brooks kept saying Hachimura needs to go up stronger and adjust to the better athletes of the NBA. He's still working on that, apparently.

Avdija vs. Edwards

It wasn't long ago that Anthony Edwards and Deni Avdija were evaluated by teams as what most believed were top-five prospects in the 2020 draft class. Edwards ended up being taken first overall by Minnesota, while Avdija unexpectedly fell to the Wizards at nine. On Friday, they squared off for the first time.

It was just one game, but Avdija outplayed the No. 1 pick. The Wizards rookie had a strong all-around night with 11 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. He threw some beautiful passes to Bryant; including a lob in the first half and a snappy pocket pass in transition for a dunk in the second half. Edwards had 17 points, but scored many of them in garbage time.

 

Troy Brown Jr. had some good moments defensively against Edwards, who is an athletic freak and particularly good at attacking off the dribble. On one first half play, Brown stayed in front of him and led Edwards into a contested shot by Robin Lopez, as the two combined to get the stop. Not long after, he had a well-timed closeout on an Edwards stepback three that forced a miss. The Wizards may not be a good defensive team, but some guys are trying and Brown appears to be making strides on that end of the floor.

Brutal stretch

The Wizards are fortunate they got this one because things are about to get a whole lot tougher with their schedule. They have Saturday off before heading on the road to see the Nets, Sixers and Celtics. They then return home to see the Heat, Suns and Jazz. All six of those teams are likely to make the playoffs this year and the first four are arguably the best four teams in the Eastern Conference.

The Wizards are about to get tested in a major way. We are going to know a lot more about this team once that six-game stretch is over. It could make or break them as they aim to get their season back on track.