The Washington Wizards lost to the Orlando Magic 130-120 on Saturday night in their home opener. Here are five takeaways from what went down...
The Wizards will likely prove they are a much better team this year, but through two games they haven't translated more talent into wins. They fell to the Sixers on Wednesday and on Saturday night came up short against the Orlando Magic at home.
That dropped Washington to 0-2 on the season, which is certainly not how they envisioned things in a year with heightened expectations. It is still very early, but just keep in mind each of these games counts a little more than they otherwise would in a season that is 72 games long and not your usual, 82-game schedule.
It's also probably worth pointing out the Wizards rested their best players for much of the preseason. That may not explain what we've seen so far, but it's easy to second guess now that they have lost their first two games.
The loss to Orlando spoiled a big night for Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook. Beal had 39 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Westbrook put in his second consecutive triple-double.
The Wizards could have won this game if only they could just make their free throws. They followed up a rough night at the line in the opener with a 15-for-28 (53.6%) performance in this one. It's hard to win when you do that. It's also hard when you give up 130 points on 50.5 percent shooting.
The only upside is that they get to play again tomorrow and against the same team. The Wizards will host the Magic again in the second game of a back-to-back.
Neto lit a spark
Head coach Scott Brooks was hyping up Raul Neto throughout training camp, and he carried that over into the preseason as one of the team's top scorers. On Saturday, he delivered with a big-time performance in the regular season.
Neto came out swinging with 11 points in his first nine minutes, including three threes. The Wizards went away from him after that, however, which means he may have suffered an injury. We'll see what Brooks says after the game.
Neto has always been a solid three-point shooter, with a 37.9 career percentage, he just hasn't done it in volume. He also plays strong defense, which is the main reason the Wizards signed him. So far, it looks like they found a diamond in the rough in free agency.
Westbrook has a legitimate argument as the best rebounding point guard in NBA history and that we knew going into this season. But what has been remarkable to watch is just how much better he is at rebounding than every one of his teammates. The Wizards were last in the NBA last season in rebounding percentage and 28th in total rebounding.
Westbrook had 12 rebounds by halftime in this game, which is just an absurd amount for a point guard. He totaled 15 rebounds in the game, the most for a Wizards/Bullets guard since Darrell Walker in 1991.
Westbrook, though, had some bad to offset the good. He scored 15 points and had 12 assists, but shot 6-for-19 (31.6%). He also had five turnovers.
Westbrook, by the way, became just the fourth player ever to start a season with back-to-back triple-doubles. The others are Oscar Robertson, Jerry Lucas and Magic Johnson. Decent company to be in.
Avdija battled foul trouble
Rookie Deni Avdija got the start for the second straight game, but his effectiveness was curbed quite a bit by early foul trouble. He picked up two quick fouls in the opening minutes of the first quarter and had to be subbed out. Then, he came back in the second quarter and got his third foul, all within 4:11 of court time.
With Rui Hachimura out (conjunctivitis) and Avdija in foul trouble, the Wizards were essentially down both of their starting forwards for much of this game. Avdija's fouls, though, were not surprising. It is common for rookies to struggle with defending without fouling, as the NBA game is officiated much differently than anywhere else. You have to learn what gets called at what time, and how different players are refereed; i.e. "star calls."
Avdija's troubles were par for the course, though it was interesting as ironically contesting shots without fouling has been one of his most impressive traits so far through the preseason and the early part of the regular season. He clearly has a knack for it, so expect him to learn from this experience and clean it up rather quickly.
Avdija ended up with five points and three rebounds in about 15 minutes.
So many guards
A very early-season trend for the Wizards so far has been Brooks rolling out some point guard-heavy lineups. He played three point guards at once against the Sixers and it backfired. In this game, we saw him use Westbrook, Beal, and Neto together and even in a lineup that had Jerome Robinson on the floor. That was a four-guard lineup with Robin Lopez the one outlier.
I have some theories for why. One is that Brooks is simply trying to find Neto minutes, as he has been a standout since the beginning of camp, but is the third point guard behind Westbrook and Ish Smith. Brooks is just trying to get him more playing time.
The other theory involves it simply being early and the Wizards needing to see what they have with new players. This type of thing is not rare early in a season. And it also goes back to the Wizards deciding to not play their best players for much of the preseason. When you do that, you have no choice but to experiment in the regular season.