By Friday morning, the Wizards had a good idea they’d be without Bradley Beal for the team’s home opener against the Indiana Pacers. And for a team that made its offseason about bringing in a host of depth players, that strategy would be tested in just the second game of the season.
Absent Beal, those depth players stood out from the jump.
In a 135-134 overtime win over the Pacers at Capital One Arena, the Wizards had five scorers in double figures, including Spencer Dinwiddie and Kyle Kuzma, who combined for 60 points on the night.
“At some point, everyone made big plays, everyone had a stretch,” coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “(Davis Bertans) got going early, obviously Spencer late, (Montrezl Harrell) had a stretch, Kuz had a stretch, so it was good to see. It wasn’t reliant on one person. Obviously we were missing a big part of our offense tonight, but next man up mentality...It’s a gutsy win. Wasn’t perfect by no means, but we’ll take it.”
Three of those scorers in double figures came off the bench: Raul Neto (18), Harrell (14) and Bertans (17) all provided valuable minutes off the bench and provided just enough offense for the Wizards to squeak out a one-point win.
“It was definitely a team effort,” Kuzma said. “Obviously me and Spence had big numbers. Neto came in and balled out. DB, he got out of his shooting slump and hit some big time shots for us and especially that one in overtime that was huge. Trez is going to be Trez. We just had a great night. We definitely need to be a lot better — 134 points, that’s extremely high. But we got stops when we needed them. And a win is a win, so you’ll take that.”
As a team, the Wizards shots 50% (19-of-38) from 3-point range — led by Dinwiddie (6-of-9), Kuzma (5-of-8) and Bertans (4-of-9). They played 10 players on the night, all of whom ended up registering at least one point.
Without Beal, who missed the game due to a right hip contusion, the Wizards needed every ounce of offense they could get to replace his elite scoring ability. A year ago, Beal averaged 31.3 points per game and was the focal point of their offense. Friday, the Wizards proved they had enough depth to withstand his absence — at least for a night.
“Home opener, crowd carrying us, big shots all the way around, high scoring game, it was a fun game,” Dinwiddie said. “It wasn’t a grind-it-out, 80, 85 game. But to reach our highest ceiling, obviously we’re going to need Brad. We’re going to need the highest version of Brad. We’re going to need possibly league-leading scorer, first-team All-NBA Brad.”
Still, the ones leading the way were Wizards who hadn’t ever played a regular season game at Capital One Arena before with the team. Without Beal, Aaron Holiday got the start, meaning four of the team’s five starters weren’t on the roster last year. Three of the team’s top five scorers, including their top two, weren’t on the team — and Dinwiddie was recovering from a torn ACL.
No one on Washington denies they need Beal in the lineup, and as quickly as possible, to be the team they want to be. But the roster’s depth faced a significant stress test on Friday against the Pacers, and they certainly passed.
“It’s a tremendous asset,” Unseld said of his team’s depth. “At times we have to navigate playing 10, 11 guys. That’s not easy. But to know that you have your depth, if somebody’s in foul trouble or the game’s not going well, you’ve got another option. It’s a good problem to have.”