The Wizards tipped off a four-game home stand against the Mavericks on Tuesday on a sour note. Dallas led from start to finish, and defeated Washington 113-99 behind Harrison Barnes’ 31 points. John Wall returned after missing one game with a left shoulder sprain and led the Wizards with 23 points and 14 assists, while Bradley Beal also added 23 points. The Mavericks have now beat the Wizards nine straight times in D.C., and have won 16 of the last 18 games in the series.
Dallas got off to a hot start, scoring 36 points on 62.5% shooting from the field, the most points they’ve put up in a quarter all season. Rookie Dennis Smith Jr. scored nine of his 22 points in the first. Wall paced the Wizards with 12 points and five assists, scoring or assisting on 22 of Washington’s first 34 points. The Wizards still put up 34 points of their own on 61.1% shooting, but the defense was unfortunately trending in the wrong direction.
The Mavericks began the second quarter on a 9-0 run, and would lead by as many as 15 points in the period. The Wizards’ bench struggled against the Mavericks’ veteran group, going 0-for-7 from the field in the quarter. Washington had five turnovers to the Mavericks’ zero, and scored six second chance points and seven points off turnovers. Dallas would bring an 11-point lead into the half.
Beal had nine of his 23 points in the third quarter, but it was more of the same for the Wizards. Despite making 4-of-5 triples in the quarter, they struggled to take care of the ball and could not string together stops. Smith Jr. and Barnes combined for 13 points in the quarter and the Mavericks took advantage of their offensive rebounding to maintain a 14-point lead heading into the fourth.
With a 12-0 run to start the fourth quarter, the Wizards fought back and brought the game within a possession in the fourth quarter. With a lineup of Tim Frazier, Jodie Meeks, Kelly Oubre Jr., Otto Porter Jr., and Jason Smith, the Wizards were getting stop after stop. Smith in particular was a spark off the bench with two key blocks, and Scott Brooks praised him and that lineup postgame.
“We were down 12, 13, 14 points and the only way we were going to make an effort was to bring some energy,” Brooks said. “One thing Jason [Smith] does is he plays hard and he plays his butt off for the team. I got to figure out how to play him more. That’s been on me the last few days and my job is to figure out how I get him more minutes. He deserves it.”
Wall and Beal checked back in with 7:37 to go, but the Mavericks went on a 9-1 run to regain control of the game. Dallas would not look back and put the Wizards away for good in the final five minutes.
The Mavericks out-rebounded the Wizards 53-39, including 11-3 on the offensive glass, dominating second chance points 18-7. The Wizards really struggled to stop the Mavericks, even when their offense was flowing. It’s been a problem through the team’s first 10 games, and Beal expressed that postgame.
“It’s pretty much the same as all our losses,” Beal said. “We didn’t play hard. They outworked us. We didn’t defend. That’s plain and simple. You don’t win if you don’t defend.”
Even with the loss, Wall’s return was a great sign for the Wizards. His 23 points and 14 assists paced the team offensively on a night that Beal and Oubre shot poorly. Wall made 11 of his first 12 free throw attempts, but then missed two of his last six. Still, he got to the line 18 times and was attacking the rim at will.
Washington is now 5-5 in the team’s first 10 games of the season after starting last season 2-8. Despite some disappointing early season games, Beal had a good message about how the Wizards are handling their frustration.
“Still positive (emotions), that’s one thing I will say,” Beal explained. “We are all little frustrated, but we are still together, sticking together through it. We are the ones playing, we are the ones who are going to get ourselves out of it.”
The Wizards will host the Lakers, who will be coming to town off a back-to-back in Boston, on Thursday at 7:00pm.