Sunday night’s win in Toronto was the accumulation of much of what the Wizards have been looking for early this season. It had sound defense, efficient shooting and an offensive performance that closed the door down the stretch. On top of all of that, it also happened in a tough road environment without point guard John Wall.
Washington’s successful trip North sets the table for what it hopes will be a winning week back in D.C. None of the four teams the Wizards will host at Capital One Arena this week enter play Monday with a winning record, and perhaps most notable is a chance to exact some revenge from a loss to the Lakers (who are now 5-5) at Staples Center last month.
A full look at the upcoming homestand…
Tue. vs. Mavericks (7pm, NBCSW)
Thu. vs. Lakers (7pm, NBCSW)
Sat. vs. Hawks (7pm, NBCSW)
Mon. vs. Kings (7pm, NBCSW)
It’s early, and the East is tightly bunched with just three games separating the top eight teams in the conference. With that in mind, the next four games of the season are a good chance for the Wizards to create some distance and climb out of a four-way tie for fourth in the East. Let’s look at a few storylines to keep an eye on over the next week…
The Real Deal (Trio)
One of the byproducts of John Wall’s absence Sunday was another monstrous game for Bradley Beal, who took some of the ball-handling duties along with Tim Frazier. When all was said and done, Beal had another 38 points on 16-of-26 shooting to go with five rebounds and four assists. On the season, Beal’s 25.7 points per game so far rank ninth in the NBA, a stat that’s more impressive given his slow start over the first few games. Beal was an easy pick to be a first-time All Star in 2018, and he’s looked the part so far.
The other important note is Otto Porter, who has again bumped his scoring average to nearly 20 points per game at the outset of this season and is one of the most efficient scorers in the NBA so far. He’s also continued to use his length better defensively to the tune of 2.3 steals per game (ranking 2nd in the NBA). Porter’s growth has turned the Wizards into a true three-headed monster that is as good as any in the East when firing on all cylinders. Of course, Wall is the third piece of this puzzle and should return to action sooner than later after a sprained shoulder sidelined him Sunday.
Home sweet home
The Wizards have two stretches on the schedule during which they’ll play six of seven games or better at home, and they’re in the midst of one of them now (the other will come when they play eight of nine at home in December/January). Last season, Washington was one of the best teams in the NBA on their home floor, but that hasn’t been necessarily true early this year. Having four teams with a .500 record or worse is the perfect way to right that ship and prepare for a second half of November that includes two road back-to-backs and just two home games overall.
Defense, defense, defense
It’s a simple concept, but defense has been the name of the game for the Wizards. They preached perimeter defense at the outset of the season and have delivered already to an extent on that focus, limiting opponents to 33.3 percent from beyond the arc (7th best in the NBA). Still, the 109.2 they’re allowing total per game (24th in NBA) is too high. Markieff Morris was the team’s best in-rotation defensive player by defensive rating last season, so he’ll help that effort as he continues to work his way back into a full minutes load.
Washington’s last two wins came while holding opponents under 100 points, and while that’s tough to do in today’s NBA, just holding teams to under 103 (or so) would put them in the conversation as a top-10 team in terms of points allowed. The league is shooting 3’s more than ever and playing at a historically high pace so far, but if the Wizards can lock down opponents more regularly, their 112.8 points per game (3rd best in NBA) will allow them to string together plenty of wins.