Wizards’ Bench Is The Catalyst in Pivotal Win over T-Wolves | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards’ Bench Is The Catalyst in Pivotal Win over T-Wolves

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Updated: November 29, 2017

Coming into their game against Minnesota, all the talk was about the Wizards’ struggles in finishing games, their perpetual lack of bench production and Scott Brooks’ refusal to alter his rotation. The Wizards flipped the script against the Timberwolves, with the starters (except for Otto Porter) struggling mightily, the bench playing out of their minds, Brooks adjusting his rotations based on the flow of the game and the Wizards hitting two clutch shots in the final minute.

Washington started about as sluggish as possible, getting down double digits in the first five minutes of the game, and a lot of that had to do with a struggling Bradley Beal. Beal had by far his worst game of the season, finishing with just eight points on 2-for-11 shooting. He took his normal array of  elbow jumpers and dribble drives to the basket, but all of his shots came up short. Instead of Beal forcing the issue and jacking up more shots, he played within the offense and allowed the ball to flow to the open man, and his teammates picked up the slack.

Otto Porter had one of his better games of the season, and he did it by staying aggressive and confident in his shot. Porter scored 22 points on 8-for-18 shooting from the field, including 4-for-8 from behind the arc. The most impressive aspect of Porter’s game was his assertiveness in the clutch. Otto came into tonight having only shot 1-for-3 from the field in clutch situations on the entire season. As Scott Brooks alluded after the game, the team made a concerted effort to get Otto the ball in the fourth quarter: “It’s been well documented that we need to get him more looks in the fourth quarter.”

The Wizards ran two plays for Otto Porter at the end of the game, and he converted on both attempts. The first was an in-bounds play with 58.6 seconds left in the game and the Wizards trailing 89-87. Mahinmi set a pick for Otto under the basket and he popped free from Andrew Wiggins, catching the ball on the left block with Wiggins on his back. Otto muscled his way into the paint, threw a quick pump fake to freeze Karl Anthony Towns, then softly lofted the ball over Wiggins’ outstretched hand for the bucket.

The second one came with 30 seconds remaining and the score tied 89-89, Mahinmi set a slightly moving screen on Jimmy Butler at the top of key and Otto caught a pass from Beal beyond the three-point line. Porter took one dribble to his right and nailed a smooth 20-foot jumper over Towns’ outstretched hand for the game-winner.

Brooks Pushes the Right Buttons With His Bench Rotation

[Photo from @WashWizards]

The catalyst to Washington’s win has to be the Wizards bench, which outscored the Timberwolves 49-11. The bench played so well that it forced Brooks to trust key bench contributors to close out the game instead of the underperforming starters. Ian Mahinmi played maybe his best game of the season and earned the trust of Brooks to play the entire fourth quarter by using his length to not only slow down Towns on the offensive end, but also to create a presence on the offensive glass in key situations to create invaluable second chance opportunities. After allowing 30 points to the Wolves in the first quarter, the Wizards only allowed 59 points over the course of the final three quarters.

The big Frenchman was key to slowing down the Wolves because of his mobility on hedges and the ability to get back to the paint and make Towns shoot over the top of his length, without fouling. Ian only had two points, but he finished with a game high plus/minus of plus-18 to go along with eight rebounds and two blocked shots. This is the guy that the Wizards envisioned playing in their rotation when they inked him to a 4 year, $64 million contract last off-season, and if he can continue to play like this, it will provide a big boost to a team that desperately needs a big presence down low.

Mahinmi wasn’t the only bench player who prospered in this game. Mike Scott, Kelly Oubre, Jodie Meeks and Tomas Satoransky all shined in their respective roles. Scott, who received DNP’s in three of the last five games, gave the team a much needed boost offensively by working in the mid-post and also converting on a big three-pointer that tied the game with three minutes left. Coach Brooks went with Scott over Markieff Morris, who once again struggled mightily and is still trying to get into a groove this season after missing the first few weeks of the year due to sports hernia surgery.

Oubre led all bench scorers with 16 points and did it with a lot of crafty finishes around the basket, as his three-point shot was not falling all night. Brooks has mentioned all season that he wants Oubre’s bread and butter to be on the defensive end, and tonight he brought it. Oubre did a fantastic job defending both Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins, keeping his hands high and his feet on the ground when both players tried to hit him with their array of moves.

Meeks got the bench rolling with three early 3-pointers and ended the night with 12 points, all from behind the arc.

Satoransky played his best game of the season and showed how his size and versatility can provide a spark to the Wizards bench that Tim Frazier simply cannot provide at this juncture. The #FreeSato movement is alive and well after Tomas scored seven points to go along with five rebounds and six assists. Satoransky was more effective than Frazier because he stayed aggressive on the offensive end and took his game to the Wolves defense instead of being timid on the perimeter.

The Wolves had begun to give Frazier the “Tony Allen” treatment by having his man sag so far off of him that it seemed as if the Wizards were playing four-on-five on offense. Satoransky was able to beat his defenders off the dribble and get into the teeth of the defense, and once there, use his advanced passing skills to find the open man. Knowing how loyal Scott Brooks is to his usual rotation, this Sato love will probably be a one-off, but with how poorly Frazier has played this season, maybe it shouldn’t be.

This win was clearly a pivotal one for the Wizards as they showed a mental toughness that has been absent since the playoffs last season. Scott Brooks showed that he can in fact be flexible with his rotations and maybe, just maybe, his undying faith in Ian Mahinmi will pay dividends.

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
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Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. He is going into his second season writing for Truth About It, and also writes for sports analytics website numberfire.com. You can find him in a district bike lane in the Northwest neighborhood of Bloomingdale.