Wizards/Bulls Rapid Reaction: The Up and Down Wizards Finish The Year on a High Note | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards/Bulls Rapid Reaction: The Up and Down Wizards Finish The Year on a High Note

By
Updated: December 31, 2017

This Wizards/Bulls matchup could have easily been billed as the battle of Jekyll and Hyde teams.  The Wizards entered tonight’s game with a 20-16 record, and while they were 11-6 against plus .500 teams, they were a putrid 9-10 against teams with a losing record.

Conversely, the Chicago Bulls entered the New Year’s Eve matchup against the Wizards with a subpar 13-23 record, but they had won 10 of their last 12, including seven straight earlier this month.

Something had to give and thankfully for the Wizards–who were coming off an impressive 121-103 over the Houston Rockets on Friday–they were able to successfully shake that mercurial label for one night, and pull off the 114-110 victory.

Who were the key players in making that winning magic happen? Let’s delve via a rapid reaction shall we?

 

MVP: Bradley Beal

During the Comcast SportsNet Wizards’ broadcast, Steve Buckhantz brought up Coach Scott Brooks’s words from preseason, when he reminded Bradley Beal that he had the green light.  Beal had no problem exercising that green light during John Wall’s extended injury absence–as evidenced by his 51-point outburst against the Phoenix Suns earlier this month.  But tonight, when Wall shot just 6-of-20 and no other starter reached double-figures, Beal and his green light were sorely needed and he delivered and then some in the fourth quarter.

The Bulls led 97-94 for nearly three minutes in middle of the second quarter, and the Beal went on a tear.  First he scored on a driving lay-up to bring the Wizards within one, and then on the very next possession he hit a 3-pointer to give the Wizards a one point lead. In fact, from the 7:33 moment of the fourth quarter, until the final buzzer, Beal scored 18 of the Wizards final 20 points and 15 straight at one point. Yes he missed two free throws which could have cost the Wizards the game, but his good buddy Wall bailed him out my making two more just a few seconds later.  That small error notwithstanding, Beal successfully carried the Wizards to victory, and it could very well be the catalyst for a strong January.

X-Factor: John Wall

Wall was the epitome of the Jekyll and Hyde nature of these Washington Wizards in his performance against the Bulls.  For most of the first half, he unsuccessfully gambled on defense leaving his internal defenders vulnerable, he drove to the lane like he was trying to draw fouls, not score, and the Wizards offense–save for the hot shooting of Beal and Mike Scott was not running at full capacity. Otto Porter and Markieff Morris did not find any semblance of a rhythm, and Wall and Gortat did not find that magical rhythm they are so capable of dancing to when the offense is successfully clicking.

But in the final four minutes of the first half and early in the second half, he stepped up the intensity on defense (particularly on Kris Dunn),  he closed out on Lauri Markkanen who had burned the Wizards for eight points in the first quarter, and the Wizards began to resemble well-oiled offensive machine they’ve been against winning teams.

In the fourth quarter, Wall reverted to his early first half ways, and he drove to get fouled and took ill-advised shots, despite the fact that his backcourt mate was clearly feeling it. When Beal started single-handedly countering every shot the Bulls made, Wall smartly deferred to Beal–until the 29-second mark of the fourth quarter.

After Bulls guard Justin Holiday missed a 3-pointer, Wall went down the court directly at Holiday, hesitated a bit, and drove the lane with bad intentions. He scored, he got fouled and he hit the free throw for the 3-point play:

 

20 seconds later, after Beal missed two free throws to keep the Bulls within two points, Wall hit two of his free throws to push the lead to four.  Wall finished with 21 points (on 6-of-20 shooting) with nine assists, six rebounds and four impressive blocked shots. He was inconsistent, he put his team in difficult situations with this carelessness, but when the Wizards needed him, he delivered like the All-Star he is.

Kelly Kelly Kelly

Kelly Oubre had 12 points in 20 minutes and he had a big 3-pointer with a minute left in the third quarter to bring the Wizards within two points and he also had an impressive dunk after a John Wall chasedown block But he also had five fouls in that same 20 minute span and although Scott Brooks should have taken out once he picked up that fifth foul with 11 minutes left in the game, he did not.

As a result, Oubre threw a terrible outlet, bounce pass which was stolen by Bulls guard David Nwaba, and put the Bulls up six points with 10:06 left in the game. Scott Brooks promptly called timeout and subbed John Wall in the game.

He did return to the game with 29.4 seconds left and he helped keep the ball alive after Beal missed the second of two free throw, so all was not lost. But that pass was pretty damn bad:

 

 

Rashad Mobley on FacebookRashad Mobley on InstagramRashad Mobley on Twitter
Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.