All-Stars Carried the Load, Role Players Brought the Energy | Wizards Blog Truth About

All-Stars Carried the Load, Role Players Brought the Energy

Updated: April 21, 2018

Washington faced their biggest task of 2018 when they stepped on the court against the Toronto Raptors Friday evening. The Wizards could have potentially been down 3-0 in their first round series, which would have been a virtual death sentence, as no team has ever come back from facing a 3-0 deficit in an NBA playoff series. The Wizards were able to keep hope alive in the series by channeling the focus of their two All-Stars and the dark energy of their key role guys.

John Wall and Bradley Beal put the team on their backs, scoring 28 points apiece and out dueling the All-Star back court of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Beal got himself going early by scoring 21 of his 28 points before halftime and playing with an aggressiveness that resembled the guy who took control of the team in Wall’s 41 game absence. Scott Brooks took responsibility for Beal’s subpar performance after Game 2 because he knew he needed to get him more shots within the offense. When Brooks was asked about what got Brad going in this game, he mentioned how important it was for Beal himself to be aggressive: “Brad came out and was looking to go towards the basket and not just letting them hold him and going along with it. He didn’t want to dance with his opponent, he wanted to get away from them. That was a critical part of his success.”

Part of the inspiration for Beal’s play came from a meeting with Scott Brooks and John Wall. Beal gave a little insight as to some of the things that Brooks said to inspire his play: “The biggest thing was making sure that we both were aggressive at all times, making sure that we were holding teammates accountable, leading the charge on both ends of the floor and bringing it because we have a tough assignment. This is a tough team that we are playing, a team that scores the ball in a variety of ways, they have two All-Stars, two really good bigs who can play really well, one of the best benches in the league, so each and every guy, we all gotta step up and play our part, but we know it starts with us, too. We make sure that we are clicking on the same page and that we are aggressive from the start and keep it up for 48 [minutes].”

John Wall was equally as aggressive as Beal but just in a different manner. While Beal scored 12 of his 28 points from behind the arc, Wall did most of his damage attacking the rim and working his patented elbow jumper in. When Wall wasn’t looking or his own shot, he was making sure to spoon-feed his teammates to the tune of 14 assists. One particular player that Wall made a concerted effort of getting involved was his “perceived teammate arch-nemesis” Marcin Gortat. Wall explained what worked so well with Gortat: “Marc [Marcin] sets the tone for getting me and Brad open through a lot of screens and rolling for us. He’s the back line of our defense and protecting the basket… He’s a key to our team. He has to be there for us, to block shots, rebound, and set screens. He gets me and Brad to be aggressive coming off pick-and-rolls and [which allows us to] get our teammates involved. Tonight he got it going and made some easy shots. I always try to find him and tell him to be ready to look for my passes because a lot of teams collapse on me.”

The Raptors certainly paid a lot of attention to Wall and Beal on their defensive coverage’s and that left Gortat open on countless rolls to the basket and allowed him to finish with 16 points on 8-10 shooting. When Gortat is getting the rock on the offensive end, he tends to be more engaged on defense.  He outplayed Jonas Valunciunas, who in first two games of the series had gotten the best of his fellow European big man.

The Return of Death Row DC

Markieff Morris walked into Capital One Arena rocking a Death Row DC shirt which served as a form of foreshadowing. Keef only finished with seven points and one rebound, but as one of the emotional leaders of the team, he got his teammates fired up by playing a brand of basketball that could be best described as “Bully Ball.” Three minutes into the game, Keef was involved in a shoving match with the Raptors rookie OG Anuoby after a foul from the latter.

In a league full of fake tough guys and players who are much more likely to yell “hold me back” rather than fight, Keef Morris is a throwback player in the sense that he is about that life. When Kelly Oubre was asked about what set the tone in the game, he was quick to credit Keef’s dark energy: “Keef [Markieff Morris]. Him coming out there and pretty much being fired up. I think OG [Anunoby] did not know the scouting report because he did not know that Keef is one of the people you do not mess with in this world. It is what it is. He will learn.

Keef’s style of play clearly inspired Kelly, as he came into the game and completely changed the tide of momentum with his play in the first quarter. Scott Brooks always laments the fact that he is not too concerned with Kelly knocking down shots, but rather how he is defending. Oubre came in the game with a winning sequence of a drawn charge, a dunk on a fast break, and then a block at the rim. When Oubre is engaged on defense, it gives the Wizards the ability to switch many positions on the defensive end. John Wall spoke about Oubre’s impact on the game and how he has always considered him to be the teams x-factor: “He’s not really worried about how many shots he’s getting, he’s just worried about locking up and taking away their best player. Just making it tough for them, doing the little things, making the hustle plays. It’s key for our team. I think tonight he did that and when he does that he’s a big key to our team. Like I always say, he’s an X-factor for us.”

Kelly and Markieff brought the toughness the Wizards needed from their ancillary players, while Mike Scott just continued to drop buckets. Scott finished the game with 12 points on a perfect 4-4 shooting and he also put forth maximum effort on the defensive end as a small-ball center and power forward in certain lineups. Scott’s 12 points was a big part of the reason why the Wizards bench was able to outscore the Raptors bench. His production is also the perfect supplement for Otto Porter who still seems to be suffering from a lingering from a calf injury suffered right before the playoffs began.

If the Wizards are to come back Sunday and tie the series they will need a maximum effort from their role players and the star power of Beal and Wall. That proven formula worked perfectly for them in Game 3, and it falls in line with “everybody eats” mantra that worked so well earlier in the season. The team knows the style of play that works for them, the only question is can they channel the dark side for three more games.

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. Bylines on bylines on bylines.

Will write for food.