Shorthanded Wizards Take Care of Business Against Struggling Hawks | Wizards Blog Truth About

Shorthanded Wizards Take Care of Business Against Struggling Hawks

Updated: December 6, 2018

(Photo credit Kevin C. Cox Getty Images)

The Washington Wizards entered their game against the Atlanta Hawks a bit shorthanded. John Wall had to leave the team for personal reasons (presumably to fly back to D.C. for the birth of his first child), Jeff Green was out with back spasms, and Dwight Howard continues to recover from back surgery. Considering the Wizards have not fared well against inferior opponents, this could have been a difficult test for Scott Brooks and his team, but Bradley Beal led the charge in “Everybody Eats”  fashion to secure the victory.

Entering the starting lineup to replace Wall was Austin Rivers, who has been barely serviceable as a rotation player for the Wizards on most nights. The Washington Post’s Candace Buckner made waves through Wizards Twitter before the game when she tweeted that Brooks announced during his pregame media availability that Rivers would be starting at point guard.

TAI’s own Adam Rubin had the perfect response to this report:

Thankfully, the coach’s pregame edict was just talk, and Tomas Satoransky was appointed to bring the ball up the court for the majority of the night. And he led the team to a type of play that was eerily similar to the stretch of games he started last season while Wall was out for 41 games due to knee surgery. Sato finished with 14 points and seven assists in a season high 38 minutes, but more importantly he ran the team in an efficient manner which kept the ball moving. The Wizards as a team dished out a season-high of 35 assists.

Washington’s lone All-Star who played, Bradley Beal, led the way in the assist department with nine, but he also contributed 36 points to lead the charge. Beal’s much improved ball-handling skills allow him to not only free up space for his jump shot, but also drive the ball downhill towards the basket. On the season, Beal is taking 22.9% of his field goal attempts within three feet of the basket, and he’s connecting on 76.6% of those — both career highs for him as a player. In Wall’s absence, Beal has found a himself in the role of a distributor and scorer, which is something that he and Wall need to better balance when they share the floor.

In the front court, Washington was led by Thomas Bryant who finished with a career-high in points (16) and rebounds (9). Bryant continues to be the perfect example of controlled energy on the basketball court, as his constant movement is a catalyst for many of the good things that happen to the Wizards on the court. This team spent the first month of the season getting off to slow starts, and Scott Brooks complained about lack of effort. But in a limited sample size, Thomas Bryant in the paint has eradicated both of those issues and blossomed.

Otto Porter finished with a team-high 11 rebounds, while also chipping in 20 points. Porter is finally finding his rhythm as a scorer is seemingly more aggressive with his own shot. One of the things that Otto did not do in this game was pass up many open looks when the ball came to him. Instead he was ready to catch and shoot, and although he only hit two of his nine attempts from 3-point range, the aggressive style will certainly serve him much better than the passiveness that has plagued him this season.

The shorthanded Wizards bench managed to score 36 points, lead by Kelly Oubre’s 19 points on 5-for-10 shooting. Oubre continues to excel on the road this season boasting road splits of 46% shooting from the floor and 38% from beyond the arc, while only shooting 37% from the floor and 20% from 3-point range at home this season. These splits go against what is normally expected from role players and they are certainly something to monitor over the course of this season. Balancing out Oubre’s scoring was a steady performance from Markieff Morris, who scored 12 points of his own.

In what should have been an opportunity for the Wizards to play Troy Brown Jr. some meaningful minutes, turned into a second half battle after the Wizards allowed 45 third quarter points from the Hawks, who cut a 23-point halftime deficit to five points. This caused Brooks to leave his starters in the game for a lot longer than he probably intended. The Hawks only have five wins this season, but that win total is the result of a lack of talent, not effort. John Collins and Kent Bazemore led the way with 26 and 22 points, respectively, and they both helped the Hawks to rally back into the ball game. Once the Wizards started protecting the basketball and stopped allowing the Hawks to take advantage of those miscues, they were able to cruise to a relatively easy win.

Since the Wizards started out the season 2-9, they have a record of 9-5, which is a winning percentage much closer to what this team expected to be when the season began. They are finally figuring out how to play better with one another, and Scott Brooks is doing a better job of coaching up the players, putting them in better positions to succeed, and being more flexible with the starting lineups. The arrow is seemingly trending upwards for a franchise that has experienced much drama this season already.

Saturday will be another test for this team to prove to their doubters and themselves that this trend is for real, as they take on another struggling team in the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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.