Wizards Win on MLK Day to Boost their 8-Seed Odds | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards Win on MLK Day to Boost their 8-Seed Odds

Updated: January 24, 2019

[Photo: Nick Wass/Associated Press]

Don’t look now, but the Wizards have a winning record. In their last 10 games—they are 7-3. And on the heels of Ted Leonsis’s edict to the world that “the team will never, ever tank,” Washington is convincing themselves (and others?) that this season is not a lost cause.

The Wizards picked up their first win since being across the pond, dominating Detroit from start to finish. After beating the Knicks in London in a back-and-forth affair, Washington was able to hold the Pistons to just 87 points, their lowest allowed point total of the season and used a balanced scoring attack to control the pace of the game. With this win the Wizards not only tied their season series with the Pistons, but also closed the gap in overall record with Detroit and find themselves just two games back of the eighth and final playoff spot. Washington is now 21-26, while Detroit is 22-26 after picking up a win later in the week.

There were seven Wizards who finished the game with double-figures and did not have to rely on Bradley Beal to shoulder the offensive load. After the game, Beal commented on how the balances scoring attack is a sign of growth for the team:

Timely, since Beal did not shoot the ball particularly well (4-12) from the field, but what he did was initiate the ball movement on the offense by making the extra pass when the Pistons defense would send multiple defenders his way. In years past, Beal may have been more inclined to force the issue, and take some bad shots, but he is showing the growth as a player by incorporating his teammates.

Scott Brooks took notice of how Beal was not playing selfish and commended his All-Star player after the game:

“If you’re hunting for shots and if you’re all about shots, you’re going to have a lot of bad nights and you’re going to get frustrated, your teammates are going to get frustrated with you. But Brad plays the right way. He competes and he gives us a chance every night. It’s not about him getting shots–there are going to be some nights he gets 12 and a lot of nights he gets 25. It all kind of balances its way out. He knows when he steps on the court he’s one of the best players on the floor.”

The teammate that took the most advantage of the extra shot opportunities was Otto Porter, who led the team in shot attempts with 15. Porter has been as aggressive he has ever been since coming back from a knee injury that caused him to miss 10 games earlier in the season. Part of the reason why Porter is getting so many open looks is because he has come off the bench since his return from injury and it gives him an opportunity to take advantage of lesser caliber players. Within the Wizards team construct, Porter is normally an ancillary option who primarily scores as a spot-up shooter, but in his new role, Otto is asked to be the focal point of the offense on the second unit. Not only is Porter having more confidence in himself, but his teammates have more confidence in him as well.

“With his firepower coming off the bench, the advantage goes to us,” fellow Georgetown Hoya teammate Jeff Green says. “He’s been shooting the ball very, very well. We need that from him night in and night out, and he’s been giving us that. We’re going to look to him when he comes in the game and we’re going to continue to use him to our advantage coming off the bench.”

The Wizards have to be the first team in NBA history to have a player on a $100-plus million contract coming off the bench and regardless of how they got here, it behooves them to take advantage of the mismatches that it can cause. Porter was going to work on smaller defenders in the post, while also rising up and shooting on late closeouts on the perimeter. There were multiple situations where Porter found himself backing down the much smaller Reggie Jackson and used his size new newfound turnaround jumper to his advantage. At this point, with the Wizards playing their best basketball of the season, there is no reason for the team to make any lineup changes and Otto Porter will continue to come off the bench for the foreseeable future.

The Wizards now have a 57% chance of making the playoffs according to FiveThirtyEight and at those odds, it would behoove the team to stay on the course that they are on.

Honoring the Late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

The Wizards relish the opportunity to play on Martin Luther King Day, and head coach Scott Brooks and players were all happy to celebrate the man who led the way in the Civil Rights movement:

Welcome Gary Payton II

The Wizards made an official announcement before the Pistons game about the signing of G-League player, Gary Payton II, to a 10-day contract. Payton is the son of basketball Hall-of-Famer Gary Payton and not to be confused with Gary Payton, Jr., who is his brother. The Oregon State product has spent a lot of time bouncing back and forth between the G-League and the NBA over the last few seasons, and will use this 10-day stint to try and earn a permanent roster spot with the Wizards. Smart money says that Payton may not be around long, as the team was obliged to add a 14th player to the roster due to mandated league rules.

And, uh, Payton received a not-so-ringing endorsement from Scott Brooks before the game when he was asked why they ended up signing him: “We had to add a 14th player and he fit a position of need.”

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.