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Confidence, passing, and aggressive defense driving Wizards' winning streak
Winners of five in a row, the Wizards are clicking on all cylinders
When the Wizards found out that John Wall would be out for six to eight weeks after successful arthroscopic debridement surgery on his left knee, the remaining 11 guys on the active roster knew they would all need to step up together as a team. One player cannot replace the impact on the game that the five-time All-Star brings.
“We need guys to step up, not necessarily step up in scoring but how we play,” head coach Scott Brooks said after the Wizards’ win over the Thunder on January 30.
In the five games since Wall went out, the Wizards have seen almost every player step up in what has been an impressive team effort. During the streak, the Wizards have 161 assists on 218 field goals, a 73.9 percent assist rate, tops in the NBA. The Wizards are also third in scoring (115.8 points per game), second in field goal percentage (51.2), first in assists (32.2, second in steals (9.2) and first in forcing opponent turnovers (17.4) in the last five games. The team is making 315.6 passes per game during the streak, which is seventh in the NBA in that timespan, after being 27th in the league at 281.4 in their first 48 games. They’ve jumped from 23rd to first in free throw percentage, 11th to second in Net Rating per NBA.com/stats, and 14th to first in secondary assists, which are essentially hockey assists – the pass to the assist.
Beal has taken on a bigger role with Wall rehabbing, drawing more attention on the court especially. The first-time All-Star has been double-teamed a lot without Wall, and it’s no secret that he’s the main guy on opponents’ scouting reports. Beal’s scoring is down, 21.0 points per game in the last five versus 23.7 for the season, but his assist numbers are up at 6.2 per game versus 4.0 for the season. Thus, Beal has relied on his teammates to make more plays when he passes the ball along and also taken on a bigger role as a facilitator. Tomas Satoransky and Tim Frazier have also stepped up as facilitators in the place of Wall, really contributing to the team’s excellent passing and assist totals.
With Satoransky stepping into the starting lineup for Wall, the Czech guard has made a noticeable impact on both ends of the court. He scored a career-high 19 points against Orlando and held reigning MVP Russell Westbrook to 13 points and seven turnovers on 5-of-18 shooting in another game. The biggest difference in Satoransky’s game since taking over the starting role has been his confidence.
“Everything is going well from me from the beginning,” Satoransky said after shootaround on Monday. “The stuff I’m doing – it’s development that comes from those minutes and from the confidence I’m gaining.”
Since Satoransky entered the starting lineup against the Hawks on January 27, the Wizards’ starters are outscoring opponents by 37.7 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com/stats. Marcin Gortat leads the Wizards with an impressive 91.6 Defensive Rating, and the team has a 115.4 Defensive Rating with him off the court. That means the Wizards are 23.8 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Gortat on the court.
The biggest star from the group in the last five games statistically, though, has been Otto Porter Jr. During the winning streak, Porter is averaging 18.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game while shooting 55.7% from the floor. He’s been shooting 12.2 shots per game and has been given a much bigger role with Wall sidelined. He’s also taken another leap this year as one of the league’s best wing defenders.
When Porter is on the court, the Wizards are scoring 15.9 points per 100 possessions more (a 122.6 Offensive Rating on court vs. 106.7 Offensive Rating off court) and giving up 12.4 points per 100 possessions less (99.2 Defensive Rating on court vs. 111.6 Defensive Rating off court). The Wizards are 28.4 points per 100 possessions better with Porter on court in the last five games. Overall for the season, Porter leads the team with an 11.1 Net Rating difference.
Another starter who has stepped up is Markieff Morris. After sports hernia surgery right before the season, Morris took some time to get back up to game speed, but he’s been impressive as of late. Morris is averaging 17.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per game in his last six games, shooting 54.9% from the field, all up from his season averages. Like Porter, Morris has been asked to take more shots with Wall out of the lineup and has shown he’s also an underrated passer as of late.
Mike Scott, who still remains among league leaders in field goal percentage, is shooting 52.4% overall and 42.9% from beyond the arc during the winning streak. He’s scoring 13.3 points per game and taking 10.5 shots per game since Wall went out, another player seeing higher volume and positive results in this stretch.
On Monday, eight Wizards scored in double-figures for the second time in three games, the only two times Washington has had eight players score 10 points or more all season. Dating back to the start of the 2010 season, there has been only one other game where the Wizards had eight players all score in double-figures, a 123-122 win over the Houston Rockets on January 20, 2016.
“It's just a blessing to see everybody smiling, everybody out there having fun,” Kelly Oubre Jr. said after Monday’s win. “Even the guys that don't score over 10 points, it doesn't matter. You're just happy to see the next guy play well. So that's what's going on here and it's a blessing to be a part of."
The Wizards’ quest for six straight wins will be tough in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, the Sixers’ first home game since the Philadelphia Eagles won Super Bowl 52 on Sunday. The crowd will be raucous, and the Wizards know they can’t relax now.
“It means a lot,” Beal said about the five-game streak after Monday’s win in Indiana. “But we still got a lot of work to do.”
“It’s great that we’ve got five in a row,” Beal continued. “Our confidence is high, but at the same time we’re staying level-headed and keep riding the wave.”