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It’s been a tumultuous couple of days for the Wizards. Heading into Sunday night’s matchup with the Lakers down two men (Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers) with a pending trade and Otto Porter Jr. (right knee contusion), Washington knew it would need heavy minutes from its starters to get a needed home win. John Wall and co. responded, with the All-Star point guard scoring a season-high 40 points (14 assists) to lead the way to a 128-110 drubbing of Los Angeles in D.C.
A 14-0 Wizards run near the outset of the game was a sign of things to come for Washington on the night, as it went on to shoot nearly 51% from the field and 41.9% from 3-point range. Bradley Beal added a double-double, scoring 25 points to go with 12 rebounds, while Jeff Green and Sam Dekker chipped in 20 points apiece. Tomas Satoransky (11 points) led the team with 45 minutes, while Wall’s 42 and Beal’s 38 minutes weren’t far behind. Head coach Scott Brooks was left with effectively a seven-man rotation after Markieff Morris (sore neck) exited the game and did not return.
“It was just being aggressive," said Wall. "Just trying to get downhill and attack the basket. I was kind of disappointed in how I played in Brooklyn [on Friday] – not being aggressive. When I’m aggressive, it makes it easier for us offensively – getting guys shots and getting myself into a rhythm.”
By halftime, the Wizards had built a 20-point lead capitalizing on 14 Laker turnovers (17 points) before the break. Los Angeles didn’t get any closer than down 15 in the second half. Playing in the second night of a back-to-back, the Wizards took advantage of a sluggish Los Angeles team that struggled to control the ball. LeBron James tallied just 13 points on 5-of-16 shooting, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (25 points) and Kyle Kuzma (20 points) were the only two to find a rhythm offensively. The Lakers shot just under 50 percent from the field, but struggled from 3-point range (11-for-36, 30.6%)
Despite being shorthanded, Washington came out with superior energy from the jump, and it started with John Wall. He had 28 points and eight assists by the halftime buzzer (which he beat with a 2-point fadeaway jumper), joining Gilbert Arenas as the only Wizards in the last 20 seasons with 25+ points and 5+ assists by halftime. Everyone followed Wall’s lead from an energy standpoint, as Dekker and Green (who hit 4-of-6 from 3-point range) were the perfect support for Washington’s All-Star backcourt.
“I think that Jeff [Green] and Sam [Decker], they did a great job of playing off one and another," said Wizards coach Scott Brooks. "And Sam is a great cutter. That is what I am finding out. He's got the ball, he cuts to the basket, he moves the ball, he plays hard, he brings energy, he plays with the proper respect for the game. That is what I love about him, he always seems to be prepared. He doesn't have to turn the switch on, it's on.”
“It was good," added Sam Dekker. "I was able to find some easy buckets early on to get me going. Playing with energy becomes kind of contagious. Once we get in the open court like that [and] John [Wall] and Brad [Beal] get us going like that, we’re tough to stop. That early start was big for us.”
The fire the Wizards showed Wednesday was something that will need to be more consistent if they are to keep climbing towards .500. They made plays defensively and attacked the rim at will Sunday, wearing down a weary Los Angeles team. And while L.A. stayed true to its DNA and scored well on the break, Washington's relentlessness in getting to the basket won out. In total, the Wizards outscored the Lakers by 10 points in the paint.
"We did not have the proper energy to win an NBA game tonight," said Lakers head coach Luke Walton. "Give Washington credit. Those guys were short-handed, as were we, but they found it and they brought it to us. We never really got going."
Next, Washington will hit the road again for a back-to-back against the Hawks and Rockets. Tipoff on Wednesday in Atlanta is set for 7:30.