WASHINGTON, DC -  MARCH 13: Bradley Beal #3 of the Washington Wizards congratulated by teammates after play against the Orlando Magic on March 13, 2019 at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC.
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Wizards' second unit shines in 100-90 win over Magic

Every win for the Wizards the rest of the way will mean a lot, but two games this week in particular almost count double. Wednesday night against the Magic, Washington delivered on the first one. The Wizards’ second unit stepped up in a big way on their home floor to down Orlando, 100-90. Washington moved to a perfect 8-0 on the season when holding teams under 100 points.

Wednesday’s win was especially important in terms of the Eastern Conference playoff race, which is heating up with just 14 games remaining in the regular season. Following Wednesday’s results, the Heat remain 3.5 games up on Washington for the No. 8 seed in the East, while the Wizards pulled within 1.5 games of the Magic and Hornets, who occupy the No. 9 and 10 positions.

Bradley Beal led Washington with 23 points, seven assists and six rebounds as the starting five’s only double-digit scorer, but Wednesday night’s victory was about defense and the second unit.

“Being able to get stops,” said Bradley Beal. “I think in the third quarter it was a little scary, [the Orlando Magic] went on a nice little run and made some shots. Even in the fourth they did a good job of executing offense and getting some offensive rebounds. I think the difference was just limiting those things: guarding guys, keeping guys out the paint, contesting shots and limiting the shots they were getting out.”

Thomas Bryant logged a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Jabari Parker followed up with 19 points and nine rebounds. Chasson Randle added 13 points. No starter recorded a positive +/- ratio, while all four bench members finished in positive figures (Randle and Parker led with +23 and +21, respectively.

Both teams struggled on the night to score despite low turnover numbers, but Orlando couldn’t solve the Wizard’s defensive puzzle in the end all night, shooting just 38.9% from the field for the game. Washington took a one-point lead into the second quarter on the shoulders of 10 Beal points, but used a quick 9-1 run at the outset of the second to create some space. Parker scored 11 of his points in the second to help Washington take an eight-point lead into the break.

On the night, the Wizards were competitive on the boards and dominated in paint scoring despite 20 points and 14 rebounds from Orlando All-Star Nikola Vucevic. Their effort to score down low (where they outscored the Magic 58-40) buoyed the offensive effort and helped them shoot a modest 46.7% from the field on a night where they only hit 29.6% from beyond the arc.

“Well, TB [Thomas Bryant] did a really good job going down out of rolls, putting pressure after he set the screen,” said Jabari Parker. “He did a really good job getting downhill and he rebounded well – that really helped. We find ourselves in deficits when we don’t catch the ball and get on the other end.”

Still, Washington had its turn to go cold, and it came in the third quarter. The Magic closed the gap as the Wizards shot just 31.6% in the frame and scored just 15 points. Orlando made up ground on the boards (16-6 in the third) and shut down the Wizards’ paint scoring, but only mustered 21 points – 13 of which came from Jonathan Issac – of their own. Heading to the fourth, the Wizards’ lead was once again back down to just two.

The bench shined brightest when it mattered the most in the fourth, with 10 points from Bryant and eight from Parker in the frame. The duo spurred a critical 14-4 run down the stretch that was capped by Beal’s only field goal of the fourth – a 3-pointer – with 3:46 remaining to put the Wizards up by 10.

“I liked it, I liked the bench,” said head coach Scott Brooks. “I thought Jabari [Parker] did a great job of attacking and we did a good job of setting screens for him. He was finishing around the rim. He’s a tough matchup when he goes downhill.

(Troy Brown Jr., Randle, and Parker) did well with the bench, along with TB [Thomas Bryant]. TB came in and gave us great energy and we needed every ounce of energy he had tonight. We fought, we didn’t have everything going for us offensively, but I thought in that fourth quarter we did a good job. They only had four offensive rebounds in that second half.”

The Wizards will hit the midway point of their homestand Friday night when they host the Hornets for another critical game with playoff positioning on the line. Tip-off against Charlotte is set for 7:00 P.M. ET.

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