WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 3: Bradley Beal #3 of the Washington Wizards and Marcin Gortat #13 of the Washington Wizards high five during the game against the New York Knicks on January 3, 2018 at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC.
Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Wizards' third quarter defense sparks 121-103 win

Beal, Wall, and Gortat combined for 73 points in the win
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In their first game of 2018, the Wizards put away the Knicks in the second half en route to an 121-103 win. The Wizards won their fifth straight game at home and third in a row overall by holding the Knicks to only 40 points in the second half. Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 25 points on 11-of-14 shooting and six assists. John Wall had 25 points and nine assists and Marcin Gortat scored a season-high 21 points along with eight rebounds.

The Wizards started hot in Wednesday’s game, making 11 of their first 13 field goal attempts. Gortat and Beal led the Wizards with eight points each in the opening period, making all seven of their combined field goals. The Knicks also shot 59.1% in the quarter, but the Wizards made 65.0% of their field goals and led by one heading into the second. Both teams were working hard in the paint with 38 of 65 combined points down low, which would become a theme of the game.

New York started the second quarter on a 9-1 run, but the Wizards countered back soon after with a 12-2 run of their own to retake the lead 49-47 on a Beal triple. Gortat and Beal continued to pace the Wizards with 14 and 18 points respectively at the half. Wall also added nine points and three assists, including a buzzer-beating shot to conclude the half, 64-63 Wizards. Both teams shot 25-of-43 (58.1%) in the first half overall, and both even had 32 points in the paint on 16-of-23 shooting down low. The Wizards did have eight turnovers for 13 points in the first half, including five for 11 points in the second quarter.

Kristaps Porzingis would score 14 points in the first half, but the Wizards held him to only two points on 1-of-6 shooting in the second half. Porzingis averages almost 24 points per game, and the Wizards made him take tough shots and fouled him when he had good looks.

The Wizards’ defense started to really click in the third quarter, giving up only 14 points. It was the team’s best defensive third quarter of the season, forcing six straight stops out of the locker room and six turnovers in the quarter. The Wizards would open the second half on a 20-5 run, as Beal, Gortat, and Wall combined for 21 more in the third. Washington would hold the Knicks to only 6-of-21 (28.6%) shooting in the third, including three blocks and four steals.

"I think the biggest key was that we stayed in front of the basketball," Scott Brooks said postgame. "I want to say we gave up 16 or 17 layups in that first half and they only had 20 points in the paint in the second half. That was the key–we stayed aggressive on the basketball. We stayed in front of our man and we didn’t give up the offensive rebounds. And we didn’t give up the paint like we did in the first half. It was a layup line.”

Michael Beasley’s 13 points in the fourth quarter made things interesting, but the Wizards were able to put away the Knicks late. Markieff Morris, who had first double-double of the season, and Tomas Satoransky each had seven points in the final quarter. The Wizards finished the game shooting a season-high 59.3% from the field. The Wizards are 17-4 this season when they shoot 45.0% or better from the field and 10-2 when shooting 50.0% or better.

“I think we just came out more focused," Gortat said of the team's second half success. "Determination was at the high level. Everybody contributed and everybody was playing good defense and we executed offensively too.”

Beal, the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week, had his 28th game with 20 or more points. He had his most efficient game of the season by making 11-of-14 field goals, but his passing was also impressive. It was Beal’s 19th game this season with at least 25 points, tied for the seventh-most total games in the NBA this season. Wall had his highest-scoring game since November 22 against the Hornets and made 9-of-18 field goals in the win. He fell just short of a double-double, but Wall’s playmaking off of turnovers was essential to the team’s 20-5 run in the third quarter.

Gortat’s performance was the biggest for the Wizards, as he hadn’t scored more than 12 points since an 18-point game on November 13 against the Kings. Gortat won the matchup with Enes Kanter (12 points) down low and made 9-of-10 field goals in his best offensive game of the season.

“I told him every game. Listen, every game is going to be different," Wall said of Gortat's season-high. "Sometimes they trap me and Brad in pick-and-rolls, where you going to be the guy making the plays or you have a layup or make the assist. I think he just finished. He made his first jump shot at the free throw line and when those were going in the basket he kind of just found a rhythm.”

"When he rolls he has layups and John was able to find him for easy buckets," Brooks said of Gortat. "We needed all of his points, we needed his defense. He had a tough matchup with (Enes) Kanter, who is playing well, and I thought he did a good job, especially in that second half.”

Next up, the Wizards (22-16) head to Memphis for a Friday 9:30pm national TV game in the first of a back-to-back.