OKLAHOMA CITY, OK- JANUARY 6: Bradley Beal #3 of the Washington Wizards handles the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder on January 6, 2018 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
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Wizards lock down on defense in 116-98 rout of Thunder

In the middle of a tough three-game road trip, the Wizards were ready to roll with the punches Sunday from a Thunder team that had won four of their last five. But after battling back from an early deficit, Bradley Beal and co. ended up throwing haymakers. With Beal’s 25 points leading the way, the Wizards rolled to a blowout 116-98 victory to get their first-ever win in Oklahoma City. The win was Washington’s first on the road in over a month and marked just the fifth home loss for the Thunder on the year.

The Wizards put together perhaps their most impressive performance of the season Sunday, and it all started with tremendous energy on the defensive end. Washington only shot a modest 43.6% from the field and only 27% from 3-point range, but dominated just about everywhere else. They demolished Oklahoma City 55-41 on the boards (including 16 offensive rebounds), recorded eight blocks and eight steals and only committed nine turnovers to the Thunder’s 14.

"Just effort," said Bradley Beal. "We did a good job of paying attention to the game plan, and on the scout knowing that this is one of the best teams at offensive rebounding and converting points off of turnovers. Those were our key emphases tonight and we limited our turnovers and the amount of offensive rebounds that they got.

"We made them take a lot of long twos versus in-the-paint shots, they are top five in the league in that too. Everything we needed to do we did collectively on the defensive end and on offense we just moved the ball, shared it, moved bodies, and took advantage of what they gave us.”

After trailing by as many as 11 early in the first quarter, Beal came alive with 11 points in the frame to lead the first of many Wizards runs (16-5) and put Washington by three after the first 12 minutes. That lead ballooned to as many as 11 in the first half with Washington leading by seven at the break as Beal recorded 18 points.

Oklahoma City answered after the break and briefly took a four-point lead, but Otto Porter Jr. made his return to full health known in the third quarter. He scored eight of his 20 points off the bench in the third, including critical 3-point shooting on a big 15-2 run to return the Washington lead to 11 late in the frame. The Wizards outscored the Thunder by seven in the third, thanks largely to consistent defensive energy. Thomas Bryant also added seven of his 14 points (seven rebounds) in the period.

Leading by 11 heading into the fourth quarter, veteran swiss-army knives Jeff Green (16 points) and Tomas Satoransky (15 points) guided the Wizards home down the stretch. The duo combined for 12 of Washington’s 26 points in the fourth, and Green led a 14-2 run to start the frame and deliver the knockout on the night. The rest of the Wizards’ bench unit of Ian Mahinmi (nine points, 10 rebounds, +29), Sam Dekker (six points, eight rebounds), and Chasson Randle (seven points, four rebounds, four assists, +30) did all of the little things right on the night to put the game away.

It’s only one game, but Sunday’s win could certainly be the blueprint the Wizards (now 16-24 on the season) will need if they’re to turn their season around without John Wall and with Markieff Morris and Dwight Howard still facing extended absences. Despite a size advantage, they dominated the second-best rebounding team in the NBA, and used defense to win without a great shooting night. Moreover, they took care of free throws and limited turnovers.

"It has to be up there," said head coach Scott Brooks on the importance of the win. "No question. I thought we battled one of the best teams in basketball. They've got a lot of talent. They have three All-Stars on the floor, and I thought we battled them and did a lot of things well. It's obviously a big win.

Tuesday, the Wizards will look to build momentum as they wrap up their road trip and start a home-and-home back-to-back in Philadelphia. Tip-off against the Sixers is set for 7:00 P.M.