While Wizards looked better in opener, moral victories aren’t good enough now

Scott Brooks: 'No moral victories' for Wizards anymore originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

While it may have been refreshing for fans after they endured two losing seasons to see what is obviously an improved Wizards team on Wednesday night, they ended up losing to the Sixers and now losses feel different than they did one year ago. Or, at least they should feel different.

That adjustment may happen for fans over time, as they realize this is a new season and one with much higher expectations. But for those on the team, they already understand that reality and it showed in the urgency expressed after their season-opening defeat.

“The results matter. We’re not happy. There’s no moral victories,” head coach Scott Brooks said. “Last year, I thought we had just a different mindset. Not good or bad, we were just in a different place. This year, there are no moral victories. We have to come out and keep competing.”

Brooks, it is worth mentioning here, is coaching in the final year of his contract. So, you can understand why he’s not interested in celebrating a loss, no matter how impressive his team looked at times. 

And, there’s no question there were positives. Russell Westbrook had a triple-double in his debut with the team, a stat-line of 21 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds. Bradley Beal scored 31 points with relative ease and added four steals. Rookie Deni Avdija impressed in his NBA debut, Davis Bertans can still light it up from three and Isaac Bonga continues to emerge.

But the Wizards blew a 12-point lead and earned this loss, in particular with their 20 turnovers and 16-of-23 shooting night at the free throw line. The game was tied at 103-103 with just over a minute to go before the Sixers beat them to the buzzer with a 10-4 run to close out their win.

The Wizards made mistakes they won’t be able to get away with many nights, especially against a team like the Sixers.

“Not good enough. Honestly, I’m kind of disappointed in myself,” Westbrook said. “I had some mishaps and plays where I could have been better and had a better game to try to win. I don’t like moral victories at any point in my career. I always like to go out and try to win the game. I’ve gotta be better and I’ll be better next game.”

Westbrook has urgency to win, of course. First of all, he’s used to it, having been on playoff teams 10 out of the last 11 years. He’s also 32 now and understands he only has so much of his NBA prime left ahead of him.

Last season for the Wizards may have been a developmental year, where the progress of young players superseded wins and losses. But this year, there is no time to waste. They have to win, as jobs and legacies depend on it. The future of the organization depends on it.

If they play the way they did on Wednesday night, and clean up a few things here and there, they should be in good shape. Most notable about the game was their defense, which was ranked dead-last in 2019-20. They held Philly scoreless for the first 5:54 of the third quarter. The Sixers only made eight threes and shot 28.6 percent from long range.

That was an encouraging sign, regardless of the loss. Maybe that’s why Beal was slightly more positive than Brooks and Westbrook after the defeat.

“No moral victories, but I liked the way we played,” he said. “We got down early and fought back.”

Next time, they just need to see it through to the end.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

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