Wizards play best game of season in blowout of Phoenix Suns originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The Washington Wizards beat the Phoenix Suns 128-107 on Monday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down…
Best game so far
Just when the Wizards appeared to be at their lowest, at 2-8 with a string of bad injury news, they picked themselves up off the mat and responded with a convincing blowout victory over the Phoenix Suns.
This isn’t your usual Suns team, either. They carried their momentum from the bubble into this season and entered Monday night tied for the second-best record in the NBA at 7-3. They have loads of young talent and now future Hall of Famer Chris Paul to tie it all together.
The Wizards blasted the Suns right away, leading by 14 after the first quarter and by 26 at halftime. They went up by as many as 32 points in this game, which was without question their best win start-to-finish of the season so far. They also beat the Brooklyn Nets, who are good, but required some luck at the end to pull it off.
Bradley Beal was brilliant with 34 points (12-22 FG), nine assists, eight rebounds, two steals, a block and just one turnover. It was his first game back after missing Saturday’s loss in COVID-19 protocol. Beal became just the fourth player since 1976 to begin a season with at least 10 games scoring 25 points or more.
The Wizards got the win despite missing Russell Westbrook and Thomas Bryant from their starting lineup. This was the first game since Bryant suffered a partially torn ACL in his left knee.
The Wizards are now 3-8 as they look ahead to the Jazz on Wednesday. The Jazz are about as good as the Suns, which should give the Wizards a chance to show some consistency. You did it once, now do it again and prove it wasn’t a fluke.
Huge first half
The Wizards paved the way for this win with their best first half in years. They jumped all over the Suns right away and never trailed. They led by as many as 32 points and were up 26 at halftime, their biggest lead at the half since October of 2017 when they led the Kings by 31.
It was total and absolute domination. The Wizards shot 8-for-16 from three and have only three turnovers. Beal had 17 points and seven assists in the first half and Davis Bertans had 15 points. Robin Lopez had 10 points and nine boards.
Given how many times the Wizards have been blasted by teams early in games, this was a nice change of pace. No need for a comeback in this one.
They played defense!
A blowout win for the Wizards in recent years has usually meant they just scored a ton of points, but in this game they also played sound defense. Though they got away with a few plays where they left shooters open, for the most part the Wizards did a much better job forcing misses by contesting shots.
The key area was the 3-point line, as Phoenix shot just 4-for-27 from long range. The Wizards came into this game allowing teams to shoot 39.6% from three, the second-highest percentage in the league. In their last game on Saturday, they let Miami make nine threes in the first quarter alone. Clearly, an adjustment was made.
Bertans was on fire
Bertans has had an up-and-down start to the season, admittedly by him due to his conditioning. He arrived at camp late and has taken more time than other players to get up to speed.
While he had some good games before this one, Monday was his breakout game of the season so far. He came out scorching and made his first five threes. Most were of the catch-and-shoot variety, including one from way downtown off an offensive rebound by Lopez.
Bertans’s 15 points in the first half came in 13 minutes and they were pivotal in helping the Wizards build their lead. It was a perfect example of what the Wizards see as Bertans’ ideal role; a microwave scorer off the bench who can take a lead from the starters and turn it into a blowout.
Bertans had 18 points and 6-for-9 from three.
Lopez, Wagner stepped up
With Bryant out, much of the attention was on how Lopez and Moe Wagner would step up to fill the void. Both did essentially exactly what the Wizards hope they can provide moving forward. Lopez had 11 points and 11 rebounds (seven offensive) in his first double-double since March of 2019. And Wagner had nine points and four rebounds in about 19 minutes as his back-up.
Both players kept it simple in their new roles. Lopez played smart and physical, pushing his weight around in the lane and making the Suns pay for giving him open shots around the rim. Wagner set good screens, made some good plays around the rim, knocked down an open three and defended without fouling.
All in all, it was a good start for those guys. Now they just have to do it against Rudy Gobert, the two-time defensive player of the year who awaits them on Wednesday.