What a win.
After squandering a nine point lead early on, it looked like the Washington Wizards were getting ready to lose another disappointing game on the road, but Bradley Beal came up big in the clutch, knocking down a contested mid-range shot to put Washington above the New York Knicks by one point, 90-89.
Bradley Beal made a game-winning layup against the Knicks earlier this season and given how bad New York’s defense has been this season, it’s no surprise that he was able to have another big game tonight. The Knicks were giving up open jumpers all game long, and luckily for Beal, he was able to find his rhythm right out of the gate. He knocked down a few shots off the dribble and eventually found his way to the basket. Besides the game-winning jumper he hit tonight, the most important bucket of the game came from Beal in transition as an and-1 dunk over J.R. Smith gave Washington the lead late in the game. Beal finished the game with 28 points and 5 rebounds and I thought he played a terrific overall game. He’s been able to string together a few very good games, so it was nice to see him continue that tonight at Madison Square Garden.
John Wall set the tempo early in the game, dishing out 5 assists in the first quarter to go along side a few uncontested jump shots. He finished the game with 19 points and 9 assists, but he did turn the ball over 7 times. Raymond Felton struggled to keep up with John Wall and I thought he could’ve scored the ball a lot more, but he opted to pass the ball even though he had open looks at the basket. Wall probably should’ve shot the ball tonight as he was way too passive, but I can see why he was looking for his teammates out on the perimeter since the Knicks failed to recover defensively for much of the game.
Marcin Gortat was also solid tonight, chipping in 13 points and 10 boards, but Trevor Ariza was undoubtedly tonight’s player of the game. Ariza wasn’t great on the offensive side of the floor, but he arguably had his best defensive performance tonight against Carmelo Anthony. Anthony scored just 10 points on 14 shots, his worst game of the season, and turned the ball over 9 times, not including a botched final possession. Ariza is asked to defend the opposing team’s best offensive player on a nightly basis and he did an absolutely terrific job against Anthony tonight. Needless to say, Ariza was marvelous.
With tonight’s loss and the Atlanta Hawks’ win, the Knicks have lost the 8th spot in the East. Washington struggled a bit from a shooting standpoint, but they certainly brought it on the defensive end. Trevor Ariza took Carmelo Anthony out of the game, and even though it looked like J.R. Smith would knock down every shot he’d take, Washington continued to fight and went on to win down the stretch. Wins like this show the progressive growth of the Wizards and I have no doubt they’ll use this to continue building momentum.