Washington Wizards Three Takes: Wizards Avoid Disastrous Loss To Kings In Overtime

Mar 10, 2017; Sacramento, CA, USA; Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) drives to the basket against Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield (24) during the first quarter at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 10, 2017; Sacramento, CA, USA; Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) drives to the basket against Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield (24) during the first quarter at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports /

Washington Wizards overcame a double-digit deficit against the Sacramento Kings on Friday night, moving up to the second spot in the East.

The Washington Wizards have beaten elite teams this season – the Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Clippers, to name a few – which is typically an indication of a team’s status.

Washington has gained enough momentum to seriously challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers in the postseason. Losing to lottery-bound teams like the Sacramento Kings would be detrimental to the strength Washington’s built.

On Friday night in Sacramento, the Wizards found themselves down by double-digit points. They allowed the DeMarcus Cousins-less Kings to gain confidence by failing to contest shots on the perimeter. Ben McLemore and Anthony Tolliver sparked a run and it seemed as if the Wizards were collapsing.

Then the Wizards reminded themselves what was at stake: the second spot in the East.

Behind Bradley Beal‘s 38 points and 10 rebounds, the Wizards dug themselves out of the hole and gained a lead of their own.

Unable to close it out in regulation, Washington’s backcourt put the nail in Sacramento’s coffin in overtime, securing another victory on the road, 130-122.

The bench led the charge

For the vast majority of the season, Washington’s starting unit carried the entire team. The bench was unreliable and didn’t have much of an identity. Now, the roles have kind of reversed.

The starters have come out flat, relying on the bench to bail them out.

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Jason Smith, who’s been in and out of the lineup, single handedly cut into the Kings’ lead in the third quarter.

Smith made all 4 of his shot attempts, all of which came at a time when the Wizards desperately needed to find their offense.

Brandon Jennings did a solid job of being patient, finding Smith open near the 3-point line.

Smith also made a 3-point shot in the corner, giving Washington the lead in the fourth quarter.

Ian Mahinmi, once again, outplayed Marcin Gortat in limited action.

Scott Brooks leaned on Mahinmi late in the game as he was able to prevent the Kings from scoring inside. He also scored multiple times down low, contributing to Washington’s late scoring run.

Bojan Bogdanovic also scored 17 points off the bench, but missed all 5 of his tries from deep. While he’s billed as a “3-point shooter,” Bogdanovic knows how to utilize his size and score off the dribble.

Defense has slipped

Washington made Darren Collison and Willie Cauley-Stein look like Chris Paul and Tyson Chandler.

The two connected on numerous lobs and the Wizards didn’t have an answer. Whenever the Wizards hit a tough shot from the perimeter down the stretch, the Kings replied with an alley-oop.

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Brooks went with Gortat, then Mahinmi, then Markieff Morris. None of them prevented the lobs.

Cauley-Stein had a career game, scoring 20 points with 13 rebounds.

That sort of uncommitted defense won’t translate well to the playoffs. The guards, including Wall and Beal, have to do a better job of stopping penetration, which leads to the lob.

On one possession, Beal fell for a pump fake by Collison, allowing him to drive and find Cauley-Stein at the rim. That’s just a matter of paying attention to the scouting report.

Cauley-Stein is one dimensional. There’s no reason why he dominated the game the way he did.

Washington has two closers

There are certain players that just have “it.” They’re not afraid to take big shots and the good ones make them when they matter.

Wall and Beal have it.

When the Wizards needed scoring, they got it from their star players. Beal hit a pull-up jump shot to tie the game up and then Wall followed it up with his own near the free throw line. Their willingness to take over games and play together in unison has made a tremendous difference for the Wizards.

Some teams – the elite ones, even – don’t have a single player on their roster that’s reliable in the clutch. Washington has two.

Next: Brooks Deserves Credit for Wizards' Historic Turnaround

Following Friday’s win, the Washington Wizards have moved up to second place in the Eastern Conference. They’ll take on the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night.