A New Defensive Intensity
As was well documented over the course of the 2019-20 season, the Washington Wizards’ defense last season was flat out awful. Aside from Mo Wagner’s impressive knack for taking charges, the Wizards had absolutely no defensive identity last season, something head coach Scott Brooks vowed to change over the offseason with the additions of Russell Westbrook, Deni Avdija, and Robin Lopez. Holding the 76ers to under 60 points in the first half, the Wizards looked to have stepped in the right direction on the defensive end.
While all-star center Joel Embiid wreaked havoc down low, finishing with 29 points and 14 rebounds, the Wizards still looked much improved from a defensive standpoint overall, forcing 18 turnovers as well as seven total steals. Rookie Deni Avdija looked extremely comfortable in Washington’s defensive scheme, and Bradley Beal put up one of his best defensive performances in recent memory. Additionally, the Wizards opened the second half with a stifling defensive sequence, leaving Philadelphia scoreless for nearly the first six minutes of second-half play as the Wizards’ lead ballooned. Overall, the Wizards had a near nine-minute stretch from the end of the second quarter to the middle of the third where the 76ers did not make a single field goal, just five foul shots. That’s something that was simply unimaginable with last season’s team.
Unfortunately, the defense fell apart in the fourth as the 76ers erased Washington’s lead with a 40-point quarter. Still, they looked considerably better on the defensive end than they did all of last season. If the Wizards can continue to improve as they did on Wednesday, the team has the potential to shock people as a decent to good defensive force.