Wizards Game Recap/Notes: Game #1. Wizards 120 - Sixers 115
Good win for the Wizards to open the season, as the Sixers hung around but a 4th quarter flurry gave them a large enough lead that the Sixers couldn't come back from.
I mean, what can you say about this guy? His 28 points could've been more efficient as it took 32 equivalents to get there, but that is really the only complaint that could be had with 8 assists, (against just 2 turnovers) 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, and a game high +19 on the night.
The Sixers did a good job of contesting him at the rim, especially in transition which was the main contributor to his inefficiency, but he still got plenty of buckets and stayed aggressive and didn't settle for too many jumpers despite the good rim protection. Avoiding too many turnovers was key as well and him and Gortat picked up right where they left off as a force in the pick and roll, and Wall found him with some great passes.
Defensively Wall was pretty much brilliant, he used his speed to make a few defensive plays that pretty much no one in the NBA other than him can make. When he is locked in on defense like he was last night he is one of the most destructive defensive forces in the NBA at the point guard position.
Other than wishing he had hit a few more shots than he did, there is nothing to complain about here. This game was the full John Wall experience where his entire arsenal was on full display.
Beal also wasn't as efficient as you would like (especially compared to his lofty standards in scoring efficiency) as his 25 points took 25 equivalents to reach, but there were a lot of tough buckets and it is hard to complain too much. Once you add in his 6 rebounds, 4 assists, (against 2 turnovers) 3 steals, and 1 block in 36 minutes and it was really a complete night for Beal. When I started re-watching Wizards games this offseason I was surprised by his defense and that really continued tonight. You don't really hear people talk about him as a defender much, and while he isn't likely to be making an All-Defense team anytime soon, he has good length and he actually seems to care which can take you a long ways on that end. He had a slow start scoring the ball but started to get going as the game progressed and he combined with Wall to make some really big plays down the stretch.
Much like Wall, you would like him to be a bit more efficient scoring, but still a really great and complete performance from Beal. There is also something that is just really great about opening the season where your two stars have big games.
The newly rich Porter kept up the theme of Wall and Beal. He wasn't as efficient as you would hope as he scored just 10 points on 11 shots in his 33 minutes, but with 8 rebounds, 3 steals, a block, and generally playing his usual good defense and it is hard to complain too much about his play. He didn't get overly involved in the offense after a few early buckets, but he continued to be largely the perfect complimentary player who doesn't need plays run for him and generally does all of the little things that help you win games.
Side note: When catching up on last year, Porter impressed me a ton. He is overpaid, but he isn't just good role player who happened to shoot really well from three in a contract year, (which is kind of what I had thought he was) he is an awesome player off the ball who cuts, finishes, and has a nice array of floaters and half hooks for in-between stuff. He also has a good knack for getting the occasional offensive rebound.
Only played 7 minutes as he got hurt. Hopefully he isn't out for long since the Wizards are already thin up front with Morris out for another couple weeks. He didn't really do anything of note in his 7 minutes other than have Embiid try to end him.
Gortat looks like he will keep right on chugging as one of the more solid, and all around reliable centers in the game. His final line was impressive with 16 points on 13 equivalents, with 17 rebounds, 1 assist, and 3 blocks. He also played some very solid defense of Joel Embiid. He also remains one of the most under-appreciated roll men in the NBA since he isn't a great leaper, but he has great hands and nice touch around the rim. Excellent outing for Gortat.
Kelly Oubre Jr:
I don't know how much I believe in it to last, but for at least one night Oubre was everything that the Wizards could hope for from him, and if Smith misses any extra time it will be important that he can remain around this level. He scored 14 points on 11 equivalents (including 3 of 6 from 3) with 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks in 32 minutes of play. He generally showed a confidence on the offensive end that was not often present last year, while also looking like he is only going to build on the flashes of defensive brilliance he showed last year. I especially like the way that he was deployed as a crasher of the offensive glass from the corner, which Jeff Van Gundy highlighted for us. Oubre doesn't have the size to beat any good box out, but if he can get a running start he is certainly a good enough athlete to get you an extra possession or two, and if he is able to be effective out of those crashes then teams will have to pay more attention to him in that corner even if his shooting remains bad this year.
Defensively he was an absolute menace, he has the perfect combination of length, athleticism, and competitiveness to be a great defender. He will likely still struggle a bit against more physical players given his slight frame, but with Porter and Morris on the roster the Wizards have other options to take those so it shouldn't be a big problem.
Meeks staying healthy is one of the best chances the Wizards bench has to be competent this year, and he got off to a decent start. Scoring 14 points on 12 equivalents in just 19 minutes. It is particularly nice that it looks like the past few injury-riddled years have not robbed him of his ability to draw way more fouls than he has any right to as he went 7 of 7 from the line. While playing with a bench like the Wizards that ability becomes extra valuable since it slows the game down to give the all-important starters a little extra rest. I have very little faith that he will stay healthy the whole year, but while he plays he will really help the Wizards bench avoid disaster.
Another guy who hopefully helps to keep the bench from cratering had a fine opening to his season with 7 points on 7 equivalents with 3 boards in 15 minutes. He is kind of a goofy player in today's NBA as a undersized 4 who isn't a very good shooter, but in small doses his athleticism and skills can do some good things for you.
Ian really struggled to defend Joel Embiid, which isn't much of a surprise to anyone. Other than that, he scored 6 points on a perfect 3 of 3 from the field which was nice along with his 4 rebounds and 1 block. The problem is that he committed 4 fouls in just 14 minutes, but I'm not going to complain too much about that given that Embiid figures to do that sort of thing to a lot of guys this year.
The new backup to John Wall got off to a decent, but not great, start. He scored no points as he missed his only shot, but did notch 5 assists against 2 turnovers in 13 minutes. Tough to take too much from it in the end. I expect him to be fine more than not this year, but time will tell.
Even though the bench all finished with minuses on the night (while the starters were all big pluses) I actually thought the bench mob played pretty well. They mostly lost ground for a stretch when the Sixers got a few minutes of all their starters going against an all bench mob, which I would say is more on Scott Brooks than the bench mob since bench mobs will give ground against the opponents starters.
It was super encouraging to see Oubre look confident on offense, because if he can end up being even a net-neutral on offense then the Wizards have themselves a real player in him. Once again it would be nice to have a little bit better efficiency, and ideally you shoot more than 22 three pointers, but a good win non-the-less. Hopefully Smith doesn't miss much time, but if Oubre can keep up his play they should be ok.