The question many Washington Wizards fans have asked lately, tongue-in-cheek or not, is whether the team is better without John Wall.
When the Wizards hosted defending the NBA champion Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night, they had to cope with having neither Wall nor Bradley Beal.
Unlike Wall, Beal wasn’t injured, but his teammates had to overcome a first half in which their leading scorer didn’t make a single shot. The Wizards kept it close and only trailed by two at the half despite Beal’s lack of production, but they didn’t have much of an answer for Golden State stars Kevin Durant and Steph Curry as the Warriors won, 109-101.
Washington is now 10-4 since Wall has been sidelined while recovering from knee surgery.
Otto Porter Jr. led the Wizards (36-26) with 29 points and 10 rebounds. He tied his season high in scoring, which, coincidentally, he set against the Warriors in their first matchup in October.
Durant finished with a game-high 32 points and Curry scored 25 for the Warriors (48-14). Draymond Green posted 11 points and 11 assists.
Supporting Porter for Washington was Kelly Oubre Jr. with 17 points and Morris with 16 points and nine boards. Beal finished with eight points, just his fifth game in single-figures this season.
“I was a little frustrated, but I don’t think it took me out of the game. They just did a good job defending me,” Beal said. “They took a lot of my shots away. They doubled, they switched. They’re long and athletic.”
Porter scored 11 points in the first six minutes with 3-for-4 3-point shooting and took six of the team’s first 11 attempts. But two Golden State blocks and two other Washington turnovers turned into six fast break points for the Warriors and pushed them into the lead.
Oubre and Tomas Satoransky hit shots to bring the Wizards within three, down 22-19, but Golden State ended the quarter on a 14-2 run over 2:22. A Curry-to-Durant alley-oop seemed to punctuate the quarter — that is, until the hole got deeper when Wizards coach Scott Brooks and Oubre drew technical fouls, on their way to a 36-21 Warriors lead at the first horn.
The Wizards started the second quarter playing their reserves as Beal and Porter sat for the first six minutes. After an even start, Washington put together a 10-0 run it sorely needed.
They kept one particular possession alive through two missed 3-point attempts, batting the ball tip-drill style. Tim Frazier grabbed both rebounds and Mike Scott eventually slammed it home. On the same run, Jodie Meeks scored the Wizards’ first fast-break points of the night.
The Washington run ended midway through the quarter, as soon as Beal and Porter returned to the floor for their first time of the period.
The Wizards didn’t move the ball much in the first half, but they still recorded 17 assists on 20 field goals. Oubre, Markieff Morris and Porter scored quick 3-pointers off the first pass to pull Washington all the way back late in the half. Satoransky scored the Wizards’ last five of the half, and he briefly put them ahead, but Golden State took a 58-56 lead into halftime.
Beal went 0-for-7 over the 16 minutes he played in the first half.
Golden State set the tone for the second half by opening on a 12-2 run, powered by five points and two assists from Durant. With the Wizards down 75-60, Beal hit a 3-pointer for his first points of the night, sparking eight straight for Washington.
But every time the Wizards put together a small run, the Warriors deflated their momentum. They created what amounted to a five-point play when Durant made a dunk and Curry stole Washington’s inbounds pass to turn it into a 3-pointer from the left corner. They held the Wizards to 14 points in the period on 6-for-19 shooting to make it an 85-70 lead after three.
“We mentally just kind of broke down a little bit, just simple mistakes on our part, and they’re a good team. They’re gonna capitalize off our mistakes,” Porter said about the third quarter.
The Wizards outscored their opponents 15-9 in the first five minutes of the fourth on the backs of Porter and Oubre, while Durant took a break on the bench. But the Warriors’ lead wasn’t in doubt the rest of the night, even as Morris and Porter continued hitting shots in the final minutes to tease the crowd.
At night’s end, Beal had a tone of quiet optimism in the locker room.
“I feel like we still did enough to compete and win the game. We were only down six with three minutes to go, and I had eight points,” he said. “I definitely put it on my shoulders for the loss, but at the end of the day, we still could’ve won the game.”
He later added that though the Wizards are done playing Golden State for the regular season, he hoped they’d meet again in the NBA Finals.
The loss came on the heels of a 107-104 Wizards win in Milwaukee the night before, making the Warriors showdown their third game in four nights. It was also Washington’s 15th straight game scoring at least 100 points, which they just barely eclipsed at the end of the night.
The Wizards stay at home for three more games, the next coming Friday night against the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Raptors.
• Adam Zielonka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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