Wizards’ Bertans believes the team will be defined by how well they defend this season

For the Washington Wizards, last season’s struggles came down to the team’s inability to defend. Washington allowed 119.1 points per game, which was 29th in the NBA. In addition, the team was 29th in opponents’ field goal percentage(48.8). 

It isn’t easy to win in the NBA if you’re not defending, and Washington has to improve on that end of the court if they want to have success this season. 

Conversely, on the offensive side of the court, Washington was one of the top-scoring teams in the league. In the 2019-20 season, the Wizards averaged 114.7 points a contest, which was 7th in the NBA. 

Now, Washington will have more firepower with the addition of nine-time All-Star and former league MVP Russell Westbrook. You add that to what you got out of Bradley Beal last season, who was second in the NBA in points per game(30.5). Plus, they have arguably their best shooter back in Davis Bertans, who signed a five-year, $80 million contract this offseason, and was the team’s second-leading scorer last season(15.4 ppg).

With Westbrook and Beal, Bertans expects to get easier looks, and he expects the team to be tough to stop this season.

“I think it’s just going to be easier for everybody in a sense,” Bertans said on Wednesday. “There’s a lot of defensive attention toward Brad(Beal), and now having Russ(Westbrook), too. We got, I think, more shooters. Everybody improved in the summer. You can see that Rui(Hachimura) is making threes. Deni(Avidja) is a pretty good shooter, so I think, in that case, it’s going to be a lot easier for Brad and Russ to attack the rim, and the defense has to pay more attention to them, and everybody else going to be open around the perimeter. So, I think the team is built, offensively, pretty great.”

However, according to Bertans, Washington has to play better defense if they want to have a productive season.

“It’s going to be more on what we going to do on the defensive end,” Bertans said. “How we’re going to talk on defense. How hard we’re going to play on defense. That’s going to be the main differential on whether we’re going to win games or lose games.”

Defense wins championships, and Washington has to be committed to defending this season if they want to make the playoffs and contend in the Eastern Conference, which means the back end of the defense has to be better, especially C Thomas Bryant, who will be called on to anchor the defense. Adding a defensive center in Robin Lopez should help, but time will tell if it will be enough for Washington to improve on the defensive end next season.

Wizards’ Hachimura on loss to Nets: ‘We needed this game badly’

Coming into the NBA bubble in Orlando, the Washington Wizards(24-42) had an outside shot of making the playoffs, but after losing to the Brooklyn Nets(31-35) 118-110 on Sunday, it’s going to be an uphill climb for the Wizards.

Brooklyn’s Caris LeVert led the way with 34 points, Joe Harris added 27 points, and Jarrett Allen added 22 points and 15 rebounds. Washington’s Thomas Bryant finished with a season and team-high 30 points and 13 rebounds, including a career-high four three-pointers.

This was a must-win game for the Wizards, and at this point, Washington is seven games behind the Nets for the eighth and final spot in the playoffs. With six games left, the Wizards must get within four games of the eighth-seed to force a play-in game.

“We needed this game badly,”  Rui Hachimura said after the game. “And all of us are frustrated with the loss, but we have another game coming up tomorrow. So, we just have to switch gears.”

Hachumura struggled on Sunday and finished with 9 points. Brooklyn swarmed the rookie any time he touched the ball. Hachimura finished the game with only six field goal attempts.

“They made life difficult for me,” Hachumura said. “At times, they swarmed me with double-teams, triple-teams. I feel like there weren’t many opportunities for me to shoot the ball today.”

The first two seeding games against the Suns and Nets were very winnable games for Washington. The next two games will be tough, as they have Indiana on Monday and Philadelphia on Wednesday. After another tough loss, it should be interesting to see what Wizards team shows up on Monday. Don’t be surprised if this team has a big-time effort against the Pacers.

Notes:

Troy Brown Jr. nearly had a triple-double on Sunday. Brown finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists.

Thomas Bryant registered season highs in points (30), rebounds (13) and made field goals (12) Sunday against Brooklyn. Bryant’s 30 points were one shy of tying a career-high. Bryant made a career-high four 3-pointers, all of which came in the first half.

“I just took what the defense gave me,” Bryant said after the game. “My teammates had the confidence in me to knock down those shots. They kept telling me to take them, and I took them.”

 

Wizards’ Hachimura: ‘Our defense was kind of weak’

The new-look Washington Wizards played their first seeding game on Friday, and unfortunately for them, a lot of things were the same. Washington(24-41) was able to score, but they had a hard time stopping the Phoenix Suns(27-39), and they would fall 125-112.

Phoenix was led by Devin Booker’s 27 points and Deandre Ayton, who scored 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Phoenix was able to score with ease against Washington’s defense and scored 38 points in the first quarter and 36 points in the fourth quarter. According to Wizards head coach Scott Brooks, the Wizards played nervous in that first quarter.

“That first quarter we gave up backdoors, offensive rebounds, blow byes,” Brooks said after the game. “It looked like we were a little nervous. It surprises me. We have not played that way yet. I thought we regrouped and played much better in that second half.”

Rui Hachimura added: “Our defense was kind of weak. We gave them easy baskets.”

Without Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans, Washington has little margin for error. They need everybody to do their part if they want to be successful, and that includes Hachimura, who led the team with 21 points but was out of rhythm after picking up two quick fouls in the first quarter. Jerome Robinson added 20 points off the bench for Washington, including 4-6 from downtown. 

Washington is a very young team, so what we saw against the Suns should not be surprising. However, they have to do a better job of defending.

Fortunately for the Wizards, they get right back at it on Sunday against the Brooklyn Nets(lost to Magic on Friday), which is the most winnable game on their schedule and the team they’re chasing for the playoffs. If the Wizards want to make the playoffs, they have to beat the eighth-seeded Nets. Currently, Brooklyn has a six-game lead on the Wizards, and Washington must trail the eighth-seeded team by four games or less to force a play-in game. 

Friday’s contest was a disappointment for Washington, but they still have time to make it right, and it starts with Brooklyn on Sunday. 

 

 

Wizards’ Brooks impressed with the play of Hachimura against Nuggets

On Wednesday, the Washington Wizards got their first taste of life without Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans, and while they would fall to the Denver Nuggets 89-82, in the team’s first scrimmage, there were some bright spots.

Rookie Rui Hachimura played very well for Washington. He was able to get anywhere he wanted on the floor. Hachimura was 6-14 from the field and scored 18 points, along with nine rebounds. The 14 field goal attempts were a team-high. 

Hachimura shined, and Wizards head coach Scott Brooks was happy about what he saw from him against Denver.

“I thought he was good,” Brooks said about Hachimura after the game. “He was obviously aggressive. He got good shots. He gets to his spot. I love this about his game. He gets to his spots, and he gets on balance, and he takes the shot. Those are very high percentage shots. He just needs to keep doing that. There’s going to be games where he doesn’t have the high in shots.

“I like the way he played tonight. I was really pleased how he came back. You can just see that he just has a good feel for the game for being a young player in the league.”

Hachimura is going to get a lot of touches in Orlando. He is the team’s best weapon, and without Beal and Bertans, Hachimura knows he and others have to do more on the offensive end for Washington to be successful. 

“John(Wall) is not here, Brad(Beal) is not here, and DB(Bertains) is not here,” Hachimura said after the game. “So, me, Ish(Smith), and TB(Troy Brown) gotta be the ones that gotta score a lot.”

Notes:

Troy Brown Jr. had a solid game against the Nuggets. He did it all for Washington as he scored 12 points, grabbed six rebounds, and dished out five assists. Ish Smith added 10 points off the bench for the Wizards. 

Washington’s next scrimmage is Saturday against the Clippers.

Bol Bol:

Nuggets rookie Bol Bol made his NBA debut on Wednesday. The 7-foot-2 Bol, who missed most of the season due to a foot injury, was impressive against the Wizards. The son of former NBA player Manute Bol had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Bol also added six blocks.

The Nuggets had only eight players available against Washington on Wednesday, and because of that, C Nikola Jokic started at point guard.

Watch Bol highlights below:

 

Hachimura believes the Wizards can make the playoffs if they play better defense

With 25 games left, the Washington Wizards still have a shot at making the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, which a huge accomplishment when you consider where many expected this team to finish.

Last night at Capital One Arena, the Wizards needed a late Jerome Robinson three to defeat the Brooklyn Nets 110-106 and snap a three-game losing streak. With the victory, Washington is 4.5 games behind the Magic for the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. 

If the Wizards want to make a run, they have to improve their defense. Scoring the basketball has not been the issue for the Wizards this season. Washington is fifth in points per game(115.7), but stopping teams has been an issue. The Wizards are last in points allowed per game(119.9), but according to rookie forward Rui Hachimura, if Washington can play better defense, the playoffs are a possibility.

“This game we really needed if we want to make the playoffs,” Hachimura said about the victory last night. “We go out West; it’s gonna be tough games. We gotta stick together and play more defense, and I think we gonna make the playoffs.”

Washington will go out west for a four-game road trip, which starts Friday in Utah against the Jazz. After Utah, the Wizards face the Warriors, Kings, and Blazers, who are all below .500, so Washington has a chance to win those games, and not lose too much ground to the Magic. 

When you consider the injury to John Wall, Washington has to be happy about what they’ve accomplished to this point. But, if they can find a way to make the playoffs, it would be exciting times in D.C.