Wall-less Wizards End Thunder’s Eight-Game Winning Streak
Kelly Oubre Jr. of the Wizards serves a facial dunk over Thunder's Josh Huestis. Washington Wizards defeated Oklahoma Thunder 102-96 at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, January 30, 2018. Robert Eubanks/DC Sports Box
WASHINGTON, D.C. - With more than half of the season’s games in the books, one thing
 is certain, the Wizards identity as a team is still a challenge to understand. The same team that has consistently struggled against mediocre opponents, including a 23-point loss to the Mavericks last week, is the same team that defeated one of the hottest teams in the NBA on Tuesday night, while playing without their All-Star point guard, John Wall.
 
Hours before the game, it was announced that Wall would be undergoing an arthroscopic debridement procedure on his left knee, which will keep him out for six to eight weeks. The writing seemed to be on the wall with pundits predicting the Wizards may drop out of the playoff race all together.

With the Thunder in town and no All-Star point guard to lead the team, nobody could have predicted how the game would turn out. The Thunder came in riding an eight-game winning streak, the longest active streak in the NBA, during which they averaged a +12.3 point differential. In fact, just five days earlier, the Thunder had defeated the Wizards despite Wall and Bradley Beal combining for 62 points and 19 assists. The Wizards in particular had not looked strong with Wall off the court, amassing a 6-6 record, while seeing the team’s net efficiency drop from 4th to 22nd compared to when Wall played.

In spite of what the stats said coming into the game, the Wizards used a team-approach to slow the Thunder’s offense and pull out a 102-96 victory.

“Everybody contributed to the win tonight – everybody,” said Beal. “Our point guards, Tomas [Satoransky] and Tim [Frazier], did a great job running the show. We did a great job of guarding defensively, getting stops when we needed to and we closed it out.”

The game script could not have been better written had this been a Hollywood movie. Satoransky, who was tasked with helping fill Wall’s shoes, held Russell Westbrook in check throughout the game, and made a thunderous block from behind that got the crowd fired up. Westbrook was limited to 5-for-18 from the field and 13 points, to go along with 7 turnovers.

In the game’s waning moments, who else but Satoransky came up clutch again for the Wizards. With 39 seconds left and the game tied at 96, Satoransky came up with a steal and was fouled. He calmly stepped to the line and sank two free throws to give the Wizards a lead they would not relinquish.

Satoransky went 0-for-4 from the field but finished with 4 points, 6 assists, and 2 steals. The Wizards had five players finish in double figure with Otto Porter leading the way with 25 points and 6 rebounds.

Wizards' Bradley Beal shoots a floater against Thunder's Carmelo Anthony. Washington Wizards defeated Oklahoma Thunder 102-96 at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, January 30, 2018. Robert Eubanks/DC Sports Box
The Wizards rolled out to an early 30-25 lead at the end of the
 first quarter behind a 5-for-7 shooting performance from beyond the arc. The team displayed good ball movement early with 10 of their first 11 field goals coming off assists. The team significantly cooled off in the second and third quarter, shooting 29.4% from the field, and going 1-for-13 from beyond the arc during that span, before recovering in the fourth. 

“I think our spirit won the game,” said Wizards Coach Scott Brooks. “We fought, we battled, we clawed. We didn't complain–we just played. How many times can you shoot 38 percent and have 27 assists? That means the ball was moving around and shot distribution was great.”

Pause for Porter:

The Wizards had a scare in the second half when Porter went down to the floor on one knee after a play. He left the game and was taken to the locker room before returning and leading the Wizards with 8 points in the fourth quarter.

“He fell down. I don't know if he got bumped in the shoulder or bumped in the face,” said Coach Brooks. “I don't know. I didn't even ask. I just said let me know when he comes back in. Otto's a player. He loves to play, and he's been a big part of our last two wins and I thought he made timely shots, timely stops and I thought he was terrific.”

Curious George:

The Wizards had their hands full with Paul George all game. George went 7-for-11 for 20 points in the first half before being held to 8 points in the second half. He went scoreless in the fourth quarter as he did not get a shot off.

Carmelo Anthony said the team did not have good game awareness in the second half and should have taken greater strides to getting George the ball.

“I did not think we did a great job at that today, but we will get back to that, get back to finding Paul [George], making sure that he is involved and we talked about that he, Russ [Russell Westbrook] and I after the game today, and everybody seems to be on the same page and understand what we have to do to win games,” said Anthony.

Upcoming Games:

The Wizards are at home against the Toronto Raptors on Thursday evening.

The Thunder are on the road against the Denver Nuggets on Thursday evening.
 
Written by Hirdesh Matta