Three thoughts on the Wizards’ 101-94 preseason win over the Miami Heat in Kansas City:
Bradley Beal was healthy enough for action after tweaking his ankle on Monday, but a tough night could’ve made him second guess the decision to play. Ultimately, the rookie had plenty of reasons to hold his head high after the final whistle. Beal opened the game by giving up a weak shooting foul to Dwyane Wade – who made him look silly more than once – got his pocket picked carelessly by Chris Bosh and committed an offensive foul that forced him to the bench.
Beal opened the second half with a steal and block and finished the night with nine points, four boards, a couple assists and three steals total. NBA games aren’t won or lost in the first quarter. Beal picked up himself up, shook off his troubles and was far more composed after halftime. If that’s the kind of growth he can show in the course of one game, there’s plenty to expect during the season.
Beal closed the game with his final pickoff and converted the game’s final points with an uncontested slam dunk.
Speaking of Wade, Bosh and LeBron James – Chris Singleton and Martell Webster were energetic and effective. The Big Three ran the Wizards ragged, especially early, when the Heat just couldn’t miss from the floor. James’ one-handed dribble between his legs to shake Trevor Ariza may have been the highlight of the night.
Wade, meanwhile, ended up in a brief standoff with Singleton following a play in which Wade had swung his elbow with the ball with Singleton’s head just underneath his arm. Two plays later, Singleton drove by Wade and ended the spat with a monster slam. That wasn’t the only solid contribution from Singleton, who strengthened his argument for minutes in the frontcourt by knocking down his midrange jumper and finishing in transition. A 7-for-11 shooting night gave him 17 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes.
Webster led the Wizards with 23 points – the same amount scored by Wade – running the floor effectively and getting to the rim. One has to wonder if he becomes the sixth man, if not the starter on the wing, by the time Tuesday’s opener at Cleveland comes around.
What was most noticeable about the performance of Webster and Singleton was the contrast to Ariza, who was 0-for-6 from the field and finished with three points. He still hasn’t had a notable game in the preseason and doesn’t appear comfortable, especially in traffic at the offensive end of the floor. By seniority and salary, Ariza is supposed to be the starter at small forward. But he hasn’t earned it yet with his play.
No, the Wizards don’t have the reigning NBA champions’ number even though they’ve beat them in the teams’ last three meetings. What they may have is a deeper roster from 1-15, with far more guys down the bench who have to believe there still might be a place for them not only on the roster in the regular season, but also the rotation.
In particular, Brian Cook (five points, five rebounds, two assists), Jan Vesely (four points, 11 boards) and Shelvin Mack (four points in the final five minutes – the only ones he played) all were solid as Washington took and held the lead late in the final quarter. There isn’t a player in that group that can fully expect crunch time run once the games count. But this is a solid characteristic for the Wizards roster going forward, something that hopefully can make them more competitive during the season, not less.