Back home but still rolling, the Wizards take down the NBA-worst Timberwolves
By Ava Wallace,
Scott Brooks left his rejuvenated Washington Wizards with a simple, straightforward charge in the locker room Thursday night in Denver after they closed their road trip out west with a 3-1 record.
“Got to take care of home,” the coach said.
The Wizards listened.
Washington returned to Capital One Arena on Saturday night with its hot streak in tow, and it defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves, 128-112, to notch its seventh win in eight games. The Wizards (13-18) again struggled at the beginning, turning in a clunky first half, but against the league-worst Timberwolves (7-27), all their slow start did was make a third-quarter takeover look that much more impressive.
Bradley Beal came out of the locker room after halftime and, spurred by some trash talk from Minnesota guard Josh Okogie, unleashed an onslaught. The all-star starter pulled up for three-pointers, stutter-stepped through the paint to hit jumpers at challenging angles and hustled for his own rebounds to dish to teammates.
Washington had 44 points in the third quarter after Beal — who had 17 in the period — helped get the offense churning.
“That was big,” Beal said when asked how significant it was to put away Minnesota with minimal fuss. “In years past or maybe earlier this year, we probably would’ve played down to the level of the competition. That’s no knock on them — I think we would’ve lowered our level of play versus how we’ve been playing the last six of seven. Honestly, I think we kind of did it the first half, and [Russell Westbrook] actually said something at halftime — just keep guys engaged, don’t play down to the level of our competition, just control what we can control, play our style of basketball — and I think that’s what we did.”
Westbrook did his part and then some, logging his 10th triple-double of the season before the fourth quarter even started. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Saturday’s game was the 46th time Westbrook had logged a triple-double through three quarters. In the past 25 seasons, his former teammate James Harden has the next most with 13.
Beal led all scorers with 34 points and added eight rebounds and six assists. Westbrook had 19 points — all from two-point field goals and free throws — to go with 14 rebounds and 12 assists.
The all-star guards weren’t hot from the perimeter, but their supporting cast lent a helping hand there. After shooting 15.4 percent from three-point range in the first half, the Wizards rebounded to finish at 39.4 percent thanks to Garrison Mathews (3 for 4; 18 points) and Davis Bertans (5 for 11; 19 points).
Bertans played limited minutes after missing Thursday’s game with right knee soreness and helped solidify his team’s lead with a pair of threes near the end of the third quarter.
Washington’s rebounding was just as critical as its offense in keeping Minnesota quiet after halftime. The Timberwolves had seven offensive rebounds in the first quarter but ended the game with 12.
“[The offensive rebounds] gave them a little bit of juice, and we cleaned that up,” Brooks said. “I think they had one in the second quarter, maybe two, and they got only a couple in the second half. That was the big difference, and then we got hot in that third quarter.”
Minnesota had come to Washington with the new coach it hired Monday, Chris Finch, but without starting guard Malik Beasley, who averages 20.5 points. Beasley began his 12-game suspension Saturday after pleading guilty to a felony count of threats of violence following an incident in September.
Yet despite the Timberwolves having multiple kinks to work out, the Wizards couldn’t take advantage right away. Minnesota’s defense sagged in to crowd the lane, allowing Washington open — but fruitless — looks from the perimeter and making the Wizards work to get to the rim.
They looked so out of sorts in their first home game in 10 days that Brooks said the best thing about the first half was having center Thomas Bryant back on the bench, in street clothes, for the first time since he tore his left ACL on Jan. 9. Bryant was just as energetic on the sideline as he usually is in games, tearing the cap off his head in celebration at one point in the third quarter after his teammates started rolling.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Washington was so in control that Brooks was able to sit his starters ahead of Sunday’s visit to Boston. Backup point guard Raul Neto also came out of the game with a left knee contusion with 4:24 to play; Brooks said he did not think Neto’s injury was serious but could not say for certain.
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