WASHINGTON -- That heartbreaking, overtime home loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers one week prior would send most teams into dip, if not a tailspin. Not the Washington Wizards.
Three games later, the Wizards have added three more wins to their record with the latest, 120-98 over the Russell Westbrook-led Oklahoma City Thunder, among their most resounding.
Plenty of game and big picture thoughts from myself and the Washington Post's Jerry Brewer on the latest Locked on Wizards podcast, but here are three quick takeaways in written form:
1) Damn, these guys are good -- Sure, that seems obvious at 32-21 and considering they've won three straight, 10 of 11 overall and 19 of 20 at home. Heck, the Wizards are an Eastern Conference-best 17-5 since Jan. 1. But let's focus on the last three after that Cleveland loss. Nitpick about difficulties putting away Brooklyn if you must, but they did win and then took down likely playoff teams in Indiana and Oklahoma City. The latest win was completely one-sided and familiar. All five starters scored in double figures led by Markieff Morris (23 points) and Bradley Beal, who had 22 on just eight attempts. Sinking 6 of 7 from 3-point range helps. John Wall orchestrated it all with 15 points, 14 assists and the pass of the game (season?).
Beating a notable foe is one thing. Doing so consistently even when a letdown performance might be expected if not forgiven by onlookers is something else.
2) Fuss with Russ -- Westbrook leads the NBA in scoring and is averaging a triple-double on the season. That type of player demands attention and the Wizards gave him plenty. After scoring 13 points in the first quarter, the All-Star only had four the rest of the way on 1 of 12 shooting.
“It definitely starts with [Westbrook], containing him as much as possible," Beal said of the defensive plan. "Keeping him out of the paint and making him take a lot of tough jumpers. That is the game we want him to play. He was not comfortable with it. We made it difficult for him. We made it difficult for their whole offense to really get going, and it was definitely our defense that won the game.”
All true, yet what interested me most about the day's Westbrook discussion was Brooks, who started his coaching career with the Thunder when the guard entered the league. He might not coach him anymore, but he remains a protector. "He had an off night. He's allowed to do that. It doesn't happen often," Brooks said. What he said pre-game about a perception is even more interesting. Listen to the podcast for more on this and what it means for the Wizards' future.
3) Stat of the night -- The Wizards led 101-73 after the third, marking their 21st game in a row with at least 100 points. That's consistency with a punch. "I thought our ball movement was really good tonight," Brooks said. "It's hard to stop and fun to watch."
And 1: Thunder coach Billy Donovan held the same role at Florida for Bradley Beal's lone college season. Pre-game I asked Donovan what he still recognizes in Beal's game and what's different.