The Washington Wizards recovered from a 22-point road loss Dec. 27 to the Minnesota Timberwolves with a 24-point win the following night at Verizon Center, a 106-82 victory against the Detroit Pistons Dec. 28.
Guard Bradley Beal was a game-time decision after suffering a bruised left knee against the Timberwolves. An MRI revealed there was no damage to the knee, and Beal was in the starting lineup. With Washington up by 24 at the end of the third quarter, Beal, along with most of the starters, sat out the fourth quarter as Washington cruised to a win.
"I just came out and did my normal routine," said Beal, who said he felt ready to go after his pregame warm-up. "I just went out there and did what I was supposed to do."
In fact, the entire Wizards team did what they were supposed to do in the win against the Pistons, a game that was a complete departure from their performance the previous night.
"We got back a little bit of our identity that I thought we lost last night," coach Randy Wittman said. "We can only play one way, and that's a physical presence on the floor. Tonight that was more of the team we have to be. We took the fight to them."
The Wizards led the entire game and were up by as much as 28 points, while the Pistons looked nothing like the team that has given Washington trouble in the past with their physical inside play. With the starters able to take the fourth quarter off, the bench players got in some much needed work.
Washington had a season-high 34 assists on 43 field goals made, and are now 5-2 on the second night of back-to-back games this season.
Wittman said the team is finally beginning to show the kind of mental toughness he's been hoping to see all year. The Wizards will face the Pistons again in a road game Dec. 30, and Wittman knows what to expect.
"We know what we have to do and how we have to play against them," Wittman said. "That's a prideful group over there. You got to expect they're going to come in here and take the fight to us."
Point guard John Wall led all scorers with 20 points and added 11 assists. Center Marcin Gortat had 16, while Beal and forward Trevor Ariza each scored 15. Former Georgetown star forward Greg Monroe led the Pistons with 14 points and guard Brandon Jennings added 13.
"We got back to our defense concepts," Wall said. "We protected the rim and got a lot of rebounds." The Wizards had 46 rebounds, the Pistons had 38.
Asked if the bounce-back win is the first step toward some consistency, Wall said, "I think it's there. I think we've just got to keep playing defense first. When we play defense first it makes our game a lot better one through five."
The win improves the Wizards to 13-14, and a win in Detroit Dec. 30 will bring them back to the .500 mark. But once they reach that point, Beal emphasized that an even win-loss record isn't where they want to stay.
"That would mean a lot for us," Beal said of getting back to .500 "The biggest thing we want to do is get over that, not just get to it. We're more than capable of doing that. Once we get there, we just have to continue to push forward."