Bradley Bell made sure of it.
After the match tied 1:19 to play, Bale knocked out his teammates who had contributed so much throughout the night and beat several defenders himself to score for the Wizards’ last possession in the game. When DeMar DeRozan missed his three-point attempt at the bell, the crowd exhaled, then exalted.
If Washington’s season-opening win in Indiana felt a little hollow given that she was against the rebuilding Pacers, that win felt real. The Bulls were without Zach Lavigne, their franchise player, recovering from a knee injury, but Chicago are a competitive team again this season.
“This was a big step for us tonight,” Kyle Kuzma said. “I think we messed up the bed a little bit in Indiana. We still won, but it was an ugly win. For us, we didn’t get enough stops, but we got our stops right at the right time. Being flexible, Brad made a great shot… And that’s what it is. That’s what it boils down to, getting your stops in time, timing your possessions, and you can win like that.”
A flash of optimism – not just for the game but for a season that may look different from years past – right after the first half. It took shape in Bale, who has recently been relieved of the burden of being the Wizards’ only reliable scorer, and has the energy and means to fend off a poor defensive tackle on Bulls goalkeeper Ayo Dosunmo. It looked as if the 2020 first-round team selection, Deni Avdija, had hit three velvet pointers right after sending the crowd into a frenzy. It looked as if Kristaps Porzingis had caused a problem for Nikola Vucevich in defense while Kuzma hit four three-pointers and hit the ball as if Andre Drummond wasn’t implanted in his path.
Washington opened its home listing to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the franchise’s rebranding from Bullets to The Wizards to an announced 20,476 sales. The team went classic looking for just about everything but the inside of the team’s basketball shorts: The Wizards played in blue and gold jerseys, unveiled a special matching stadium and streamed a video before filing a tip-off in honor of the past. greats.
It was all well and good that the witches wanted to celebrate their roots. The team’s roots aren’t the problem — anyone who’s glimpsed a game in the past four years knows that Washington’s biggest problem is a newer one.
Witches need a better defense. This fact has not changed in a single match. But on Friday, it was good enough.
Although there were some nice defensive moments, Washington’s best defense was her occasional offensive. Kuzma led four players with 26 points and got six rebounds and two assists. Bale scored 19 points and eight assists. Porzingis added 14 points and Rui Hashimura added 12 points.
That was enough to beat DeRozan, who lost 32 points, and Vucevich, who bullied his way to 24. The Wizards shot 51.2 percent from the field and most importantly had higher levels of energy and aggressiveness, which coach Wes Unselde Jr. calls the “care factor.” very important.
Having 26 assists in 41 buckets is proof of good chemistry.
“Just look at the match, it’s one, two, three, four guys in doubles,” Bell said, trailing off the stats. “We do a good job just moving the ball, being aggressive – whoever opened, shoot it. That’s our mentality. We trust everyone is going to make plays.”
The Wizards offered a taste of what their multi-threat attack could look like with all systems unlocked.
Early in the choppy first quarter, Washington had a sequence in which Bell threw a pass to Porzingis at the top of the key for three pointers on one possession and did the same the next. Only this time, Porsenges drove the car before sprinting to goalkeeper Mont Maurice waiting in the corner to score a hat-trick. In the transition, Avdija pushed the ball away from DeRozan and found Kuzma to take the win with one hand.
The half end offered the pluses, too. The Magicians overturned their usually fatal error – easing at the end of the quarter and allowing the opponent to return to the match – and attacked Chicago before the break, beating the Bulls 20-11 in the final six minutes by bending into their attack. They went into the locker room 56-50 after trailing five, with three players in the double digits and Bale contributing eight points and four assists.
When games narrowed Washington’s lead to just two goals at the start of the fourth quarter, the Wizards scrambled and kept things in check thanks to a crucial defensive bounce from Dillon Wright. Wright, the reserve point guard, had his second consecutive game in the closing unit as a defensive anchor boosting Bell’s attack.
“Over and over again, we put the ball in it [Beal’s] hands for a reason,” Unseld said. “He would make the right play, and he did it tonight.”