It wasn’t pretty by any means, but all that matters is the win. The Washington Wizards did just that in the season opener on the road against the Orlando Magic. Despite a lackluster performance as a team, Washington’s backcourt picked up the slack as they combined for 46 points en route to an 88-87 win.
The Wizards bring back a ton of familiar faces but the biggest difference is their new “pace and space” offensive system. Head coach Randy Wittman has decided to adjust to the new style of offense in the current NBA, and you could tell tonight that it’s still a work in progress.
Bradley Beal led all scorers with 24 points on 9-of-19 shooting. John Wall filled up the stat sheet with 22 points, seven rebounds, six assists, three steals, and a career-high five blocks. Wall also came through for the Wizards in the waning moments as he knocked down the soft floater with 12.7 seconds left that ended up winning the game by the score of 88-87.
“We have a new system. For the first game it was really good but we still have a lot of things we need to work on,” Beal said postgame. “But we are 1-0. We just want to stay the course.”
The Orlando Magic is a young team with a new head coach in Scott Skiles, and in their first game of the season they pressured the Wizards until the very end. In the closing seconds, Nikola Vucevic (10 points and seven rebounds) has a chance to win the game for Orlando but couldn’t sink the off-balance jumper.
Victor Oladipo led the Magic with 17 points and 11 rebounds. His backcourt mate Elfrid Payton nearly accumulated a triple-double as he posted 11 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Tobias Harris added 15 points and seven rebounds and rookie Mario Hezonja scored 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting from three in his NBA debut.
Both teams showed offensive rust as Washington finished the game shooting 39.3 percent from the field and 25 percent from behind the arc, while Orlando shot 37 percent from the field and 19.2 percent from three. The Wizards biggest weakness tonight was their shooting from the charity stripe, as they finished the game 15-of-25. Washington was also careless with the basketball as they turned it over 18 times.
The Wizards came out of the gates pretty well as they ended the first quarter with a 31-29 lead and ended the half with the same two point lead at 53-51. Things changed drastically in the second half as Washington scored a total of 12 points in the third quarter, but they were still in the game as the Magic held a slim 67-65 lead.
Orlando would push their lead to eight early in the fourth quarter, but Washington countered with a 12-0 spurt that was highlighted by a John Wall steal and behind-the-back finish. With 3:14 left, Washington led Orlando 82-78, but after a 20 second timeout the Magic quickly went on a 7-0 run in less than a minute. After a timeout, the Wizards buckled down defensively as they held Orlando to 1-of-6 shooting in the final two minutes of regulation.
Washington was able to grab the win on Randy Wittman’s 56th birthday, but even the coach said this would take some time. “We’ve got to get in better shape to play at that pace. It’s a process. It’s different. We didn’t play that way the last couple years, so … this is Game 1. We’ve just got to keep working at it.”
The Wizards will play the Milwaukee Bucks on the road Friday night at 8:00 PM EST, while the Magic will stay home to face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night at 7:00 PM EST.