With All-Star guard John Wall still recuperating from knee trouble, the Washington Wizards are simply trying to stay competitive. History hasn’t been on Washington’s side when they’ve tried to operate without Wall in prior seasons, but this season, they’ve never been better prepared to play without their top guard.

Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, left, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers forward Wesley Johnson defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 113-112. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Thanks to Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. emerging as capable counterparts, Wall’s absence hasn’t been the train wreck of years past. The week started off poorly, but the Wizards rebounded to keep pace as the season moves along.

The Wizards’ biggest margin of defeat this season came in a 116-69 loss against the Utah Jazz on Dec. 4. With Wall out, it was too much to ask Washington’s middling bench players to survive a bad game from Beal. A 4-of-15 shooting night from the second best player on the roster contributed to the biggest blowout of this year’s campaign, but that only gave the aspiring All-Star extra motivation for the rest of the week.

Beal dominated the next two games, scoring a combined 85 points in consecutive nights as Washington won back-to-back games. In a road game against the Portland Trailblazers on Dec. 5, Beal dropped 51 points and Washington won, 106-92. On the road against the Phoenix Suns on Dec. 7, he added 34 points in a 109-99 win.

If the Portland game was Washington’s biggest defeat of the season, then the 113-112 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Dec. 9 was the Wizards’ toughest loss of the year. Los Angeles’ Lou Williams made a three-pointer with just over one second left, setting up an unusual turn of events. Following a timeout, Beal took the ball off an inbound pass and delivered a successful jumper that was waived off when the buzzer sounded with the ball in his hands. But a subsequent review determined that the game clock started too early during the inbound to Beal, giving the Wizards another chance. Unfortunately, Marcin Gortat missed his 21-foot jumper on the following play, spoiling a 25-point game from Beal and a 27-point, 11-rebound night from Porter.

The Wizards finished their four-game road trip with a 2-2 record and will earn a brief two-game break before they head to Brooklyn on Dec. 12. Washington stands at 14-12 and first place in the Southeast Division—but only seventh in the Eastern conference standings. There’s plenty of ground to make up, and Wall is expected to return at the end of the week after practicing with the team ahead of the Clippers game. Wall’s return will be much anticipated as the calendar prepares to turn and the stretch run begins.  

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO