John Wall, Bradley Beal and the rest of the Washington Wizards received a heavy dose of flak after dropping a lackadaisical road game to league-worst Atlanta last week. However, since that embarrassing 113-99 defeat, Washington ran off an impressive streak of wins before a 110-103 loss to Milwaukee tarnished an otherwise stellar week. Since the loss to Atlanta, the Wizards’ offense has been humming, scoring triple-digits in every game. Their defense hasn’t been as impressive, but the Wizards have struggled in that area all season

Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) goes for the block as Milwaukee Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe (6) shoots during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington racked up unimpressive victories this week including a 114-110 win against Chicago, a 121-103 win over New York, and a narrow 102-100 win over Memphis before falling to the Milwaukee Bucks, 110-103, in a deflating loss at home on Jan. 5. Despite Wall’s return to the lineup from a knee ailment, Beal has been the team’s star; in the three wins over Chicago, New York and Memphis, the fifth-year guard scored 39, 27 and 34 points respectively. Beal is likely headed for his first All-Star selection, which along with Wall would give Washington a true All-Star backcourt. Beal’s efforts have helped turn Washington’s offense into a top-10 unit in points differential.

Washington’s offense has been hitting high marks since Wall’s return to the lineup, but the team continues to struggle with defensive consistency. The team’s on-again, off-again rhythm currently has them in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, but the Wizards still hope to infiltrate the conference’s top three of Boston, Toronto and Cleveland. Their chances of achieving that goal will largely be based on Wall’s return to form, Beal’s ability to stay healthy and keep scoring and further improvement from fourth year forward Otto Porter Jr. Even if the Wizards achieve all three goals, it’ll be tough for the team to climb the standings without an additional acquisition. Washington is 9-4 since Wall returned to the lineup, but the team will desperately need an extra push to embark on a deep playoff run.

The Wizards’ loss to Milwaukee proves the team’s urgent need for an impact front-court player to contend with athletic adversaries like LeBron James and Milwaukee’s Gianni’s Antetokoumpo. Beal’s evolution this season into an elite performer brings the team’s backcourt full circle in terms of star power. Adding a matching piece up front is critical for the Wizards. But until the team actually makes a move, all regular season victories could just be light accomplishments.

UP NEXT: Washington returns to action with a home showdown on Jan. 10 against Utah.

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO