How the Wizards beat the conference finals teams without Beal originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
It doesn't make much sense at all, really, if you think about it. The Wizards beat three of the NBA's conference finals teams - the Heat, Nuggets and Celtics (twice) - this season and all in games they were missing Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans and, of course, John Wall. A team that went 25-47 overall had their way with three of the NBA's four best teams, all while missing their three best players.
The 2019-20 season has been a strange trip and that fact right there ranks highly among the oddities of the year the Wizards had. It is also one of those stats that probably doesn't mean much of anything in the big picture.
For instance, no, they aren't better with Garrison Mathews playing shooting guard over Beal. And no, their best starting lineup this season was not Isaiah Thomas, Gary Payton II, Troy Brown Jr., Johnathan Williams III and Ian Mahinmi. That's what they rolled out against the Heat, and they won by 18(!).
Still, was it a complete aberration they won those games, just a bizarre coincidence? No, that's not true either. Those wins could say something about the improvement of their roster depth, or even stand as some of the better coaching performances Scott Brooks has put in since he took over in Washington.
Whatever your takeaways are, let's look at how these wins happened...
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Dec. 30, 2019 - Wizards 123, Heat 105
This was the night Mathews became known to the world as a "professional shooter." That's what he told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller on the pregame show and then he proceeded to blitz the Heat with 28 points and four rebounds in 29 minutes. He took just nine shots and went 4-for-7 from three, outshining Miami sharpshooter Duncan Robinson.
It was a weird game in general. Mahinmi had a career-high 25 points while the rest of the starters combined for 18. Jordan McRae dropped 29 and went 6-for-8 from three. And the Wizards went 17-for-37 from long range. The Wizards were down 10 points at the end of the first quarter, then outdid the Heat 42-24 in the second.
Jan. 4, 2020 - Wizards 128, Nuggets 114
Just like in the Heat win, the Wizards' bench made this one happen. The starters combined for 36 points, while the second unit erupted for 92 including 32 from Ish Smith and 25 from Brown, who also had 14 rebounds. Isaac Bonga had 15 points and Anzejs Pasecniks had 15 while seeing some time against Nuggets star Nikola Jokic. The Wizards won despite going just 6-for-16 from three.
This game also provided us what was one of the best postgame quotes of the entire season. Denver guard Jamal Murray said afterward of the Wizards: "Might be the hardest-playing team in the league." He added they are up there with Miami, a team known for their work ethic. That right there spoke to everything Washington set out to accomplish this season. They wanted to build a blue-collar, hard-working culture and it was recognized in a big way.
Jan. 6, 2020 - Wizards 99, Celtics 94
This one was fairly shocking because the Wizards won thanks to their defense, which was not a strength for much of the season and especially before the trade deadline. Yet, they went out against a fully-stocked Celtics team and held them to 34.7 percent shooting from the field and 8-for-37 from three. Boston's leading scorer was Jaylen Brown (23 points) and he shot 7-for-22.
Meanwhile, Smith went off for 27 points, McRae had 19 and Thomas got a little revenge on his ex-teammates with 17 for himself. Mahinmi led the defensive effort with eight rebounds and four assists. If he gets another NBA contract, and that's probably a big "if" at this point, he might want to show teams the film of this game.
Aug. 13, 2020 - Wizards 96, Celtics 90
The Wizards were missing their best players for this one, but so were the Celtics who were without their top-seven scorers in the final game of the regular season and the final one for the Wizards in the Orlando bubble. The Wizards began their time in the bubble 0-7 and were searching for a victory before heading home. They got it thanks to 26 points and nine rebounds from Thomas Bryant, plus 17 points and eight boards from Brown.
Williams also played well with 16 rebounds, a season-high for the Wizards. But, really, the Celtics had nobody that day. Only two players reached double-figures, Javonte Green (23 points) and Semi Ojeleye (13 points). If you are a casual NBA fan, chances are you haven't heard of either of them. That said, the Wizards also beat the Celtics with their best players available. So, there.