The Washington Wizards could only muster four wins in January and dealt with six postponed games due to COVID-19 protocols. It seemed that there was no hope in sight for a team that had high hopes during the offseason.

The addition of star point guard Russell Westbrook to complement leading scorer Bradley Beal had most Wizards fans salivating for new beginnings, but successes came few and far between.

However, after focusing on team defense and scoring at a high clip, Washington has improved drastically, achieving a four-game win streak (as of Feb. 21) and are 5-2 since Feb. 8.

Washington scored those victories over three teams in the playoff picture, being the Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers.

“I thought early in the season we lost a bunch of close games,” said Washington Wizards head coach Scott Brooks. “It was mainly that we weren’t really in a good rhythm for a lot of different reasons. I think the last couple of games, our legs were ready.”

Beal has been the catalyst of the turnaround, scoring in double-figures in every contest this month. He accounted for 37 points against the Trail Blazers on Feb. 20 in a clutch 118-111 win where Washington overcame a 14-point deficit.

Perhaps two of the most impressive wins during that stretch were against the Celtics and Nuggets, where Washington put everything together on both ends of the floor.

Washington took home a 13-point victory on Feb. 14, when the Wizards outrebounded Boston, limited turnovers and dished out 24 assists collectively.

“We’re helping each other, and it’s all starting to click,” said Beal, who was recently named as a 2021 NBA All-Star Game starter. “We’re not getting tired in doing the right things on the floor, and I think that has just been a testament to our maturity in the last few games.”

Wizards forward Davis Bertans has been on a slump all season but found new life against the Nuggets when he caught fire off the bench, scoring a career-high in points (35) and three-pointers made, going nine-of-11 from beyond the arc.

“We had great ball movement, they gave me a couple of good looks in the beginning, and when those shots went down, it just keeps going,” Bertans said of his shooting performance. “I was just taking advantage of them, and when the shot is falling, sometimes there is nothing the defense can do.”

Though Washington is finally putting everything together, the Wizards will embark on a three-game road trip against a trio of championship-contending teams starting with the Los Angeles Lakers, then Los Angeles Clippers, and finally travel to Denver on Feb. 25.

If they can keep the win streak rolling, Washington can gain more ground in the standings before hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves at home on Feb. 27. Washington currently sits only three games back in the Southeast Division, with their playoff hopes lofty but still intact.

“We’re ready to play consistent basketball on the defensive end. We just gotta keep that up,” Brooks said of what the team needs to do to keep hope alive. “[We need to] have the defensive edge, and our offense is gonna click once we start making three’s consistently.”

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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