The Washington Wizards are well-equipped offensively, with an All-Star-caliber backcourt.
But the team still lacks consistent defensive intensity, a flaw that nearly cost them Friday night in a 115-111 win over the Detroit Pistons at Capital One Arena in D.C.
“We had them on the ropes. We let them back in,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said of his team surrendering a 15-point fourth-quarter lead. “We aren’t going to stop them from scoring every time, but we got to give ourselves the best chance and you do that by playing with toughness.
“The game of basketball’s fun. It’s only fun if you compete for 48 minutes,” Brooks added. “You can’t compete whenever you feel like it. You’re disappointing your teammates and I told them that.”
The Wizards (2-0) struggled early defensively, allowing 65 first-half points to a team that ranked 26th in points per game last season.
Washington went on a 14-4 run in the first 3:29 of the third quarter to take a 72-69 lead. The Wizards held the Pistons to just 16 points in the third quarter and stretched the margin to 15 in the fourth, but the team relaxed and allowed the Pistons to retake the lead late at 104-102 before pulling away.
Wizards point guard John Wall, who scored 26 points, blocked a layup attempt by counterpart Reggie Jackson (21 points and five assists) with about 10 seconds left to help seal the victory.
“I think I’m the best shot-blocking point guard in NBA history — I’m trying to set records,” said Wall, who also had 10 assists, but turned the ball over six times.
Otto Porter Jr. led the Wizards with 28 points, while Bradley Beal scored 25 points with four assists.
Even with all the defensive breakdowns so far this season, the Wizards are fourth in the league with 8.5 blocks per game.
However, Wall didn’t shy away from criticizing his team’s defensive effort.
“We were just being soft,” he said. “They were being more physical than us. We showed glimpses of when we were good, but it we don’t pick it up defensively on the road, we won’t any games.”
The Wizards head west for a four-game road trip starting Monday against the Denver Nuggets (0-1).