It took some time and a “mini-break” for the Chris Singleton who forced his way into the starting lineup with his tenacity and competitiveness to resurface. Singleton initially earned his minutes with a relentless attack, especially on defense, but in recent weeks, his performances had become more mundane.
But on Tuesday night in Milwaukee, Singleton’s aggressiveness and hunger helped the Wizards nearly complete an improbable comeback against the Bucks. The rookie from Florida State had a career-high 16 points, matched his career highs in rebounds (nine) and minutes played (39:58) and added two blocked shots in the 119-118 loss.
“Over this little mini-break, I just went back and assessed my game,” said Singleton, who more than quadrupled his season scoring average (3.8) and topped his total from the previous five games combined (14). “I wanted to come out more like how I started the season. It’s coming. I’ve just got to take my time and play within the system.”
Singleton scored six of the Wizards’ first 12 points and didn’t settle for camping out on the wing and waiting for someone to find him for an open jumper. He attacked the basket and even had an impressive dunk early on. His final shooting figures weren’t great — 4 of 14 field goal attempts — but he made six free throws and added six offensive rebounds, which proved his willingness to get inside and battle.
“I was taking too many shots on the perimeter,” Singleton said he noticed while watching film of his game. “I tried to use my creating ability a little bit more. That’s what I did. I just wanted to provide energy. That’s what happened. Got a couple of good looks. Just capitalized, but I missed a lot of shots.”
Singleton made two three-pointers, including a wide open jumper during the Wizards’ 28-8 third-quarter run, which turned an 18-point deficit into a two-point lead. The Wizards have struggled getting consistent production at small forward this season, especially with Singleton reaching double figures just twice in his first 33 games.
With Rashard Lewis out with a sore left knee, Singleton knew he would have to provide more and even with solid production from Maurice Evans and Roger Mason Jr., Coach Randy Wittman was so secure with Singleton that he decided to play Singleton at power forward for the first time.
“I thought Chris Singleton played like a beast down there,” Mason said.
Singleton helped limit Bucks forward Carlos Delfino to just 11 points on 11 shots and also delivered a few hard fouls. He clobbered Gooden, sending him to the floor instead of letting him make an uncontested layup. Gooden made two free throws but was forced to leave the game for good shortly thereafter.
Singleton also switched over to cover the speedy Brandon Jennings late, and Jennings dribbled the ball off of his foot, setting up John Wall’s go-ahead basket with 6.8 seconds left. Singleton, however, didn’t react quickly enough when Jennings missed a jumper and Ersan Ilyasova slid in front of him for the decisive tip-in.
Singleton wasn’t satisfied with the finish, but wishes that the Wizards had never been in position to need to come back from such a large deficit. “We came out and played like we’re actually capable of playing. That’s how we need to do that the entire time,” he said.