Not all of the takeaways from the Wizards’ 100-98 loss to Charlotte on Sunday were negative.
The Wizards outrebounded the Bobcats, 49-47. Martell Webster and Bradley Beal took turns getting hot and carrying the second unit, with 18 points apiece. Shelvin Mack had a game-high seven assists with no turnovers in 22 minutes. And with the Wizards front court depleted, Coach Randy Wittman used Chris Singleton as a backup power forward and he was effective on both ends.
Singleton had the strength to hold his own and get physical, the tenacity to scrap and the handles to take bigger opponents off the dribble. He finished with nine points and a team-high nine rebounds in 25 minutes. He also had five fouls, but that was the result of going so hard. His plus-minus was the highest on the team at plus-four.
“Whatever coach wants me to do, I’m down to do it,” Singleton said. “I knew I could [play power forward], but I didn’t show as much as I wanted to. I’ve been working on the same thing at the three, too. It’s paid off. Everybody has seen me in practice. But I needed to be more aggressive than I was.”
Webster had a standout performance in the fourth quarter, when he scored 14 points and helped the Wizards cut an 18-point second-half deficit down to six with less than four minutes remaining. Webster made two three-pointers and also led the team with four free throws and added two steals and blocked shot.
“We got into a good rhythm and that last six-minute stretch, the sense of urgency,” Webster said. “Understanding the time, score is pivotal in this game. If you don’t understand, you’re liable to make mistakes. We didn’t do that in that last six minutes and that’s when the game became fun.”
Beal also scored 18 points off the bench and was really good in spurts. He had five points and an assist in his first two minutes on the floor, helping the Wizards get within 21-16. Watching his first layup attempt go down – even after Thomas goaltended – allowed Beal to relax for the rest of the game.
“I was just hoping I wasn’t going to miss it,” Beal said. “It wasn’t like I was nervous. It was just, it was my first shot. An easy shot to get my confidence going, get my wind. It got me going, basically.”
When he entered the game in the third quarter, Beal again had two quick baskets to ignite a stagnant offense. He finished missing 10 of his 17 shots after a rough fourth quarter but Wittman was constantly in his ear, urging him to take advantage of big men whenever the Bobcats tried to trap and press him.
“I think individually, I did alright,” he said. “I could’ve done a lot better, on both ends of the floor. I could’ve rebounded more, been more vocal. As a team, as a unit, we could’ve done that better. We could’ve made a lot more smarter decisions on the offensive end. Throughout camp, we were great playing together.”
The Wizards will have seven more games to get better, and possibly welcome back more healthy players. But on his 26th birthday, A.J. Price still managed to find a reason to be happy.
“Everybody walked out healthy from the game and we’re okay,” Price said. “It’s a lot we can take from the game and try to improve.”