The reason that Garrett Temple is now John Wall’s backup at point guard was evident within his first 10 seconds on the floor on Monday in the Wizards’ 102-88 win over the Chicago Bulls.
Temple dropped down low to defend Bulls reserve D.J. Augustin, slapped away the basketball and raced up the floor for a layup that brought his excited teammates out of their seats.
“Temp does a great job with us, adding defensive pressure once he gets into the game,” Wall said. “That’s one thing he excels in. He does a great job of pressuring opponents and don’t let their backup get going.”
Coach Randy Wittman likes what Temple gives the Wizards on the defensive end but Temple provided some offense against the Bulls, chipping in a season-high 10 points in just 13 minutes. With the Wizards holding on to a 75-68 lead late in the third period, Temple gave them a little more cushion when he pulled up from 30 feet and banked in a shot as time expired.
“It felt good about it when it left my hands,” Temple said. “I can’t say I knew it was going to be glass but I had a feeling it was going to go in. I’ll take it off the glass. I didn’t call glass but I called it going in.”
Temple scored a combined eight points in his previous four games, but his offense came in handy on a night when Wittman tightened his rotation and used just eight players. After connecting on his three-pointer, Temple got fouled on a three-point attempt to start the fourth quarter and made all three free throws to give the Wizards an 81-68 lead.
“I really only hit two shots, but I was able to get a couple of steals, get out on the open court,” said Temple, who also finished with two rebounds, a steal and an assist in the win. “I wish I had made all my free throws but I was able to help my team in the scoring column and that always feels good. I think the main thing was the defensive pressure we were able to put on them and only hold them to 80-something points and get out in transition. They pride themselves on keeping teams under 90 points and our biggest attribute is getting out in transition and I think that’s a big reason why we won.”
Temple also helped limit Augustin to a terrible shooting night with just seven points on 2 of 11 field goals.
“Defense,” Wittman said. “Gives us pressure, 94 feet. He does a good job of pushing the ball, giving us pace from an offensive standpoint. That’s what I’ve asked him to do. To come in and be a huge defensive presence for us, in terms of changing the tempo of the game from a defensive standpoint.”
The Wizards agreed to terms with Eric Maynor on the first day of the free agent signing period last July, believing that they addressed their need for a serviceable floor general whenever Wall needs a breather. But Temple, a multi-purpose, 6-foot-6 wing, instead claimed that role last month with Maynor struggling on both ends of the floor.
Maynor actually has slightly better statistical production than Temple, averaging 2.4 points, 1.8 assists and 1.1 rebounds compared to just 2.0 points, 1.3 assists and 1.1 rebounds for Temple. But Maynor has only appeared in three of the past 16 games, all in garbage time, since falling out of the rotation. Last week, Temple had a season-high six assists in just 15 minutes in a win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
Temple started 36 games last season, filling in for both Wall and Bradley Beal and changing his mind-set with his position. Wittman became a fan of Temple because of his ability to guard multiple positions and that was one of the main reasons the Wizards brought him back to a minimum deal last summer.
“He’s capable of picking up 94 feet and putting a lot of pressure on the ball,” Wittman said of Temple. “And, again, get us into our offense early and make the simple plays. That’s what he’s done.”
After helping the Wizards end a two-game losing streak, Temple will now look to help them snap a four-game home losing streak against the two-time defending champion Heat.
Temple was one of Miami’s final training camp cuts before last season and is very familiar with the personnel. “I know those guys, great group of guys over there,” Temple said, “but the main thing is coming out focused and understanding what concepts we want to do and executing our game plan. They are a very talented team but they can be beat. They lost two road games in New York before this. They are going to come out hungry but we’ve got to come out hungry because we haven’t been playing well at home lately.”