“We’re going to mix and match here moving forward and look at different guys,” Wittman said after the Wizards lost, 108-101, to the New York Knicks on Thursday at the Verizon Center. “We’ve got to get better at starting the game.”
Wittman went with the same starting group that he used in the team’s opening loss in Charlotte — Jan Vesely, Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Ariza, A.J. Price and Jordan Crawford. It dug a 17-point hole in the first quarter and needed the second unit to spare the Wizards from getting embarrassed in their lone home game of the preseason. Beal and Webster both entered the game late in the first quarter and led the Wizards on an impressive 22-0 run to start the second, allowing them to enter the locker room with a halftime lead.
“But it wasn’t enough,” Webster said after scoring 12 points and grabbing a game-high 10 rebounds. “It was tough for us in that first quarter. It was tough. Second unit came in and kind of picked up the slack. If we can establish ourselves like that, in the first five minutes, then we can set the tone for ourselves.”
The Wizards are trying to bring along Beal slowly with the hope of not overwhelming the rookie with too much responsibility and pressure. He sat patiently for the first 11 minutes of Thursday’s game as his teammates tripped over themselves. But once Wittman inserted Beal, the No. 3 overall pick flipped the game upside down. He stole a pass, leading to a Chris Singleton layup and suddenly a team that had struggled to score 21 points in the first quarter was reeling off 22 in a row in less than eight minutes.
Beal matched Knicks all-star Carmelo Anthony with 12 points in the first half, and finished with 15 points, five rebounds and five assists in his unofficial introduction to his home fans.
“It was great — even though there was a lot of people cheering for the Knicks,” Beal said with a grin. “Just playing in the arena, the atmosphere, playing with my teammates. That’s all I need, honestly.”
After matching fellow reserve Webster with a team-high 18 points in the preseason opener against Charlotte, Beal again helped solve the Wizards’ scoring problems. He scored seven points in his first five minutes on the floor, burying an open 20-footer, hitting two free throws, then dropping a three-pointer that brought the Wizards within 38-34. At times, the 19-year-old Beal found himself guarded by Knicks point guard Jason Kidd, who is entering his 19th season in the NBA.