LAS VEGAS — The Washington Wizards lost, 95-90, to the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday to drop their NBA Summer League record to 0-2, but they showed bundles of athleticism and energy while nearly coming back from a 20-point deficit. The young trio of rookie Troy Brown Jr., Devin Robinson and Thomas Bryant totaled 65 points and providing most of the team’s highlights. Overall, the Wizards made improvements from their opening game Friday. Here are the five takeaways from the action:
Troy Brown Jr.’s calming influence
Brown carries the burden of being the team’s first-round draft pick while also making his professional debut in his hometown of Las Vegas. Those factors might have led to his less-than-spectacular debut Friday against the Cleveland Cavaliers, when Brown made six shots but also turned the ball over five times and finished minus-15 for the game. Though Brown had another rough start Sunday, making his first shot after pulling down an offensive rebound but missing six consecutive attempts before halftime, he relaxed and looked in control through the second half. Brown finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds with only three turnovers.
“We just got out there and started playing basketball, and that’s when things got a little bit easier for me,” Brown said. “Just playing the right way and just doing the little things. For me it was just about finding my role, picking up where I can.”
Wizards assistant coach Ryan Richman, who’s the head coach for Summer League, credited Brown for his leadership throughout the game — including before tip-off. Richman tasked Brown and second-year player Devin Robinson with leading the warm-up routine, and much to Richman’s surprise, the pair of young players had their teammates working through a defensive shell drill instead of a normal layup line.
“Those little things,” Richman said about Brown, “almost looks like Otto [Porter Jr.].”
Devin Robinson smashes a personal goal
Robinson does not look intimidating. Not with his skinny, stretched-out frame, and especially not with the way he rolls up the hem of his basketball shorts to create an even shorter look. However, against the Spurs, Robinson played with a mean streak — screaming, staring down opponents and shimmying after hammer dunks.
In leading all players with 24 points, Robinson produced most of his offense at the rim. The coaching staff wanted him to throw down at least three slams but Robinson gave them five.
“They just told me to play defense and run the lane,” Robinson said.
With each powerful finish, Robinson grew more demonstrative. He dunked over lottery pick Lonnie Walker IV, then flexed his muscles and released a howl. In the third quarter, Robinson caught Spurs big man Amida Brimah at the rim and held his just-dunked-on opponent’s gaze for several seconds. Later, even while the Wizards were still working back from the deficit, Robinson felt so good after another thunderous slam that he wiggled his shoulders while backtracking on defense.
However, Robinson’s countenance fell after he missed a potential game-tying three in the closing seconds.
Two weeks after the end of the NBA season, Robinson got back in the gym to work on his game, specifically wanting to improve on knocking down open three-pointers. Richman, expressing confidence in the young player, orchestrated the final play Sunday for Robinson, and he got a good look from beyond the arc. Robinson said the shot felt good, but it bounced off the rim. Robinson finished 1 for 6 from three-point range.
Thomas Bryant bounces back
One sequence late in the second quarter epitomized Bryant’s lively game against the Spurs. After playing as the last line of defense and keeping the Spurs from scoring a layup, Bryant yelled, “No!” Then, Bryant sprinted down court and caught a difficult lob pass for the layup while showing significant body control for a 6-foot-10 big.
Bryant finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists — one of his dimes led to Robinson’s dunk over Walker. In his first game with the Wizards on Friday, Bryant missed 4 of 6 shots and grabbed just four rebounds. On Sunday, Bryant played more like the guy who made the all-NBA G League first team last year as a rookie.
Issuf Sanon tires out but runs high on emotion
Sanon, who was selected 44th overall by the Wizards, made his Summer League debut and played a little under 14 minutes. During his stint, Sanon ran the point, and though he did not score and produced only one assist, his energy was palpable.
From the seat of his pants, Sanon ripped the ball from Spurs forward Drew Eubanks with 1:58 remaining in the third quarter to force San Antonio’s 11th turnover. Later, when Brown intercepted a pass and scored through contact to create a three-point play, the sequence registered little noise from observers in the stands, but Sanon walked up to Brown, bumping his chest and screaming, “Let’s go!”
In the fourth quarter, when Sanon drew his sixth foul, he slammed his hands on the hardwood in a spirited way that appeared less out of anger than pure excitement.
“He plays so hard,” Richman said. “He plays with his heart.”
Chris Chiozza and Robinson’s Florida connection
Chiozza contributed a game-high 11 assists with several of his passes setting up dunks for teammates. Chiozza, of course, saved one of his best passes for his former Florida Gators teammate. In the third quarter, while Robinson was putting on a one-man dunk contest, Chiozza lobbed a pass to the rim for Robinson to show off his transition speed and power.
“It feels like a re-run from a couple years ago,” Robinson said about once again catching alley-oop passes from Chiozza.
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