Before tip-off Friday night, Washington Wizards Coach Scott Brooks sat down for a one-on-one film session with Markieff Morris. It's something Brooks does occasionally; the sessions help him understand how his players think and learn, and they provide an opportunity for the coach to relay important messages.
Brooks showed Morris tape from last season, when the forward played the role of Washington's grizzled enforcer. An ankle injury in May and a sports hernia that required surgery over the summer had made Morris somewhat more tentative as he worked to regain his form. In the film session, Brooks's message was clear: Morris needed to be more aggressive.
What followed was a 109-91 win over Detroit in which Morris turned in a season-high 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting and seven rebounds. The forward looked like his old self, working the floor on offense to slam home dunks and sink two three-pointers.
On defense, he went against Tobias Harris, Detroit's 6-foot-9 leading scorer, averaging 18.9 points, and held him to 15 points and two rebounds.
"It's about time," Morris said after. "It's about time I had a good game."
Morris drew a connection between his session with Brooks and Friday's game, which was the Wizards' first home win since Nov. 13 (thanks in part to a road-heavy schedule in November). Washington (12-10) hits the road again Monday for a five-game trip that takes it to the West Coast and ends in Brooklyn.
"Every time we sit down and watch film together, it's always positive," Morris said, before later adding he's not quite completely healthy but is playing at 85 or 90 percent. "Basically he just told me my activity was low, I'm standing around the three-point line too much, and I have to be more aggressive offensively. . . . I was a little hesitant coming off injury, just trying to get my feet under me before I move too much. The time is now, to go. I feel like I'm better every day and I've just got to be more aggressive. Without John [Wall], we've got to step up every game and have big games. That's what I'm trying to do."
The Wizards are 2-2 in this latest stretch without Wall, who received platelet-rich plasma and viscosupplementation injections Nov. 25 as an attempt to reduce inflammation in his left knee.
It was the starters who sparked the dominant third quarter that catapulted Washington to a win.
Down six points after intermission, the Wizards didn't allow the Pistons (14-7) to score until there was 7:07 left in the third quarter. In the interim, Bradley Beal rattled off a quick five points after a sluggish start to the night — perhaps due to the protective goggles he was wearing as a precautionary measure after taking an elbow to his right eye in Wednesday's loss to Philadelphia.
Beal ended up with 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting. Washington ended up outscoring Detroit 35-15 in the third period, during which it was 15 of 24 on field goals (62.5 percent). The Pistons made only five field goals and shot 26.3 percent.
"That quarter is the best quarter we've played all year," Brooks said.
"We just felt like we could've turned it up a notch, and we did in the third quarter," Morris said. "We shut them down."
Morris led five scorers in double figures. Forward Otto Porter Jr. added 17 points, and center Marcin Gortat had 12 points and a team-high 12 rebounds to help the Wizards out-rebound the Pistons, 49-32. Detroit had just four offensive rebounds.
Backup guard Tomas Satoransky turned in a career-high 17 points on 5-of-6 shooting running the offense for a fluid second-unit. He led a bench that outplayed the Pistons' reserves in the second quarter and helped built a 38-31 lead before Washington frittered it away before halftime.
"I won't be lying, it felt great," Satoransky said. "I think for the first time I really played with a lot of confidence tonight. I think I had some options to score easy buckets — everything felt easier, obviously, to finally be able to score more than one three-pointer, I've been working on that very hard."
Brooks said that type of confidence from Satoransky and aggression from Morris is what the Wizards need to keep winning without Wall, who averages 20.3 points and 9.2 assists.
"I liked the game tonight, I liked Tomas and Tim's ability to lead and play on both ends of the court," Brooks said, referencing point guard Tim Frazier, who is starting in Wall's place and added six points. "But it's definitely going to be tough on the road."