John Wall took an outlet pass from Marcin Gortat and immediately saw Bradley Beal racing for the left corner. With the Detroit Pistons crowding him as he zipped into the painted area, Wall flipped an underhand pass to Beal, who buried a three-pointer that led Wall to hop up and down and whirl three fingers in his face.
“That’s my new thing,” Wall said with a grin afterward. “Make a three and twirl it.”
Wall would quickly do it again. On the next possession, Wall took an outlet pass from Nene and again sprinted up the floor, sucking in the defense before losing his dribble. He recovered and found Beal wide open in the right corner with a no-look pass for another three-pointer that pushed the Washington Wizards’ lead to 19 points.
The 35-second sequence in the Wizards’ 106-82 victory over the Pistons on Saturday at Verizon Center was stunning for perhaps two reasons: The night before, Beal looked as if he would miss significant time after being carried off the court by teammates because of a left knee injury. And of all the players Detroit would decide to leave wide open, they chose Beal?
“Those were two great finds by John,” Beal said after scoring 15 points in just three quarters as the Wizards delivered their most authoritative victory of the season. “It just shows his IQ and the connection that we have. He got me going. “We knew that if we got off to a big lead, they were going to back off a bit.”
The win came after the worst loss of the season, a 22-point beatdown in Minnesota, where Coach Randy Wittman said the Timberwolves were the “tougher” team. With Wall posting his sixth consecutive 20-point game and adding 11 assists, the Wizards (13-14) avenged a season-opening loss to Detroit and snapped a seven-game losing skid to a Pistons team that has routinely manhandled Washington over the past two seasons.
“That’s a team that was talking a lot about owning us, and for us to come out aggressive and set the tempo with our aggression, that was big,” Martell Webster said. “There were momentum shifts, with big steals that we got and big plays that we got and it kind of demoralized that team and we capitalized on that. When you take the life out of a team, it opens up the Red Sea. We came in and John, orchestrating this offense, was able to find everybody.”
All five Wizards starters scored in double figures as Washington set a season high with 34 assists — the most in more than six years. The Wizards improved to 9-2 when they have at least 24 assists. They also shot 50 percent from the field and outrebounded the Pistons 46-38.
“We got back a little bit of our identity,” Wittman said. “That was more the team that we have to be.”
Gortat was held scoreless in the first half against the Timberwolves and said afterward, with a hint of sarcasm, “Other guys were rolling, and I wasn’t the option. That’s it.” But the Wizards made sure Gortat got the ball early and often; he scored 10 of his 16 points in the first quarter. The only downside of his night was committing an offensive foul that negated Otto Porter Jr.’s first dunk in a Wizards uniform at Verizon Center.
“I feel bad that it happened,” Gortat said afterward. “I tried to get him a clear path to make sure nobody was going to block him. I feel bad because he had an open bucket.”
Porter, the former Georgetown star, finally got his first basket at home as a pro late in the fourth quarter, when he made a winding, runner on a fast break. He finished with four points and a career-high eight rebounds.
Trevor Ariza made four three-pointers and added 15 points, while Trevor Booker scored 10 points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds. Nene finished with just seven points on his bobblehead night but got some much needed rest on his sore right Achilles’ tendon, playing just 19 minutes.
The night before in Minnesota, Beal collided with Timberwolves forward Luc Mbah a Moute while trying to set a screen for Webster in the fourth quarter and had to be carried off the floor with the assistance of Ariza and Jan Vesely. Beal had an X-ray that came back negative and needed crutches as he walked down a hallway at Target Center, but he eventually hobbled out of the arena. An MRI exam on Saturday revealed Beal only had a left knee bruise, which was a relief for Beal.
“At first, I was mad and nervous because I didn’t know. Whenever it’s a knee, you always think the worst. No matter how many times people tell you think positive, you think, ‘What’s the worst that could possibly happen to you?’ ” Beal said. “The doc told me it was nothing but a little bone bruise, so it’s going to take a little more than that to keep me from playing, and it didn’t hurt at all, so that’s a good thing.”
Beal didn’t score in the first quarter but caught fire toward the tail end of the second. After Greg Monroe made a driving layup to bring Detroit within 48-41, Beal scored 10 points during a 13-0 run to close out the half. He made a driving layup, a step-back jumper and the two three-pointers from both corners.
Wall then put the finishing touches when he threw down a reverse dunk to give the Wizards a 21-point lead at halftime. They also set a new mark for points in one half with 62.
“We realize we got to be the first team to throw the punch, and that’s what we did,” Gortat said. The Wizards have won four of their past five games at home and are 7-5 at Verizon Center this season. They will turn around and face the Pistons again Monday at the Palace of Auburn Hills.