The Washington Wizards’ already strong defense has been even better lately, blending with efficient frontcourt scoring for a formidable combination.
The Oklahoma City Thunder finally showed the ability to win a low-scoring game and could find itself in a similar contest Wednesday night when they visit the stout Wizards.
Washington (29-13), five games back of streaking Atlanta for first place in the Southeast Division and Eastern Conference, ranks in the league’s top third in defensive field-goal percentage (44.0) and points allowed (96.9). The Wizards have held opponents to 93.6 points per game on 41.8 percent shooting while winning seven of nine.
They limited Philadelphia to 32.9 percent shooting in a 111-74 victory on Monday, their largest win of 2014-15. Washington’s already efficient offense – shooting 47.6 percent on the season – has clicked at 50.5 percent over the last four games and shot a season-best 55.6 percent against the 76ers.
Big men Marcin Gortat, Nene and Kevin Seraphin combined for 46 points on 20-of-27 shooting. All three have been extremely reliable lately, with Gortat shooting 69.0 percent over his last seven games, Nene at 55.2 percent over his last 12 and Seraphin connecting on 72.5 percent over his last six.
The Wizards have made 69.4 percent of their attempts inside of five feet over the last four games. Gortat is at 72.5 percent on the season.
Washington has also averaged a plus-6.4 rebounding margin over its last nine games after previously being plus-2.1 on the season.
"They were just smaller guys over there, not really experienced and John (Wall) was distributing the ball really well," Gortat said of Monday’s performance. "We were just using opportunities."
Oklahoma City (21-20) has posted the fifth-best record in the NBA since Nov. 26, going 18-8 after a 3-12 start. It climbed over .500 for the first time with Tuesday’s 94-86 win in Miami.
"We have to keep pushing," said Kevin Durant, who was 0 for 8 from 3-point range but had eight rebounds and eight assists. "We’re not worried about it. We didn’t come in here and rejoice because we’re over .500."
The Thunder had been 0-13 when scoring fewer than 96 points, but again made a living off turnovers, converting 21 Heat mishaps into 22 points. They’re forcing an average of 17.4 turnovers – up from 13.6 – and scoring 19.6 points per game off of them while winning four of five.
"Our defense sparked a lot of our offense," Russell Westbrook, who averages a league-best 6.3 fast-break points, told the team’s official website. "It gave us some extra opportunities to get out on the break, get to the line and get some fast break points."
Durant’s 30.2 career scoring average versus Washington is his third-highest against any team. He scored 34 points on 12-of-18 shooting in a 109-102 home win over Washington on Jan. 2. The Gortat-Hilario-Seraphin trio was limited to 20 on 10-of-21 shooting.
Oklahoma City’s Reggie Jackson, a 43.1 percent shooter this season, is shooting 55.7 percent over his last eight road games.
The Wizards have won nine of the last 11 meetings in Washington.