In his first game sporting a red, white and blue Washington Wizards uniform, Dwight Howard scored 13 points in the first quarter.
Although he finished with 19 points at halftime, the Oklahoma City Thunder cruised to 79 points in the first half. The Thunder finished the game Friday with a 134-111 blowout victory before a sellout crowd at Capital One Arena in northwest D.C.
Howard played in the starting lineup after he missed the seven games to recover from a buttocks muscle injury.
“We just have to continue to stay positive [and] continue to bring energy to our teammates,” said Howard, who finished the game with 20 points and three rebounds in 23 minutes. “This is the beginning of the season. We’re working some kinks out and I’m going to just preach positivity. I’ve been playing this game a long time. I just know that if you’re mental is right, anything is possible.”
Although the season remains early for Washington (1-7), Bradley Beal said the team must focus now.
“We understand patience is running low from everybody. It’s not like we’re going out to lose any games, said Beal, who led all scorers with 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting. “We’re just coming up short.”
During a timeout, Beal grabbed the clipboard from head coach Scott Brooks. Beal said the Thunder ran a particular play several times for layups.
“I was just trying to explain where our help needs to come from,” he said. “I was just trying to encourage guys more and more and more. It is always tough because everybody wants to contribute and win. You love the effort and you love the fight, but we have to do it more collectively.”
The players and Brooks said defense — or a lack thereof — has been a constant theme in the team’s early season struggles.
Washington leads the NBA giving up an average of 122 points per contest. Oklahoma City (4-4) ranks 21st out of 30 teams in the league in points scored at 109 per game.
According to ESPN, the Thunder’s 79 points tied for the team’s most points scored in a half. The team also tied for its second-highest point total in a quarter with 44 points scored in the second stanza.
All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook led the Thunder with 23 points and 12 assists. Forwards Jerami Grant and Paul George added 22 and 17 points, respectively.
The Thunder shot 15 of 32, or 47 percent, from three-point range. In comparison, Washington shot 9 of 30, or 30 percent.
Friday was the third time this season a Washington opponent has come into D.C. on the tail end of a back-to-back set. Washington lost all three games.
The Wizards, one of three teams in the league with only one victory, will seek its second Sunday against the New York Knicks (3-6).
“I’ve been with the group for over two years. We’re going to stick together,” Brooks said. “Unfortunately, we’ve lost some games we wish we didn’t lose and a couple things here or there could have changed. We’re going to start playing better together. Dwight was obviously a start to that. We got to come back Sunday and play much better for 48 [minutes].”