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Dave Johnson: Wizards Losing Streak Is Over


Dave Johnson: Wizards Losing Streak Is Over

Wednesday, March 31, 2010, 11:30pm

By Dave Johnson
CSNWashington.comNew Orleans---It was a night to cue up We Are The Champions. Maybe there should be a victory parade down 6th Street. The Washington Wizards are winners again.To the Wizards players that stayed competitive through the disappointment of a 16 game losing streak, the 96-91 victory over the New Orleans Hornets was a reward overdue. At the very least the Wizards only win in March brought incredible relief.It feels like a championship, said Wizards guard Shaun Livingston. I told Mike (Miller) after the game it feels like we won a ring or something. It is good to get a win and hopefully we have learned that we can play and compete. We just have to settle down and get the best shots we can.Against an All-Star in the Hornets Chris Paul, Livingston played like an All-Star and his composure in managing the Wizards offense was essential. For his first time with the Wizards, Livingston, who had 18 points and 8 assists, not only started but was on the floor at the end of game.The Wizards were effective in defending the screen and roll and Paul was never was able to get in attack mode. Paul did have 9 assists but only 8 points. David West led the Hornets in scoring with 18 pointsPlaying just 24 hours after a close loss in Houston to the Rockets, the Wizards surprised the Hornets, who had not played since Mondays win over the Lakers, with a strong start.
The Hornets only lead of the game was at 3-2 as Andray Blatche scored 12 of his 23 points in the first quarter to put the Wizards on their way.Mike Miller, who had shot 4 of 15 from the field that night before against the Rockets, led the Wizards in scoring with 27 points and rebounding with seven. In the third quarter Miller scored ten of his points but only took one outside shotInstead in the third quarter Miller was effective coming off screens at the foul line and then taking Fabricio Oberto passes and driving to the basket. For Miller the result was two layups and a trip to the line where he made two free throws.He is a shooter, Livingston said of Miller. He had an off shooting night last night and he came up to me and apologized and said I could have had you 15 assists. I dont worry about that and tonight he knocked down shots and got it going inside as well. Livingston found Miller on a play in the third quarter that exemplified the control and discipline that the Wizards played with. A fast break was triggered when Blatche defending West in the post deflected a pass intended for Paul cutting in the lane.Livingston then stormed up court but with the Hornets recovering on defense elected to slow things down instead of taking a quick shot. Livingstons patience was rewarded when Miller made a cut to the top of the key and hit a 17 foot jumper to give the Wizards a 57-44 lead.Going to the fourth quarter the Wizards enjoyed a 70-59 lead. In an effort to speed up the tempo of the game, the Hornets went with a smaller lineup with Paul joined in the backcourt by rookie sensation Darren Collison.Collison proved to be pesky as he scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, but the Wizards seemed to have the answer. With 1:59 remaining Blatche blocked a Collison drive and then at the other end threaded a pass to James Singleton who scored to put the Wizards up 92-86.Of course it did get interesting. The Wizards almost cracked in the final minute with three turnovers in the span of 33 seconds that gave the Hornets life. A Marcus Thornton dunk off a Collison steal and a James Posey layup off a Thornton steal helped the Hornets close the gap at 92-90 with 44 seconds left.Posey was able to come up with a steal and drive to the basket and draw a foul on Blatche with 15.3 seconds left. Posey only made one of his free throws to pull the Hornets within one point at 92-91.With time running out the Hornets were forced to foul and put Livingston at the line. Livingstons free throws then forced the Hornets to go for a three point shot with 4.4 second left, but West attempt rimmed out and Miller snared the rebound.To our guys credit, even though they lost all those games they have not been down, Wizards head coach Flip Saunders noted. They have not been saying lets just get this stuff over with. They have gone out with the idea of trying to utilize the minutes they get.

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What are Bradley Beal's chances of earning All-NBA?

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What are Bradley Beal's chances of earning All-NBA?

Bradley Beal has been indispensable for the Wizards this season with John Wall having missed 33 of their 70 games, or nearly half of their schedule so far. Beal's numbers are up in several categories from last season and he earned his first All-Star selection as a result.

Becoming an NBA All-Star is very difficult. Usually, about six guards per conference are picked each year. Being All-NBA is even more exclusive, as only six guards are selected from the entire league.

Wall has done it before and Beal may be in position to accomplish the feat himself this season. As of now, Beal could be considered on the bubble for third-team All-NBA.


It is an extremely competitive race and there are several locks to earn the honors. At this point, guys like James Harden and Russell Westbrook should get in easily. But after that, the next four spots are hard to sort out.

Based on his numbers, Damian Lillard of the Blazers should be a shoe-in. He is the best player on the third-place team in the Western Conference and is second among all NBA guards in points per game (26.6). He is also averaging 6.5 assists and 4.4 rebounds. He has already been All-NBA twice in his career and should get his third nod after this season.

DeMar DeRozan of the Raptors is probably the next-most likely to get in. He has led the top team in the Eastern Conference, was an All-Star starter in February and got his first All-NBA selection last year.

After those is where it gets interesting. The reason why is injuries. Stephen Curry in any other year would be a guarantee for All-NBA, but as of now he has played just 50 games. Consider that the NBA requires a player to appear in 58 games or more, or 70 percent of his team's games, to qualify for statistical leaderboards. 


Curry has returned to practice, but due to health and possibly rest down the stretch of the season, there is a chance he doesn't hit the 58-game threshold. That may present an interesting question for the voters.

Kyrie Irving of the Celtics is also hurt. He has played in 60 games with 11 left on Boston's schedule. The same goes for Jimmy Butler of the Timberwolves. He is rehabbing a torn meniscus and currently has only played 56 games. 

Chris Paul of the Rockets has appeared in 53 games due to injuries. Though his numbers could put him in the All-NBA conversation, Devin Booker of the Suns has played in just 54 games.

If injuries do preclude Curry in particular from getting in, then the door could be open the door for Beal. He would then have to beat out guys like Victor Oladipo of the Pacers, Irving, Butler and others.

Setting aside the most likely three to get All-NBA - Harden, Westbrook and Lillard - and Curry, let's take a look at how Beal stacks up statistically to the rest of the pack. 

Bradley Beal - 23.3 ppg, 4.7 apg, 4.5 rpg, 1.2 spg, 46.3 FG%, 37.4 3PT%

DeMar DeRozan - 23.7 ppg, 5.1 apg, 4.0 rpg, 1.1 spg, 46.1 FG%, 32.4 3PT%

Victor Oladipo - 23.3 ppg, 4.2 apg, 5.2 rpg, 2.3 spg, 47.1 FG%, 36.6 3PT%

Kyrie Irving - 24.4 ppg, 5.1 apg, 3.8 rpg, 1.8 spg, 49.1 FG%, 40.8 3PT%

Jimmy Butler - 22.2 ppg, 5.0 apg, 5.4 rpg, 1.9 spg, 47.3 FG%, 35.6 3PT%

Devin Booker - 24.9 ppg, 4.7 apg, 4.5 rpg, 0.9 spg, 43.2 FG%, 38.3 3PT%

Chris Paul - 18.8 ppg, 7.9 apg, 5.6 rpg, 1.7 spg, 45.9 FG%, 38.5 3PT%


As you see, not a whole lot is separating those guys. It may come down to team performance and other factors.

Working in Beal's favor is that he's been the most durable of the bunch. He has played in every one of the Wizards' games this season.

Beal has also helped keep his team in contention despite Wall's absence. The Wizards are on pace for 47 wins, not far off their 49 victories last year, and Beal has been the biggest reason.

But Irving's case is helped similarly by all the injuries in Boston, including to Gordan Hayward. He has been the best player on the second-best team in the Eastern Conference.

Oladipo has led the Pacers to an impressive season despite not having another All-Star in the lineup. DeRozan, Beal, Irving and Butler have better supporting casts.


Say injuries do work against Curry, Paul, Irving and Booker. And assume DeRozan is safely in as the fourth guy behind Harden, Westbrook and Lillard. That could mean Beal gets in alongside Oladipo.

If Curry, Paul or Irving get in despite missing double-digit games, that would probably bump Beal out of the mix. Oladipo has slightly better numbers and has drawn lots of acclaim for being the best player on a surprise Pacers team and he's no guarantee himself.

Beal has 12 games left to prove his case and clearly a lot of factors are in play, but the idea of him making All-NBA for the first time is not out of the question.

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Wizards at Spurs: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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Wizards at Spurs: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:


Where: AT&T Center
Tip-off: 9:30 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (pregame coverage begins at 8:30 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Wizards are trending up

The Wizards have had some steep ups and downs in recent weeks. They lost three in a row from Feb. 28 through March 4 and that turned into five losses in seven games, their worst stretch since John Wall injured his left knee. But now, with two straight wins, the Wizards appear to be in good shape. They have won four of their last six games and all of those wins came against teams currently holding playoff spots.

The Wizards enter Wednesday night sitting fifth in the Eastern Conference. They have been off the past three days and during that break the Pacers won a game and pushed ahead into fourth. The Pacers play the Pelicans on Wednesday, while the third-place Cavs battle the Raptors and the sixth-place Sixers see the Grizzlies.


Tough place to play

The Wizards head to Texas hoping to win in San Antonio for the first time since 1999. Yes, you read that right: 1999. Like, back when Limp Bizkit was a thing. It has been 19 years and 17 straight losses at the Spurs for the Wizards.

Washington has had trouble with the Spurs in general in the past two decades, as have most teams. The Spurs have won 20 of their last 23 matchups overall and won 17 straight from 2006 through 2015. The Spurs under head coach Gregg Popovich have been among the most consistent winners in all of sports and the Wizards have had trouble cracking the code.


Spurs are still getting it done

The Spurs are currently sixth in the Western Conference despite having a slightly better record than the Wizards. They have gotten this far despite their best player Kawhi Leonard missing all but nine games this season. It is a remarkable feat and one that could very well win Popovich another Coach of the Year award.

In Leonard's absence, many have stepped up. LaMarcus Aldridge has put in an All-Star season with averages of 22.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. Rudy Gay has enjoyed a nice bounceback season with 11.2 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. And Pau Gasol is still making an impact with 10.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

Really, though, it's all about their defense. The Spurs boast the lowest opponents points per game average (99.0) and the third-best defensive rating (104.1).


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