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Even shorthanded, Wizards can defend and run fast-pace offense

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Even shorthanded, Wizards can defend and run fast-pace offense

By tying their season-high with three wins in a row -- really, a modest accomplishment in the bigger picture -- the Wizards can move on from the questions about their ability to stay defensively responsible in the pace-and-space offense. Yes, they can. 

After Monday's 100-91 victory against the Memphis Grizzlies, they've held their second opponent in a row below the century mark. The Sacramento Kings are the NBA's third-highest scoring team and they reached 99. The Charlotte Hornets, 11th, posted 101. 

And the Wizards (13-14) have done it while shorthanded, using Garrett Temple (20 points, six rebounds) in the starting lineup along with rookie Kelly Oubre (10 points, seven rebounds). Usually a defensive stopper, it was Temple's third game in a row with at least 20 points.

"He plays with that high energy," coach Randy Wittman said. "Kelly plays with that high energy whether he plays a minute or 12 minutes, he plays with a high intensity. I think that does rub off. Now those two guys are in the starting lineup, (Jared Dudley) is flying around ... I think that has something to do with it."

Nine days ago, the Wizards put forth one of their worst efforts of the season in a 112-95 loss in Memphis. 

The Grizzlies (16-15) jumped out to a 6-0 lead, but the Wizards pushed the pace off made baskets. That's how Temple scored for the first time as did John Wall.

"That was one thing that we didn't do at their place," Temple said. "We harped on we've got to get pace. Even though they're starting to play small they still like to walk the ball up. That's just in their nature. We wanted to make sure we got out and run against them even on makes. ... Holding them to 18 points (in the first quarter) especially with the pace we played, that was big." 

Dudley and Temple lauded Wittman on his continuing to make adjustments on their defensive coverages. Memphis shot 10 of 15 on three-pointers in that first meeting. This time, it went 3 of 17. Marc Gasol, who had 24 points in the first meeting, was held to 11 on nine shots.

"He's tired of the point guard killing us with that slot jump shot," Dudley said of Wittman. "Gasol had about nine in the first game. Took that away. Besides that I think guys looked at themselves in the mirror. The rookie, he might be a rookie, but he's one of our better defensive players."

Marcin Gortat is playing his best basketball of the season. He had 12 points and 12 rebounds against Gasol after putting up 26 points and 17 rebounds against DeMarcus Cousins with Sacramento. His defense on both has been exceptional as well.

"We knew that we had to bring energy and run in transition. That's what we did," Gortat said. "We pretty much outworked them.

"He didn’t shoot the ball as many times as he shot nine days ago. We were higher on the screens, more aggressive on the screens. That’s what helped us get back to Gasol, be on time and not have him have open looks. That was crucial.”

 Just because the Wizards struggled mightily early on, they weren't rolling back the offense to what it was last season when they slowed it down with two post players on the floor at the same time. Wall is playing more with Ramon Sessions (16 points) and it has added a different dynamic as they break down defenses and they're fast enough on their feet to get established on the other end.

Wittman has used a seven-, eight- and nine-man rotation in succession during this winning streak. While Wall said the effort has been better, the coach backed off of comments he made earlier in the season that his team wasn't trying hard enough.

"It's not necessarily the effort, it's the intensity is more of the word I like. Nobody on this team does not come out and try," said Wittman. "There's an intensity level we're at right now that we haven't been at consistently. This is three games in a row with the intensity level. Effort is probably the wrong word and I've used that term. I don't have to worry about that. I know they're going to try."

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Otto Porter's status in doubt for Game 6 against Raptors

Otto Porter's status in doubt for Game 6 against Raptors

There appears to be at least some chance the Wizards will be without starting small forward Otto Porter when they host the Toronto Raptors in Game 6 of their first round playoff series on Friday night in Washington.

Porter, 24, continues to deal with a right lower leg strain. The injury is located on the outside of his calf and will require further testing from the Wizards' medical staff to determine his status.

Head coach Scott Brooks addressed the media on Thursday and did not rule out an MRI.

"We don't know as of yet, but he's banged up. So, hopefully we will find out some good news and see how he feels tomorrow," Brooks said.

Porter first suffered the injury on April 10 against the Celtics in the Wizards' penultimate regular season game. He missed the regular season finale, but has appeared in all five games of the Wizards-Raptors series.

Brooks did not make it seem likely that Porter will miss Game 6, but expressed uncertainty.

"Anything is possible," he said. "We hope for the best."

Porter appeared hobbled in Game 5 and has at other times this series as well. After the first two games of the series, Brooks was asked about Porter's health and said that he was "100 percent." It's unclear if Porter suffered a setback in the time between, but clearly that isn't the case anymore.

Porter is averaging just 10.0 points in this series, down from his 14.7 per game season average. Ideally, the Wizards would be getting more than that from their third scoring option.

"We need Otto," Brooks said. "We need Otto to be more of a nine or 10-point scorer for us to win this series."

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Fourth quarter has been an issue for the Wizards in series vs. Raptors

Fourth quarter has been an issue for the Wizards in series vs. Raptors

It was all going so well for the Wizards in Game 5 on Wednesday night until just over four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. That's when their offense went from good enough to win to bad enough to alter a series and put their 2017-18 season on life support.

The Wizards head back to Washington down 3-2 and have only themselves to blame. From the 4:05 mark in the fourth quarter all the way until 16.2 seconds remining in the game, they did not score a single point. Meanwhile, the Raptors kept rolling and finished that stretch on a 14-5 run. 

The Wizards missed 11 of their final 15 shots. They stopped moving the ball and moving off the ball and even some of their open shots clanged off the backboard or the rim.

It was a stunning display of offensive ineptitude from a team that was above average in scoring during the regular season. 

"We just missed some shots," guard Bradley Beal said. "We feel like we got some good ones, especially down the stretch."

The Wizards managed 20 points in the fourth quarter and 15 came in the first 7:55 of the frame. That would put them on pace for a solid quarter. If they maintained that course, they may have won the game.

Instead, the fourth quarter amounted to a disaster and it cost them dearly. Teams that lose Game 5 to break a 2-2 tie have a 17.2 percent chance of winning the series, based on the league's history.

Otto Porter went scoreless and took one shot in the fourth quarter of Game 5. John Wall had two of his seven turnovers and shot 2-for-6.

"I had two crucial turnovers trying to split screens in the fourth quarter," Wall said. "Just bad reads on my part."

Beal shot 1-for-6 from the field and 1-for-4 from three. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who shot just 40.3 percent from the field during the regular season, took six shots in the fourth quarter, tied for most on the team. He made two of them and missed all three of his threes.

The Wizards had six of their 18 giveaways in the fourth. Though they outrebounded the Raptors 50-35 for the game, they were outdone 15-12 in the frame.

The Wizards' scoreless drought of three minutes and 49 seconds in the fourth quarter was perhaps foreshadowed by some problems with their offense early in the game. There were plenty of stretches characterized by bad shots, turnovers and a lack of passing.

The Wizards' 21 assists in Game 5 were their fewest in the playoffs so far.

"We need more ball movement," Beal said. "We need more player movement. We were way too stagnant."

The fourth quarter has been an issue all series. Only once, in Game 2, did they outscore the Raptors in the final frame. 

The Wizards rank 14th out of 16 playoff teams in fourth quarter points (23.4/g) and dead-last with a 40.4 field goal percentage and 28.1 three point percentage.

This is a bit of a carryover from the regular season. Only five teams shot worse than the Wizards in the fourth quarter (43.7%) and only five teams allowed more points (26.5) to their opponents.

Washington has had issues closing games all year and throughout this series. Wednesday night was an extreme example and it has them just one loss away from elimination.

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