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Lineup shuffling Wizards win; Seraphin leaves with calf injury

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Lineup shuffling Wizards win; Seraphin leaves with calf injury

Recapping the Wizards first preseason win of the year, a 99-95 victory at Cleveland...

The basics: Making his first start in three preseason games, Bradley Beal scored 14 points, tying Jordan Crawford and Brian Cook with team-high honors while Jan Vesely assertively added 13.

As promised, Wizards coach Randy Wittman shook up the starting lineup, inserting Beal, Martell Webster and Jannero Pargo while bringing Crawford, Trevor Ariza and A.J Price off the bench. Of the new starters, only the poised rookie seemed to maintain his level of play. Crazy to think the 19-year-old Beal has been the most consistent Wizard during the preseason - but it's true. Outside of the St. Louis native innocently tweaking some stunned D.C. sports fans by tweeting out some Cardinals joy following Game 5's epic comeback against the Nationals, the kid has been rather spot on. Meanwhile the two highest plus-minus lines on the team belonged to Crawford (+14), whose skill set and demeanor are ultimately best suited for a sixth-man role, and Price (+11). Once again, Washington fell behind early and trailed by eight points after the first quarter, but the margin never ballooned into double figures.

Bumps, bruises and then some: Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the victory is that it came with so many out of action, especially up front. For the third straight game no Emeka Okafor (food poisoning), no Trevor Booker (sore left hamstring) and yes, no Nene or John Wall. Chris Singleton (right shoulder contusion) joined that dinged up group pregame. Just five minutes in, center Kevin Seraphin did as well with a right calf strain. He never returned, leaving non-roster invitee Shavlik Randolph (nine rebounds) to start the second half at center. Remember when the question entering the camp was how would the Wizards find playing time for everyone up front...

The point guards: Pargo is the most experienced and the most offensively potent of the lead guard options, but over the last two games, he's also been the most turnover-prone. In just over 16 minutes against Cleveland, the 33-year-old committed six turnovers (with two assists), the same amount he coughed up against New York on Thursday. Meanwhile Shelvin Mack (nine points, three assists in 20 minutes) continues to value possession as the rising second-year guard has not committed a single turnover during the preseason. Mack, who sank 4 of 6 shots and continues performing at a higher level when not tasked with initiating the attack, also formed a nice duo with Crawford (seven assists, five turnovers), who has no issue with the attack initiating angle. Price finished with seven points and one assist in 11 minutes.

Kyrie Irving (nine points, seven assists) did play for the Cavaliers, but did not take over the game and missed 10 of 13 field goal attempts.

Jan Vesely: Here's a portion of what Wittman said Thursday after Vesely's tepid two points, four rebound performance against the Knicks.

"Jan’s got to be more aggressive. Right now, he’s  a little tentative when he’s rolling to the basket and finishing at the rim. It’s not with the authority that we’ve seen."

That was not the case for Vesely against Anderson Varejao and the Cavaliers other bigs. He made all five of his field goal attempts including two jumpers outside of 12 feet, but also stuck his nose into the fray on the boards and defensively with two blocks. Pulling down five rebounds in 32 minutes won't cut it on a regular basis and he's hardly got it all figured out offensively, but this level of effort should keep Vesely in the playing rotation on a regular basis even when all hands are on deck.

In the bonus...Ariza finished 2 of 6 from the field and is now shooting a brick-laying 23.8 percent during preseason...There might not be a roster spot available for Cook (3 of 6 from beyond the arc) when all the injured return, but the NBA veteran is reminding the coaches he can fill the stretch-four role if needed...The Wizards return to action Monday (7:30 p.m.; televised on Comcast SportsNet) against the Brooklyn Nets in the brand new Barclays Center.

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After getting little rest during All-Star break, Bradley Beal aims to be smart in second half

After getting little rest during All-Star break, Bradley Beal aims to be smart in second half

If anyone on the Wizards deserves some time off to rest it's Bradley Beal, who currently ranks fifth in the NBA in total minutes played. While his teammates were off on vacation, many of them at relaxing beaches far away, Beal was making appearance after appearance in Los Angeles as part of All-Star weekend.

The one drawback of Beal being selected as an All-Star and a contestant in the three-point contest was that he got little rest in the past week. He only made it one round in the three-point contest and played 16 minutes in the All-Star Game, but all of it was enough to soak up much of the free time he's used to getting this time of the year.

"Not as much as I needed to," Beal said when asked if he got any rest over the break. "I guess that's one of the downfalls of being an All-Star."

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The workload has really added up for Beal. He leads the Wizards in minutes (36.4/g) and is one of two players on the team who hasn't missed a game all season.

Beal did have Monday and Tuesday off, but that was after a crosscountry flight and a whirlwind of a weekend. He called the media and sponsorship appearances "overwhelming." Many All-Stars have been there before and know what to expect, but Beal was a first-time participant.

Beal and the Wizards will be given no breaks with their upcoming schedule. They have four back-to-back sets in the next three weeks and begin with a stretch of five games in seven days. Those games will feature the Cavs, Warriors, Bucks, Sixers and the Hornets. Charlotte is the only team of that bunch currently out of the playoff picture, but they have already beaten the Wizards twice this season.

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For Beal, it will be extra important to get any rest that he can.

"I will definitely be smart," he said. "I just gotta take care of my body. Listen to my body."

Beal says getting treatment from the Wizards' training staff in between games will be crucial. He also hopes to not over-exert himself in games by trusting his teammates and not trying to carry the load with John Wall out.

Though Beal may be tired from the weekend, he came out of it feeling pretty good about how he represented himself and the Wizards on the All-Star stage. He scored 14 points in 16 minutes in a game featuring the best players on the planet.

Beal now wants to make it an annual thing.

"I defintiely think it can push you more down the line. For me, it's just motivation to continue geting better," he said.

RELATED: WIZARDS HAVE BIG QUESTIONS TO ANSWER IN SECOND HALF

 

 

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Scott Brooks preparing Wizards for much tougher road ahead

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Scott Brooks preparing Wizards for much tougher road ahead

The Wizards entered the All-Star break having won seven of their previous nine games since John Wall went down with an injury, so a natural question to head coach Scott Brooks looking ahead to their first game back on Thursday was how he and his team can keep that momentum going in the second half.

Brooks immediately pointed to the Wizards' schedule, which gets notably more difficult in the coming weeks. They have a stretch of games over the next month-plus that features the best teams in basketball and Brooks knows that will be a big factor in whether they can sustain what they have going.

"Definitely the schedule gets tougher," Brooks said. "We've got a lot of good teams coming up starting with the first one in Cleveland. It's five games in seven nights against really good teams."

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In the next five weeks, the Wizards will play 15 of 17 games against teams currently holding playoff spots. That includes the Cavaliers, Warriors, Celtics, Spurs (twice), Raptors and Timberwolves. 

That will represent a marked shift for the Wizards, who to this point have the weakest strength of schedule. Though they boast impressive wins over the Celtics, Rockets, Raptors and Timberwolves, they are about to play teams of that caliber more frequently with few nights off to rest. They have four back-to-back sets all in the next three weeks.

The upcoming stretch has been on the Wizards' minds for a while. Several players referenced their tough schedule before the All-Star break, knowing those wins leading up to the time off could prove extra important in hindsight.

The Wizards return to action on Thursday night against the Cavaliers, a team that has already beaten them twice. Both of those games were against the old version of the Cavs before they traded much of their roster at the deadline.

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Gone are Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas, Iman Shumpert, Jae Crowder and Channing Frye. But they still have that guy LeBron James.

"Shoot, they looked good the other time, right? They beat us twice with the other group," Brooks noted. "LeBron is going to go down as one of the best ever. They are younger and more athletic. They're a good team and they still have an All-Star in [Kevin] Love who hasn't played because he's hurt."

The Cavs haven't lost in three games since the All-Star break and that includes road wins over the Celtics and Thunder. They look rejuvenated and, at least so far, improved from the aging, incongruent roster they had just weeks ago.

The Wizards have also been playing better lately, of course, and this upcoming stretch will be a major test for them. Wall has been out three weeks since he had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. He is likely to miss another three-to-five weeks. The Wizards will have to get through this without him.

If they can remain competitive and even beat some of these elite teams, they will only gain more confidence in their potential. That's the way Brooks plans to approach the schedule.

"We still want to be a better team when John comes back," Brooks said. "But the schedule definitely gets a lot tougher."

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