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Morning tip: 50-plus wins, No. 2 seed finally look realistic for Wizards

Morning tip: 50-plus wins, No. 2 seed finally look realistic for Wizards

There are two numbers that matter most to the Wizards, and that's 50 and two. Bradley Beal has his sights set on both after opening a five-game road trip with wins in a back-to-back. 

The Wizards (39-24), who haven't won 50 or more games since 1979, have been perfect in four consecutive back-to-backs after Wednesday's 123-113 rout of the Denver Nuggets. 

"It was a goal of mine coming into the year for the team to get 50 wins. Be a playoff team again. We're on track for it," said Bradley Beal, who had 23 points and five assists. "That won't make us. That won't define us as a team to be a part of history, having a 50-win season. I think we have the team to be able to do so. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't."

With two more wins, the Wizards will equal their total from a 41-41 non-playoff season a year ago. They play at the Sacramento Kings and at the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday and Saturday. They end the trip Monday at the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

They're No. 3 in the East and tied in the loss column with the No. 2 Boston Celtics (41-24), who beat the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday. To unseat Boston, the Wizards have to play better defensively than they've started on this trip because they have the tougher schedule to end the season.

The pivotal game to decide the season series, which will be crucial if there's a tie at the end of the season with the Celtics, is March 20 at TD Garden. 

"I think it's important especially if we make it out the first round having that home court in the second round and see where you go after that," Beal said of the No. 2 spot behind the Cleveland Cavaliers. "We love our chances. Our job is to win. Where it puts us a the end of the year, we'll let the chips fall where they may." 

In the Wizards' two playoff seasons in 2014 and '15, they were a No. 5 seed so they opened on the road and didn't have home court. Still, they pulled off upsets of the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors but ran into the No. 1 seed in the East in the second round to end their run. 

[MORE WIZARDS: Bojan Bogdanovic is a perfect fit for set-up artist John Wall]

By finishing as high as No. 2, they could avoid the Cavs until the conference finals if everything in the earlier rounds go according to plan. 

The Wizards have been an offensive juggernaut. In beating the Nuggets and Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, they've scored 254 points. But those teams don't defend like the Celitcs and are among the NBA's worst defenses.

Denver shot 53% overall (46 of 87), including 46.4% from three (13 of 28). The Suns shot 50%, making 44 of 88 shots that included 13 of 27 three-pointers (48.1%).

"We got to find a way when we get up 20-something points," said John Wall, who had 30 points and 10 assists vs. Denver. "Our defense started to (lag). Not playing with the sense of urgency that we played to get to that lead. That's something that we have to figure out, do a better job of because when we get to the playoffs you want to be able to get those guys out of the way and not give them any life. We gave them a little bit of life."

The Nuggets never regained the lead after falling behind by 24 points. But they made it more tense than it had to be late on several occassions. Phoenix erased a 22-point deficit, took an 11-point lead and eventually lost. 

The Wizards recently had to come back from 17 points down to beat the Orlando Magic, a team that's not in their class.

So while a win is a win, they have to develop better habits with three road games left at the Sacramento Kings, at the Portland Trail Blazers and at the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

"We just had some slippage on defense again," Beal said. "It almost cost us."

[RELATED: VIDEO: Morris ejected for kicking Plumlee in groin]

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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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