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Morning tip: Defensive leaks finally catch up to Wizards to end trip

Morning tip: Defensive leaks finally catch up to Wizards to end trip

To allow an average of 121 points a game and come back to Verizon Center at 4-1 from a Western Conference trip defies conventional wisdom. But the Wizards' methods in winning were indeed unconventional.

Monday, they fell 119-104 at the Minnesota Timberwolves, the 17th highest-scoring offense in the NBA. 

"Probably the biggest thing is getting back to our defensive concepts, getting back to our rhythm on defense," said Bradley Beal after the Wizards allowed Minnesota to shoot 52.3% from the field and almost 50% from three-point range. "We're out of whack a little bit. We're not communicating. ...We got to break those habits."

The Wizards (41-25) had to mount comebacks of 11 points to the Phoenix Suns (after leading by 22 themselves), 15 to the Sacramento Kings and 21 to the Portland Trail Blazers. They won all three, but it's too much to ask for them to do when they're playing five games in seven days. 

They return to D.C. and will be off Tuesday before a two-game homestand that starts Wednesday vs. the Dallas Mavericks, who beat them in their second game of 2017 before the Wizards won 18 of 21 going into the All-Star break. 

RELATED: 5 must-see moments from Wizards vs. T-Wolves

Portland shot 51.1% from the field and 50% from three. The Denver Nuggets were 52.9% overall and 46.4% from deep. The Suns shot 50% and 48.1% on threes. The Kings were 47.8% overall and 54.5% with the long ball. 

Those percentages are nothing short of alarming. But the Wizards were able to overcome their defensive ineptness with superior offense. Monday, that spigot halted. They only shot 42.9% and just 26.9% from three.

That they were in range to pull out a flawless five-game road trip for the first time in franchise history speaks to their offensive potency. But 102-97 would be as close as the Wizards got in Minneapolis. Then Karl-Anthony Towns made sure there'd be no comeback as he led a 17-7 run.

"It was just glimpses tonight. We would play good defense two possessions  in a row and then we'd go on a drought for a couple of possessions. They'd go on a 7-0 run," Beal said. "It was inconsistency with not being able to guard. It wasn't just one person. It was everybody." 

Sometimes it was Wall gambling for steals too often. Other times it was Marcin Gortat not being aggressive enough in his help. Or Otto Porter was getting caught under screens against red-hot shooters.

The Wizards can play elite defense, which is how they beat the Golden State Warriors, Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics in key matchups recently. For some reason, when they play teams with bad records, their defense lowers in its intensity, too.

That won't be an issue for the playoffs, of course, but it's a major one as they're trying cement themselves as no worse than No. 2 seed in the conference.

MORE WIZARDS: Brooks on challenge of Towns and Rubio in loss to Wolves

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Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Kemba Walker, Dwight Howard, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.

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

WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. CHARLOTTE HORNETS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 7 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

On a roll

The Wizards have some serious momentum going right now. With an impressive win over the Cavs on Thursday, they have now won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. They had a week off due to the All-Star break, but didn't show any rust at all in their first game back.

The Wizards are now 34-24, 10 games above the .500 mark. They are fourth in the East and could move into third on Friday if they win and the Cavaliers lose. Even with Wall out, things continue to look up for Washington.

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Hornets have had their number

The Wizards haven't done so well against the Hornets so far this season. Charlotte has taken both meetings and that includes a 24-point win on Jan. 17. That game featured Dwight Howard taunting the Wizards late in the fourth quarter.

Howard has killed the Wizards through two games with averages of 22.0 points and 14.0 rebounds. Jeremy Lamb (20.0 ppg vs. Wizards) has been a big factor as well as All-Star Kemba Walker (21.5 ppg vs. Wizards).

The last time these teams played about a month ago frustrations boiled over in an incident that got Tim Frazier ejected. Michael Carter-Williams picked a fight with Jason Smith and Frazier went off:

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

Hornets coming in hot

The Hornets are outside the playoff picture at the moment at eight games below .500, but they have won two straight games and Walker and Howard are coming off huge games. In a win over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, Walker dropped 31 points and Howard grabbed 24 rebounds.

Those guys will be riding a high coming into Washington on Friday. But it should be noted that Howard complained after the game how tired he is at this point in the season. That exhausion could affect him more in the second game of a back-to-back.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS

 

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' huge road win over Cavaliers, including Markieff Morris' alley-oop

5 must-see moments from Wizards' huge road win over Cavaliers, including Markieff Morris' alley-oop

Here are the five best plays or moments from the Washington Wizards' 110-103 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night...

1. The Wizards didn't start out well, as they trailed by nine points at the end of the first quarter. Kelly Oubre, Jr. stumbled early by missing four of his first six shots and it looked like a carryover of his slump before the All-Star break.

But Oubre got hot in the second quarter and helped the Wizards turn the game around. This was one of his best plays, a two-handed slam that he celebrated with an emphatic scream to the crowd:

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

2. Tomas Satoransky was one of the stars of the game. He had 17 points to go along with eight assists, four rebounds and two steals. 

Here's one of his dimes, a perfect alley-oop lob to Markieff Morris, who finished with nine points and eight rebounds:

3. Satoransky has reached double-figures in six of the 10 games since John Wall went out with an injury. This was a very impressive move, a stepback fadeaway that was super smooth:

RELATED: GET TO KNOW NEW WIZARDS FREE AGENT SIGNING

4. Ian Mahinmi made some key contributions including four offensive rebounds and a steal. This was his best basket, a powerful slam that came at a key time:

5. This play helped seal the victory. It was a smart after-timeout set drawn up by head coach Scott Brooks and it worked to perfection:

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS