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Morning tip: John Wall enters MVP territory in domination of Thunder

Morning tip: John Wall enters MVP territory in domination of Thunder

Where does John Wall rank among point guards in the East is a popular topic of conversation. In a discussion with CSNmidatlantic.com last week, he didn't mince his words though he was respectful of Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas. 

"I feel like I'm the best point guard. There's a lot of great guards in the Eastern Conference. Kyrie does a great job doing what he does. Isaiah does what he does," said Wall, who had his 34th double-double Monday in a 120-98 wipeout of the Oklahoma City Thunder. "We're all different type of point guards. I'm just all-around, do-everything. I'm the best point guard -- 20 points, 10 assists almost five rebounds, two steals -- play defense against every point guard on the opposing team."

The latter point Wall made is key, given that he doesn't get hidden defensively the way Irving and Thomas do against their tougher assignments at the position. But Wall's final words will end up being the most significant after his 15 point, game-high 14 assists and five rebounds had his team ahead by as many as 34 points Monday.

"You win," Wall said, "you get recognized."

The Wizards (33-21) have won 19 of 20 games at Verizon Center. They've won nine of their last 10 games overall. They're in third in the conference, just 4 1/2 games behind the first-place Cleveland Cavaliers.

If they hold this form, Wall may need to broaden his scope. He not only would be more widely regarded as the best at his position in the East but in the MVP conversation.

[RELATED: Takeaways from Wizards' blowout win over Thunder]

Wall dominated his matchup with Russell Westbrook on Monday. Unlike the Nov. 30 matchup when Westbrook had 35 points (on 35 shots), 14 rebounds and 11 assists as Wall rounded himself into shape after offseason surgeries to both knees, Westbrook couldn't get to the rim to finish.

The help from Marcin Gortat can't be understated, but Wall did the job in ways that his point guard counterparts cannot against the triple-double machine. Westbrook was 5-for-19 shooting for justs 17 points, four rebounds and four assists. 

"The focus was to stop Westbrook," Wizards forward Markieff Morris said. "That's what we did tonight. We just tried to make it real hard for him, play physical. We had a great third quarter and that put the game away."

Leading 67-54 at halftime, the Thunder were outscored 34-19. Including the end of the second quarter, they had a drought of 24 consecutive misseds shots. Westbrook was 0-for-4 in the third. Wall was just 1-for-2 for three points there but he dished out seven of his assists that included a between-the-legs pass to Otto Porter in transition for a dunk. 

[RELATED: Thunder at a loss to explain 24 missed shots in a row against Wizards]

Wall has responded to every challenge of an elite point guard with a better performance. Thomas lit up the Wizards for 20 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter of Boston's win on Jan. 11. Wall, who was playing with a mangled right pinkie and a swollen left wrist in shooting 4-for-21, came back with 27 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in a blowout of the Celtics two weeks later in the "funeral" game. 

Irving went for 29 points in a Nov. 11 win over the Wizards, and even though the Cavs won in a thriller overtime game last week at Verizon Center, Wall contributed to Irving shooting just 8-for-24.

Wall already has achieved one of his goals to be an All-Star for the fourth time. He also wants to be All-NBA for the first time, too, feeling he was overlooked two seasons ago for the more popular Irving who was on the better team.

Irving still has the better team as the Cavs are defending champions, but a lot of that has to do with LeBron James. Wall has been the best player on a team with a starting five that has scored in double figures together an NBA-leading 21 times.  

The disrespect that Wall has felt after leading the Wizards to the conference semifinals in two of the last three years -- averaging a double-double with a broken left hand in a series with the Atlanta Hawks -- likely will come to an end if he can close this season as strongly as his team has been closing out victories. 

The 29 other GMs who failed to give him a single nod among the league's best passers? They'll remember his name because the national TV dates such as this game vs. Westbrook will continue to add up, too.

"That (doesn't) really matter to me," Wall said when asked about being in the MVP conversation. "If I get there, I get there. As long as we're winning,  playing the way we are, I'm happy with that part."

Make no mistake, Wall craves to be mentioned as the East's best point guard. To be included with Westbrook, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Curry on the bigger stage, however, is another level and he'll bring 14 other players with him. 

[RELATED: Wizards happy to get Brooks win against his former team]

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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 


The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall reamins out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.

The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.


The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.

By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine, if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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Wizards blown out by Spurs, as streak of losses in San Antonio since 1999 continues

Wizards blown out by Spurs, as streak of losses in San Antonio since 1999 continues

The Washington Wizards lost to the San Antonio Spurs 98-90 on Wednesday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Streak continues: Many will tell you that San Antonio, TX is a wonderful city rife with history, good restaurants and warm weather. Please excuse the Washington Wizards if they hate the place.

They lost to the Spurs in a blowout on Wednesday and remain winless in San Antonio going all the way back to 1999. It was their 18th straight loss when playing at the Spurs.

The Spurs win games with their defense and this one was no exception. The Wizards scored their fewest points since Jan. 22, nearly two months, and shot just 42.7 percent. The Spurs hold opponents to the lowest points per game in the NBA (99.0) and the Wizards fell into all of their traps.

Bradley Beal was the only one immune to it. He had 21 points on 9-for-13 shooting. The rest of the Wizards shot just 26-for-69 (37.7%).

Losing in San Antonio has come to be expected for the Wizards, but they picked a bad night to drop a game. The Cavaliers and Sixers both won. Philly winning means more because they passed the Wizards in the East and currently sit fourth while the Wizards are in the sixth spot. 

If the playoffs began with those seeds, the Wizards would see the Cavaliers in the first round. Even though the Cavs aren't what they were a year ago, that should be avoided if possible.


Hustle plays: The Spurs also beat the Wizards at the minor details of the game, something they have long been good at under head coach Gregg Popovich. They got the loose balls and offensive rebounds at key moments to either sustain or steal momentum away from Washington.

In the first half, 40-year-old Manu Ginobli dove on the ground to beat Ramon Sessions to a loose ball and it led to two points by Pau Gasol. In the third quarter, Patty Mills flipped around quickly to steal an outlet pass from Marcin Gortat that led to free throws. And in the third there was one play when the Spurs got three offensive rebounds and ultimately got to the free throw line again.

The Spurs out-rebounded the Wizards 43-34 overall and outdid them in offensive rebounds 12-8. They just wanted it more on this particular night.


Oubre stood out: The Spurs' defense got the best of most players on the Wizards, but Kelly Oubre, Jr. was an exception. The third-year pro has been struggling with his shot in recent weeks, so in this one he stuck to high percentage looks, at least early. He had 10 points in his first nine minutes on 5-for-7 shooting, many of those attempts right around the rim.

Oubre attacked the lane dribbling both to his left and his right. He finished with floaters, tough layups and on one fastbreak with a thunderous left-handed slam:

Oubre ended up with 21 points, six rebounds, two steals and two blocks. He shot 9-for-17 from the field and 3-for-6 from three.

Oubre has continued to make an impact defensively, even when his shot is not falling. But he has to get more creative some nights to affect games when he isn't hitting from long range. Wednesday was a good example of how he can use his athleticism to take matters into his own hands.

It is a tricky balance, however, because sometimes his aggression can lead to mistakes. That certainly happened at times even in this game, as he had two turnovers. But when Oubre can contain his explosiveness, he can make a big difference.


Under the weather: Already without Wall, the Wizards had to shorten their rotation by two players against the Spurs as both Jodie Meeks and Mike Scott were out due to flu-like symptoms. In Meeks and Scott, the Wizards were missing two key pieces on their bench.

Instead of giving Tim Frazier and Jason Smith a rare and extended opportunity, head coach Scott Brooks instead chose to tighted things up. He relied heavily on the starters until the game was out of hand.

Brooks also got experimental, playing Tomas Satoransky (zero points, 0-for-7 FG) and Sessions together in the second quarter with Oubre and Otto Porter (12 points, seven rebounds) as the forwards. In the fourth quarter, we saw a lineup with three point guards: Sessions, Frazier and Satoransky.

The fact the Wizards had three days off before this game helped allow Brooks to rely on his starters early. It was also an opportunity for Brooks to see what life will be like when Wall returns. There is a chance Satoransky could see more time off the ball. This gave him another glimpse of how he can use Satoransky in more creative ways once the minutes at point guard go down significantly.


Up next: The Wizards are off Thursday before returning home to host the Denver Nuggets on Friday with a 7 p.m. tipoff on NBC Sports Washington. That will be a special night at Capital One Arena as the Wizards retire Phil Chenier's No. 45 jersey. 

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