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Morning tip: As the Wizards turn, rotations remain a step slow

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Morning tip: As the Wizards turn, rotations remain a step slow

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The headway that the Wizards thought they'd made with their players-only meeting took a boot to the skull. Maybe their heart-to-heart with each other inspired them enough to beat the likes of the .500 Houston Rockets but they're not even close to the level of a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Monday, the Thunder torched them early. The Wizards made a move several times by getting stops and easy buckets on offense but ultimately it wasn't enough. Their help defense was late. Their rotations were slow. One hundred and fourteen points later, they had their 25th loss of the season. 

"They came out and scored easy," said John Wall, who was isolated in the mid-post to open the game on the first three possessions by Russell Westbrook. "When we got opportunities to get them to miss some shots they got each offensive rebound. We were always playing from behind. ... We just couldn't get over the hump."

Westbrook passed the first time and got Serge Ibaka a jump shot in the lane. The next two were shots by Westbrook inside of 10 feet that were good. He had a triple-double after three quarters and finished with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. 

"They're at their best when he's play facilitator," Wizards guard Garrett Temple said. "He's going to get his points in transitions and random plays but when he's looking to pass and get his teammates involved, that's when they're tough to beat. That's why rotations need to be great. We were getting the ball out of his hands but we weren't able to get to the guys on the weak side or contest (Steven) Adams or Serge and those guys."

Durant was 9 of 18, Ibaka shot 8 of 12, Westbrook 8 of 13, Adams 4 of 5 and Enes Kanter 4 of 7. Oklahoma City dominated them inside the paint, 53-27 on overall rebounds and 18-2 with second-chance points. 

"They scored 36 points in the first quarter. They got anywhere they wanted. Those points weren't even off offensive rebounds," said Jared Dudley, who called the players-only meeting after a 117-113 loss to the Denver Nuggets to address their defensive woes. "They were isolations. Durant, Westbrook getting buckets and us not really adapting to it once they score a couple. We needed to trap, we were late on it. We were timid from the beginning. When that happens with a team that's coming to end the game in the first quarter it sets the whole tone. From then on, we were playing an uphill battle."

Now that the Wizards are back to a pace-and-space team, the offensive side of what's taking place isn't a concern anymore. They're top five in the NBA in pace. It's all about figuring out their defense.

"We're not good enough defensively or have a lockdown defender where we can let someone go one-on-one on an island so you got to know the traps, know the rotations," Dudley said. "That's something we were timid doing early and really didn't do a good job throughout the whole game."

RELATED: Buzz surrounding Kevin Durant quickly fades, as do Wizards

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

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

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick and the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday 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. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 7 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Another test

The Wizards continue their difficult stretch coming out of the All-Star break against a very dangerous Sixers team. Philly has proven to be very streaky this season, but right now they are rolling. They come to Washington having won their last seven games dating back to Feb. 6 when they beat the Wizards at the Wells Fargo Center. The Wizards are also playing well, having won eight of their last 11, despite their loss to the Hornets on Friday.

The Sixers are currently seventh in the East and appear on track to make the playoffs. If they keep rising the standings, they could meet the Wizards, who are currently fourth, in the first round. 

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Season series

Speaking of the playoffs, this game could end up looming large for postseason seeding. The Sixers have won two of the three matchups between these teams this year. If they win on Sunday, they will take the season series and own the tiebreaker over Washington.

If the two teams tie head-to-head and end up with the same record at the end of the season, it will then come down to conference record. The Sixers currently have a better record against East teams than the Wizards. But if they can beat Philly this time, the Wizards will have a chance to secure the conference tiebreaker down the stretch of this season.

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

Sixers are tough to guard

The Wizards have found out the hard way this season just how difficult it can be to match up with the Sixers, who are led by two emerging stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Embiid is 7-foot-1 with rare abilities to stretch the floor and beat opponents off the dribble. Simmons is 6-foot-10, yet can lead the fastbreak with rare speed and vision to find his teammates with crisp passes.

The mobility for their size is almost unmatched and it has not been easy for the Wizards to answer. In their last meeting earlier this month, Simmons had 15 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three steals. Embiid had 27 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. The Wizards have to try to limit those guys while also dealing with other challenges like Robert Covington, Dario Saric and J.J. Reddick.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKING

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

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USA Today Sports Images

Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

Instead of visiting the White House when they come to Washington this week to play the Wizards, the defending-champion Golden State Warriors plan to hold an event with D.C.-area kids.

Their invitation was rescinded by president Donald Trump following a back-and-forth between the two sides last year. After the Warriors won the title, they openly questioned whether they should follow the tradition given many of the players and coaches disagree with his policies. Trump took the opportunity away before they came to a final decision.

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The Warriors' event will be closed off to the media and held at an undisclosed location. It is set for Tuesday, the day before they play the Wizards at Capital One Arena. The Warriors had the option of holding a ceremony with other politicians in the Democratic party, but decided that would send the wrong message. 

"It's their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it's up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans," coach Steve Kerr said. "I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they're doing."

The Warriors are the first NBA team to make this choice since Trump was elected president. Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers held their celebration with president Barack Obama in November. They did so just days after Trump was elected and LeBron James questioned at the time whether he would visit the White House with Trump in office.

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Sports teams visiting the White House goes back to the mid-1800s. The first World Series title team to visit was the 1924 Washington Senators. By the 1960s, NBA teams were going and by the 1980s NFL and NHL teams made it a tradition.

Entire teams snubbing the White House is unusual, but many players have turned down the opportunity. In the NBA, some famous cases include Larry Bird in 1984 and Michael Jordan in 1991, according to Rolling Stone.

Perhaps the Warriors start a trend, or maybe it will be a one-off thing. Regardless, the alternative they chose is a respectable one. 

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS