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State of the Wizards: Aiming for a winning record, Otto's always moving

State of the Wizards: Aiming for a winning record, Otto's always moving

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Can they get above .500? - After beating the Bucks in Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon, the Wizards find themselves at the .500 mark (18-18) for the second time this season. Last time they got here, at 16-16, they promptly lost two straight games. But those were on the road, where the Wizards have had major trouble this season. This next stretch in their schedule will offer plenty of games at the Verizon Center for them to rack up some Ws. 

Four of the Wizards' next five games are in Washington, where they are an impressive 14-6. And two of those games are against teams well below the .500 mark, the Sixers and Blazers. Securing a winning record would be a nice short-term goal for the Wizards and they are likely to reach it soon. They are 16-10 since beginning the season 2-8. That 16-10 mark is a 51-win pace over the course of a full season and it's not that small of a small sample size.

RELATED: Beal proving he is the opposite of soft

The Wizards' first opportunity will come against the Bulls on Tuesday night in Washington. If they win, they will go above .500 for the first time since Nov. 24, 2015 when they were 6-5.

Easier to score 50? - Sports Illustrated unearthed an amazing stat last week following Jimmy Butler's ' 52-point masterpiece against the Charlotte Hornets on Jan. 2. Butler was already the eighth different player to hit the 50-mark this season, tying the record for most in one NBA season with the 1989-90 campaign and last year. Considering there are three-plus more months of the NBA regular season left to play, that's very noteworthy.

Basically, there has been a huge increase in 50-point games in recent years. One of those performances this season was by John Wall, who had 52 himself on Dec. 6. Wall and others on the Wizards were asked this past week if they think it's easier now to score 50 points than it was in the past. The opinions varied:

Wall: "Might be so. There's more spacing out there. There's more spacing, there's a lot more fouls called and flagrant fouls, technical fouls; all of that's called that wasn't called back in that era. It was a lot more tough to get to the basket with hand-checking and all of that. I don't think those bigs back then would let us get to the basket so easy and score layups."

Bradley Beal: “I disagree. But at the same time I do agree because our eras were different. Foul calls were different. Guys shooting 20 free throws these days vs. however many they shoot back in the day. Guys are putting up, 50 you got to respect it.”

Scott Brooks: “I would probably say I disagree because it’s hard to score 50 points in a pickup game let alone an NBA game no matter what generation you’re playing in. Doesn’t happen often. The points have gone up. I think more teams are averaging more points this year than have in the last 25 years. It’s tough to score. Fifty points, that’s a number that’s not easy to get... There’s no question that [no hand-checking is] the biggest change. It was hard. You got these bigger point guards like Gary Payton, Derek Harper, hand-checking was part of the game. So you can basically where that point guard is going if they’re a bigger, stronger point guard. The rules are better now. It’s much more free-flowing. There’s so many more opportunities to drive and kick for threes. The three-point ball is exploding. There’s not a lot of guys that can score back to the basket. But I think if you’re growing up now days you walk in the gym you start shooting threes."

The other six besides Wall and Butler to drop 50 this year are Isaiah Thomas, Anthony Davis, Klay Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Who will be the ninth, if there is one? Beal has scored 40 or more twice already this season, so he's certainly capable.

Beal, by the way, suggested he thinks Westbrook's 17 triple-doubles this season are more impressive than the 50-point games:

"I would say Russ, having that many triple-doubles that many times in a row and being able to play that hard and at an elite level, that is kind of impressive and amazing to me. Just being able to play hard every single time you're on the floor and have no injuries and no splinters, just jumping and flying on the floor. Those things are impressive, but those are numbers. Guys are going to put up numbers every night. This is the game of basketball. It's not the first time we've seen guys score 40, 50 and above. It's just a trend where there's a lot of them this year. That's just the flow of the game. Guys are getting better."

Otto's always moving - Otto Porter may not be as fastest guy or play the most minutes, but every time he's on the court he's active on both ends of the floor. On offense he's cutting towards and away from the basket, while on defense he's usually guarding a mobile swingman. The result of all that has Porter near the top of the NBA in distance traveled per game.

Porter covers an average of 2.47 miles per game, which is tops on the Wizards and 11th overall in basketball. Beal offered a theory as to why that is:

"Otto's always moving without the ball. That's just a tale of what he does for us and the type of player that he is. He doesn't move at a fast pace, but he moves comfortably and he moves well without the ball probably better than most of us on the team. It's tough logging those many miles and putting that stress on your body, but he handles it well. He plays the three and the four, so it's a little tough on him. But he accepts it."

Eastern Conference standings

Stat line of the week: Marcin Gortat 1/6 vs. T'Wolves - 19 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, 9-for-9 FG

RELATED: VIDEO: Kid has meltdown during danceoff at Wizards game

Quote of the Week

"That's a little crazy to me. There's no way he should be that low. He averages a double-double. He's probably playing the best out of all the guards in the East."

- Beal on his teammate Wall placing 7th among guards in the East in NBA All-Star fan voting

Tweet (or Instagram) of the Week

Road ahead

Mon. - OFF
Tue. - 7 p.m. vs. Chicago Bulls (CSN)
Wed. - 8 p.m. at Boston Celtics (CSN)
Thu. - OFF
Fri. - OFF
Sat. - 8 p.m. vs. Philadelphia 76ers (CSN)
Sun. - OFF

RELATED: Oubre tries to pronounce Antetokounmpo, has trouble

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Marcin Gortat loses the Mohawk, much to the approval of his teammates and coach

Marcin Gortat loses the Mohawk, much to the approval of his teammates and coach

WASHINGTON — After the Washington Wizards fell behind to a 0-2 hole in their series with the Toronto Raptors, there were a lot places where people jumped to criticism. Marcin Gortat was right in the middle of that discussion after his Game 2 performance.

Heading into Game 3 though, Gortat made a change. Not only on the court, but in his appearance.

Yep, he shaved the Mohawk.

“There were a lot of people insisting,” Gortat said. “Keef [Markieff Morris] was bringing, for the past week, he was bringing clippers to the practice to try to shave me after practice, but I was always dipping.”

“I pulled a Houdini trick, I was disappearing right at the end of the practice. So I finally said 'You know what I'm done' fixing, you know it takes a lot of time to maintain that so I decided to shave it. And I'm glad because I was smoother out there.”

Smooth is right, and to the tune of 16 points, 8-of-10 shooting in nearly 26 minutes of action, Gortat had his best scoring output since March 17. He was one of five Wizards to reach double figures on the evening.

“That was the key,” John Wall said.

Often times in sport it superstitious to shave anything during the postseason. After all, the Mohawk has been a staple for the 6-11 center for the entire 2017-18 season. Now he is back to his polished look, one that helps identify the ‘Polish Hammer.’

“We needed the old Marc back, we need the hammer back. I felt like we got him back,” Morris said. “I'd cut his head. He's too cute with that Mohawk.”

A small sample size, but Morris’ point is valid. Time will tell if the post-mohawk era for Gortat will favor the Wizards past one game.

“I think he got an age-appropriate haircut,” head coach Scott Brooks said.

He has a point too… Gortat is 34-years-old.

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Markieff Morris set tone for Wizards, who finally got back to 'Death Row mentality'

Markieff Morris set tone for Wizards, who finally got back to 'Death Row mentality'

Perhaps Toronto and their fans would disagree, but through two games the first round playoff series between the Wizards and Raptors had been relatively uneventful, maybe even boring to the casual observer. For those who have watched the Wizards in recent years, something just seemed off with them.

Not only were Bradley Beal and Otto Porter struggling to score, but the energy and grit we're used to from the Wizards in the postseason just wasn't there. Three minutes into Game 3 on Friday night, that all changed.

Wizards forward Markieff Morris got tangled with Raptors rookie OG Anunoby and fell to the ground. He rose up, shoved Anunoby and gave Serge Ibaka a push for good measure. It cost Morris a technical, but he wasn't ejected. From there, the tone was set.

This was to be a physical game and the Wizards were going to make sure of it. That's how they prefer to play and that nastiness had been missing thus far in this series.

"I think OG [Anunoby] did not know the scouting report because he did not know that Keef is one of the people you do not mess with in this world," forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. said. "He will learn.”

The fireworks didn't end there. Beal and Jonas Valanciunas got into it and so did John Wall and Anunoby, and then Wall and Ibaka.

The Wizards made a name for themselves in the 2016-17 season when they won 49 games and were one win away from the conference finals as a team that would instigate contact and talk trash. They prided themselves on being old school in that regard and were praised for it by former NBA tough guys like Paul Pierce and Stephen Jackson.

This season, they just haven't been able to do it as often.

"We have been there at spurts throughout the year, we just have not been there consistently," Oubre said. "Now it is do or die. We just need to bring that Death Row mentality.”

Oubre also joked that rapper Drake started it all by sitting courtside in Toronto and talking trash. Truthfully, their backs were against the wall and they had no choice but to punch back.

The Wizards entered Friday's game down 0-2 to the Raptors with Game 2 a dispirited blowout. If they went down 0-3, they would essentially have been dead in the water. No team has come back from that deficit in NBA history.

This time, they weren't going to go down without a fight.

"It sounds crazy, but sometimes we need that. The crazy part is that it's always [Morris]," center Marcin Gortat said. "If you see your teammate fighting, I'm going to fight with him. That's the bottom-line."

"We came out tonight with an edge about ourselves," Beal said. "Keef is a bully... we are physical team." 

As for Morris, the enforcer himself, he let his actions speak for themselves. He didn't take the bait on most questions, but did wear a 'Death Row D.C.' shirt during his media availability. Morris came up with that nickname last season to convey the toughness he wants the Wizards to play with.

"We need some physicality," Morris said. "I feel like when we were in Toronto, they were doing everything too freely. This kind of set the tone for the whole series... we need to keep our same mean mentality. If they wanna fight, we will fight."

The Wizards fought the Hawks and Celtics last year tooth-and-nail and often used physical play to their advantage. It worked in Game 3 against the Raptors. Now the Wizards will have to counter however Toronto chooses to respond.

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