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Takeaways from Wizards' win over Denver Nuggets

Takeaways from Wizards' win over Denver Nuggets

Unlike in previous games this season when the Wizards have been guilty of coming out flat against an undermanned opponent, they toyed with the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center 123-113 to keep the pressure on for the No. 2 seed in the East.

The Wizards (39-24) won their second game in a row to start a five-game road trip out West. They won the first game of the back-to-back on Tuesday at the Phoenix Suns.

John Wall (30 points, 10 assists) led all scorers followed by Bradley Beal (23 points, five assists), Otto Porter (22 points, four steals), Markieff Morris (11 points) and Marcin Gortat (11 points, 15 rebounds) with his 34th double-double. It was his first in five games.  

They sweep the season series 2-0 with Denver (29-35), which was playing without two of their best players in Nikola Jokic (flu) and Danilo Gallinari (vertigo).

They hung close until the Wizards pulled away at the end of the first quarter. Only up 29-28, the Wizards closed with a 6-0 run behind steals from Bojan Bogdanovic (10 points) and Brandon Jennings (four points, six assists) for easy buckets.

The Nuggets trimmed an 11-point deficit to 42-39 midway through the second quarter but a 25-11 run effectively put the game away though they’d make another push to end the third and again in the fourth.

The Wizards will be off Thursday before playing another back-to-back set Friday at the Sacramento Kings and Saturday at the Portland Trail Blazers.

Wilson Chandler (21 points) and Gary Harris (26 points) led the Nuggets. Jamal Murray (17 points) sparked them off the bench with his three-point range.

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

--A 35-point third quarter allowed Denver to trim a 24-point deficit to 97-85 entering the fourth though Wall played all 12 minutes. But Jennings, Bogdanovic and Ian Mahinmi (seven points, four rebounds) stretched it back to 16 with 8:12 to play.

--In Washington’s first seven sets of back-to-back games, they were 0-2, 1-1 (five times) and 0-2. With this win, they’ve now gone 2-0 in four consecutive back-to-back sets.

--Morris, Porter and Gortat only combined for five field goals and 14 points in the previous game. Morris made 3 of 3 while Porter shot 10-for-15 and Gortat 5-for-10. Porter had made just one three-pointer in his previous two games. He shot 2-for-3 to maintain his spot as the league’s most accurate shooter from distance. The last one at 53.7 seconds left put the lead to 119-108 to seal it.

--Chandler got the first field goal for the Nuggets on a busted coverage. While Gortat rotated properly to the ball, Morris also went to the ball which left Chandler alone under the rim. It represented a continuation of confusion on coverages that almost came back to bite them after blowing a 22-point lead in Phoenix.

--With 5:05 left and the lead down to 108-97 for Washington, coach Scott Brooks had to go back to his starting five rather than keep them under 30 minutes. Only Morris stayed below (26 minutes).

--Morris was ejected because of a Flagrant 2 with 2:08 left on Mason Plumlee. Morris was stripped of the ball as he went up to shoot and struck Plumlee between the legs. The play initially wasn’t going to reviewed but when head official Marc Davis did so it resulted in the ejection.

--Coming off 17 points in his last game, Jason Smith didn’t make an appearance. 

[RELATED: Mahinmi has arrived for Wizards as defensive force]

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After getting little rest during All-Star break, Bradley Beal aims to be smart in second half

After getting little rest during All-Star break, Bradley Beal aims to be smart in second half

If anyone on the Wizards deserves some time off to rest it's Bradley Beal, who currently ranks fifth in the NBA in total minutes played. While his teammates were off on vacation, many of them at relaxing beaches far away, Beal was making appearance after appearance in Los Angeles as part of All-Star weekend.

The one drawback of Beal being selected as an All-Star and a contestant in the three-point contest was that he got little rest in the past week. He only made it one round in the three-point contest and played 16 minutes in the All-Star Game, but all of it was enough to soak up much of the free time he's used to getting this time of the year.

"Not as much as I needed to," Beal said when asked if he got any rest over the break. "I guess that's one of the downfalls of being an All-Star."

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

The workload has really added up for Beal. He leads the Wizards in minutes (36.4/g) and is one of two players on the team who hasn't missed a game all season.

Beal did have Monday and Tuesday off, but that was after a crosscountry flight and a whirlwind of a weekend. He called the media and sponsorship appearances "overwhelming." Many All-Stars have been there before and know what to expect, but Beal was a first-time participant.

Beal and the Wizards will be given no breaks with their upcoming schedule. They have four back-to-back sets in the next three weeks and begin with a stretch of five games in seven days. Those games will feature the Cavs, Warriors, Bucks, Sixers and the Hornets. Charlotte is the only team of that bunch currently out of the playoff picture, but they have already beaten the Wizards twice this season.

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For Beal, it will be extra important to get any rest that he can.

"I will definitely be smart," he said. "I just gotta take care of my body. Listen to my body."

Beal says getting treatment from the Wizards' training staff in between games will be crucial. He also hopes to not over-exert himself in games by trusting his teammates and not trying to carry the load with John Wall out.

Though Beal may be tired from the weekend, he came out of it feeling pretty good about how he represented himself and the Wizards on the All-Star stage. He scored 14 points in 16 minutes in a game featuring the best players on the planet.

Beal now wants to make it an annual thing.

"I defintiely think it can push you more down the line. For me, it's just motivation to continue geting better," he said.

RELATED: WIZARDS HAVE BIG QUESTIONS TO ANSWER IN SECOND HALF

 

 

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Scott Brooks preparing Wizards for much tougher road ahead

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USA Today Sports Images

Scott Brooks preparing Wizards for much tougher road ahead

The Wizards entered the All-Star break having won seven of their previous nine games since John Wall went down with an injury, so a natural question to head coach Scott Brooks looking ahead to their first game back on Thursday was how he and his team can keep that momentum going in the second half.

Brooks immediately pointed to the Wizards' schedule, which gets notably more difficult in the coming weeks. They have a stretch of games over the next month-plus that features the best teams in basketball and Brooks knows that will be a big factor in whether they can sustain what they have going.

"Definitely the schedule gets tougher," Brooks said. "We've got a lot of good teams coming up starting with the first one in Cleveland. It's five games in seven nights against really good teams."

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

In the next five weeks, the Wizards will play 15 of 17 games against teams currently holding playoff spots. That includes the Cavaliers, Warriors, Celtics, Spurs (twice), Raptors and Timberwolves. 

That will represent a marked shift for the Wizards, who to this point have the weakest strength of schedule. Though they boast impressive wins over the Celtics, Rockets, Raptors and Timberwolves, they are about to play teams of that caliber more frequently with few nights off to rest. They have four back-to-back sets all in the next three weeks.

The upcoming stretch has been on the Wizards' minds for a while. Several players referenced their tough schedule before the All-Star break, knowing those wins leading up to the time off could prove extra important in hindsight.

The Wizards return to action on Thursday night against the Cavaliers, a team that has already beaten them twice. Both of those games were against the old version of the Cavs before they traded much of their roster at the deadline.

RELATED: WIZARDS HAVE BIG QUESTIONS TO ANSWER IN SECOND HALF

Gone are Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas, Iman Shumpert, Jae Crowder and Channing Frye. But they still have that guy LeBron James.

"Shoot, they looked good the other time, right? They beat us twice with the other group," Brooks noted. "LeBron is going to go down as one of the best ever. They are younger and more athletic. They're a good team and they still have an All-Star in [Kevin] Love who hasn't played because he's hurt."

The Cavs haven't lost in three games since the All-Star break and that includes road wins over the Celtics and Thunder. They look rejuvenated and, at least so far, improved from the aging, incongruent roster they had just weeks ago.

The Wizards have also been playing better lately, of course, and this upcoming stretch will be a major test for them. Wall has been out three weeks since he had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. He is likely to miss another three-to-five weeks. The Wizards will have to get through this without him.

If they can remain competitive and even beat some of these elite teams, they will only gain more confidence in their potential. That's the way Brooks plans to approach the schedule.

"We still want to be a better team when John comes back," Brooks said. "But the schedule definitely gets a lot tougher."

RELATED: 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT HAS LOADED CLASS