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Wizards' 3s rain down on Kings 113-99: Five takeaways

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Wizards' 3s rain down on Kings 113-99: Five takeaways

For the first time in a month, the Wizards put together consecutive victories and they did it with all six of the seven rotation players scoring in double figures in Monday's 113-99 victory vs. the Sacramento Kings at Verizon Center.

Marcin Gortat had his season-high in the first half where he scored 21 of his 27 points and grabbed 12 of his season-high 16 rebounds. John Wall had 11 of his career-high 19 assists in the first half to go with 12 points and four steals. 

Garrett Temple followed up a career-high 21 points with 23. Ramon Sessions and Kris Humphries had 15 points off the bench and Jared Dudley dropped in 13 in front of 15,124.

The Wizards led 84-76 with 2:43 left in the third quarter but allowed the Kings (11-17) to tie it at 84. Three-pointers from Dudley and Humphries sparked an 8-0 run to begin the fourth and they never looked back.

DeMarcus Cousins was outplayed by Gortat on both ends, finishing with 22 points and eight rebounds. Rudy Gay scored 16.

The Wizards (12-14) shot 42 of 83 from the field, 50.6%, including 14 of 24 from three (58.3%) which was a season-high makes from distance. They also had just 11 turnovers as they held an opponent to less than 100 points for the first time in 11 games.

  • Gortat's position defense on Cousins was nothing short of superb. He banged with him on the low block for position and went straight up on challenges to force miss after miss. Cousins missed 14 of 22 shots while Gortat had four blocks. But what Gortat did was every bit as good as a block, which isn't necessarily reflective of defense. Off a turnover by Wall, Gortat ran the length of the floor and came close to rejecting Darren Collison. He beat Cousins, who has a tendency to not defend when his offense isn't going well, down the floor repeatedly and that was a strategy the Wizards knew they'd use going into the game. The only knock on Gortat in this one was when the Kings started to double-team him on the catch, he held the ball too long rather than kicking it back out and reposting to put pressure on the defense to adjust by rotating. It led to a turnover and a few forced, low-percentage shots.

  • Slowly, Humphries is starting to look more like his old self coming off the bench. He played an efficient 17 minutes. He made all three of his three-point shots that came in the rhythm of the offense. In his last three games, Humphries is 10-for-18 shooting.

  • Temple made consecutive jumpers, the second one a three-pointer, to put the Wizards ahead 73-65 midway through the third quarter after they were struggling to find offense. Make or miss, Temple's stroke has looked good for most of the season. He had a career-high 21 in the previous game and shot 8-for-17 in this one. Defenses are giving him clean looks and he's making them pay. He was 5 of 10 on threes. Likewise, Kelly Oubre is proving to be a reliable three-point shooter from the corners. He's 4-for-4 from the left corner in the last two games. He had eight points for the second game in a row and six rebounds. This will eventually open up the lanes for Wall to get to the basket easier.

  • Is pace-and-space still going to be used as an excuse for when the Wizards don't play well? They put up 109 on the Charlotte Hornets, a much better team than the Kings, with an eight-man rotation. With one fewer body, they posted 113 on the Kings and in both held these opponents to an average of 41% shooting. This is about hustle, getting to the ground to grab those 50-50 balls like Temple did to deny Marco Belinelli a shot. The Wizards are in top shape and can handle the pace. It worked in wins vs. the Cavs, Heat and Spurs. It has to stop being used as a crutch when they lose or don't play well.

  • Coach Randy Wittman didn't replace Gary Neal (lower back) in his rotation with another player. Neal was a late scratch just before tipoff. Instead he shortened what had been an eight-man rotation to seven. Oubre's four fouls by the third quarter made it challenging but it worked. Ryan Hollins didn't play again. DeJuan Blair entered for the last 38 seconds.

RELATED: George Karl on Wizards being undermanned: 'That's bull****'

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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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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."

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