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Wizards' defense clamps down in 4th to secure win over Suns

Wizards' defense clamps down in 4th to secure win over Suns

Defense has been such a point of emphasis for the Wizards early this season that even when head coach Scott Brooks is asked about their offense, he often circles back to the other end of the floor. He has said over and over that offense is not their problem, it's focus and consistency on defense, particularly late in games.

On Monday night at the Verizon Center, the Wizards' game against the Suns appeared to be heading down a familiar path. After scoring just 46 points in the first half, Phoenix exploded for 34 in the third quarter on 13-of-26 shooting, including 5-of-8 from three. 

Despite entering the game as one of the league's worst three-point shooting teams, the Suns were sinking them from all around the perimeter. Emerging star Devin Booker led the charge with 11 points in the frame, including three threes.

The same quarter saw Otto Porter go down with a right hip injury. Brooks turned to Kelly Oubre, Jr. to take his place and take Booker as his assignment.

The odds were mounted against the Wizards until the closing moments of the third quarter. Then, everything changed.

"We let them feel good about their offense…they got hot. They made shots in transition and easy shots," Brooks said. "I thought late in the third quarter, under two minutes when Marcus [Thornton] had a couple of threes that got us back going into the fourth quarter. Then we also had the two stops to back that up."

That sequence flipped the game in the Wizards' favor, particularly on defense. They clamped down and held the Suns to just 21 points in the fourth quarter. Phoenix shot just 8-of-24 in the final frame.

The Suns were held scoreless in the final 87 seconds as the Wizards secured a 106-101 victory. The final two minutes saw John Wall and Marcin Gortat make key blocks on Eric Bledsoe, both sending his layup attempts into the crowd.

"We really locked in the fourth quarter," power forward Markieff Morris said. "Down the stretch we made some good key stops and got the victory."

"Lock in. That's all it is," said shooting guard Bradley Beal, who scored a career-high 42 points. "Defense is just a want, wanting to go out there and put in the effort and the intensity. We can't control whether the ball goes in all the time, but you can control how hard you play on the defensive end. I think we all accepted the challenge that coach brought to us over the last couple days and really applied it tonight."

The fourth quarter looked like a breakthrough for the Wizards defensively, a culmination of what they have been preaching over the last few weeks while stumbling out to a slow start. But carrying success over from game to game has been easier said than done this season. The Wizards will get another chance for their first consecutive wins of the season on Friday in Orlando.

[RELATED: TAKEAWAYS FROM WIZARDS' 4TH WIN OF SEASON OVER SUNS]

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Wizards set to have Tim Frazier back against Cavs after nasal fracture surgery

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Wizards set to have Tim Frazier back against Cavs after nasal fracture surgery

The All-Star break came at a good time for Wizards point guard Tim Frazier, who missed their last game before the week off due to nasal fracture surgery.

Frazier was back at the Wizards' practice on Tuesday night at Capital One Arena and expects to play on Thursday when the team returns to action on the road at the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"I feel good. I feel like I can go out there and help them compete," he said.

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Frazier, 27, had surgery to repair his broken nose on Feb. 11 after he was knocked out of the previous night's game between the Wizards and Bulls. Frazier collided face-first with the knee of Bobby Portis and was immediately ushered to the locker room with blood streaming from his nose.

Following the procedure, Frazier had to battle through pain and breathing issues. He feels much better now and had no complications after participating in a full practice.

The challenge now is adjusting to a fitted mask he will have to wear to return to the court. Frazier has never had to wear a mask before in his basketball career.

"[Sweat] was one of the issues today, trying to keep it dry when I'm sweating underneath," he said.

"He looked good," head coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought he would be a little uncomfortable with it, but he seemed fine."

RELATED: WIZARDS HAVE BIG QUESTIONS TO ANSWER IN SECOND HALF

Frazier has been given advice from the Wizards' training staff, as well as teammate Bradley Beal who has had to wear a mask twice before in his career.

"Brad said that after a while you get used to it. Nobody wants to wear it for the rest of their careers besides Rip Hamilton," Frazier said.

Getting Frazier back is significant for the Wizards, who are already down a point guard with John Wall rehabbing from left knee surgery. Without Frazier against the Knicks on Wednesday, the Wizards had to use Beal and Otto Porter to bring the ball up at times. Now, with Tomas Satoransky and Frazier, they have a starting point guard and a backup who is used to playing the position.

They could have three point guards, as the Wizards continue to weigh their options in free agency. They have to add a player within the next two days to meet the league's minimum roster requirement. Most of the free agents they have evaluated have been point guards as they aim to compensate for Wall's absence, which could last well into the month of March.

RELATED: 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT HAS LOADED CLASS

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Wizards have big questions to answer coming out of All-Star break

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Wizards have big questions to answer coming out of All-Star break

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes and Chris Miller look ahead to the biggest questions the Wizards need to answer after the All-Star break. They also explain why Bradley Beal proved a lot in his first All-Star Game appearance.

They also unveiled a new segment involving guessing Wizards players based on their social media captions.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!