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Wizards' midseason report: Reasons for optimism


Wizards' midseason report: Reasons for optimism

Of course, no one with the Wizards is happy with the way the season has gone regardless of the injury situation. They should be better than their record and they know that, but how do they get there?

They're 20-21 as of today, eight games off of last season's pace when the Wizards were 28-13 but about to hit a swoon in which they'd lose 12 of 15 games.

"Even with the injuries we still could have been above .500. We let a lot of games slip," Wizards point guard John Wall said. "We have to routinely do better and get guys back."

The Wizards are four games in the loss column from the No. 4 seed and just two games behind the No. 5 seed which is where they've entered the playoffs the last two years.

They've beaten the Cleveland Cavaliers (1-1), San Antonio Spurs (1-1), Chicago Bulls (1-0), Indiana Pacers (1-1), Detroit Pistons (1-0) and Miami Heat (2-1). All of these teams are ahead of them in the standings. 

"Being able to say that we can still make an easy push to get to the four seed, I'm glad to be able to say that," said Garrett Temple, who has made 22 starts in place of Bradley Beal who has twice been injured. "We're in a place where we don't want to be but it could be a lot worse."

  • Coach Randy Wittman has been good with after-timeout calls and designing plays to get them baskets on set plays. At the end of the second quarter Wednesday vs. Heat, Marcin Gortat got a layup when they settled down to discuss the final possession with 15 seconds left. Where the Wizards have to be better is adjusting quicker in games. It took getting torched by C.J. Miles, who was 8 of 9 on threes the first time they played the Pacers on Nov. 24 with Kris Humphries starting, to going to Jared Dudley who was denying him on the catch. The difference was striking on Jan. 15.

  • Nene, after missing 21 games, is not only healthy again but playing well. Since returning Jan. 6, he's 35 of 61 shooting (57.4%) and his presence alone makes the Wizards better in every way defensively. Nene can have issues when being forced to defend stretch players too far away from the basket but he fortifies the defense like no one else. 

  • Beal has played 23, 22, 24 and 25 minutes off the bench since returning from a stress reaction in his lower right leg, the fourth in a row in his fourth NBA season. He'll eventually work his way back into the starting lineup which should open up the floor for everyone else. The key is whether or not his presence will stop the ball from moving or make it better. Beal can stand stagnant too long during sets and doesn't always move off the ball as quickly as he should and it causes breakdowns everywhere. 

  • Temple has been the biggest beneficiary of the fast-pace style, getting out in transition, finishing in traffic and using his 6-6 frame to play lockdown defense. Temple is allowing his defense to create his offense and his form on his jumper has never looked better. His 8.3 points average is a career-best. Ramon Sessions is having his best season since 2013-14 for many of the same reasons, benefiting from the open-court play with 10.2 points. And Gary Neal, who is the best shooter of the group and the best backup the Wizards have had for Beal since he was drafted, fits right in. The bench can be a lethal scoring unit.

  • Wall doesn't have to carry the offensive load for the starters all the time anymore. As bodies come back, namely Beal, he can be seen resting off the ball on the weak side of the floor and wait to get the ball on reversal for attacks at the rim. He hasn't complained about his aches and pains in quite a while which means he's feeling better. He's also taking practices off to preserve him. Ideally, the Wizards can get away with resting him going into the All-Star break but given their place in standings they probably can't afford to do much of that.

  • The Wizards have a manageable schedule from here until the All-Star break. They have a chance to win every game, except maybe at the Oklahoma City Thunder and vs. the Golden State Warriors. The Knicks, 76ers, Bucks, Hornets and the like populate their upcoming games. While none of this guarantees anything, if they win the games they're supposed to win and bat .500 with the rest they'll be over .500 soon with enough cushion to maintain. 

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

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

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner, Bojan Bogdanovic and the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:


Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 7 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (pregame coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Season series on the line

The Wizards and Pacers square off for the third and final time this season on Saturday night and the game will represent the tiebreaker for the season series. The Wizards beat the Pacers in their first meeting on Feb. 5 and Indiana then got even on March 4. The first game did not feature Victor Oladipo. John Wall didn't play in either of them.

Whichever team wins on Saturday night will own the playoff tiebreaker, meaning that team will get the better seed in the even they finish with the same regular season record. Right now only one game separates the teams, so that could definitely come into play. With a win over the Pacers, the Wizards could also move into third place in the East. They would tie the Pacers by record and own the head-to-head series. The one variable there is the Cavs play the Bulls on Saturday. If they win and the Pacers lose, the Cavs will be in third.


Wizards have been struggling

The Wizards won their last game on the road against the Celtics, but have lost five of their last eight overall. They remain in good shape in the big picture, but could use some positive momentum. A win over the Pacers would certainly give them that with three off days awaiting on the other end before they head out to San Antonio to face the Spurs.

Defense has been the problem. During this eight-game stretch, they have allowed the second-most points in the paint per game (53.8), the ninth-most points per game (111.0) overall and the fourth-highest opponents shooting percentage (49.3). 


Pacers are tough

The Pacers may be missing two of their best big men on Saturday as Domantas Sabonis has been ruled out and Myles Turner is questionable. Both are nursing sprained left ankles. That bodes well for the Wizards' defense in the paint, but Indiana still has plenty of firepower.

Oladipo is having a terrific season with averages of 23.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game. There's also Bojan Bogdanovic, a former Wizards player who is averaging 14.0 points and shooting 46.9 percent from the field and 39.4 percent from three this year. Bogdanovic has scored 20 points or more in each of his games against the Wizards this season. The Pacers as a team have won six of their last eight.


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Ramon Sessions signs with Wizards for rest of season, giving them long-term insurance for John Wall

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Ramon Sessions signs with Wizards for rest of season, giving them long-term insurance for John Wall

The Wizards have signed point guard Ramon Sessions for the rest of the 2017-18 season following the expiration of his second 10-day contract, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed.

Sessions, 31, has played in five games for the Wizards this season with averages of 7.2 points and 3.4 assists. He spent 13 games with the Knicks previously this season before first signing with the Wizards on Feb. 23. He signed his second 10-day contract on March 5.

The Wizards were only permitted to sign Sessions to two consecutive 10-day contracts per league rules. They had to decided at the end of the second deal whether to sign him for the rest of the season or release him to free agency.

"His reputation is amazing and rightfully so. He showed me and the staff that he comes and does his job every day," head coach Scott Brooks said. "He was more than deserving of the opportunity to stay here all year."


Sessions is eligible for their playoff roster if they do indeed make the postseason, as he was let go by New York before March 1. That was always going to be a consideration in their plans at the end of his second 10-day contract. If they were to go out and get someone else, the March 1 deadline would come back into play.

Sessions gives the Wizards depth at the point guard position along with Tomas Satoransky and Tim Frazier, who have collectively held down the fort with John Wall out recovering from left knee surgery. By keeping Sessions, the Wizards have another backup plan in place.

Brooks said on Friday that Wall will be placed back into the starting lineup immediately when he's ready to return. That was expected and it will have a domino effect on Sessions and the other guards once he is back. The minutes may dry up completely for Sessions, a 10-year NBA journeyman.

"You're gonna have guys that are going to have to be good teammates," Brooks said, suggesting the playing time would go away. "Sacrificing is a big part of this league."


Satoransky will be the primary backup to Wall and Sessions may be out of minutes alongside Frazier. Brooks did, however, note that Satoransky could spend time at shooting guard and small forward. That could theoretically open the door for Sessions or Frazier to get playing time.

Whether Sessions plays or not, he's happy to be in the fold. Though he often said the uncertainty of the 10-day deal didn't weight on him, he admitted on Friday that it wasn't easy to navigate.

"This was my first time doing a 10-day and those were probably the longest 20 days I've been a part of in the NBA," he said. "I'm just excited to be back here. D.C. is my home." 

The news was first reported by the Washington Post.

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