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Wizards tune out Jazz 103-89: Five takeaways


Wizards tune out Jazz 103-89: Five takeaways

If Thursday's game against the Utah Jazz is the start of a turnaround to the Wizards' season as they play their first of three consecutive games on three nights, when Markieff Morris arrives things will get a lot more exciting.

The Wizards (24-28) led for most of four quarters en route to a 103-89 blowout at Verizon Center in front of 12,415, learning earlier in the day that Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair had been shipped to the Phoenix Suns in a trade deadline deal.

Marcin Gortat (22 points, 10 rebounds, season-high five blocks) had his best offensive output since Dec. 26. He was followed by John Wall (17 points, 11 assists, six rebounds, four steals), Nene (16 points, five rebounds, four assists), Bradley Beal (16 points), Ramon Sessions (13 points, five rebounds) and Otto Porter (nine points).

Gordon Hayward led the Jazz (19 points) with help from Rudy Gobert (16 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks) and Rodney Hood (18 points) but they were out of this one after the fell behind 28-23 to end the first quarter.

  • The lack of point-guard play is glaring for Utah, and Wall took advantage. Raul Neto nor Trey Burke could handle that assignment as he almost posted his second triple-double of the season. The Jazz had 23 turnovers with their poor ball-handling that led to 27 points (and 34 fast-break points) for Washington.

  • Nene started at power forward instead of Jared Dudley to combat the size of Derrick Favors and Gobert in Utah's frontcourt. The Wizards are now 2-3 when Nene starts next to Gortat. He was able to use his superior foot speed to turn the corner for finger-roll layups on Favors and used his superior strength to turn into Gobert, bump him off-balance and get his shot on the rim before the shot-blocker could get to it. It still didn't help much in the rebounding department where the Jazz had a 48-36 edge.

  • Beal, who isn't sure how his minutes will be managed yet with three consecutive games, came off the bench and his shot was off. He floated an airball on a runner and whiffed on a wide-open three at the top of the key. Then he took a blow to the face at the end of the first quarter that came from his teammate, Drew Gooden, who was going for a loose ball. Beal still is wearing a mask after breaking his nose a few weeks ago but stayed on the court to play 23 minutes. He had five consecutive points in the fourth quarter -- 11 total -- that gave the Wizards the breathing room they needed to hold off a mini-run by Utah.

  • The ball pressure from Porter and Garrett Temple set the tone early as they were able to disrupt Hayward as he began by shooting just 2 of 6 in the first half. Gortat was effective in this regard as well, forcing Favors into tough, fallaway shots that didn't have a chance. He was 0 of 3 in the first half with three turnovers and three fouls that ruined any chance he had of getting into a rhythm.

  • The Jazz shot 4 of 15 from three-point range, 26.7%. Three-point defense is a major weakness for Washington (worst in NBA), and keeping Hayward from getting clean looks was key. Hood accounted for three of the made threes.

[RELATED: Grunfeld explains trade for Morris]

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Wizards hope meeting between superstar backcourt can jumpstart Bradley Beal's playoff production

Wizards hope meeting between superstar backcourt can jumpstart Bradley Beal's playoff production

With an 0-2 deficit in their first-round playoff series against the Raptors, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks called for a meeting with his two All-Star guards once his team returned to Washington. Brooks met with John Wall and Bradley Beal, hoping to solve an issue that plagued them particularly in Game 2, a blowout loss.

Brooks is intent on getting more out of Beal offensively and since Wall is the quarterback of their offense, it made sense to have him present. After Beal scored nine points and shot just 3-for-11 from the field and 1-for-5 from three, it is clear to Brooks that the Wizards need more to climb back in this series.

"We need to have Brad play well. It's no secret that you need your best players to step up and play well," Brooks said.

Both Brooks and Wall, who each spoke after Thursday's practice, said Beal needs to be more assertive in the offense. Beal averaged 28.8 points against the Raptors through four regular season games and Wall did not play in any of them. In theory, things should be easier for him now with another star player drawing attention.

That has not been the case, however. Beal is averaging 14.0 points through two games while shooting just 39.3 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from three. 

Even if his shot isn't falling, the Wizards want Beal to force the issue.

"I feel like I tell him at times that he needs to be more aggressive. Be more aggressive and look for your shot," Wall said. "He even says it that he has to be more aggressive himself. Even if he's missing or making shots. That's how he's been all season. We need that same type of player, to be aggressive and get at least 20 shots or more per game. That's when our team is probably at our best."

Beal has been limited to 14 shots per game by the Raptors when he averaged 18.1 during the regular season. Wall said he and Beal often talk within games about how Beal would like to be set up and the meeting with Brooks involved some of that dialogue.

While Beal's struggles stand out, the same could be said for Otto Porter, the Wizards' third-leading scorer. Porter was held to 12 points in Game 2 and did not attempt a single three-pointer. For a guy who finished third in the NBA in three-point percentage (44.1), that is difficult to justify.

Like Beal, the Wizards need Porter to impose his will a bit more and according to Brooks, the right lower leg strain he suffered late in the regular season is not to blame.

"He's 100 percent healthy," Brooks said. "It's always been a little bit of a problem. We want Otto to be more aggressive. We gotta run some more plays for him and the defense has done a good job on him. We need him to play well."

Like Beal, Porter had success against Toronto in the regular season. He averaged 18.5 points on 59.2 percent shooting, including a 24-point game on March 2. 

The Wizards need Beal and Porter to step up, knowing the series could hinge on if they do.





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Ty Lawson is playing a bigger role than anyone could have predicted for Wizards vs. Raptors

Ty Lawson is playing a bigger role than anyone could have predicted for Wizards vs. Raptors

The biggest surprise of the Wizards-Raptors series through two games, at least from Washington's perspective, has to be the fact Ty Lawson has very quickly earned a prominent role in Scott Brooks' playoff rotation.

Lawson, 30, was signed the day after the regular season and after he played much of 2017-18 in China with the Shandong Golden Stars. He did not appear in one game with the Wizards or any other NBA team during the regular season, yet he was the first point guard off the bench in Game 2.

When John Wall picked up two quick fouls, it was Lawson who got the nod, not Tomas Satoransky. Lawson ended up playing 31 minutes, more than Satoransky and fellow backup point guard Tim Frazier have earned combined through two games.

Though the Wizards had three point guards on their bench behind Wall before Lawson even signed, he has apparently surpassed them all on the depth chart. Satoransky is the most surprising, given he played quite well during the regular season.

Satoransky averaged 7.2 points, 3.9 assists and shot a team-best 46.5 percent from three. He had the highest offensive rating (124) on the team.

Lawson, though, played quite well in Game 2. He put up 14 points, eight assists and three rebounds while shooting 4-for-5 from three.

Lawson outscored four of the Wizards' five starters. Not bad for his first game.

"He did everything I knew he was capable of doing," Brooks said. "I’ve seen him do it for many, many years. He’s tough, he’s a competitor. He competes and pushes the pace. He plays defense. I liked the spirit."

Lawson provided a noticeable spark. He is still quick and aggressive with the ball, not afraid to look for his own shot, and played physical defense against the Raptors. Lawson ended the night plus-8 in the box score in a game the Wizards lost by 11.

"It’s good to see him get into a game and be able to produce for us," guard Bradley Beal said.

Given the Wizards lost Game 2 and face an 0-2 deficit in their series, it is likely that Brooks continues to alter his rotation in the coming games. He could go back to Satoransky more often, knowing he had some solid games against Toronto in the regular season, including on March 2 when he had 10 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Satoransky could see more time at shooting guard or small forward and could play alongside Lawson. That might be Satoransky's best bet because Lawson did nothing in Game 2 to squander the opportunity.

For a team whose effort has been questioned by their head coach, Lawson's energy and urgency was noteworthy. He brought the edge of a guy playing for his NBA career, knowing a good playoff series could earn him a contract next season. 

Clearly, the way Lawson played was refreshing for Brooks given how long he kept him out on the floor. He may have come out of nowhere, but it looks like Lawson is here to stay.




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