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Markieff Morris is returning soon to a Wizards team that has managed well during his absence

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Markieff Morris is returning soon to a Wizards team that has managed well during his absence

Though the exact game will be affected by his suspension for Friday night's fight against the Warriors, Markieff Morris' return to the Wizards could happen any day now, as the power forward is 5 1/2 weeks removed from the sports hernia surgery he had on Sept. 22. 

His initial recovery timeline was six to eight weeks and it's looking more and more like Morris will hit the front end of that timetable. Head coach Scott Brooks indicated to reporters on the Wizards road trip this weekend that Morris will return soon, perhaps by the end of the week.

People within the Wizards organization caution that Morris may take several weeks to reach midseason form due to the nature of his injury and the timing of his return. In terms of game action, he is nearly a month behind everyone else.

Still, getting Morris back on the court will be a boon for the Wizards. Last season he was a key cog on a Washington team that won 49 games, their most as a franchise since 1978-79, and reached the second round of the playoffs. He complements the rest of their starting lineup well on both ends of the floor and is their best answer defensively to stretch-fours. 

The Wizards stand 4-2 as they return home from the West Coast and probably feel they should be at least 5-1, considering one of those losses was to the lottery-bound Lakers. They remain in good shape, however, despite the absence of Morris for what will be at least seven games by the time he steps on the court.


Kelly Oubre, Jr. deserves a good deal of credit for the Wizards compensating for Morris' loss. He wasn't the first choice to start, Jason Smith was, but once Smith went down with a shoulder injury in the season opener, Oubre was the replacement and Brooks has kept him there ever since. 

Through six games, Oubre is averaging 11.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks. He is shooting 45.3 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from three, looking like a more refined offensive player than he was just a few months ago. His 117 offensive rating and 103 defensive rating suggest he's been one of the Wizards' best players on both ends of the floor.

Oubre is averaging 35.2 minutes while providing that level of production. At times Brooks, has had no choice but to ride Oubre with Smith hurt and Ian Mahinmi's sprained left ankle adding another injury to their frontcourt, but Oubre has held his own.

Mike Scott has also had his moments. He's averaging 8.0 points in 19.7 minutes on 46.3 percent from the field. In Sunday's win over the Kings, he scored 11 straight points for the Wizards and in his last two games has 27 total points in 39 minutes on 10-for-16 shooting.

Morris is not going to be able to carry a full load of minutes right from the start, meaning Oubre could continue to play an increased role in the interim. Regardless, he will be the sixth man with the starting lineup fully healthy.


How Brooks utilizes Smith and Scott will likely be a work in progress. Scott is new to the Wizards' bench, as are guards Tim Frazier and Jodie Meeks. Morris rejoining the team will produce a domino effect in the rotation as Brooks discovers which lineups he likes and doesn't like while working with a full lot of players.

The Wizards' 4-2 record has coincided with most stats reflecting them favorably. But Morris can help them in specific areas of need. They rank in the bottom half of the NBA in rebounding and their three-point numbers could use improvement. They are a pedestrian 15th in three-pointers made and 16th in attempts. Morris can help spread the floor with a respectable outside shot. Plus, Smith will help those numbers as he gets healthier.

The Wizards' primary starting lineup this season with Oubre alongside John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat holds a 23.6 net rating, best among NBA five-man lineups with at least 50 minutes logged this season. Swapping in Morris shouldn't disrupt that success and pushing Oubre to the bench will only help the second unit.

With Morris' return getting closer and closer, the Wizards have to feel good about how they have operated during his absence and the potential of their roster once he is back in the fold.


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Wizards hope this time will be different in Game 5 on road

Wizards hope this time will be different in Game 5 on road

The Wizards were in a very similar spot and less than one year ago. After dropping the first two games on the road against the Celtics in the second round of the 2017 playoffs, the Wizards held serve to lock up the series at 2-2. They then lost in Boston in Game 5 and ultimately dropped the series.

This year the Wizards find themselves at 2-2 against the Raptors, this time in the first round. Again, they are on the road for Game 5, knowing it will be pivotal and could determine the series.

This time, they hope for a much different result.

"It's super important," forward Markieff Morris said. "Ideally, what we're looking for us to come back [to D.C.] up 3-2 with a chance to close it out on our home floor."

The Wizards value continuity more than most teams in the NBA. According to Basketball Reference's roster continuity chart, they are the only team in the NBA to retain 75 percent of their roster year-over-year in each of the past three seasons.

The Wizards have kept 82 percent of their roster from the 2016-17 season. Only three teams have held onto more players: the Spurs, Blazers and, ironically, the Raptors.

Continuity can have its pitfalls. It can breed complacency and, for certain personality-types, discord. Things can very easily go stale.

But in this case, the fact these players have been in this same scenario before and know very well how important Game 5 is could work to the Wizards' advantage.

"I definitely will bring it up. I won't dwell on it. Just bring it up. We have to do better," head coach Scott Brooks said. "Hopefully those experiences will pay for us and give us that toughness that we don't want to be on the losing side of it again."

If the Wizards didn't already know the importance of Game 5, they could look at the historical odds. Teams that win Game 5 in a seven-game series tied at 2-2 go on to win the series 82.8 percent of the time with a 164-34 all-time record. Teams that lead a seven-game series 3-2 go on to win the series 84.8 percent (251-45) of the time.

The Wizards could also look at the home/road numbers. When series are tied at 2-2, the home team has a 22-13 record in Game 5 since 2003 and a series record of 26-9.

The Raptors not only won the first two games of this series at home, but they tied the Rockets for the best home record in the NBA this season at 34-7. One of those defeats were to the Wizards.

Washington, however, has to get over a hump on the road in the playoffs. Though they have won eight consecutive home postseason games, they have lost six straight on the road. The last one they won was in Atlanta in Game 6 of the first round last year. They did not win on the road against the Celtics in the second round and as a result lost the series.

Morris and Brooks offered keys to breaking that streak.

"On the road, you've gotta really lock in," Morris said. "I was telling the guys yesterday that when you're up 20 it's only really 10 when you're on the road because they have the crowd to give them momentum in the game."

"We have to have a better start. We have to bring that edge on the road," Brooks said. "We haven't seemed to get into an offensive rhythm there. I thought the second game actually helped. We were down by 23 or so and then really started moving the ball and attacking their feet. Even though we didn't win the game, it gave us some confidence."

Brooks was referring to Game 2 wheN the Wizards outscored the Raptors 61-54 in the second half. They held Toronto to just two threes during that stretch, including zero in the third quarter.

That may have been a breakthrough. Now they have to do it for 48 minutes.

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2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 5: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 5: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and the Washington Wizards battle Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Serge Ibaka and the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night in Game 5 of the 2018 NBA Playoffs.

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


Series: Series tied 2-2
Where: Air Canada Centre
Tip-off: 7:02 p.m. (earlier tipoff than usual)
TV: NBC Sports Washington (pregame coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Pivotal game

The Wizards have done their part in winning both games at home to even up this series at 2-2. Now comes Game 5, which could very well determine who takes this series.

Winners of Game 5 in a seven-game series tied at 2-2 hold a 164-34 (.828) record all-time. That means teams that lose Game 5 come back to win the final two games and the series only 17.2 percent of the time.

The Wizards need to get this one and they know all too well why. Last year they were in this same position in their second round series against the Boston Celtics. They went down 0-2, won the next two games but then lost Game 5 and ultimately the series in seven games.

Road warriors

The Wizards will also have to do something they have yet to do in a while in Game 5 and that is win on the road. Though they have won eight straight home postseason games, they have lost their last six on the road. It goes back to that Celtics series when Washington lost all four games in Boston. The last time they won on the road in the playoffs was Game 6 last year against the Hawks.

The Raptors are particularly tough in Toronto. They were 34-7 this season at home, tied with the Houston Rockets for the best record in the NBA. 

The recent historical odds are also in Toronto's favor. Since 2003, the home team has won each of the first four games in a seven-game series 35 times. In those series, the home team has held a Game 5 record of 22-13 and a series record of 26-9. If the Raptors get Game 5, history will be on their side to go on to win the series.

Can Otto get going?

Games 3 and 4 in Washington saw All-Star Bradley Beal break out to score 28 and 31 points. Will we see the same from Otto Porter before this series is over?

Game 4 seemed to suggest that is possible. After scoring only one point in the first half, Porter erupted for 10 points in the third quarter alone. Though he only scored 12 points in the game overall, it was the most aggressive we have seen him all series.

Porter is averaging just 10.3 points per game through four playoff games. He is shooting 50 percent from the field and 55.6 percent from three, and as long as the Wizards are winning he won't complain, but Porter can do much more than that on offense. If he starts scoring more, the Wizards will be tough to stop.

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For more on the Wizards-Raptors series, check out or latest Wizards Tipoff podcast: