The Washington Wizards lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves 116-111 on Tuesday night. Here's analysis of what went down...
Another untimely loss: As they await the impending return of John Wall, the ground is slipping out from under the Wizards. They lost again on Tuesday night, this time to the Timberwolves. That makes five losses in the Wizards' last seven games with only 14 to go.
Of the Wizards' two wins in their last seven, one was against the Pelicans, who were missing Anthony Davis, their best player. As they navigate a tough schedule, the Wizards are showing cracks.
The Wizards had a good opportunity to beat Minnesota, as they led by 10 points in the fourth quarter, 95-85. But the Wolves then clamped down and went on a 20-3 run to take control. They didn't look back.
Wolves All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns was dominant. He had a season-high 37 points on just 17 shots and 10 rebounds. He made a clutch corner three and trapped Bradley Beal (19 points, five assists) into a turnover in the final 30 seconds to help seal the victory.
But still, the Wizards had the advantage before letting it slip away. The Wizards dropped to 38-30 on the season. They are 12-8 since Wall went down, but most of those wins came weeks ago.
Must be the shoes: Wizards forward Markieff Morris made a wardrobe change before facing the Timberwolves. Long known to wear Nike Foamposites, a type of shoe that any sneaker head will tell you has little flexiblity, Morris instead suited up with Jordan 13s. They worked pretty well for him, albeit in a loss.
Morris lit a spark early with nine points in the first quarter and finished with a season-high 27. He shot 10-for-15 and did a good job combating a big and physical T-Wolves frontcourt.
Morris wasn't good the last time out. He had just four points and four rebounds in a loss to the Heat. This game was a completely different story.
Morris got his points in a variety of ways, including three threes. When his shot is falling from long range, the Wizards' entire offense opens up. Just don't call him a stretch-four.
Paint points: The Wizards had another bad night defending the lane. After giving up 76 points in the paint to Miami, they allowed 64 to the Wolves. Towns led the way, but others got involved.
Nemanja Bjelica, who was starting in place of the injured Jimmy Butler, went off for 17 points and eight rebounds, including some crafty shots around the rim. He hit a few shots from different release points that was reminiscent of Antawn Jamison's heyday in Washington.
Andrew Wiggins had 16 points on 7-for-14 shooting. Many of his makes were in the lane. Same with Jeff teague, who had 13 points and five assists.
The Wolves had 18 paint points in the first quarter alone and 16 in both the second and third. There was not much the Wizards could do to stop them. Their wings got into the lane at will and Towns and Bjelica consistently got good looks in the post. The Wizards need to figure this out.
Mahinmi bounced back: The last time the Wizards played, on Saturday night against the Miami Heat, Ian Mahinmi didn't see the floor at all. But in this one, he put in an impressive bounceback performance.
It was clear heading into the game that Mahinmi could play a factor due to his success guarding Towns in the first meeting between the teams, a Wizards win back in November. Mahinmi again matched up with Towns, but Towns got the best of him.
Mahinmi, though, played solid defense for parts of the night, affecting shots and pushing his weight around. He had nine rebounds, two steals and a block.
Offense is where Mahinmi made his biggest impact. He had 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting, including eight points his first 12 minutes. Mahinmi's first half surge included a series of dunks, including this one set up by Mike Scott:
Mike Scott finds Ian Mahinmi for a big slam. The Wizards' bench is making plays tonight. pic.twitter.com/40KVdkGcek— NBC Sports Wizards (@NBCSWizards) March 13, 2018
Mahinmi's scoring earned him a noticeable applause from the crowd when he checked out in the second quarter. The thought of Mahinmi getting a big ovation for his offense from Wizards fans would have been unthinkable just a year ago. But now he's healthy and showing why the Wizards wanted him so badly in free agency.
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Up next: The Wizards move on to Boston for the second game of a back-to-back. They play a banged-up Celtics team at 8 p.m. on ESPN. We will have pre- and postgame coverage on NBC Sports Washington beginning with Wizards HangTime at 6 p.m.
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