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Wizards are kicking themselves after 5-5 start, knowing opportunities have been squandered

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Wizards are kicking themselves after 5-5 start, knowing opportunities have been squandered

The idea that the Wizards would get off to a commanding start to this season, benefitting from their continuity in an Eastern Conference where most made significant changes this summer, has not quite gone as planned.

Ten games do not make a season and the Wizards clearly have enough talent to end up with one of the top records in the league. But they currently sit an even 5-5, knowing at least a few of those losses should have resulted in wins against inferior teams.

It happened again on Tuesday night. The Wizards unraveled early on defense and couldn't complete a comeback against a 2-10 Dallas Mavericks team that entered with the worst record in the NBA. This defeat followed a road loss to the Lakers and a home loss to the Suns, two teams that like the Mavs are almost certainly going to fall short of the playoffs.

One loss to a bad team here and there is understandable. But the best NBA teams, the ones who earn the top seeds come April, generally take care of their business against lesser foes. Three of these types of losses is too many for a two-week span.

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Making matters worse is the way they feel they lost those games. In their eyes, it comes down to effort. That is fixable, of course, but a tough pill to swallow.

"It's just a matter of us looking at ourselves in the mirror," shooting guard Bradley Beal said. "See the things we accomplished last year and be hungry for it. We gotta get hungry again. I think we are great team but we got to act like we are a great team and go out there and prove it.”

An optimist could compare the Wizards' 5-5 record favorably to their 2-8 mark after 10 games last season. They were able to rally for a 49-win campaign and the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. A similar trajectory this season might push the Wizards over the 50-mark, a stated goal for the organization.

What bothers the Wizards is that the same issues that were plaguing them this time last season are hurting them now. Their bench is a mixed bag and their defensive effort hasn't been consistent.

"We do this every year. This is not the first time," point guard John Wall said. "The only difference is that we are .500. That is the only difference in my opinion."

Like last season, the Wizards will likely heat up at some point and start rising the ranks in the Eastern Conference. That, however, may not fully negate what is adding up to a lost opportunity to bank some early wins. Plus, what if teams like the Pistons, Magic and Knicks keep winning, and the East is better than people predicted?

Speaking of predictions, between the Celtics and Cavaliers, many expected those teams to struggle early with all the offseason changes they made. The Celtics have been fine. They lead the East at 9-2, having won nine straight games. The Cavs, on the other hand, are just 5-6.

The Wizards could have built some early breathing room on a Cavs team they know will be there at the end in May in possibly June. Like last year, the Wizards' so-so start will be interesting to revisit come playoff seeding time.

It's far too early to draw major conclusions, but the Wizards are understandably frustrated with how things have begun through 10 games. Last year they had built-in excuses with a new coaching staff, nine new players and Wall on a minutes restriction. This time, it's on them and they know it.

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' blowout loss to Hornets, including Bradley Beal's buzzer-beater

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' blowout loss to Hornets, including Bradley Beal's buzzer-beater

Here are the five best plays or moments from the Wizards' 122-105 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night...

1. This was a tough one for the Wizards. For the third time this season, they got beaten by the Hornets and for the second straight time it was in a blowout.

They still had their moments, though, including this alley-oop from Tomas Satoransky (11 points) to Markieff Morris (13 points, eight assists, six rebounds). It was the second alley-oop connection for those two in as many games:

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2. This was a play that encapsulated the Wizards' night. Jodie Meeks drew a flagrant foul on Michael Carter-Williams, but took a hard shot to the head:

3. Kelly Oubre, Jr. had a solid game with 11 points, including this big dunk:

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4. Speaking of Oubre, he helped the Wizards close the first half with a late surge. The real highlight was Bradley Beal stealing the ball and hitting a corner three at the buzzer:

5. Beal ended up with 33 points, six assists and six rebounds. Here's an and-1 he got to go down in the second half:

All in all, it was an ugly performance for the Wizards. To cheer you up, we'll leave you with this young fan who had a great time at Capital One Arena despite the result:

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Wizards suffer lopsided loss against Hornets, who have had their number this season

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Wizards suffer lopsided loss against Hornets, who have had their number this season

The Washington Wizards lost to the Charlotte Hornets 122-105 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Bad matchup: Despite their poor record, there is something about this Charlotte Hornets team that gives the Wizards trouble. The Wizards lost to the Hornets (26-33) for the third time in three tries this season on Friday night and, aside from a push in the third quarter, they were never really in it.

All in all, it was a dud of a game for the Wizards who were probably due for one. They had won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall got injured. They were also coming off a huge road win the night before in Cleveland, a game that started an hour later than usual.

It was a tough turnaround and the Wizards sure looked like it. It was evident in their defense and unforced errors. They did, however, have a decent shooting night. They shot 49.4 percent from the field 16-for-17 from the free throw line.

The Wizards' second unit didn't provide a lift outside of Kelly Oubre, Jr. (11 points). Mike Scott, one of their best bench options, was held scoreless.

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Ugly first half: The Wizards only trailed by 12 points at halftime, but that score was skewed by a five-point push in the final seconds. The Hornets dominated for much of the first two quarters and did so by hitting threes and forcing turnovers. Those mistakes dug the Wizards a hole they never recovered from.

The Wizards had 10 turnovers in the first half, the same amount they had in their entire game the night before. Limiting mistakes was a big reason they beat the Cavaliers, yet the script was flipped by Charlotte.

The Hornets capitalized with 23 points off those 10 first-half turnovers. The Wizards had 14 giveaways for the games that led to 28 total points. 

Charlotte was 7-for-11 from three at one point in the first half and finished 17-for-39 (43.6%) for the game. That is very uncharacteristic for the Wizards, who entered the night second in the NBA in opponents three-point percentage.

Again, though, the first half ended well as Oubre and Bradley Beal gave the Wizards a jolt in the final seconds:

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Bad defense: The Wizards have played some great defense in recent weeks, but they just didn't have it on Friday night. Most surprising were the guys that hurt them most.

Dwight Howard was limited to 11 points and six rebounds and Kemba Walker didn't score his first points until the final minute of the first half. But others like Frank Kaminsky (23 points), Marvin Williams (15 points) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14 points) got pretty much anything they wanted.

For Walker, it was a tale of two halves. He was held in check by Tomas Satoransky in the first half, but broke out in the third quarter and finished with 24 points and seven rebounds. Maybe it was tired legs on the Wizards' part, but Walker just kept dribbling until he got space and once he did, he knocked down shots.

Much like Kyle Lowry did a few weeks ago, Walker made adjustments to find success against Satoransky. We haven't seen that happen much since Wall went out, but those two have given him some trouble. Both guys are considerably smaller than Satoransky and very quick. Maybe there's something to that.

Add it all up and this was one of the worst defensive games of the season for the Wizards. They allowed their most points in a game since Jan. 17 against, you guessed it, the Hornets. Only three times this year have they given up more than what they allowed on Friday.

No Sessions: The Wizards did not debut their newest player on Friday night, which was probably to be expected given Ramon Sessions has not had any practice time yet. That is part of why he didn't play, but it's also another indication that he is unlikely to play much with the Wizards. Sessions is on a 10-day contract and is not expected to supplant either Satoransky or Tim Frazier at point guard. Frazier would seem to be the guy in danger of losing minutes, but it was business as usual for him against the Hornets.

Up next: The Wizards are off Saturday before returning to action at home against the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

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