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Wizards fall to Cavs, served reminder of LeBron James' dominance

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Wizards fall to Cavs, served reminder of LeBron James' dominance

The Washington Wizards lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers 130-122 on Friday night at Capital One Arena. Here's analysis of what went down...

The Cavs are still the Cavs: Even after losing four straight entering the much-anticipated matchup, the Cleveland Cavaliers issued an emphatic reminder to the Wizards why they have represented the Eastern Conference in three straight NBA Finals. The Wizards are close and both sides know it. But LeBron James wasn't interested in seeing an upstart Wizards team make a statement on national television.

James was brilliant from start to finish. The Wizards threw multiple looks at him. He either scored the ball himself or found his teammates for open threes, consistently killing any Wizards' attempt at a game-changing run.

James was electric in the first half, throwing down multiple poster dunks. He had 15 points in the first quarter, shooting 6-of-7 from the field. In the second half, he went to work in the post.

The Wizards tried guarding him with Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre, Jr. in the first half. None of them worked. John Wall even guarded him on multiple possessions in the second half. All LeBron did was back him down and drop fadeaways in over his block attempts with ease.

In the fourth quarter, the Wizards went super small. Marcin Gortat didn't play and at times they had Jodie Meeks at the three and Porter at the five. That didn't stop LeBron, either.

James remains the best player in the world and he proved it once again against the Wizards. He ended up with 57 points, his most since 2014 and his second-most ever. It was the second straight game the Wizards allowed someone to hit the 40-mark following T.J. Warren of the Suns on Wednesday. It was the 11th time in James' career that he's hit 50 points or more.

In order to knock off the Cavs in the playoffs, the Wizards will have to find a way to deal with LeBron. Stopping him is unrealistic, but they have to limit him better than they did on Friday.

Defense optional: Much like the classic matchup between these teams in February, this game game was light on the defensive end. Both teams are struggling in that department and are also just plain good at scoring. The game was 25-24 Wizards at the 5:04 mark in the first quarter. Both teams shot 66 percent or higher in the frame. 

The Wizards allowed 42 points in the first quarter meaning they gave up 149 points in a four-quarter stretch dating back to Wednesday's game against the Suns. That's not optimal. The scoring deluge continued on throughout the game. The halftime score was 74-66.

The Wizards know they have plenty to fix on defense and it was probably unrealistic they would correct everything against the defending conference champions. What will bother them about this on is their three-point defense, as the Cavs shot 12-for-27. Plus, Derrick Rose had 13 points in his first 9:30 of play. You can't let him go off like that. This isn't 2011.

Bradley Beal also had himself a game. After putting up 40 points against the Suns last game, he went off for 36 vs. Cleveland. It was again in a losing effort. The Wizards have now lost four of their last five games.

Injury scare: Wall fell to the ground writhing in pain late in the third quarter after colliding with Channing Frye. He was diagnosed with a sprained shoulder, though the Wizards don't yet know the severity. 

Also worth noting about Wall: he shot 5-for-12 from the free throw line after going 0-for-4 last game.

Keef is back: The Wizards had a familiar face in the starting lineup on Friday, as Markieff Morris returned from a six-week recovery following sports hernia surgery. The Wizards went to Morris on the very first play in the post. He missed the shot, but ended up scoring their first points of the night.

Morris looked rusty overall. He finished with two points on 1-for-6 shooting and never found a rhythm offensively. He also racked up three quick fouls in 16 total minutes, which wasn't good. 

One moment involving Morris stood out. In the third quarter he and Jae Crowder got into an argument with teammates in between them to keep distance. That's the Keef we know and love.

Up next: The Wizards head out on a mini-road trip. They go north to play the Raptors in Toronto on Sunday. Tipoff is at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.


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It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

The Wizards crossed off an important goal on Saturday night by beating the Indiana Pacers and therefore securing the season series. If the teams tie with the same regular season record, the Wizards will get the higher playoff seed. As of today, that would mean home court advantage in the first round.

Though the Wizards have beaten the Pacers in two of their three matchups this season, we only know so much about how they would match up in the playoffs. The first game between them didn't feature Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo and John Wall didn't play in any of the three games. The Pacers were without both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis on Saturday night.

Given the Pacers underwent so much change over the summer, there is no real data to go off of from before this season. They are a completely different team with Oladipo leading the way and Paul George now in Oklahoma City.


There are reasons to believe, however, that the Wizards would fare well against the Pacers over the course of a seven-game series. For one, they figured out how to slow Oladipo and his teammate Bojan Bogdanovic on Saturday night. Both had killed the Wizards in previous matchups.

Oladipo was held to 18 points, over five points below his season average of 23.5. He had four turnovers, shot 7-for-16 (43.7%) and finished a -18 in a game the Pacers lost by seven.

The Wizards had some success with Tomas Satoransky guarding Oladipo. Satoransky is 6-foot-7 with long arms. He was able to recover on several occasions to alter Oladipo's shots.

Satoransky and Bradley Beal also did a good job keeping pace with Oladipo on the fastbreak. The Pacers had only four fastbreak points in the game. Oladipo is especially dangerous in the open court.

“We just made sure that we were aggressive with him and made sure he saw a lot of bodies in the paint," Beal said. "The last game, he got a lot of easy ones in transition. We just made sure that we got back on the shot, loaded to the ball and forced the other guys to attack.”

For Bogdanovic, it was about limiting open shots from the perimeter. Bogdanovic had 11 points, three below his season average and had four turnovers. Beal and Otto Porter stripped Bogdanovic for steals and Marcin Gortat took a charge on one play in the third quarter.


But it was all about taking away the outside shot. Bogdanovic only hit one shot in the first half and it was a three. The only reason he got it off is because Kelly Oubre, Jr. lost his balance backing up. That gave Bogdanovic the window he needed. Otherwise, Oubre helped frustrate the former Wizards small forward. So did Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, who did a good job covering their teammates off screens.

The Pacers are an average offensive team, ranking 16th in points per game and 14th in offensive rating. They are better defensively, ranking ninth-best in opponents points per game and 12th in defensive efficiency.

If the Wizards can limit Oladipo and Bogdanovic, the Pacers' two leading scorers, they should have a good shot at beating the Pacers in the playoffs. Beyond them, the Pacers are thin in the scoring department. Turner only averages 13.6 points and no one else beyond him can consistently make an opposing defense pay for mistakes. Conversely, several Wizards players have given the Pacers major trouble through three games this season.

Gortat, who had 18 points and eight rebounds on Saturday, has averaged 13 points and eight rebounds on 57.7 percent shooting against Indiana. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who had 16 points in 18 minutes, has averaged 15.5 points and is shooting 50 percent from the field.


In addition to those guys, Markieff Morris, Porter, Mike Scott, Mahinmi and Satoransky are all shooting over 50 percent against the Pacers. Satoransky is shooting 71.4 percent through three games.

The Wizards have the pieces to counter what the Pacers do best. Indiana is seventh in three-point percentage, but the Wizards are the best team in basketball in opponents three-point percentage. The Pacers are built around an All-Star guard, but the Wizards have two All-Star guards. The Pacers have a collection of talented wing players, but so do the Wizards.

"Hypothetically, I do like Indiana," Beal said. "I like how we match up with Indiana and I feel like there is a lot of stuff that we can take advantage of. In a lot of categories, I think we can win them."

Add it all up and the Wizards have every reason to feel confident if they see the Pacers in the posteason. Keep that in mind because they very well could meet up in the spring.

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

Here are five plays or moments from the Wizards' 109-102 win over the Pacers on Saturday night that are worth revisiting... 

1. The Wizards took care of business against the Pacers on Saturday night and in doing so earned an important advantage in the playoff race. They won the season series and therefore own a tiebreaker for playoff seeding and currently that would mean home court advantage in the first round if the playoffs began today.

The Wizards took control early and part of that effort were five first-half assists by Bradley Beal. He ended up with 19 points, but some of his best plays were passes.

On this one, he executed a perfect pick-and-roll with Marcin Gortat:


2. This was another pretty pass to Gortat. Tomas Satoransky, who had 12 points and eight assists, fed Gortat with a nice reach-around pass on a play that featured some impressive ball movement overall:

3. This was a great moment. The Wizards had a member of the military surprise his niece on the court. She literally did not see it coming:


4. These last two plays are dunks by Kelly Oubre, Jr., who finished with 16 points. On this play, he cut through the and threw down with authority:

5. This dunk was set up by a beautiful pass from Ramon Sessions. It traveled about three-quarters of the court and Oubre did the rest:

The Wizards now have three days off before their next game as they sit fourth in the Eastern Conference. Things are trending positive for the Wizards as the playoff race heats up.

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