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Wizards fold late, fall to Clippers on road for 10th straight time

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Wizards fold late, fall to Clippers on road for 10th straight time

The Washington Wizards lost to the Los Angeles Clippers 113-112 on Saturday afternoon. Here's analysis of what went down...

Tough loss: The Clippers traded Chris Paul in the offseason and have Blake Griffin and Patrick Beverley out due to injury, but the story remains the same for the Wizards on the road in L.A.

With another defeat at the Staples Center, the Wizards have lost 10 in a row on the road against the Clippers. They haven't won there since 2008.

Even without John Wall, there was no excuse for losing this one. They are now 4-4 since Wall went down with his latest injury and 5-5 without him overall this season.

Williams was a problem: The new-look Clippers were missing some key players, but backup guard Lou Williams helped make up for it. He was unstoppable with 13 points by halftime and then another 13 in the third quarter. He ended up with 35 points and eight assists and iced the win with a huge three with 1.2 seconds left. It was from about 27 feet and with Bradley Beal guarding him.

The Wizards tried many things to stop him, but had no such luck. The Wizards put Kelly Oubre, Jr. on him and Oubre often has success guarding smaller players, but Williams kept dominating.

A lot of the focus in trade rumors involving the Clippers has dealt with DeAndre Jordan, but Williams is having himself a strong year and could help a contender. Once L.A. starts tearing it down, they will have some attractive assets to sell.

Great Scott: The Wizards were nearly saved by an unlikely hero. Mike Scott, a guy they signed over the offseason to a one-year deal as a potential reclamation project, came through with his best game in years. He was automatic with his usual mix of threes (3-for-4 3PT) and midrange jumpers. Scott had 22 points, his most since April 4, 2014, and added eight rebounds, albeit in a losing effort.

Scott has been a terrific signing so far as their most consistent scoring option off the bench.

Otto caught fire: Otto Porter was due. He had six total points in the Wizards previous two games and, though they were wins for the team, Porter had fallen into his worst slump of the season.

That changed against the Clippers as Porter came out swinging. He hit his first three threes and had 11 points in the first seven minutes. By halftime Porter had 17 points, tying his most in a game since Nov. 28.

Porter quickly surpassed that number and finished with 27 points, his most since Oct. 27 against the Warriors, and added 11 rebounds. He had the greenlight from three, which should always be the case, and was more aggressive than usual in the lane. There was a play in the second quarter where he crashed the glass, ripped a rebound out of the air and put it back for two. Porter isn't always assertive on offense, but he was against the Clippers. 

Beal went cold early: The version of Beal that dropped 51 points against the Blazers and 34 vs. the Suns went missing in L.A. early in this one. He had only two points in the first half on 1-for-7 shooting and looked like he didn't have the same energy or confidence.

Beal, though, would heat up and quickly. He found his rhythm from long range in the third quarter to drop 16 points in the frame including four threes.

It is unclear why Beal got off to such a slow start, but this game is further proof of Beal's potential. The best NBA scorers can only be held in check for so long and the very best will get theirs every night one way or another. 

Beal finished with 25 points and hit five threes. Though the Wizards have already played at the Lakers and Clippers, this may not be the last time Beal plays in L.A. this season. The All-Star Game is in February.

Beal had a big three-point play eight seconds left before Williams' three. Beal then got a look at the buzzer on a would-be final play. Beal made the shot, but after time ran out. Refs reviewed it and realized the clock had started early. That gave the Wizards another chance, but Marcin Gortat missed a 20-foot jumper to end the loss.

Up next: The Wizards are off Sunday and Monday before playing at the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night, the last leg of their five-game road trip. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.


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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

The Eastern Conference standings are so closely bunched as of today that the third-place Cleveland Cavaliers are only 1 1/2 games ahead of the sixth-place Philadelphia 76ers. With roughly a dozen games remaining for each NBA team, much can and likely will change over the next several weeks.

That is common for this time of the year, but a closer look suggests we could be in for some chaos in the final stretch. There are lopsided remaining schedules and impending personnel changes which could all contribute to one of the wildest regular season finishes in recent memory.

The Wizards are smack dab in the middle of the East playoff race and have their own circumstances to navigate. Let's take a team-by-team look at the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, knowing the top two seeds are all but locked up by the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics...


3. Cleveland Cavaliers (41-29, 12 games left)

Monday was a crazy day for the Cavaliers. First, they announced their head coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence to deal with an undiagnosed health issue. He will be replaced by associate head coach Larry Drew in the interim as he hopes to heal up before the playoffs.

Then, news broke they were getting Kevin Love back from a broken wrist after missing 21 games. Love returned to put up 18 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks in a big win over the Milwaukee Bucks. 

The Cavaliers will be without their coach for an undefined period of time, but now have their second-best player back on the court. That makes their final part of the season extra fascinating.

The Cavs are the team to watch of this group. Even though this season has been filled with turmoil, they still have LeBron James. He and Love have helped form the core of the last three Eastern Conference champion teams. If they pick things up, it's not crazy to consider them among the favorites to get out of the East again.


4. Indiana Pacers (41-30, 11 games left)

The Pacers are mostly healthy as they only feature a slew of minor injuries to big men Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. But Indiana's remaining schedule is unusually tough and it could make the difference in where they end up.

With only 11 games remaining, the Pacers still have to play the first-place Toronto Raptors once and the Golden State Warriors twice. Six of their last eight games will be on the road. They also see the Heat, Pelicans, Nuggets and Clippers.

The Clippers are currently ninth in the West and battling to make the playoffs. The Pacers will play them twice.

Keep in mind the Wizards own the season series over Indiana and will have a playoff seeding tiebreaker if they end up with the same record. Also worth noting is the Pacers have been much better at home (24-13) than on the road (17-17) this season.


5. Washington Wizards (40-30, 12 games left)

Though the Wizards' schedule is finally letting up soon from the 13 straight playoff teams stretch they have had to endure dating back to February, they too have a tough road ahead. The Wizards still have to play the Spurs (twice), Rockets, Cavaliers, Celtics and Nuggets. Four of their last six games are on the road and they have three back-to-back sets in their final seven games.

That's brutal. They may not have to see the defending champions twice like Indiana does, but the Wizards don't exactly have it easy.

The Wizards will, however, get John Wall back at some point. The five-time All-Star is slowly but surely working his way back and could participate in a full practice by the end of the week. Ideally they will get some games under his belt before the playoffs, but any time an All-NBA player is coming back to your team it's a good thing.

The problem is that there is little room for error in the standings and head coach Scott Brooks will have to reinsert Wall into the lineup during a tough schedule and while Wall is on a minutes restriction. It will be a tricky task to balance his lineups. 


6. Philadelphia 76ers (39-30, 13 games left)

The Sixers may have the most ideal road ahead of these four teams, at least in terms of their schedule. They still have the Timberwolves, Nuggets, Cavs and Bucks. But none of those teams are the juggernauts that Golden State, Houston and Toronto are. And of their final 13 games, the Sixers will play nine against teams outside of the playoff picture.

Philly also does not have to reincorporate a major piece into their rotation, like the Cavs do with Love and the Wizards with Wall. Their biggest injury is to Markelle Fultz, the 2017 No. 1 overall pick. If he does return this season, it will likely be in a minimal role, at least to start.

What could work against the Sixers is their inexperience and recent struggles against good teams. The Sixers are relying on very young players who have never been here before to carry the way. And since Valentine's Day, Philly has just one win against a team above the .500 mark, when they beat the Cavs on March 1. During those 14 games since Feb. 14, they have beaten up on the bad teams but lost to the Wizards, Bucks, Pacers and Heat (twice), basically all the teams surrounding them in the standings. 

Philly also lost their season series against the Cavs and Pacers, tied with the Wizards and are down 2-1 against the Bucks with one game to go. They may go to the finish line without a playoff tiebreaker against all the teams they would want one against.

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Oklahoma star freshman Trae Young to enter NBA Draft

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Oklahoma star freshman Trae Young to enter NBA Draft

After a sensational freshman season at the University of Oklahoma, point guard Trae Young plans to enter the 2018 NBA Draft, according to a report by ESPN.

Young will be one of the most fascinating prospects in this class given the extreme highs and lows of his one college season. He vaulted into the top 10 in most mock drafts after beginning his freshman year on fire, but then began to slip over the final months as his shooting percentage dropped.


Right now the Wizards are lined up to be in the late teens, so it's unlikely he falls to their range. But at this point it's difficult to predict where he will go, whether that is top five or later in the lottery.

It really could go either way. Some teams may see him as a Steph Curry-like scorer who can hit shots from unusually deep range. There were certainly times where Young backed up those comparisons.

Teams could see his flaws as a result of opposing defenses honing in on him because they could at the college level. In the NBA he may have more space and therefore be able to play to his strengths.


Or, teams could look at the fact he shot 36.1 percent from three on a whopping 10.2 attempts per game as a sign he is a chucker. He also led the nation in turnovers, commiting 24 more than the next guy. Young averaged 5.2 giveaways per game.

While Curry is the best-case scenario, Jimmer Fredette may be the worst-case. Fredette was the 10th overall pick in 2011 and now plays in China. 

Young will be an intriguing prospect in the draft because the ceiling is high and the basement is low. 

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