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Wizards hold on to beat Phoenix Suns, continue to play well without John Wall

Wizards hold on to beat Phoenix Suns, continue to play well without John Wall

The Washington Wizards beat the Phoenix Suns 109-99 on Thursday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Closer than it should have been: The Wizards had no excuse losing to the Suns without Devin Booker and lose they did not, but this one was way more interesting than it should have been. The Wizards were up just one point entering the fourth quarter and, though they won by 10 points, the Suns cut the game to 96-94 with 5:46 left in the fourth quarter. 

The Suns have proven a dangerous match for the Wizards this season. They came back from down 22 points to beat Washington back on Nov. 1 in Washington. In this one they erased a nine-point deficit to give the Wizards a scare. Phoenix actually jumped out to a 24-12 lead in the first quarter before the Wizards woke up and got serious.

It was a tougher road than it should have been, but a win is a win and the Wizards are now 5-4 on the season without John Wall and 4-3 since his latest injury. This was the first time they have won two straight without Wall this season.

It has been a crazy few weeks with wild ups and downs, but the overall result has been something they probably would have signed up for going in. They are now 14-11 overall on the season.

Encore, do you want more: The odds of Bradley Beal following up his amazing 51-point performance with another big game seemed good, as the Phoenix Suns rank dead-last in the NBA in both defensive rating and opponent points per game. They are the worst team in the NBA defensively and Beal was coming in hot.

Those predictions came true. Beal picked up right where he left off in Portland with a dominant showing against the Suns. He dropped 34 points on 13-for-22 shooting. Beal has scored 30 points or more in two straight games for the fifth time in his career.

Beal caught fire early with 11 points in the first quarter and another 11 points in the second. The Suns began the game with rookie and fourth overall pick Josh Jackson guarding him. They tried different looks, but nothing worked.

The Wizards needed Beal to step up because others did not. Otto Porter was held to four points and two rebounds on 2-for-9 shooting. Marcin Gortat had four points and eight rebounds, but lost minutes to Ian Mahinmi.


Phoenix Outlaw: Markieff Morris had combined for 19 points in his last two games and was averaging just 10.0 in his last six since John Wall had procedures on his left knee. Perhaps we should have known he would get things corrected on Thursday, given it was against his former team, a franchise he did not leave on good terms. 

Whether it was extra motivation or not, Morris balled out. He finished with 21 points, six rebounds, two steals and a block. It was his second-most points of the season.

Morris doesn't like how the Suns treated him and his twin brother Marcus, how they traded Marcus after the two took less money to continue playing together. Morris likes to get back at them any chance he gets and he was a big reason for the Wizards' win.

The question now becomes whether Morris can do it again in two straight games. He hasn't been able to find consistency at all this season after missing the first seven games due to sports hernia surgery and a suspension. Only three times has he scored double-figures in two straight games and not once has he done so in three straight. This could be a breakthrough game, but we've thought that before and been proven wrong.

Off the bench: It was another good night for the second unit, which has been a big storyline during Wall's absence. They combined for 39 points with Kelly Oubre, Jr. (12 points, seven rebounds), Ian Mahinmi (10 points, eight rebounds) and Mike Scott (eight points, 3-for-3 FG) as the standouts.

Oubre and Scott have arguably been their most consistent bench players this season. Oubre is playing much smarter on both ends of the floor and Scott is proving to be instant offense more often than not.

Up next: The Wizards are off Friday before facing the Clippers in L.A. on Saturday. That game tips off at 3:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.


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Wizards ride huge second half to break through, beat Pistons

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Wizards ride huge second half to break through, beat Pistons

The Washington Wizards beat the Detroit Pistons 122-112 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Changes were subtle: Many were surprised when head coach Scott Brooks decided to trot out the usual starting lineup after all the talk about making changes following their blowout loss to the Hornets on Wednesday, but that didn't mean Brooks was going to keep everything the same. He did adjust his rotation, it just took him a few minutes.

Center Marcin Gortat played four minutes in the first quarter before sitting the rest of the first half. After Markieff Morris began the game cold and missed his first three threes, Scott pulled him and got creative with his lineups.

Early in the second quarter we saw Tomas Satoransky, Jodie Meeks, Kelly Oubre, Otto Porter and Mike Scott in a super small-ball set... and it worked. After the Wizards went down by 15 points, that group exploded back by causing turnovers left and right and took the lead. Even Meeks, who has struggled all season, popped off for six points in his first five minutes.

Whether it was those moves or not, the Wizards came out in the third quarter a different team. They outscored the Pistons 45-28 in the frame and shot 16-for-21.

After going scoreless in the first half, John Wall exploded for 10 points in the third quarter and finished with 16 points and 11 assists for the game. Bradley Beal had 13 points in the third and Gortat had eight. Beal had 26 points for the game and Gortat had 13 points and nine rebounds.

The big third quarter propelled the Wizards to the win. They snapped a two-game slump and improved to 26-20 on the season.


Otto came to play: Brooks ripped into the Wizards following their loss on Wednesday and early on it seemed like most of the players didn't get the message. Porter was a major exception because he came out on fire.

Porter had 11 points, six rebounds and three steals by halftime. He was 3-of-4 from three and was all over the place on both ends of the court.

Porter ended up with 16 points. It was a great sign for the five-year pro, who hadn't reached double figures in six of his previous eight games. If Porter gets going offensively, the Wizards should be in good shape moving forward.

Oubre, too: Oubre gets criticism from time to time about his mistakes on the court, when he gambles on defense or doesn't make the extra pass on offense. But what is never questioned is his effort, so it's no surprise he showed up when Brooks was looking for more energy from his team.

Oubre lit a spark with 11 points in the first half on 4-for-7 from the field in just under 16 minutes. He ended up with a career-high 26 points for the game. He shot 9-for-14 from the field and 5-for-9 from three. He also added five rebounds.

Oubre has been one of the Wizards' most consistent players recently. He has reached double figures in seven straight games and is averaging 16.3 points per game during that stretch.

Oubre has 15 points or more in four straight games, a career-high. This season he has 13 such games compared to seven in his previous two seasons combined. 

If the Wizards continue to struggle in the big picture, Oubre will be knocking on the door to be inserted into the starting lineup. His improvement is also giving the Wizards a lot of options as they approach the trade deadline because if they want to move a starter, he could step right in.

Stocking up: The Wizards beat the Pistons for the third time this season, meaning they took the season series. That could come in handy if the Wizards need a playoff tiebreaker over the Pistons at the end of the season.

Up next: The Wizards are off through the weekend. Their next game is on Monday night at the Dallas Mavericks. Tipoff is at 8:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.


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2018 NBA trade deadline: Hornets are shopping All-Star guard Kemba Walker, report says

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2018 NBA trade deadline: Hornets are shopping All-Star guard Kemba Walker, report says

The Charlotte Hornets are attempting a firesale of sorts with the 2018 NBA trade deadline approaching and have made All-Star point guard Kemba Walker available in talks, according to a report by ESPN.

Walker, 27, is having one of his best seasons with averages of 21.7 points, 5.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He is a prolific scorer and is on a team-friendly contract of $12 million per year through next season.

Though many teams have good point guards these days, there should be a strong market for Walker. Teams like the Sixers, Pistons, Clippers, Knicks and Nuggets would seem to be great fits. 


The Pistons stand out in particular. They are currently ninth in the East and their primary point guard Reggie Jackson is hurt. Even when he does play, they need offense and that's what Walker provides.

The Sixers have Markelle Fultz working his way back from a shoulder injury, but have the assets to trade for Walker and could use some help to make a playoff push. The Knicks could use more talent around Kristaps Porzingis and Walker would certainly help.

There are still about three weeks until the Feb. 8 trade deadline and a lot can change before then. But it appears there is another big name readily available on the market.