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Wizards hold off Pistons behind Otto Porter's huge night, John Wall's double-double

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Wizards hold off Pistons behind Otto Porter's huge night, John Wall's double-double

The Washington Wizards beat the Detroit Pistons 115-111 on Friday night at Capital One Arena. Here's analysis of what went down...

How it happened: Part of what the Wizards need from Otto Porter now that he has received a max contract is more on the offensive end, the more-than-occasional game where he takes pressure off of John Wall and Bradley Beal with a convincing offensive effort. They got just that in a win over the Pistons on Friday night.

While the team struggled mightily on defense early, Porter helped keep them in it with 20 points in the first half. He shot 9-for-13 from the field and didn't hit one three-pointer. Porter kept it going with six points in the third quarter and ended up with 28 on the night.

The Pistons had their way on offense throughout the first half. They led 65-58 and shot 55.1 percent. Despite shooting 63.2 percent themselves, the Wizards trailed by seven after two quarters. 

Washington led 91-81 after three after holding Detroit to 16 in the third and saw that lead grow to 15 with a 7-2 run to begin the fourth. That push was keyed by mostly bench players after they struggled to maintain momentum in the first half. Once they started to lose grip and let the Pistons cut the lead to 98-90 with 8:19 remaining, Scott Brooks called a timeout and brought the starters back in. That didn't exactly stop the bleeding, as an Avery Bradley three locked the game at 102-102 with five minutes left.

Detroit kept answering the bell when the Wizards would make a push. Rookie Luke Kennard (11 points), the 13th overall pick out of Duke, was impressive off their bench. Andre Drummond grabbed 12 rebounds, but fouled out with 9:15 left in the fourth. Tobias Harris (15 points, three rebounds) didn't recreate his monster season-opener, but was effective nonetheless.

Beal helped close out the win with a pivotal and-1 layup with 2:06 left. He was challenged by Jon Leuer at the rim, but got it to go in off the glass. That put the Wizards up 111-106. Wall then secured the victory with a block on Reggie Jackson with 14 seconds left. Jackson charged the lane and Wall swatted it away with his left hand.

Wall (27 points, 10 assists, two blocks) had his first double-double of the season despite committing seven turnovers. Beal dropped 24 points to go along with four assists and four boards. Marcin Gortat had an average night compared to his season-opener with 10 points and eight rebounds. 

The Wizards moved to 2-0 on the year with two wins against teams that could be in the Eastern Conference playoff picture come April.

What it means: The Wizards took care of business with two wins at home before they head west. That may end up looking very important in hindsight. 

Smith sidelined: Jason Smith was held out with a sprained right shoulder. Kelly Oubre, Jr. got the start in his place and got the game started with a steal and dunk on the other end for the Wizards' first points. Overall, Oubre didn't make nearly the impact he did in the season opener. He finished with four points and six rebounds in 35 minutes.

Wall put on a show: Wall's numbers may look modest by his standards, but he was lighting up the highlight reel on both ends of the floor. He crossed up Jackson for a nasty stepback jumper in the first quarter. In the second quarter he blocked Harris, who is a power forward. How many point guards can do that, like, in the history of the game? Not many. 

Wall also had this beautiful layup on the fastbreak:

Bench a mixed bag: The Wizards were starting to take control in the third quarter when backup shooting guard Jodie Meeks helped them grow their lead. He had six points in the third and came out with an early three in the fourth. He finished with nine points in 15 minutes. The bench, however, had another uneven night. Tim Frazier went scoreless for the second straight game, but did dish four assists. 

Up next: The Wizards have the weekend off before heading out on a very early West Coast trip. They see the upstart Denver Nuggets first on Monday night. That one tips off at 9 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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