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Wizards mount biggest comeback of NBA season so far to beat Knicks

Wizards mount biggest comeback of NBA season so far to beat Knicks

The Washington Wizards beat the New York Knicks 118-113 on Wednesday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Major comeback: For two quarters on Wednesday night it looked like the Wizards had already checked out for the All-Star break with one eye on their respective planned vacations. At halftime they trailed by 21 points to a New York Knicks team that entered the matchup having lost 20 of their previous 26 games.

But the Wizards didn't let up, they didn't stop fighting with a long break just two quarters away. No, they mounted the biggest comeback in the 2017-18 NBA season so far.

The Wizards roared back from down 27 points to snatch a victory from the Knicks and enter the All-Star break having won seven of their last nine games since John Wall got injured. Since Wall went down, the Wizards have shown exceptional resolve and this win was a great example of that.

Bradley Beal was the key to all of it with 36 points, seven assists, five rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Ian Mahinmi also had a huge night with a season-high 17 points off the bench to go along with eight rebounds and three blocks. Tomas Satoransky was pivotal with a career-high 11 assists and three blocks.

The Wizards enter the break 33-24, a 47-win pace. They will take that given all that went down in the first half of the season. 


Big third quarter: The Wizards must have heard some halftime speech - or rant - from head coach Scott Brooks because a different team emerged in the third quarter. After allowing 72 points through the first two frames, the Wizards outscored the Knicks 39-15 in the third.

Beal led the charge with 12 points in the third quarter. Markieff Morris had nine of his 13 points and four rebounds. Marcin Gortat had six points and five rebounds in the third.

Some of the third quarter numbers are just absurd. The Wizards shot 81 percent from the field compared to just 20.8 percent for the Knicks. The Wizards outrebounded New York 19-2 in the frame.

The Wizards were a sleeping giant on Wednesday and once the Knicks woke them up, it was Washington's game to lose.

Hardaway was a problem: The biggest reason why the Wizards went down so big in the first half is because they had no answers for Knicks guard Tim Hardaway, Jr. He is the team's leading scorer with Kristaps Porzingis now done for the season and, man, was he good in this one.

Hardaway was on fire from the opening tip with 17 points in the first quarter and 32 by halftime on 12-for-14 from the field and 5-for-6 from three. Beal guarded him for much of the first half, but he was getting killed on pick-and-rolls as the Wizards team defense continued to break down. Even when they were all over him, he knocked down shots through tight windows.

The Wizards finally had some success against him in the second half. They held him to 2-for-10 from the field and just five points. Still, he finished one short of a career-high with 37 points on the night.

Their defense on Hardaway in the first half was a disaster, but they deserve credit for ultimately figuring him out. If they didn't, they would have had no chance of winning this one.

Injuries are mounting: The Wizards were not playing at anything close to full strength. Already without Wall, they were also missing backup point guard Tim Frazier, who is sidelined following the nasal fracture surgery he had on Sunday. That left Washington with one healthy point guard.

The Wizards were also without Jason Smith, who was sick. It was so dire they called up their two-way rookie Devin Robinson just because they needed players. Still, they had enough to win.

Beal made history: Beal became the youngest player in NBA history to reach 800 career threes with his second make from long range on Wednesday night. It came at a good time as Beal is set for the All-Star three-point competition on Saturday night. He continues to establish himself as one of the best three-point shooters of this generation and a three-point contest crown would look nice on his résumé.

Up next: The Wizards are off for a while for the All-Star break. They don't play for the next seven days before returning to action on Thursday, Feb. 22 at the Cleveland Cavaliers.



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Phil Chenier becomes fifth Bullets player to ever have his jersey retired


Phil Chenier becomes fifth Bullets player to ever have his jersey retired

On the newest banner that hangs from the rafters at Capital One Arena, a small microphone - embroidered with a white 33 - is subtly stitched into the bottom left corner. 

You'd barely notice it was there; Phil Chenier certainly didn't.

Chenier, who had his #45 jersey retired tonight during halftime of tonight's Wizards-Nuggets game, didn't even notice the mic, added to signify his three decades as a broadcaster with the team.

"I had no idea there was even a mic on it," Chenier said, laughing. "I'll have to go back out and look at it some more."

Despite the Wizards' 108-100 loss, the night was first and foremost a celebration of Chenier - the 5th player in franchise history to have his number rasied in the rafters. He joins Earl Monroe, Elvin Hayes, Gus Johnson, and Wes Unseld as the only players to achieve the honor so far.

"To be up there with the other 4 names means a lot – people I had the fortune of playing with," he added. "I remember my first day of practice and I had just watched this team play in the finals and now I’m plopped down with Wes Unfeld and Earl Monroe and Gus Johnson. It seemed like they accepted me from the get go."

Many from that 1978 Championship team were in attendance on Friday night, watching as one of their teammates cemented his professional legacy. For Chenier, that acceptance as an All-Time Bullets great is at the core of why he played the game.

"You know, when you play this game, you play for acceptance," he said. "You want to be the best, you want to be accepted. Having players and childhood friends – and of course, your family – here, you’re surrounded by so many people that meant a lot to you both before and now. It’s a really humbling feeling.”

It was hard to find someone in DC without something good to say about Chenier on Friday night. Even in the basement of Capital One Center, after the Wizards' fifth loss in seven games, head coach Scott Brooks took a moment out of his press conference to praise Chenier. 

"[Chenier] is a great ambassador and we all love him," Brooks said. "It's well deserved. It's going to be pretty cool seeing his jersey every time we step into this building."

Fans left the arena with a commemorative Phil Chenier cut out. Phil Chenier left the arena with his number retired. The experience was, according to the man himself, everything he thought it'd be. 

"You don’t know what the emotions are going to be..." he told media members after the ceremony."...Obviously it’s something I thought about, but it really was exciting to see the 45 up there and my name."

Then Chenier cracked a smile.

"I’m glad it’s over with."

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

The Washington Wizards lost to the Denver Nuggets 108-100 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Another loss: It is becoming more and more clear that the Wizards need a shot in the arm, something to change the direction of where they are currently heading.

Whether that will come in the form of All-Star point guard John Wall returning from his months-long absence, an adjustment to their lineup or strategy, or something else entirely, the losses are piling up and at a tough time in the season.

With another loss on Friday night, their seventh in their last 11 games, the Wizards are now 40-32. They have plenty of room to still clinch a playoff berth, as their magic number stands at two, but they only have 10 games left to secure their all-important playoff seed.

Both the Pacers and Cavaliers, two teams just ahead of them in the playoff race, won on Friday.

The Wizards lost their second straight game and again offense was their problem. They scored 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers.

Big third quarter: The Denver Nuggets have emerged as a team on the rise, a young squad with burgeoning stars that could someday soon make some noise in the Western Conference. The reason is because they are very good on offense. Defense is a much different story.

That was not the case on Friday night, as the Wizards had all sorts of trouble scoring in three of their four quarters. They managed just 43 points by halftime, the fewest the Nuggets have allowed in a first half since Jan. 27.

The Wizards, though, did get cooking in the third quarter. They erupted for 33 points in the frame while shooting 63.2 percent from the field and 58.3 percent from three. Markieff Morris, who finished with 17, had 11 points in the third quarter and Bradley Beal (24 points) hit three threes.

The Wizards also found a solution for Jamal Murray, one of the Nuggets' brightest young stars. He had 20 points at halftime, but went scoreless in nine minutes in the third quarter. Kelly Oubre, Jr. (15 points) was among those who gave him trouble. Murry finished with 25.

The big third quarter reflected well on the Wizards' ability to make adjustments, but their 24-point fourth quarter flipped the script again.


Didn't force mistakes: The first time these teams squared off back in October, the Wizards forced the Nuggets into 23 turnovers. This game was a very different story. 

The Nuggets didn't commit their first turnover until midway through the second quarter and had only three by halftime. They had just 10 turnovers for the game.

Denver deserves some credit for limiting their mistakes, but all of it did not reflect well on the Wizards' defense. They didn't put enough pressure on the ball and failed to disrupt passing lanes like they usually do. It was uncharacteristic, as the Wizards entered the game 10th in average turnovers forced.

Not creating mistakes allowed the Nuggets to get way to many field goal attempts. Though they shot just 43.5 percent, Denver managed 108 points. And not getting turnovers offered the Wizards few opportunities for easy transition buckets.

Turnovers were one issue with the Wizards' defense. So was defending the perimeter, as the Nuggets shot 17-for-34 (50%) from long range. It is worth noting the Nuggets were without their leading scorer Gary Harris, a guy who is dangerous from long range.


Special night: Halftime offered a memorable moment in franchise history as legendary player and broadcast Phil Chenier had his No. 45 jersey retired by the team. His longtime broadcaster and friend Steve Buckhantz hosted the ceremony with about 20 friends and family members of Chenier's seated behind him. Buckhantz had opening comments, then majority owner Ted Leonsis spoke as everyone in the crowd stood and cheered.

Then, it was Chenier's time to talk. He thanked his former teammates, members of the organization and those close to him. He kept his composure until the very end when he brought up his mother, Peggy, who could not make the event. Chenier choked up and wiped away tears as he described what she has meant to him in his life.

It was a powerful moment and a great ceremony to honor a guy who has impacted the lives of many in the D.C. area. Now, his No. 45 will hang up in the rafters forever. That banner, by the way, features a picture of a microphone and the phrase '33 years,' signifying how long he was the color analyst for Bullets and Wizards games.


Up next: The Wizards do not have a game Saturday, though they are going to practice and Wall is expected to take a big step forward in his rehab. Their next game is Sunday at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington when they host the Knicks. That will also be a special game, as the Wizards are set to honor the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship.

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