Wizards

End of losing streak may help Purdue turn tide

End of losing streak may help Purdue turn tide

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) One win has kept hope alive at Purdue.

Two more and the Boilermakers could go down as the nation's most improbable bowl-eligible team, with a roster of players and coaches who have routinely defied the odds.

``We're in a playoff situation,'' said sixth-year quarterback Robert Marve, who is playing with a torn ACL in his left knee. ``It just kind of hit me today, we can't lose a game right now.''

Actually, under new NCAA rules, if there aren't enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all the slots, the Boilermakers could still make it in at 5-7. But why try for the long shot when Purdue can still take care of things itself?

The Boilermakers understand what they're up against.

A year ago, they needed to win two of their last three regular-season games to snap a three-year bowl drought. They did.

Now if they can win these next two and finish the regular season on a three-game winning streak, they would likely make it back despite all of the things that went wrong this season - a five-game losing streak that left Purdue out of the Big Ten title chase, four blowouts that had many pondering whether this team had quit on the season, rotating quarterbacks that may have contributed to a lack of continuity, and, of course, the persistent speculation about coach Danny Hope's future in West Lafayette.

Saturday's 27-24 victory at Iowa not only gave Purdue (4-6, 1-5) respite, but a whole new perspective on this season.

Suddenly, the Boilermakers are talking about winning at Illinois (2-8, 0-6) this weekend and again when rival Indiana (4-6, 2-5) visits Ross-Ade Stadium the following weekend in the annual Old Oaken Bucket game.

``A bowl game is a big deal to us,'' Marve said Tuesday. ``This team feels like that's a successful season. No, it's not the season we wanted, but it would be one that Boilermakers Nation could look back at and say we bounced back.''

Judging from what Hope saw last weekend and through the early part of this week, this looks like a rejuvenated team.

Marve, who replaced Caleb TerBush in the starting lineup the previous week, threw for 266 yards and two scores. The Boilermakers topped 200 yards rushing for the first time since September and only the second time all season. A healthier defensive front held Iowa to just 2.4 yards rushing per carry, and Paul Griggs ended the losing streak with a 46-yard field goal as time expired.

Somehow Purdue stayed calm despite playing without offensive coordinator Gary Nord, who was out with a back injury, and facing the win-or-else scenario.

``I think we went into that game relaxed and that's not really been the case this season,'' Hope said. ``I think we were a lot more loose this past weekend. We just kind of let it all hang out and we had a lot of fun. We had a blast, we really did.''

The difference also was as evident at Tuesday's weekly news conference where Hope cracked jokes with reporters, defensive tackle Kawann Short smiled and laughed as he answered questions, and Marve seemed to say whatever was on his mind.

If they keep it up, the Boilermakers just might come up with that big finish that could send them to a second straight bowl game.

``We expected this year to be a lot different,'' Short said. ``But (going to a bowl game) is still big to the team and to make that last effort since that's the last thing we can do.''

Hope still isn't sure whether Nord will be calling the plays this week, though his gut-feeling is that Nord likely won't travel to Champaign, Ill. Nobody can ever be certain how Marve's left knee, the one he's torn the ACL in three times, will hold up. And, of course, the Boilermakers still must prove that last week's strong showing at Iowa was the norm - not the aberration.

But Purdue doesn't care about logic or conventional wisdom.

All they want to do is get the job done and salvage something from a sour season.

``I'm really pumped up and excited about it,'' Marve said. ``I would really like to get this team to a bowl game. It's been a long road, and if we can finish strong at the end, it would really mean a lot to me.''

Quick Links

How one half of assertive basketball may turn around the Wizards' season

How one half of assertive basketball may turn around the Wizards' season

The fat lady wasn’t warming up to sing an operatic number, not with 66 games left in the regular season. Then the flailing Washington Wizards, coming off consecutive double-digit losses, came out flat yet again. They trailed the Los Angeles Clippers by 19 points at halftime some 36 hours after the general public heard about their private quarrels and following weeks of basketball nightmares. 

As the Clippers scored 40 points in the first quarter and led 73-54 at halftime. she might have at least begun some mental prep for an upcoming performance. Then came the comeback within the comeback. The Wizards rallied for a 125-118 win when all the world was ready to say sayonara. 

Did Washington indeed save its season by outscoring Los Angeles 71-45 in the second half? Answering 'yes' presumes all is right with the gang that has struggled to defend throughout the season and possibly has chemistry issues even a family therapist couldn’t fix with thrice-weekly sessions. 

The day began with coach Scott Brooks and the team’s stars addressing leaks of intense arguments among players and a scolding by All-Star John Wall directed to the head coach. There was no spark initially even with a different starting lineup. 

The first half served as a season-long microcosm. It’s why rumors of breaking up the team seem plausible. 

Over the remaining 24 minutes, the Wizards finally woke up. They flew around the court defensively and passed to the open man. The stars led. The team played like a group wanting to play for each other, willing to do whatever necessary for a win.

John Wall finished with 30 points. Bradley Beal scored 27. Otto Porter grabbed 14 rebounds to go with 11 points. Six players scored in double figures. Everybody ate. 

“That’s how we need to play,” Beal told NBC Sports Washington. “Not going to say everything is fixed because we were still down [24 points], still have a lot of work to do. Got a lot of to change and get better. Our effort was there in the second half. That’s the type of intensity we have to have for the full 48.”

Numerous moments and performances stood out in the second half beyond the main players. Tomas Satoransky’s hustle helped begin the turnaround. Thomas Bryant, who started with Dwight Howard sidelined, provided interior energy. Jeff Green dropped 20 points. Markieff Morris, coming off the bench for the first time since Feb. 29, 2016, showed more than in recent games.

One play deep in the fourth quarter showed the difference between 16 games of defensive slumber and Tuesday’s resolve. 

The clock ticked under five minutes with Los Angeles leading 109-107. Clippers forward Tobias Harris crushed the Wizards early and finished with 29 points. He had the ball near the left corner when Wall and Beal sprung an aggressive trap as the shot clock wound down. Morris over hustled for support. The late arrival helped. Shot clock violation, Wizards ball. Washington then took the lead with a Morris 3-pointer. They soon pulled away with an 11-2 run. Their main players showed the way.

“We have to,” Beal said to NBC Sports Washington. “When it’s coming from the main guys. John and I have to give more, more and more. That’s something we realize and tell each other that. That’s that only way we’re going to get out of it. We just have to give more.”

The Thanksgiving holiday provides a natural break. Washington resumes game action Friday at Toronto. At 6-11, the Wizards have work to do, but at least they can catch their breath after a surreal span. 

“It’s a whirlwind. It’s a whirlwind,” said Beal, who remained in the game after suffering a cut over his eye following a head-butt collision with Clippers guard Tyrone Wallace. “We embrace it. Everything is a challenge. It’s adversity. We’ve been in this situation before. We’ve been in this situation where everybody thinks we have an issue. I think we did a great job of ignoring it as best we could. Doing what we could to get a win. A  much-needed win at that.”

Clippers coach Doc Rivers monitors the Wizards because his son, Austin, serves Beal’s primary backup. More film work came leading into the second meeting between the teams. Los Angeles hammered Washington 136-104 on Oct. 28. Things were only getting worse for the Wizards. Then came the second half.

“They just forgot about the stuff they’re going through and got back to playing basketball,” Doc Rivers said of the Wizards.

“I’ve always thought that’s what you have to do. Every guy out there on both teams, they played basketball all their lives. Then you get all the, what I call ‘stuff.’ The clutter starts affecting your game. Tonight you could see the clutter was killing them early. Then when they saw they had a chance to win, they started playing basketball again.”

Assume nothing but sunshine and swishes going forward if you must. Ideally, the Wizards do not. They have work remaining. In the second half against the Clippers, Wall, Beal, and crew rose up. In doing so, the fat lady took a seat.

We’ll see for how long.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS:

Quick Links

Markieff Morris unhappy with leaks coming out of Wizards' locker room

Markieff Morris unhappy with leaks coming out of Wizards' locker room

The Wizards had just completed a 24-point comeback against the L.A. Clippers, but something wasn't sitting right with power forward Markieff Morris.

When asked by a reporter if it was nice to get the win given their recent losing and the media controversy surrounding the team, Morris couldn't help but wonder who it was who leaked comments made by players behind closed doors at a practice last week.

There were very specific quotes cited by several media outlets and Morris wants to know where they came from. 

"It's f***ed up what's going on," he said.

"The comments that's coming from the locker room, that's f***ed up."

Morris went on to say that anonymous sources leaking information shouldn't "happen in sports." Many professional athletes see the locker room and team-only events like practice as sacred. Anyone who breaks that code is, in their eyes, a traitor.

If Morris knew who the information came from, it sounds like he would do something about it.

"I don't know who it is, so it's hard to address. But it's messed up," he said.

Which player or member of the organization spilled the beans could be a question for this team all season. It doesn't sound like Morris will forget that it happened.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: