Wizards

NBA Capsules

NBA Capsules

HOUSTON (AP) Russell Westbrook scored 28 points and Kevin Durant added 26 as the Oklahoma City Thunder built a big lead in the second quarter and rolled to a 124-94 win over the Houston Rockets on Saturday night.

Durant scored 11 points during a 16-0 run by the Thunder to end the first half and extend the lead to 18. Oklahoma City had another big run early in the third quarter to put the game further out of reach.

Former Thunder sixth man James Harden scored 25 for the Rockets, who went cold on offense for long stretches.

It was Oklahoma City's second win this season over Houston, after taking the first meeting 120-98.

Kevin Martin, who came to Oklahoma City in the trade for Harden, finished 19 points and five 3-pointers. Westbrook had eight rebounds and eight assists.

Marcus Morris scored a career-high 24 points for Houston.

HORNETS 98, BOBCATS 95

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Eric Gordon had 24 points and seven assists, helping New Orleans overcome a 21-point first-half deficit and extend Charlotte's losing streak to 18 games.

The Bobcats are one game away from a winless December. They haven't won since Nov. 24.

Gordon, who hadn't played since April 22 following arthroscopic right knee surgery, was 5 of 13 from the field and 12 of 14 from the free throw line in 24 minutes.

Ryan Anderson had 19 points and made a pair of 3-pointers in the final period as the Hornets won for the second time in three games.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 22 points and nine rebounds and Gerald Henderson added 19 points for the Bobcats.

BUCKS 104, HEAT 85

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Brandon Jennings scored 25 points and Mike Dunleavy had 13 of his 18 in the fourth quarter as Milwaukee beat Miami to spoil Dwyane Wade's return.

Wade was back after serving a one-game suspension for flailing his leg and making contact with guard Ramon Sessions' groin during the Heat's victory over Charlotte on Wednesday. Wade sat out Miami's 109-99 loss to Detroit on Friday night, which snapped the Heat's six-game winning streak.

Wade had 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting. LeBron James scored 26 as Miami failed to reach 100 points for just the third time in 28 games.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute scored 19 points for the Bucks, and Larry Sanders had 16 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.

Dunleavy also had nine rebounds, six assists and three steals for the Bucks, who outscored Miami 35-14 in the fourth. The Heat (20-8) fell to 6-6 on the road.

NETS 103, CAVALIERS 100

NEW YORK (AP) - Brook Lopez scored a season-high 35 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and Brooklyn improved to 2-0 under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo by beating Cleveland.

Lopez followed his 26-point, 11-rebound performance in a victory Friday over Charlotte by shooting 13 of 20 from the field, making a number of timely baskets in the fourth quarter that the Nets ultimately needed to hold on.

Deron Williams and Joe Johnson each scored 15 points for the Nets, who fired coach Avery Johnson on Thursday and followed with two victories over losing teams. But now, they head off for major tests at San Antonio and Oklahoma City.

CJ Miles scored 33 points and made eight 3-pointers for the Cavs, but Kyrie Irving capped a miserable shooting night when his tying 3-point attempt went in and out. He finished with 13 points on 5-of-16 shooting.

Tristan Thompson added 17 points and 15 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who played without center Anderson Varejao because of a knee injury.

GRIZZLIES 81, NUGGETS 72

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Rudy Gay scored eight of his 19 points down the stretch to help Memphis beat Denver.

Gay's rush was part of 10 straight points for the Grizzlies, breaking open a 68-all game with 4:45 left. His baseline jumper with 1:25 left gave Memphis a 10-point lead, helping the Grizzlies snap a two-game skid.

Zach Randolph had 12 points for Memphis, which won despite shooting 40 percent. The Grizzlies outscored the Nuggets 28-15 in the fourth quarter.

Andre Iguodala, Corey Brewer and JaVale McGee all had 12 points for Denver, which had its two-game winning streak stopped. Danilo Gallinari, coming off a career-high 39 points Friday night against Dallas, was held to seven on 2-of-8 shooting.

WARRIORS 101, CELTICS 83

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - Stephen Curry had 22 points and nine assists, David Lee scored 20 points and Golden State routed the short-handed Celtics to close a memorable month.

First-round pick Harrison Barnes added 15 points and eight rebounds to help the Warriors build a 20-point lead in the second quarter and cruise most of the way. Golden State (21-10) finished December with a 12-4 record and has at least 20 wins before New Year's Day for the first time since 1980.

Courtney Lee had 18 points and five rebounds starting in place of Rajon Rondo, a late scratch for Boston because of a bruised right thigh and hip. The Celtics (14-15) have lost six of eight to fall below .500 for the first time in almost two months.

HAWKS 109, PACERS 100

ATLANTA (AP) - Lou Williams had 21 points and a career-high 12 assists, Al Horford added 20 points and Atlanta beat Indiana for its fourth consecutive win.

David West scored a game-high 29 points for the Pacers, who had won four straight and seven of eight.

With Josh Smith, Atlanta's leading scorer, unable to play because of a right hip flexor, Hawks coach Larry Drew started Zaza Pachulia, who responded with 17 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.

Indiana never got closer than three in the fourth quarter after Paul George's three-point play made it 91-88 at the 5:18 mark.

RAPTORS 123, MAGIC 88

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - DeMar DeRozan scored 21 points and Jose Calderon added 15 points and 10 assists, helping Toronto to an easy victory over injury-depleted Orlando.

Rookie Ed Davis had 18 points and seven rebounds as Toronto won for the seventh time in eight games. The Raptors, who hit a season-high 15 3-pointers, got 16 points apiece from Kyle Lowry and Terrence Ross.

Rookie Andrew Nicholson led Orlando with a career-high 22 points. Arron Afflalo added 14 points and Ish Smith had 13 points and six assists.

The Raptors hit nine of their first 10 attempts from behind the 3-point line and built a 67-47 halftime lead. Orlando cut it to 76-65 with 5:16 left in the third quarter, but that was as close as the Magic would get the rest of the game.

The Magic played without starting point guard Jameer Nelson (hip) and his backup, E'Twaun Moore (elbow).

TIMBERWOLVES 111, SUNS 107

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Nikola Pekovic had 28 points and 11 rebounds, and Kevin Love added 23 points and 18 boards to lift Minnesota over Phoenix.

Andrei Kirilenko had 20 points and five rebounds for the Timberwolves, who were missing guard Ricky Rubio because of back spasms.

Luis Scola had 33 points and 10 rebounds for the Suns, who lost their fifth straight. They led 102-99 with 3:30 to play, but once again failed to close it out.

Pekovic scored two quick ones underneath, but the Suns still had a chance down three with 8.1 seconds left. Dante Cunningham stole the inbounds pass to seal it.

BULLS 87, WIZARDS 77

CHICAGO (AP) - Marco Belinelli came off the bench to score 17 points, leading Chicago to a victory over Washington.

Carlos Boozer added 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Bulls, who snapped a two-game losing streak. Belinelli shot 7 of 16 in a reserve role as Richard Hamilton returned to the starting lineup. Hamilton had missed 12 games because of a torn plantar fascia in his left foot.

Chicago's Luol Deng scored 11 points after injuring his right ankle Tuesday in a loss to Houston.

Bradley Beal led the NBA-worst Wizards (4-24) with 14 points. Emeka Okafor added 11 points and 18 rebounds for Washington, which has lost nine of 10.

Wizards leading scorer Jordan Crawford sat out because of a left ankle injury.

TRAIL BLAZERS 89, 76ERS 85

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Nicolas Batum had 22 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, Damian Lillard added 20 points and Portland beat Philadelphia for its eighth straight victory at home.

J.J. Hickson had 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Trail Blazers. LaMarcus Aldridge added 16 points.

Jrue Holiday had 29 points, nine assists and nine rebounds to lead the Sixers, who have lost eight of 10. Thaddeus Young added 17 points.

Portland opened the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run to take a 10-point advantage.

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What the Wizards hope to clean up in their final two games of the season

What the Wizards hope to clean up in their final two games of the season

Individual progress and development has taken a front seat over wins and losses for the Wizards in Orlando, as Washington remains winless in the NBA's restart, now at 0-6 and 0-9 overall, if you include the exhibition schedule. So, as they ponder their final two games of the season - against the Celtics and Bucks - what would more would the coaching staff like to see?

Head coach Scott Brooks has been trying to drill in some lessons to his young players and he wants to see some strides in key areas. He held a lengthy film session on Saturday, but did not get what he was hoping for in Sunday's loss to Oklahoma City.

"They’re all teachable moments," Brooks said. "We can’t keep making the same mistakes over and over. I said [at halftime] ‘either you’re not understanding it or I’m not doing a good job of explaining it.’"

As for specifics, Brooks said he wants his team to do a better job of stopping the ball on defense. Opponents are getting into the lane off the dribble far too easily and it is dismantling their defensive gameplan.

He also wants his team to execute better with outside shots. The Wizards are 21st out of the 22 teams in Orlando in three-pointers made (9.0/g), attempts (27.8/g) and percentage (32.3%). Not having Davis Bertans and Bradley Beal has done them no favors in those categories.

RELATED: WIZARDS FALL TO 0-6 IN BUBBLE

And perhaps most noticeable to Brooks has been the team's tendency to be pushed around physically. 

"You’ve gotta make a stand," Brooks said. "I thought [the Thunder's] physicality in the start of the game bothered us and it put us back on our heels. We played timid."

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Brooks highlighted rookie Rui Hachimura as a player who could put up more of a fight. On Sunday, Hachimura matched up at times with Chris Paul, who did a good job preventing him from reaching his favorite spots on the floor.

"You have to catch it deeper and go right through the guy’s chest. He’s going to learn that," Brooks said. "He’s still learning the league and the defenses that are going to be thrown at him."

Ish Smith is the most experienced player in the Wizards' rotation with 10 years of NBA service. He thinks the Wizards collectively are allowing other teams to be the aggressors. He says they need to cut harder on offense and be more assertive initiating contact on defense.

But overall, he thinks the young players on the team are learning that games with higher stakes are played differently.

"It’s such a good time for us because everybody that’s here is trying to get to the playoffs. So, they’re playing at a high, high level," he said. 

"Sometimes, no offense to the regular season and all 82 games, but some games you catch a team on a back-to-back or with injuries and different things. This is a good thing for all of us, to show us the level that you have to play at. The physicality that you have to play with, the level that you have to play at not just to make it to the playoffs but to be a champion."

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Braden Holtby is the Capitals' round robin MVP and T.J. Oshie redeems himself

Braden Holtby is the Capitals' round robin MVP and T.J. Oshie redeems himself

The Capitals finished off the round robin on Sunday with a 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins to claim third place and a first-round matchup against the New York Islanders.

Check out a recap of the game here.

Observations from the win

What a difference a game makes

There was a lot of hand-wringing and pessimism around the Caps after Thursday’s loss. Heading into Sunday’s game, the Caps were winless in the round robin, had played poorly against Philadelphia and were facing perhaps a last-place finish with a rematch against the Carolina Hurricanes on the horizon. That perception is a bit different after Sunday’s game. The Caps beat the Bruins, really were the better team for much of the game against Tampa Bay and only lost in a shootout. Now Washington will move on to play what looks like a much more favorable matchup against the New York Islanders.

There are some positives to take away from the round robin

Overall, did the Caps play like a Cup contender in the round robin? No. I think we can all agree they will have to be better, but there were some positives we can take from these three games. The penalty kill finished a perfect 8 out of 8 and it looked very good. After an awful regular season, Braden Holtby was the team's best player in the round robin. He acknowledged after the game that the pause in the season gave him time to "to fix a few things and work on a few things" and the improvement has been evident. The team defense also improved drastically as compared to Thursday's game.

It should also be noted that the Caps played the round robin without its best defenseman. Though John Carlson's status remains in question, if he is ready for the start of the playoffs, his addition will instantly make the team better on the back end which is its biggest weakness to this point. 

There's still room for improvement

Sunday's game was a step in the right direction, but there are some issues the team needs to improve on if it hopes to make a deep playoff run. The power play remains just a black hole on offense. It generated some chances on Sunday, but as a whole, through the round robin it has looked atrocious. This should be one of the team's biggest strengths, but instead they just cannot generate anything with the extra man.

Also, defense quite clearly remains the Achilles heel of the team. While Sunday was progress, the team has to be able to find the right balance between pushing the tempo offensively and playing strong defense. Washington had only two shots on goal through the first period as the team looked far too conservative. It has to improve on that while also not exposing themselves too much defensively. You're not going to be able to out-defense the Islanders so two shots on goal in a period is not going to cut it.

RELATED: HOW HAVE CAPS FARED VERSUS BARRY TROTZ, ISLANDERS IN 2019-20?

Turning point

T.J. Oshie had a golden opportunity late in the first period with a nice steal from Charlie McAvoy. Oshie saw McAvoy pinch in the offensive zone so he charged, chipped away the puck and launched a 2-on-1 in the other direction. Oshie carried the puck and called his own number, but missed the shot badly.

Oshie redeemed himself later in the period, however, as he beat Zdeno Chara to the puck on the doorstep and shot it home to give Washington the 1-0 lead. It was the Caps' second shot on goal of the period and it came in the final minute.

Play of the game

David Pastrnak may have been onto something with Tom Wilson. In the third period, Ilya Kovalchuk cleared the puck out of the defensive zone and Wilson sprinted down the ice to beat two Bruins claim the puck behind the defense. He pulled the puck backhand to forehand and fired a quick shot off the post and into the top shelf.

Stat of the game

The Caps killed off both power plays they faced on Sunday and were perfect on the penalty kill through the round robin.

Quote of the game

Sunday's win will mean the Caps will play Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders in Round 1 of the playoffs. Reirden was asked about the history between the coaching staffs heading into the series:

"It's not Barry Trotz vs. Todd Reirden"

Fan predictions

He certainly did. He recorded a game-high seven hits in his 15:14 of ice time. He had a Corsi-For percentage of 54.6-percent while only 16.7-percent of his shifts were offensive zone starts. That means he was not getting sheltered minutes. It was a good night for him.

You were half right. Holtby was certainly Washington's best player.

Thank goodness this was wrong.

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