Wizards

Seattle rookie Bruce Irvin ready for starting role

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Seattle rookie Bruce Irvin ready for starting role

RENTON, Wash. (AP) Bruce Irvin has always fed off the doubt of others, whether it came as he tried to turn his life around as a youth or when he was panned as being a reach when the Seattle Seahawks drafted him in the first round last April.

``I love reading all the negative stuff. ... That's just the type of person I am,'' Irvin said on Wednesday. ``I love to see what people say about me because it's funny. I take that in mind and I bust my butt and it just makes me work harder.''

The latest doubt Irvin will try and erase comes Sunday when the Seahawks face the Falcons in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs.

Irvin will make the first start of his career after starting defensive end Chris Clemons was lost for the season to a torn ACL and meniscus in his left knee in last Sunday's playoff win over Washington.

For most of his rookie season, Irvin has thrived being used on passing downs as a rush end opposite Clemons. Getting pressure from both sides on quarterbacks has worked well for Seattle with Clemons getting 11 1/2 sacks and Irvin having another eight in the regular season to set a franchise rookie record.

Now that Clemons is out, Irvin will be called on not only to pressure the quarterback, but also be stout in the run game.

``I'm still depressed that (Clemons) is down. He's like an older brother to me. He showed me a lot, man,'' Irvin said. ``Next year, I'll be in this same role, me and (Clemons) rotating and whatever. I'm not looking to come in here and ball out and take over (Clemons') spot. I'm not looking for that. My time will come and when it's that time it will all handle itself.''

Going to Atlanta is a homecoming for Irvin, who had a troubled childhood that included a couple of weeks in jail as a teenager.

But he's pleased that his first start will come in front of family that won't need to get on a plane to see him play.

``It's going to be bittersweet,'' Irvin said. ``(I'm) happy that my family doesn't have to take a five-hour plane ride to come and see me play and just to be back around in that territory and the people that first were to doubt me.''

Irvin got his share of snaps last week versus Washington after Clemons went down early in the third quarter. His biggest play came in the fourth quarter after Seattle had taken a 21-14 lead, when Irvin stayed with the play and chased down Robert Griffin III for a 12-yard sack.

Griffin fumbled a low snap and crumpled to the ground in pain on the next play, where Seattle recovered the fumble and led to a field goal that gave Seattle a 10-point lead.

Irvin said being in on every play helped him get into the flow of the game more.

``I think it's a plus, I think that's what really helped me last week,'' he said. ``I got into a zone and got the feeling of what my man's strengths and weaknesses were. So I think that really is a plus and we'll see how it goes.''

Irvin will be helped this week by the Falcons' propensity to throw. Seven times this season Atlanta threw the ball at least 40 times. The Falcons ran the ball more than 25 times just once over the final eight weeks of the season.

That would seem to play to Irvin's strengths. But getting a consistent pass rush has been a problem for Seattle, now amplified by the loss of Clemons. Irvin had the only sack of Griffin last week after the Seahawks had just one sack the final two weeks of the regular season.

``I think he's got more sacks in him,'' Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. ``I think it's been a terrific year, I think he can be a double-digit sack guy once he gets it going.''

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Wizards notebook: Backing Bradley Beal; Downhill for Decker

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Wizards notebook: Backing Bradley Beal; Downhill for Decker

Back to back Beal?

Losing rarely leads to awards. The Wizards lost Monday in Indianapolis, 109-101. They also rallied from 25 points down to pull within one at 98-97 with 4:45 remaining. The comeback against the Pacers occurred with no John Wall (ankle) from the start and sans Otto Porter (knee contusion) after the opening seven minutes.

Lineups included a player making his Washington debut, combinations rarely used and a scoring Kelly Oubre, who shined for the locals with 23 points in one of his more controlled performances.

They also included the newly minted Eastern Conference Player of the Week.

Bradley Beal’s work Monday puts him in line for a repeat performance especially from those that consider leadership in the equation. Beal finished with 30 points, 19 coming in the second half as he played the final 24 minutes. He wasn’t peak efficiency (10 of 27 field goals, four turnovers), but the All-Star battled when crawling into a hole made sense. Beal had two of his three steals in the fourth quarter and finished 4 of 9 on 3-pointers.

Quick reminder: The Wizards lost for a second consecutive game heading into Wednesday’s clash with the Celtics. 

Pacers center Myles Turner dominated inside with 26 points, 12 rebounds and five emphatic blocks. Ex-Wizard Bojan Bogdanovic had 22 points. All five Indiana starters, none named Victor Oladipo, scored in double figures. 

Like many of Washington's opponents, Indiana knocked down shots from deep (10 of 20 from beyond the arc). The Pacers, tops in scoring defense, held the Wizards to 8 of 23 (34.8 percent) from the field in the fourth. 

Tired legs and minds hurt the cause late, but the shorthanded Wizards fought back. This isn’t amateur hour so simply trying doesn’t deserve praise. That the Wizards struggled in that area for chunks of this season makes such performances worth noting, as does the team following Beal’s lead. Keep this up, but pick up wins -- three games this week against the Celtics, at Nets, vs. Lakers -- and perhaps Beal earns another award.

Dekker hustle

It’s also downhill from here for the newest Wizard. Seriously, Sam Dekker, what’s the encore after the team goes on a 19-0 run after you enter for the first time in a Washington uniform?

The 6-foot-9 forward only finished with two points. We don’t take plus-minus seriously most games so that plus-20 is more oddity than reality of the situation. Still, we received a sneak peek at what Dekker could offer going forward once he learns the system, his teammates and gets back into game shape. This marked his first game action since suffering an ankle injury Nov. 5.

Dekker, who added two steals, runs the court with ease and offers energy from the forward position. It’s conceivable he falls outside the rotation most nights when all are available. Then again, if the former University of Wisconsin keeps running the court, his play might eventually badger head coach Scott Brooks into finding him minutes.

 Where art thou Okaro White?

Word came Monday morning that Wall would not face Indiana. Seeing as he acknowledged giving it a go in Saturday’s loss at Cleveland was probably a mistake considering his overall physical condition, cool. 

Around the same time, we found out that rookie swingman Troy Brown Jr. and forward Okaro White would remain with the Capital City Go-Go. The G-League squad plays in Arizona Tuesday.

That meant the Wizards would only have 10 active players in Indiana, a group including Sam Dekker, who only officially joined the team over the weekend. Reminder: Dwight Howard remains sidelined and the 15th roster spot sits empty. 

Perfect world Washington might not use more than nine players in a game so no whoop. As observers of this team know, there’s no such thing as a perfect world this season.

Sure enough, foul trouble struck Tomas Satoransky and Markieff Morris early, as did Porter’s injury. Other than Dekker’s 10 minutes and seven from Ian Mahinmi, Washington effectively used a seven-man rotation.

Nobody would dare suggest having Brown, White or either of their two-way players (Devin Robinson, Jordan McRae) available changes Monday’s result. Brooks might have bypassed all especially the kids. The G-League exists to offer players like Brown and Robinson a place to get in on-court work. It’s also how a team supplements its roster when needed. 

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Five observations from Wizards' loss to the Pacers despite Bradley Beal's big night

Five observations from Wizards' loss to the Pacers despite Bradley Beal's big night

The Washington Wizards lost to the Indiana Pacers 109-101 on Monday night. Here are five observations from the game...

1. Another loss: The Wizards just can't seem to put together a full, 48-minute performance, a collective effort good enough to beat a team that isn't among the worst in basketball. On Monday, they saw a Pacers team that despite missing Victor Oladipo is still very good, and they fell short of what could have been an epic comeback.

The Wizards stormed back from down 25 points, only to collapse in the final minute and get outscored 11-4 to close the game. The final result was another loss, their second straight. They are 11-16 on the year with the Boston Celtics up next on Wednesday.

The defeat spoiled another big night from Bradley Beal. He had 30 points, the fourth straight game he's dropped 27 or more. 

2. Otto went down: The Wizards found themselves in a tough situation on Monday with only nine available players after Otto Porter Jr. left in the first half with a right knee contusion. John Wall and Dwight Howard were already out, meaning the Wizards were down three starters. Markieff Morris then got into early foul trouble, giving head coach Scott Brooks a real dilemma.

Though Porter's injury doesn't seem serious, the Wizards can ill-afford losing anyone right now. It's worth a reminder that, as bad as the Wizards have started this season, they have done so with few injuries to blame.

3. Oubre came through: Not long after Porter went down, Kelly Oubre Jr. stepped in to fill the void. He had one of his best games of the season with 23 points, five rebounds, three steals, and a block.

Oubre shot poorly against the Cavs on Saturday, but overall he has been playing very well lately. This was the fourth straight game he's reached double figures and the third time in that stretch he's scored 19 or more.

In addition to scoring, Oubre did a lot of the things Brooks wants him to do. He drew an offensive foul, brought down two offensive rebounds and forced a few turnovers. Oubre's best attribute is his length and his ability to cause havoc defensively, especially off the ball. He came into this game sixth in the NBA in total deflections and second in deflections per 36 minutes.

4. Dekker debuted: The lack of options for Brooks detailed above and the lopsided score at least brought one positive and that was the debut of Dekker, who checked in with just under four minutes to go in the third quarter. 

Dekker actually played fairly well considering the circumstances and happened to help key a nice little run for the Wizards. Washington closed the third quarter on a 13-0 run once he came in. On one play during that stretch, Dekker got a steal and then finished with a dunk on the other end.

The run with Dekker on the floor extended to 19-0 in the fourth quarter and kept the Wizards within striking distance the rest of the game. Maybe Dekker was the missing piece all along.

5. Turner is good: For the second straight game, the Wizards had no answer for an opposing big man. Last game it was Tristan Thompson, this time it was Myles Turner. 

Turner had a huge first half on the defensive end and found his scoring groove in the second half. He had a monster stat-line of 26 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocks.

The strategy for opposing teams at the moment appears to be to attack the Wizards in the middle, knowing they are just trying to make do with Thomas Bryant and a collection of small-ball fives. Teams may keep doing that until the Wizards stop them.

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