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Bradley Beal drops 30 as Wizards race past Mavericks in possibly Dirk Nowitzki's last game in D.C.

Bradley Beal drops 30 as Wizards race past Mavericks in possibly Dirk Nowitzki's last game in D.C.

The Washington Wizards beat the Dallas Mavericks 132-123 on Wednesday night. Here are five observations from the game...

1. The Wizards are in a fascinating spot with just over a month left in their regular season. If they look up, there is a wide open playoff race with the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference amazingly still attainable despite all they have endured this season. If they look down, there are only a few teams that separate them from the best odds in the draft lottery.

In part because the East is so bad, the Wizards realistically pick anywhere from one to 15 in the 2019 NBA Draft. So, how you view the Wizards' win over the Mavs on Wednesday really depends on what you're rooting for.

If you want them to make the playoffs, it was a good thing. They have now won three of four and might actually be able to make a real postseason push. If you want them to have a chance at Zion Williamson, well, maybe soon you can start talking yourself into Bol Bol or Goga Bitadze, or someone else with a cool name.

The Wizards, somehow, remain very much alive. They are like Danny McBride's character in Pineapple Express. They just won't die. And they just got behind the wheel of a Daewoo Lanos.

2. It was a really, really bad night for Salah Mejri. The Mavs big man found himself on the wrong end of two vicious moves by Bradley Beal.

The first one is illegal in 12 states. Beal got past Tim Hardaway Jr. off the dribble and threw down what was probably the best poster-dunk of his career. 

Somehow, Mejri survived this:

Not long after, Mejri was left in the undesirable position of guarding Beal alone on the perimeter. It didn't go well. Beal spun him around with a crossover and swished a three.

Beal finished with 30 points, some of them louder than others. He also had eight assists and seven rebounds.

3. Troy Brown Jr. got solid rotation minutes once again. He logged 16, the fourth straight game he's played 10 or more minutes, the longest streak of his young career.

Brown again stood out and not because of his scoring, though he did put up nine points. Brown continues to impress with his instincts. He had a well-rounded line that included four rebounds and three assists.

Three of his boards were offensive rebounds. He did the same thing last game. Brown has a knack for coming out of nowhere to create an extra opportunity on offense.

Brown had some interesting match-ups with Mavs rookies. For one, he got to square off against Luka Doncic, the likely rookie of the year. Like his teammates, Brown had some trouble with the Mavs sensation, who finished with 31 points and 11 rebounds.

Brown also saw Jalen Brunson, a guy he had a legendary showdown against back in his AAU days. Brown faced off with Brunson on both ends, as he played some point guard with the second unit.

4. Brown played point guard for the bench instead of Chasson Randle, who was out of the rotation on Wednesday night. And Sam Dekker got minutes for the second straight game in lieu of Wesley Johnson.

Head coach Scott Brooks has been tinkering with his rotation in recent games, most notably with the addition of Brown. The fact he likes him at point guard is inevitably going to affect Randle. The Dekker one may have a smaller chance of being permanent.

5. The Dirk Nowitzki farewell tour that may not actually be a farewell tour stopped through for what could be the Mavs legend's final NBA game in D.C. Though no one knows if he will actually retire after this season, Nowitzki was given special treatment on Wednesday.

Fans gave him a standing ovation when he came off the bench in the first quarter. And each time he took a shot, grabbed a rebound or merely touched the ball, they cheered. 

The Wizards also introduced him when he checked in with some notes on his decorated career. They listed some of his accomplishments on the jumbotron as well. Both were gestures road players don't otherwise receive.

Nowitzki only played 12 minutes and scored two points. He's far from the player he once was. But for many, just seeing him take the floor for what could be the final time was worth the price of admission.

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Wizards vs. Mavericks: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Wizards vs. Mavericks: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

With 19 games remaining in the NBA season as the Wizards currently sitting three games back of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, every game counts. On Wednesday, Washington will have another chance to gain some ground in the playoff race when they face off against the Dallas Mavericks.

Though the season as a whole has not been great for the Wizards, the past few games have been pleasant as Washington has won two of its last three contests following a four-game losing streak. Most recently, the Wizards cruised to a 135-121 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday. Led by a 26-point performance from Bobby Portis, Washington got scoring contributions from a multitude of players helping take some of the pressure off Bradley Beal. Moving forward, they'll look to continue to get consistency out of the lineup.

As for the Mavericks, their season has been pretty similar to Washington's. Sporting an almost identical record, Dallas has lost seven of its last eight games. Despite recent struggles, there are reasons for optimism for the future of the franchise. Rookie phenom Luka Doncic continues to dazzle night after night, while trade deadline acquisitions Kristaps Porzingis aims to be ready for next season. As for 2019, the Mavericks are on the outside looking in as it pertains to the playoff picture.

The Wizards-Mavericks contest takes place on Wednesday, March 6 at 7:00 p.m. at Capital One Arena and will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington.

WIZARDS vs. MAVERICKS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Wizards vs. Dallas Mavericks, 2018 NBA Regular Season

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: The Wizards vs. Mavericks game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Find Your Channel)

Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards vs. Mavericks on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.

Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM

WIZARDS vs. MAVERICKS TV SCHEDULE

6:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders

6:30 PM: Wizards Pregame Live

7:00 PM: Wizards vs. Mavericks, NBA Regular Season (LIVE)

9:30 PM: Wizards Postgame Live 

10:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders (LIVE)

WIZARDS vs. MAVERICKS INJURY REPORT:

Wizards: Dwight Howard (OUT, Back and Hamstring), John Wall (Out, Achilles)

Mavericks: J.J. Barea (OUT, Achilles), Kristaps Porzingis (OUT, Knee), Kostas Antetokounmpo (DAY-TO-DAY, Hip Flexer)

WIZARDS vs. MAVERICKS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Bradley Beal, Wizards (25.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 5.4 apg): As long as Bradley Beal is in the lineup, he'll be a player to keep an eye one. Despite not being the leading scorer on Sunday, Beal is still the catalyst for the Washington offense. If he's hot, there aren't many defenders who can shut him down.

Troy Brown Jr., Wizards: Brown Jr. may not have any stats that catch your eyes, but the rookie is slowly assuming a larger role. He played a career-high 17 minutes on Sunday and as NBC Sports Washington's Chase Hughes wrote, this is a significant milestone for a young player who could continue to make an impact

Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks: Obviously Luka deserves recognition, and Dirk probably isn't going to go off for 40 points on Wednesday. But, there is still a reason to tune in and watch him. It is becoming more and more likely that this season could be the last for Nowitzki. If that's the case, this will be the last time he plays in D.C. We've been treated to some memorable and heartfelt moments already this year as Dirk travels to different arenas, and you can expect the future Hall-of-Famer to get the same treatment in the district.

WIZARDS vs. MAVERICKS SERIES HISTORY

Number of all-time Meetings: 74 games 

Regular Season Record: Mavericks lead 43-31

Last Meeting: Mavericks win 119-100 on 11/6/2018

Last 10: Mavericks lead 9-1

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Wizards stumble to familiar 2-8 start. Here's why it may be harder to turn it around

Wizards stumble to familiar 2-8 start. Here's why it may be harder to turn it around

Ah, the 2-8 start. We have seen this one before.

After taking one on the chin against the Mavs on Tuesday night, the Wizards have the exact record they held at this point during the memorable 2016-17 season. They, of course, went on to win 49 games that year and fell one win short of the Eastern Conference Finals. 

They did it two years ago and with mostly the same rotation. So, they can just flip the switch and do it all again, right?

It depends on whom you ask. Head coach Scott Brooks certainly seems optimistic and his players have echoed his lead. Brooks has cited how in that season they really didn't turn it on until December.

They were 2-8, then 5-10, then 7-13. They didn't reach .500 until the 32nd game of the season. The Wizards don't play their 32nd game this year until Dec. 19.

But then there's the other side of things, the side that shifts focus to last season and how that turnaround never really came. Former Wizards head coach Flip Saunders once famously said "don't think it can't get any worse because it can."

Just because the Wizards are 2-8, matching their worst start since 2012-13, doesn't mean this is rock bottom. 

On Tuesday, the Wizards were fully healthy. Injuries can and will happen. Fingers can and may be pointed. There are always ways for it to get worse. Never test the basketball gods because they can be awfully creative, and everyone knows they have been with this Wizards franchise over the years.

Owner Ted Leonsis said it himself. In an interview with NBC Sports Washington over the weekend, he said in no uncertain terms that he does not want the 2016-17 season to be used as a crutch.

"I hope the team isn't looking at the precedent we set when we started [2-8]," he said, with his team 1-7 at the time. "You don't want to just fall so far behind and more importantly, you don't want to fall into these bad habits."

Leonsis knows these Wizards are capable of just that, falling into bad habits. The reasons why their turnaround never came last season were numerous. But they added up to a constant theme of inconsistency and an inability to string victories together, especially against less-talented teams.

So far this season, that has been a distinguishing trait. The Wizards are 1-2 against sub-.500 teams (like the Mavs), tied with the Cavs and Suns for the fewest such victories.

In 2016-17, the Wizards righted the ship in part because they beat up on the bad teams. They went 27-9 against sub-.500 opponents, the third-best record in the East. In 2017-18, their 20 wins against sub-.500 opponents were the fewest of any playoff team.

This current stretch is a good test to see if that is out of their system. Their next five opponents have losing records. But they are not off to a good start, as they not only lost to the Mavs, they did so by 19 points and trailed by as many as 24. 

Only five NBA teams have worse records than the Mavs so far this season. The Wizards are one of them.

The problems in this 2-8 start is different than the one in 2016-17. Back then, they couldn't score. They were averaging just 100.1 points while allowing 104.6 per game. 

This season, it's the opposite. They're scoring just fine with an average of 110.2 per contest. They just can't play defense, as opponents are dropping 120.5 points per game, second-most in the NBA.

Yes, the Wizards missed Dwight Howard for the first seven games to start this season. But in 2016-17, John Wall was on a minutes restriction and limited to one game in back-to-backs.

The most logical excuse for the 2016-17 team is one this year's Wizards can't use. Back then they were in the first year with Brooks, meaning the players were still learning his system and he was still learning their strengths and weaknesses.

This year, like last season, they had the chance to hit the ground running. Instead, they are six games below .500 and looking up at what could be a deeper Eastern Conference. It is still far from the West, but it could be more difficult to get home court advantage than it has been in years.

As Leonsis suggested, this is a different situation than 2016-17 was. It's a new year and the Wizards will need to find new solutions to get themselves out of this early season hole.

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