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Blazers pound Wizards 108-98: Five takeaways


Blazers pound Wizards 108-98: Five takeaways

The Portland Trail Blazers had just been embarrassed by the NBA's worst team two nights ago, so they came into Monday's game at Verizon Center ready to make amends. The Wizards, on the heels of an emotional loss to the Boston Celtics, didn't have the same energy as they lost for the fifth time in six home games.

Marcin Gortat (16 points, 13 rebounds) led the Wizards but after they took their first lead of the game, 60-59, to open the third quarter on Garrett Temple's three-pointer then it was all downhill.

Portland (19-25) went on a 23-1 run, led by C.J. McCollum (25 points), Myers Leonard (18), Damian Lillard (16) Alan Crabbe (14) and Mason Plumlee (10 points, 11 rebounds).

Temple (18 points), Bradley Beal (16), Gary Neal (11), Jared Dudley (10) and Ramon Sessions (10) gave the Wizards a jolt offensively but they couldn't get stops on the other end. John Wall (nine points, 10 assists) wasn't himself.

The Wizards already have more home losses (13) than they had all of last season.

  • On the first play of the game, the Wizards had a botched coverage on Lillard's first basket which was a drive for a layup. They didn't change much with their scheme but this showed a lack of preparedness even though the game plan had been established. It's all about recognizing personnel. McCollum rarely goes all the way to the basket. He will pull up for jump shots every time. Lillard tends to pass or stop his dribble and pull up going left. He's more prone to going all the way to the basket going right. The Wizards had poor recognition with personnel.

  • Nene and Gortat, who started together the past two seasons, shared the court for the first time to combat one of the better rebounding teams in the league. Nene was limited to 12 minutes in the last game because the Wizards were playing the second game of a back-to-back so coach Randy Wittman, who had to be measured with how he used him there, had him on the court 17 minutes. They duo was together from 5:38 of the first quarter when Nene entered for Dudley trailing 19-6, and that lasted until Gortat checked out at 1:42 as they remained down 22-12. In the third, the deficit was pronounced with them together. Nene checked in at 7:54 to play with Gortat and the Wizards down 68-61. When Gortat left at 3:59, they were down 84-65. Gortat was  6 of 8 in the first half in 18 minutes. In eight minutes of the third, Gortat didn't a shot attempt as the spacing on the court wasn't as good to receive the pocket passes from Dudley (four) for layups. The combination doesn't work particularly when bigs like Leonard are making 4 of 7 three-point shots. 

  • After playing a season-high 44 minutes on Saturday and missing the game-tying layup because his legs were drained, Wall was flat. He shot just 4-for-17 and missed four consecutive open mid-range jump shots as Portland went on that run after halftime to put the game away. With the game long over, Wall played until less than three minutes were left with the outcome decided. He played 36 minutes and given how this game went should've been less than 30.

  • Portland made 17 of 31 three-pointers, most of them clean looks, for 55%, and had a 48-35 edge in rebounding. It's hard to win if you're the Wizards with those numbers, even having just nine turnovers

  • In a game like this, the Wizards needed Beal who still is on a minutes restriction. In part because of him, they were able to trim a 17-point deficit to 59-57 at halftime. The spacing on the floor wasn't good with no one hitting shots early. Beal made 2 of 3 three-point shots in the first half and it changed the tone for the better but it couldn't last. Still, there are communication issues that go back the previous few seasons with him not moving off the ball. It led to a turnover by Nene who was trying to direct him and he ended up making a bad pass instead. If Beal had moved where directed, he would've had an open shot. Nene was correct.

RELATED: NBA gives John Wall another honor for standout performance

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Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener


Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener

Dwight Howard may play in the Wizards' regular-season opener on Thursday night against the Miami Heat, but the team will not know until the day of the game and likely won't announce the decision either way until head coach Scott Brooks addresses the media about two hours before tipoff.

Howard only has three practices under his belt but has made significant progress throughout this week after missing all five of the team's preseason games due to a strain in his piriformis muscle.

Head coach Scott Brooks said Howard has looked good in those three practices but has a lot of missed time to make up for.

"I think he's definitely winded at times, but that's part of it," Brooks said.

Brooks added that Howard is not getting the same lift when jumping that he's used to. Howard, 32, is used to playing above the rim and his vertical leap is an important part of his game.

The Wizards play their first two games at home, the second on Saturday against the Raptors. They then embark on a Western Conference road trip beginning with the Blazers on Monday.

Brooks said Howard will "definitely" make that trip with the team, which gives a good indication of how close he is to returning to game action. When Howard is ready to play will be left up to the team's medical staff.

If Howard does miss time, the Wizards are expected to rely on his backup Ian Mahinmi as the starting center. Jason Smith would then become the No. 2 center on the depth chart, though they could use forwards like Markieff Morris or Jeff Green at the five-spot.

Howard signed a two-year free-agent deal worth $11 million to join the Wizards in July.


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John Wall and Bradley Beal will depend on each other more than ever in year 7

John Wall and Bradley Beal will depend on each other more than ever in year 7

The Wizards will only go as far as John Wall and Bradley Beal take them. There's just no other way around it.

The chemistry between Wall and Beal has been the dominant topic for years surrounding this team, and the magnifying glass will only be pushed closer this season, despite all of the other additions the Wizards made this offseason.

It's all about the backcourt. 

Luckily, both Wizards All-Stars understand and embrace the pressure. 

"We're opposites, but we're the same in a way," Beal told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller. "He's more loud and outspoken, I'm more chill and relaxed, but you put us together, it's peanut butter and jelly."

Have you noticed that peanut butter and jelly always seems to be the go-to "good combination" for people? At least Beal didn't say something weird like tuna and bananas, although to each his own if that's what you like.

Anyway, more importantly, Wall understands this sandwich dynamic just as much as Beal does. Especially when the topic of a championship comes up. 

"I couldn't get it without him, and he couldn't do it without me," Wall said.  "I think that's the bond we have built, and it's gotten so much better each year."

One of the biggest reasons for divorce that we see in pro sports is ego. So many players don't understand what Wall alluded to. No matter how good you are, you can't do it alone. You need your wingman.

There were certainly rumblings or worries that Wall and Beal had their issues chemistry-wise earlier in their careers, but we're seeing two young stars grow as each season passes. 

That doesn't mean there still won't be times where they don't click. That's natural.

Keep in mind though, this is the seventh season the two will play together. The NBA is known to chew up and spit out young, inexperienced teams. The grind is part of the journey. Wall and Beal have had playoff success and failures, but they went through it together.

Now comes the time where those learning experiences become something they grow from, and use it to fuel a push to their ultimate goal – a championship.

And maybe a better peanut butter and jelly sandwich.