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Defenses loading up on Bradley Beal opens floor for Otto Porter

Defenses loading up on Bradley Beal opens floor for Otto Porter

The attention paid to John Wall and Bradley Beal all night made it rather easy for Otto Porter to get off a career-high eight three-point shots. The Orlando Magic were daring someone else to beat them. 

It was Porter, who knocked down two big deep balls in Friday's 94-91 win over the Orlando Magic, to give them that third scorer with Beal under wraps. None was bigger than the two he buried in the fourth quarter to twice cut the deficit for the Wizards (5-9) to one at 80-79 and 83-82 and prevent Orlando from pulling away at Amway  Center. 

Wall did the rest in closing out the game with game-highs of 25 points and 10 assists to go with seven rebounds. He scored their last seven points.

"Throughout the whole game I had guys 6-8, 6-9 on me. I'm every bit of 6-4 on a good day," said Beal, who only had 14 points on 15 shots coming off a career-high 42 vs. the Phoenix Suns. "That's a great sign. If they're going to do that then we have advantages in other places. I feel like those are some of their best defenders trying to take me out of the game, John had a great game, March had a good game, Otto stepped up big too. I love it like that whenever I can get guys involved. My biggest thing is making sure (Evan) Fournier didn't score. That was most important to me."

Fournier shot just 2-for-9. While he defended Beal, so did Jeff Green with Nikola Vucevic loading up on him in support. Aaron Gordon logged time on Beal, too, surprisingly playing shooting guard. 

The changing looks created an open for Porter to not just score but create. Green went back to Porter, who ran the screen-roll action Gortat and found his big with a pinpoint pocket pass for a layup at 2:31 to put the Wizards ahead 86-83. It was all the cushion they needed. 

"They put a bunch of athletes on the floor," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "We were able to sustain their run and make big shots when necessary."

[RELATED: Wizards flip the script on late game collapses, road woes]

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Rui Hachimura's learning curve can be seen on offense late in games

Rui Hachimura's learning curve can be seen on offense late in games

WASHINGTON -- Wizards forward Rui Hachimura has translated so smoothly to the NBA level that it is easy to forget he is still just a rookie with only 31 games under his belt. For a reminder of his inexperience, just look at the fourth quarter.

Hachimura tends to start games hot on the offensive end, like he did on Friday in the Wizards' loss to the Cavaliers when he had eight points by the end of the first quarter. But he scored only nine points after that and went scoreless through seven minutes in the fourth.

That has been a consistent theme for him this season. He averages 4.8 points in the first quarter shooting 48.4 percent from the field, 4.0 points in the second shooting 57 percent and then 4.3 points on 47.9 percent in the third. In the fourth quarter those numbers plummet to 1.9 points on average and 33.3 percent shooting.

Basically, Hachimura often comes out on fire but then slows down considerably once opponents make midgame changes. Against the Cavs, Hachimura said it was because they disrupted passing lanes.

"They are an NBA team. They just adjusted. They didn't want me to catch the ball. They didn't let me just catch the ball. I think that's why," he said.

The Wizards have seen teams switch defensive match-ups midgame to counter Hachimura. Sometimes taking away his midrange jumper will be prioritized. The Cavs seemed to find success playing Hachimura more physically in the second half, bumping him away from his comfort zones.

Over time, Hachimura can improve his ability to sustain scoring throughout games simply by becoming more versatile. The more consistent he becomes at making three-point shots and creating off the dribble, the more difficult it will be for teams to stop him. As long as he keeps improving, he will reach a point where he can stay ahead of the defense with a multitude of counters.

Developing a more reliable outside game and more dribble combinations will take some time. For now, Hachimura believes the key to him keeping up his scoring pace involves working with his teammates, particularly star shooting guard Bradley Beal.

"I just gotta connect more with Brad. Brad is the one everybody is trying to guard. Screens and pick-and-rolls with him, that kind of stuff will help me," Hachimura said.

Hachimura's game against the Cavaliers reflected how the team played overall. After scoring 41 points in the first quarter, they managed only 42 in the second half. They blew a 16-point lead and lost, 113-108.

So, he wasn't alone. And those rooting for Hachimura to round out his game should feel good about his odds. He has a relentless work ethic and is often staying after practice to go over film with player development coach Dave Adkins.

Hachimura is perceptive and driven to improve. In order to take the next step as a scorer, he will have to get better at closing games.

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Tristan Thompson calls Bradley Beal one of the best shooting guards in the league

Tristan Thompson calls Bradley Beal one of the best shooting guards in the league

Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson spoke with reporters after the team's victory over the Wizards Friday night, praising Bradley Beal, who was snubbed from All-Star consideration this season despite averaging nearly 30 points-per-game.

The Cavaliers held the Wizards to just 21 points in the fourth quarter, and Thompson said their main focus was neutralizing Beal.

"The Wizards are really good offensively when they are making their runs," Thompson said postgame. "Bradley Beal is an All-Star in our league. One of the top-three two-guards in our league right now, so we were just trying to make it tough for him."

Beal finished the night with 26 points, but struggled from the floor. Beal shot 9-for-28 from the floor and the Cavaliers' stingy defense was clearly a factor.

Beal and the Wizards will have a chance to get back on track on Sunday night at Capital One Arena when they host the Chicago Bulls for the final time this season.

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