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Despite Cousins' explosion, Wizards' defensive game plan succeeds

Despite Cousins' explosion, Wizards' defensive game plan succeeds

The array of difficult shots from DeMarcus Cousins seemed to have no bounds. He made them in traffic, through contact and on stepbacks while blanketed by the 6-11 Marcin Gortat. The Sacramento Kings' big man won the night in terms of the higlight reel, but they lost the game 101-95 in overtime with Cousins needing 34 shots to score a game-high 36 points. 

In a way, that was the game plan though it had hiccups. 

"It's hard for me to say this because Cousins had 36 and 20 (rebounds) but Marcin did a great job on him," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "It took 34 shots to get those 36 points, and probably four or five were just like, 'Are you kidding me?' Couldn't do anything better than what we did, but he made them.. ... Marcin battled him throughout the game, made his catches and shots tough and made him miss 18 shots."

The Wizards led 88-80 with 5:12 left in the fourth quarter as the game began to slip away. Then Cousins took over yet again. There was a 17-foot turnaround jumper, a layup, a 14-foot turnaround and two more layups. The final one, scored with 10.9 seconds left, tied the score at 92 and would force overtime. 

Gortat was on an island as he received very little help trying to defend a 6-11 big with ball-handling skills and moves of a much smaller player. The Wizards opted to go the more disciplined route and not overhelp to create open shots on the perimeter for Rudy Gay (1-for-4 from three), Arron Afflalo (0-for-3), Matt Barnes (0-for-3), Garrett Temple (1-for-3) or Darren Collison (0-for-1).

"Not many fives can do that, put the ball on the floor, shoot threes, dribble the length of the floor," Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal said. 


Sacramento knocked down 13 three-pointers in a win at the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday. The Wizards, who have been porous on three-point defense, effecitvely took that away. It was a high risk that produced rewards in the extra session. While Cousins shot 6-for-9 in the fourth, he was 0-for-3 and the rest of the Kings were out of snyc because they hadn't been involved in the offense. 

"A couple times he had some easy looks but other than that, a lot of shots were tough," said John Wall, Cousins' teammate for one season at Kentucky where they played in 2009-10 before turning pro. "We tried to do as much as we could to double-team because he can pass to his guys. We didn't want anybody else to get in a rhythm."

The Kings shot 3-for-21 from three-point range overall, with Cousins missing 5 of 6 attempts. Gortat only had 10 points and seven rebounds as he was drawn to the perimeter regularly, but also got three blocked shots in the process. 

Unlike when the Wizards last played the Kings, on March 30 last season when they allowed 120 points, only Gay scored in double figures (18 points on 16 shots). They weren't allowing Cousins to get 29 points on just 16 shots like he did in that playoff-hope crushing loss while getting five other teammates in double-figure scoring.

They held them to 25 fewer points and got them their third win in four games.

"He got to where he wanted to get to," Beal said of Cousins' command in what became a one-dimensional offense. "In a case like that, when somebody does have it going, you have to stop everybody else."


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Beal makes his case in win over Cavs

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Beal makes his case in win over Cavs

The Washington Wizards beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-112 on Thursday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

1. Just before tip-off, the NBA announced it's 2019-20 All-Star starters and not included in the Eastern Conference backcourt was Bradley Beal. Boston's Kemba Walker and Atlanta's Trae Young instead got the honors.

Whether Beal knew that fact when he took the floor or not, he put in a performance against the Cavs that should add to his case for being a reserve. The two-time All-Star followed up a 38-point gem against the Heat with 36 points against Cleveland just one night later. He also had eight assists and shot 15-for-22 (68.2%) from the field and 4-for-8 from three.

Beal now has the fourth-most 30-point games in the NBA since the start of last season with 40 of them. Only James Harden (86) Gianiis (54) and Damian Lillard (45) have more.

This 30-point game helped the Wizards bounce back from a loss the night before in Miami. Washington is now 15-29 on the season and 5-5 in their last 10 games.

2. In his previous six games since returning from a quad injury, Davis Bertans had put up some solid numbers and shown flashes. Against the Cavs, though, he did what we saw him to much more often a few months ago when he was healthy.

Bertans not only lit a spark off the bench, but he did so in microwave fashion. He had 14 of his 17 points in the first half, including three consecutive threes in the second quarter to force a timeout as the Wizards' lead grew to 14. That marked a big turnaround after Washington trailed by as many as 12 in the first quarter.

Bertans helped lead a monster effort from the Wizards' bench as a whole. They outscored the Cavs' second unit, 59-34. The Wizards are second in the NBA in bench scoring and that is despite all of the injuries they have dealt with in recent months. Now that they are nearly whole, the bench is becoming even stronger.


3. The Thomas Bryant situation is getting more interesting as each game passes. He has now been back six games and has been kept between roughly between 12 and 21 minutes a night. He played 17 minutes against the Cavs and contributed nine points and three rebounds.

Bryant is a big man coming off a foot injury, so the Wizards have incentive to play it safe and maintain a minutes restriction. But it has now been nearly two weeks since he came back.

Is it as simple as a minutes limit or is Ian Mahinmi's improved play having a domino effect on Bryant? The more Bryant plays limited minutes, the more that could become evident, if this is indeed performance based. 

Mahinmi, by the way, had seven points, seven rebounds and played strong defense, helping the Wizards to hold Tristan Thompson to six points and three rebounds.

4. Much like last week when the Wizards saw the Pistons and Andre Drummond, watching this game was reminder that Kevin Love is reportedly available in trades. That begs the natural question of where he would fit, if he gets dealt soon, like before the Feb. 6 deadline.

Some might argue the Wizards as an option, given their best players are guards and Love would technically complement them well. Given his age and contract, however, it would probably be too much of a risk for the Wizards.

The Blazers seem like they could use him and the Raptors could also be interesting. He would also fit well with the Rockets, though they probably don't have enough trade assets to get him.

What about the Timberwolves? They have disappointed this year and need to find Karl-Anthony Towns some help. Love wouldn't be joining a contender, as he probably hopes to, but it could be an interesting story if he goes back to the team he started with. And him and Towns would be a tough duo to stop given how well they rebound and stretch the floor.

Speaking of Love, he had the viral moment of the night when he pretended to resuscitate Beal. 

5. Backup center Anzejs Pasecniks was back in the mix after missing two games due to a left ankle injury. And not only was he available, he actually got some burn.

Pasecniks played 15 minutes and scored four points to go along with three rebounds. So, even with Bryant and Bertans back from injury, and Johnathan Williams III still getting minutes, Pasecniks maintains a role in the rotation.

That could change once other players come back. Moe Wagner, in particular, will probably take minutes away from him at the backup center spot. But Pasecniks still hanging around in the rotation is a testament to him and the way he has played. No one predicted he would play this much of a factor this season.

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Bradley Beal among elite company with 40th 30-point game over last two seasons

Bradley Beal among elite company with 40th 30-point game over last two seasons

Bradley Beal secured his 40th three-point outing since the start of last season Thursday night with an efficient 36 points on 15-of-22 shooting. He surpassed Paul George for the fourth-most 30-point games over the last two seasons and now trails only Damian Lillard, Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden. 

The Wizards have not been a good team over the last two seasons, but for Beal to be in the company of two MVP's shows just how much he's grown as the leader of this team. 

The updated leaderboard for this elite scoring class now goes as follows:

Harden: 86
Antetokounmpo: 54
Lillard: 45
Beal: 40

Beal has tallied 15 30-point games this season while no other Wizard has more than one. He's well on pace to get more than 25, which was last season's total, and he's doing it on inferior shooting numbers.


Beal's shooting percentage (45.2 percent) is his worst mark since 2015-16, and he's never shot below 35 percent from three, let alone the 31.6 percent clip he has now. 

He's certainly had more opportunity to play with the ball in his hands given all the time John Wall has missed over the last two seasons, but it takes a special type of offensive player to score 30 points as many times as the likes of Lillard, Harden and Antetokounmpo. 

It'll be difficult to catch Harden and Antetokounmpo since they're on a different level as scorers. If Beal can stay hot through a light schedule right before the All-Star break, there's no reason to think he can't pass Lillard on this list. 

That's assuming Lillard doesn't score 30 over the next two weeks, which most likely won't happen. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.