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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. 

[RELATED: TAKEAWAYS FROM WIZARDS' NARROW WIN OVER KINGS]

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."

[RELATED: DEMARCUS COUSINS SAYS HE AND WALL HAVE DISCUSSED TEAMING UP]

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Raptors GM Masai Ujiri on staying in Toronto: 'In my mind, I'm here'

Raptors GM Masai Ujiri on staying in Toronto: 'In my mind, I'm here'

Just a few weeks ago, the Masai Ujiri-to-D.C. movement was gaining steam quickly. Just moments after Ujiri and the Toronto Raptors began celebrating their NBA Championship, reports began to swirl that the Wizards were prepared to aggressively pursue the GM.

Sources told NBC Sports Washington that there could be the possibility of a sort of mega-deal that went beyond just giving him control of the Wizards. But Wizards owner Ted  Leonsis denied earlier this month that the team had reached out, saying that "we have never planned in any way to ask for permission to speak to him during our process."

And on Tuesday, Uriji seemed to make it official that he will stay in Toronto.

"I love it here, my family loves it here. My wife loves it here, which is very important. My kids are Canadians. You want to win more, for me," Ujiri said on Tuesday during his end-of-season press conference.

"Yeah, I can continue to address teams wanting me and all those things. That's a blessing in life," Ujiri said. "For me the blessing is being wanted here and finding a place that makes you happy, and finding challenges that really make you grow as a person. This place has made me grow as a person."

"I identify with this place and I love it. So in my mind, I'm here."

On paper, Ujiri and the Wizards looked to be a good match. Washington could offer him money and control, while also allowing him to work with his "Basketball without Borders" program in D.C.

As NBC Sports' Tom Haberstroh explained recently, the Raptors late-season championship run could have messed up the timing and situation that could have lured Ujiri to a new team.

The Wizards made it through the NBA Draft without a new GM, but as July and free agency approach, the search may continue to ramp up.

The answer is still out there, it just may not be Masai Ujiri anymore.

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Bradley Beal on Wizards draftee Rui Hachimura: 'He's a monster'

Bradley Beal on Wizards draftee Rui Hachimura: 'He's a monster'

The Wizards added two pieces during the 2019 NBA Draft that franchise expects to be vital pieces of their future in Gonzaga's Rui Hachimura at No. 9 and Tennessee's Admiral Schofield at No. 42

Before Monday night's 2018-19 NBA Awards ceremony, NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller caught up with the two faces of the franchise, Bradley Beal and John Wall, to see what they thought of the new additions to the squad.

Beal had high praise for Hachimura.

"I didn't know much," Beal said on what he knew about the Gonzaga product prior to the draft. "But from what I've seen watching the draft and things I've seen pre-draft and things like that, he's a monster."

The praise did not stop there. 

"He plays hard, extremely hard," Beal said. "Hopefully, he can have an impact right away." 

While an immediate impact would be beneficial for a Wizards team that could use Hachimura's scoring (he averaged 19.7 points per game at Gonzaga), Beal understands that Hachimura is still a very raw player. After all, he's only been playing basketball for eight years.

"But at the same time, we want him to grow," Beal said on Hachimura. "We know he hasn't been playing too long. But that's something we can build off of and mold him into the player we need him to be. He has tremendous upside, and I'm excited to get going. Hopefully, come September, October he's ready to go."

While Beal may not have known too much about Hachimura, he had followed the other Wizards draft pick, Admiral Schofield, for quite some time. 

"I love his game; I loved him in college," Beal said on Schofield. 

Beal joked about Schofield's body type, wondering whether basketball is the sport the Wizards second-round pick should be playing.

"He's got a football body. He's built like a tight end, wide receiver," Beal said. "I'm definitely happy that we have him, a fellow SEC guy. Him and [Jordan] McRae are going to hit it off. He can shoot, he's athletic, so I'm definitely excited to have him as well."

While Wall did not go into as much detail as Beal about the Wizards draft class, he was just as excited about the two new additions.

"I think it's good," Wall said. "We added some pieces [in the draft], [we'll] see what we do in free agency to add some guys to bring back or we're going to go after somebody new. I think we'll be fine."

According to head coach Scott Brooks, both Beal and Wall can identify talent very well

"The thing I love about John and Brad: they love the game," Brooks said last week. "You can call them up, there could be high school players, WNBA players, it could be college players, it could be European players, they know them."

"It's like, 'don't you guys have a life?'" Brooks joked.

Wall spent most of his time with NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller discussing his Achilles rehab, where he revealed he is going to begin jogging soon. That's a good sign for the Wizards, even though Wall s expected to miss the majority of the 2019-2020 season.

In Hachimura and Schofield, the Wizards got two pieces that are not expected to contribute right away, but also potentially have the ability to do so. Earning high praise from the two most important players on the Wizards' roster is a good start for both of the Wizards 2019 NBA Draft selections. 

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