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Fast break: Wizards close out Raptors with most lopsided win


Fast break: Wizards close out Raptors with most lopsided win

The saying goes that closing out a team, particularly in a series sweep, is the toughest game of them all. Sunday, the Wizards made it look easy as they led from start to finish in a 125-94 victory vs. the Toronto Raptors in Game 4. 

It's the first seven-game series sweep in franchise history and ended the NBA's longest run without a series sweep at 36.

The Wizards shot 71.4% in the first quarter when they led by as many as 16 points with all starters scoring at least five points. The Wizards made 13 of 15 foul shots, the Raptors never could get into any kind of offensive flow to get back or defend any actions

Bradley Beal led seven scorers in double figures with 23 points, Marcin Gortat had 21 points, 11 rebounds and five assists and John Wall added 14 points and 10 assists. Paul Pierce had 14 points, Nene 10 and Ramon Sessions had his best game of the series with 15 points and two assists. Drew Gooden scored 13 points and Otto Porter seven points and seven rebounds. 

TURNING POINT: The Raptors trimmed the deficit to 38-30 on consecutive three-pointers from Lou Williams and Greivis Vasquez, but the Wizards responded with a 15-3 run with Beal scoring seven. They entered the half up 66-50.

NUMBERS GAME: The Wizards shot 41-for-74 from the field, or 55.4%, including 15-for-26 from three-point range for 57.7% and had a 42-37 edge in rebounds and 27-11 in fast-break points.

UNSTOPPABLE: Gortat shot 8-for-9 from the field to finish the series 29-for-39, or 74.3%. The Raptors had no answers for him rolling to the basket. Gortat made all five of his first-half shot attempts and ran the floor so fluidly that even the smaller Raptors couldn't keep up. 

INVISIBLE: Vasquez, a spark off the bench for the Raptors for the regular season, was a non-factor all series. The former University of Maryland star shot 11-for-29 overall. But he never made more than two three-pointers in any game nor did he score more than 11 points. 

CONTENTIOUS: This game was chippy. Nene became entangled with Lowry just 2:01 into the start as both fell out of bounds. It was kept a common foul by Nene upon review. But Lowry was frustrated by early foul trouble again. He was given three in the first quarter. The second one led to a technical foul at 6:27 when Wall drew contact in transition that probably should've been a no-call. Lowry threw a hard chest pass with the ball at the official as they went into a timeout. The third foul came a little more than a minute later when Beal got Lowry off his feet with a pump fake and jumped into him. Tyler Hansbrough was given a Flagrant 1 foul after he took down Sessions with a hard foul in the paint. 

BETTER START: This is a much better start for Wall after what he went through last year in his inaugural postseason appearance. The Wizards won that first-round series with the Chicago Bulls despite Wall shooting 26 of 74, or 35.1%, in those five games for 16.2 points and averaging only 7.6 assists. Wall wrapped up these four games only slightly better at 21-for-54, or 38.8%, but his overall floor game was superior. Wall averaged 12.5 assists per game. After not attempting a foul shot in Game 1, Wall made 28 trips to the free-throw line to manufacture his offense and keep Lowry in foul trouble. To score his 14 points Sunday, he only attempted five shots. 

UP NEXT: The Wizards likely won't practice much Monday, if at all, though they will be preparing for their opponent in the next round, Brooklyn or Atlanta.

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Five observations from Wizards' 115-104 loss to the Brooklyn Nets despite Dwight Howard's huge night

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Five observations from Wizards' 115-104 loss to the Brooklyn Nets despite Dwight Howard's huge night

The Washington Wizards lost to the Brooklyn Nets 115-104 on Friday night. Here are five observations from the game...

Step back: The Wizards just can't crack the code of consistency or the pesky Brooklyn Nets.

After winning three straight and looking like they had made some corrections, the Wizards stumbled out of the locker room at halftime and couldn't match Brooklyn's energy. The Nets pulled away to lead by as many as 19 and handed the Wizards yet another blowout loss in a season of which are quickly piling up.

The Nets have the formula to give the Wizards fits. They are scrappy and play defense. They are cohesive and well-coached. The Wizards are susceptible against try-hards who play with a chip on their shoulder. They too often let others set the tone and that's just what the Nets did in this one. 

The Wizards are now 5-10 on the season. That matches their 15-game start from two years ago, when they rallied to win 49 games, but that only means so much, of course.

Threes were off: While their attempts are up, the Wizards have been shooting uncharacteristically bad from three this season. They entered the game 27th in the NBA, shooting just 32.8 percent.

In this game, they didn't just struggle to make threes, they had trouble shooting them at all. Brooklyn sold out to take away the perimeter and was successful doing it. 

The Wizards went 3-for-17 from three and shot just 17.6 percent. They were 2-for-13 entering the fourth quarter.

Surely, head coach Scott Brooks won't be happy about that. Three-point shooting continues to be a major point of emphasis for him.

Howard was dominant early: Perhaps we should have expected this from Dwight Howard. After all, it was the Nets, the team Howard was bought out by over the summer, right before he signed with the Wizards. 

Was three days with a franchise enough for a revenge game? Sure, we'll go with it.

Or, perhaps he's just a bad matchup for Brooklyn because they were the team he smacked around for 32 points and 30 rebounds against last season.

He didn't quite go 30-30, but Howard was unstoppable in the first half. He ate Jarrett Allen, who is a very talented young player, for lunch. Allen and the rest of the Nets' frontline were no match for Howard's strength.

Howard popped off for six of the Wizards' first eight points. By halftime, he had 17 points, nine rebounds, a steal and a block.

This game was a reminder of the fact he can do things his predecessor, Marcin Gortat, cannot. Howard, really, can produce in a way no Wizards' fourth option has been able to in years.

Markieff Morris has often served as the fourth scoring option behind John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter Jr. But Morris doesn't often go off for nearly a double-double in a half. 

But, the second half:  What was strange about Howard, though, is that he barely played in the second half until the game was out of hand. Howard picked up his fourth foul in the third quarter, but that didn't explain it all.

Howard played only five minutes from the start of the second half until there were less than nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter. During that stretch, Allen found success against the Wizards' small-ball lineups and helped the Nets pull away.

By the time Howard returned, the Wizards were down 19 points. Brooks had something that was working really well and, in part because of the fouls, he went away from it a little too long. It proved costly.

Morris struggled: As good as Howard was, Morris had one of his worst games of the season. The Wizards power forward had one of those nights we see far too often where he wasn't active enough on defense or on the boards. He couldn't get anything going offensively, either.

Morris, who ended the game with four points and two rebounds in 20 minutes, had zero points and zero rebounds in nine minutes in the first quarter. 

While the Nets' big men were overmatched by Howard's strength, Morris couldn't keep up with their quickness. He was a step behind and had trouble matching their bounce around the rim.

Morris predictably didn't play at all in the fourth quarter. That's the way it goes with Brooks now.



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2018-19 NBA power rankings: Wizards rising, are Warriors falling?

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2018-19 NBA power rankings: Wizards rising, are Warriors falling?

The start to the 2018-19 NBA season did not go smoothly for a handful of teams. The Wizards started 2-9, but have since won three straight. The Lakers, with LeBron James leading the way, started 2-5 but have won six of their last seven games.

Even the Rockets, considered one of the top contenders for the 2018-19 NBA championship, started slow, losing five of their first six games. But since the calendar switched from October to November, the Rockets turned things around, having won six of eight.

Click here to view the latest 2018-19 NBA Power Rankings

What about the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors. Steph Curry and company lost just once in their first 11 games, but have dropped three of their last five games amid turmoil between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green. The Warriors are still clearly the favorites to win the NBA title again, but are they still perched atop our power rankings?

Here is a look at all 30 teams...

Click here to view the latest 2018-19 NBA Power Rankings