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Instant analysis: Pacers sink winless Wizards


Instant analysis: Pacers sink winless Wizards

For those that watched the Wizards' Friday night home loss to Milwaukee but perhaps were out on a Saturday night and missed the latest contest at Indiana, you know what happened: Washington scrapped throughout, had stretches where the shots fell, the hustle rewarded. However a fourth quarter scoring drought proved problematic, the corresponding run by the other team becomes decisive.

Emeka Okafor and Bradley Beal scored 17 points, A.J. Price tallied 12 points and a career-high 14 assists, but the Wizards were on the wrong end of a 10-0 run that spurred the Pacers to a 89-85 win.

After Indiana's surge turned a 75-70 Washington lead into an 80-75 Pacers advantage with 8:14 remaining, the Wizards never could climb back on top. Down 87-80 with 1:44 left, Beal's 3-pointer and Okafor's short jumper pulled the Wizards within two. After Paul George's 3-pointer missed its mark, Trevor Booker's 10-foot half-hook with four seconds remaining came up short, as did the Wizards.

George, who finished with 18 points, sealed the win with two free throws as the Pacers snapped a three-game losing streak and extended of run of eight straight home triumphs over Washington.

Off for two days, Washington's three-game road swing continues Tuesday at Charlotte.

Here's what else happened against the Pacers...

The good

* A.J. Price ladies and gentlemen. The Wizards starting point guard made it clear to his teammates this matchup against his former team was one he wanted. The fourth-year vet did his part, especially in the first half, finishing with 8 assists, 7 points and zero turnovers. His new career-high breaks his previous of high nine assists set way back on Friday against the Bucks. Price never did commit a turnover against the team he spent the first three seasons of his NBA career with, though he became a little shot happy during the second half.

* The Pacers' scouting report correctly had their defenders give Okafor open looks from the elbow or beyond, but the Wizards center made them pay with several mid-range makes. Nobody will compare his perimeter touch with Patrick Ewing, but if Okafor's high post range proves competent, it will allow Kevin Seraphin (and someday, Nene) to play inside when paired together. Speaking of that, has Randy Wittman paired his two centers together on the court together this season? Don't think so. One of the questions following the trade with the Hornets was how Okafor would mesh with the other bigs. Guess we're still waiting.

*Okafor also spearheaded the defensive effort against Pacers center and former Georgetown star Roy Hibbert, who struggled throughout, missing 12 of 15 and committing four turnovers. In 13 previous games against the Wizards, the 7-foot-2 Hibbert averaged 12.2 points and shot 51.3 percent from field.

*Washington drained 10 of 24 3-point attempts, though only 2 of 7 in the fourth quarter. Beal, who at times was appropriately channeling former Pacer Reggie Miller with the way he would work his way open for looks, finished a perfect 3 of 3 from beyond the arc. Jordan Crawford also sank three from beyond the arc, his only baskets overall with two of his makes coming from the parking lot. It's the most 3-pointers made in a game by Crawford since he sank five last April against...Indiana.

The bad

*Those dreaded scoring droughts, two notable spans in this one. Leading 47-40 with 3:32 left in the half, the Wizards had chances to extend the lead but didn't. Instead Indiana rallied to tie the game at 49 at halftime. Same story in the fourth quarter. After Crawford's 3-pointer put Washington ahead 75-70 with 11:33 remaining, the Wizards' next points came on a Booker dunk nearly five minutes later. When the opposition takes their defensive level up a rung or two, Washington simpy does not have the counter punch offensively unless all five players are clicking. That hasn't happened much this season, esepcially not late, leading to forced attempts with the shot clock winding down.

* The scoring split between the starters and bench was not nearly as pronounced as it has been throughout the season, though Kevin Seraphin didn't join the fun. After extending his double-digit scoring streak dating back to last season to 18 straight games, Seraphin has scored six points over the last two games.


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Natasha Cloud is tired of the Bradley Beal trade rumors

Natasha Cloud is tired of the Bradley Beal trade rumors

Mystics guard Natasha Cloud has had it up to here with trade rumors about Wizards guard Bradley Beal.

Beal has been a strong vocal supporter of the Mystics and the WNBA, in general. He works closely with Kristi Toliver, who, in her offseason, works as an assistant coach for the Wizards. His closeness with the Mystics has now manifested itself in Cloud voicing her opposition to Beal being traded on Twitter.

Beal is no stranger to trade rumors. Entering his eighth season, Beal has been connected to the Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, among others. Given that his name is frequently tossed around in trade talks, it should come as no surprise that the Clippers made a run at him to pair with Kawhi Leonard.

Despite the frequent and recurring rumors, Beal hasn't been traded, and very likely won't be traded. He's a star and a legitimate piece around which to build a franchise. At the summer league in Las Vegas, NBC Sports Washington's Chase Hughes sat with Shaquille O'Neal to discuss what the Wizards should do in free agency. Shaq said that between Beal and John Wall, the Wizards are just a piece or two from breaking through.

I definitely think [the Wizards] should keep him. He's a great shooter, but if he’s a great shooter looking to go somewhere, L.A. has $32 million [in cap space]. ... He's definitely the cornerstone of this franchise. He and John Wall have always, almost always, been there. They just need another one or two guys.

It's still unlikely that Beal is playing in anything other than a Wizards uniform on opening night, but if he is, expect to hear from Cloud about it. 


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Drew Gooden, Justin Kutcher to highlight NBC Sports Washington Wizards broadcast team

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Drew Gooden, Justin Kutcher to highlight NBC Sports Washington Wizards broadcast team

Drew Gooden was nearing the end of his second 10-day contract with the Wizards in the 2014 season when he went off for 21 points against Brooklyn. 

It was a game that changed his career, led to being signed to the team for the remainder of that season and ending his career as a Washington Wizard two years later. “My career was totally reborn as a veteran leader on the Washington Wizards,” he said. “And that’s something I never would have thought would come full circle.”

And now? Gooden will serve as the game analyst on NBC Sports Washington’s Wizards broadcast this season. NBC Sports Washington announced on Wednesday he will join new play-by-play announcer Justin Kutcher as part of the Wizards' game broadcast team. Chris Miller will return in his role as sideline reporter.

“It’s a dream and I never thought in a million years I would have retired a Wizard and that out of all my teams that I played for, that Wizards would be the favorite organization that I played for, never thought I would be a color analyst for NBC Sports Washington,” Gooden said. “All of this is a dream.”

And while Kutcher may not have the same playing resume that Gooden does, he promises to bring the same passion Gooden does to broadcasts.

During the early days of his career, Kutcher wasn’t just the voice of (and practice player for) the Boston University women’s basketball team. He was such a passionate fan that he was the one making the most noise on the team bus after a big win or a big loss. Now, after decades in the business, he’s not sure he’ll go to that extreme – but Wizards fans can expect him to be “a fan who’s calling the game,” he said. “I say that about myself all of the time. I think of myself as just this incredibly lucky person that gets to call a sport that I love. When I have a reaction, it’s a genuine reaction. So, I’ll keep everything professional, but I’ll get excited.”

Kutcher has 17 years of experience as a play-by-play announcer, having spent the last seven years at Fox Sports where he led national coverage of NCAA basketball and football, the NFL and MLB. Prior to FOX Sports, Kutcher served as a play-by-play announcer for ESPN for four years. During that time, he led live coverage for a variety of sports, including basketball, football, baseball, softball, volleyball and hockey, across professional, college and high school leagues and conferences. He also appeared on studio shows during his tenure with ESPN. In addition to FOX Sports and ESPN, he has also called collegiate events for CSTV, now CBS Sports Network, for two years, as well as BTN, and contributed to MLB.com digital programming.

“I have known Justin since he was a runner for us at FOX Sports,” said Joe Buck. “He’s gone from working hard behind the scenes to one of the best, young voices in sports. Wizards fans are getting a great broadcaster and a better person .”

Here’s five more fun facts about Kutcher and Gooden.

1.    Kutcher’s worked the past five Westminster Dog Shows. “I get more ticket requests for that than any other event I go to,” he said. But, at first he wasn’t sure he was going to stick with it. The first year, he said, was a little tough. “I called my dad after it airs and he said that it was my mom’s favorite thing that I’ve done.” But, he stuck with it. And now? “I love it,” he said. 
2.    His favorite thing in DC is … the breakfast at Ted’s Bulletin. “They have a breakfast burrito that I get, I eat two of them at a time and people can’t believe it,” he said. Oh, and also his family. His family in the area includes a 3-year-old nephew, who when asked for real estate recommendations in the area, declared “you can live at our house!”
3.    Meanwhile, you can find Gooden at his favorite crab shack. “Quarterdeck in Arlington is my favorite, favorite restaurant,” he said. In the two years he’s known about the crab spot, he’s eaten there, he estimates, “800” times. 
4.    Good news for Wizards fans: He thinks the Wizards will be a team everyone sleeps on – and that’s great for them. “They’re going to have the opportunity to surprise a lot of people early,” he predicted. 
5.    Kutcher expects Rui Hachimura to … “be one of the steals of the draft.” Kutcher covered the new Wizard as a play-by-play announcer during Hachimura’s college career. “I would not be surprised if you see Rui average 15-18 points per game and close to 8 rebounds per game. I think he’s that type of player, he’s a really good kid, when I saw the Wizards drafted him I said that’s a great, great pick,” he said.