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John Wall makes strong case for Player of the Month honor for December -- again

John Wall makes strong case for Player of the Month honor for December -- again

The start wasn't ideal, but John Wall put together another special December in attempt to rescue the Wizards' season. Friday's blowout of the Brooklyn Nets complete a 10-5 month. 

“It was a great month that we had and it needs to translate over into the new year," said Wall, who had 19 points and a game-high 14 assists in a 118-95 vcitory. "We have a good road trip coming up going up against Houston. They like to shoot a lot of threes. It was something to end the year the way we wanted to: to get 10 wins in the month, and getting back to where we thought we could be.”

Wall produced 11 double-doubles (10 of them points/assists), averaging 24.5 points on 49 percent shooting, 10.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.6 steals, as the Wizards are back to .500 at 16-16 to end the calendar year. He already has 20 double-doubles in 30 appearances.

The hot streak mirrors what Wall did exactly one year ago with the Wizards struggling then, too. He was named the NBA’s Player of the Month for the first time in his career. Then he had 22.6 points, 11.7 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 2.3 steals but the Wizards went 8-8. It started with an upset of the Cleveland Cavaliers on their home floor — their first such loss in 2015 — with 34 points, 10 rebounds, five steals and four rebounds. 

This time, he has a stronger case though the competition will determine if he succeeds. Wall had a career-high 52 points in a loss to the Orlando Magic and 36 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in a win over the Indiana Pacers. Wall has yet to get a Player of the Week honor, which also is determined by the league.

“This was a big month for us. I think if we didn’t get to the point where we’re at now, we’d be in a lot of trouble and it would have put a lot of pressure on us," Wall said of the 16-16 Wizards who began 2-8. "It was great for us to have a lot of home games. We started getting a little more, our fans started coming out a little bit and it was amazing for us. Hopefully we can keep this going into the new year.”

MORE WIZARDS: A December to remember for Washington

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Five observations from Wizards' 119-109 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, including Dwight Howard's injury

Five observations from Wizards' 119-109 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, including Dwight Howard's injury

The Washington Wizards lost to the Portland Trail Blazers 119-109 on Sunday night. Here are five observations from the game...

Not good: It just keeps getting worse. The Wizards have been playing a sleepy, uninspired brand of basketball in recent games and on Sunday they met a Blazers team that does just the opposite.

The result was probably predictable. Though the Wizards edged the Blazers last month in Portland, this time they lost a game that was nowhere near as close as the final score suggested. 

Portland led by as many as 29 points and the Wizards only cut that down late when head coach Scott Brooks emptied his bench. He brought in a host of young guys who were hungry and just happy to be playing like Troy Brown Jr. and Thomas Bryant. Hopefully the starters, who have been missing those qualities, were paying attention.

These teams are currently on two entirely different trajectories. The Blazers are trending up, while the Wizards, who have lost two straight, are sliding quickly.

Washington is now 5-11 on the season. That's worse than their mark at this point two years ago when they mounted the famous comeback.

Howard hurt again: Things were already going terribly for the Wizards when they got much worse. Dwight Howard, who was coming off a huge game against the Nets, left in the second quarter after aggravating his strained piriformis muscle injury. 

Howard, of course, missed the first seven games of the year with the injury, which has also been referred to as gluteal soreness. We knew he was still dealing with discomfort when he came back and it has never really gone away.

The injury affects his ability to run and jump. He can't even sit on the bench because of the pain. The fact it's bothering him enough to leave a game is a really bad sign.

Too many fouls: Just like last game, Howard found himself entangled in foul trouble and this time he got started earlier. By the midway point of the first quarter, he had two. By the 5:30 mark of the second quarter, he had three.

At least against the Nets on Friday, Howard was effective when he was on the floor. This time, he couldn't find a rhythm. His time on the court was basically a wash.

These two games show just how easy it is for Howard to rack up fouls and how much it hurts the Wizards when he gets in foul trouble. 

Horrid start: The Wizards have had some lifeless stretches this season, far too often for the talent they have on the roster. The way they began this game was them at their absolute worst.

They just couldn't keep up with the Blazers, who were zipping the ball around the court to find open shooters. Portland built a 20-point lead in the first quarter, 32-12, as they shot 7-for-9 from three. The seventh was a wide open look by C.J. McCollum.

That's C.J. McCollum, as in one of the best shooting guards in basketball. Somehow the Wizards completely lost him and paid for it. Those are the types of plays that are hard to excuse.

Bright spots: If there were any positives to draw from this game, it was the play of Kelly Oubre Jr. and Tomas Satoransky. Neither shot the ball well, but their energy and effort were noticeable on a night when most of their teammates just didn't have it.

They were among the few Wizards players active on defense and closing out on the three-point line. They helped key a 13-0 run to end the first quarter and helped the team show some life in the second half when the game was already out of hand.

Oubre finished with 19 points, four assists, four rebounds, and three blocks. He was +14. Satoransky had 10 points, seven assists and was +22. If Brooks wants some more energy from his team, those two could provide it.


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Dwight Howard leaves Wizards-Blazers game after aggravating lower muscle injury

Dwight Howard leaves Wizards-Blazers game after aggravating lower muscle injury

While down big against the Blazers on Sunday night, matters got even worse for the Washington Wizards as starting center Dwight Howard exited the game after aggravating his piriformis muscle injury.

Howard initially left the game midway through the second quarter due to foul trouble. Soon after, he went to the locker room with a trainer to get treatment. Howard was clearly frustrated as he walked through the tunnel.

Howard, 32, missed the first seven games of the season due to the injury, a strained piriformis muscle. He was sidelined for all of training camp and the preseason.

The piriformis muscle is located just below the back. Howard has battled discomfort while running, jumping and even sitting while dealing with the injury.

Even when he returned, he told reporters the pain had not completely subsided.

Howard left Sunday's game with two points and three rebounds in seven minutes.

More on this story as it develops...