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John Wall's energy contagious in Wizards' win over Clippers

John Wall's energy contagious in Wizards' win over Clippers

In the closing seconds of the Wizards' 117-110 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday afternoon, John Wall could not contain his excitement. While dribbling the ball down the sideline and across halfcourt, he leapt up and down in the air pumping his fist.

As soon as the clock ran out, he turned to the crowd in front of him, shouted and raised his hand in the air to encourage their applause. Wall and his team had just finished off their most impressive win of the season so far, a thorough performance against one of the NBA's best teams, and Wall was ready to celebrate.

That was just one of many moments shared between Wall and the 17,380 fans at the Verizon Center on Sunday. The Wizards' star point guard wears his emotions on his sleeve. That style can sometimes get him in trouble, like on Sunday when he earned his seventh technical of the season. But when used positively, Wall's energy can make even the most mundane of NBA regular season matchups a whole lot of fun.

"He's the most passionate and energetic player I know. He has the heart of a champion," guard Bradley Beal said of Wall.

"John is an emotional player," head coach Scott Brooks said. "That's how he plays. He gets the crowd involved. He plays with a lot of passion and I will never take that away from him. I like guys that play with passion. I don't like guys that don't compete and that's not John."

As the Wizards have played better in recent weeks - they have won five of their last six games overall and five straight at home - the crowds have followed. After the Wizards' win over the Bucks on Dec. 10, players remarked how it was the best crowd of the season. That group seemed to be outdone on Sunday.

"As long as our crowd continues to be as loud as they were [today], that would be great for us," Beal said. "We feed off their energy. I think sometimes they don't realize how important they are to us because their energy is like a sixth man. That's another challenge and a distraction to the other team. We definitely feed off that and John definitely feeds off of it."

"We feed off of it a lot. The crowd was in the game today and we needed that to win. We need them every game," forward Markieff Morris said.

"I thought our crowd was great. They were into the game. It helps when you have that support," Brooks said.

Wall certainly helped that cause both with his play - he had 18 points and 11 assists - and his efforts to egg them on. But, when discussing his emotion on the court, the technical does happen to stand out.

Wall received the penalty with 1:18 left in the third quarter after he made an up-and-under layup on a fastbreak. Blake Griffin went for the block, but instead hit him in the head and Wall wasn't happy about it.

"The play I got a technical on, I shot a reverse layup and got hit in the head," Wall said. "It's the same type of play that happened in our game against Memphis, when they looked at it and called it a Flagrant 1. I feel like we should get the same calls. I felt like that was a call that they should have looked at and called it a Flagrant 1."

Wall, of course, didn't get the foul he wanted. Instead, he has his seventh technical which trails only DeMarcus Cousins for the most in the NBA this season. One more and he's halfway to 16, the threshold for a one-game suspension in the NBA. The Wizards just played their 26th game, so there is plenty of time left for him to accrue more.

"I'm not concerned," Wall said. "It was just the emotion of the game... It's tough… you try to do the things that bring energy to your team. When things are not going your way, you try to find other ways to impact the game."

"John is an emotional player, as you saw with the technical. We will once again talk about that," Brooks said. "We have to keep our emotions in check. There's times when you lose control, I get that. And he's actually been better the last couple of weeks of keeping those emotions to himself and not the referees."


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LeBron James had his worst ever game against the Wizards in Lakers' loss


LeBron James had his worst ever game against the Wizards in Lakers' loss

No Wizards fan needs to be reminded of the torment their favorite team has suffered at the hands of LeBron James for the last decade-and-a-half. He has eliminated them from the playoffs three times, scored 57 in their building and hit a variety of game-winning shots.

So, it should be considered no small feat what the Wizards did on Sunday night in their 128-110 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. They held James, arguably the league's best player, to only 13 points. That's his lowest scoring total ever against the Wizards franchise.

James has played the Wizards 65 times over the years, between the regular season and the playoffs. His previous career low vs. the Wizards was 14, back on Feb. 7 of 2004, when he was a rookie.

While in the Eastern Conference for his first 15 NBA seasons, James played the Wizards four times a year and often had the upper-hand. In his career, even with Sunday's loss, he is 30-19 against them with a 26.9 points per game average.

Usually, James powers his way to the rim against the Wizards and scores at will. Not on Sunday night.

"I have no clue," head coach Scott Brooks said when asked for the secret to shutting him down.

"It seems like every night it's 40 points here. He makes shots. Last year, here I think he averaged [39.9 points, 11.0 assists and 10.0 rebounds]. He's a pretty good player."

James shot just 5-for-16 from the field on Sunday, good for 31.3 percent. He was 0-for-2 from three and had four turnovers with only three assists. He was a -21 in the box score.

Some of James' struggles could be attributed to fatigue, as the Lakers played the night before in Charlotte. And James did have an off-night with some missed shots he would otherwise make.

But the Wizards had a plan and it worked. They deployed Jeff Green to guard him in isolation. Green is not only the Wizards' best match from a physical standpoint, he knows James well having played with him last season with the Cavaliers.

Green did an excellent job matching James' physical style without fouling. He had only one foul on the night despite playing bump-and-run coverage on many of James' drives to the basket.

Green and the Wizards also took away his three-point looks by closing early and making him pass to teammates. James' two three-point attempts were a season-low.

"Give a lot of credit to Jeff. Jeff did a great job," guard John Wall said. "It was one game. We know he is how he is. Just gotta tip your hat for us, making him make tough shots and make plays tonight."

The Wizards wanted others to beat them from long range and James' teammates didn't come through. While James didn't get off many threes, other Lakers did. They just didn't hit them.

Josh Hart went 0-for-5 from long range. Lonzo Ball went 2-for-7 and Kyle Kuzma went 0-for-4. 

“I think we did a good job of making it difficult on [James], showing him a lot of bodies, active hands," guard Bradley Beal said.

With James in check, the Wizards took advantage. They forced 22 total turnovers and that allowed Wall to feast in transition. He scored a season-high 40 points and dished 14 assists.

For one night, the Wizards had James' number. After 16 years of domination, it was about time.


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Sam Dekker stands out for Wizards without cutting corners


Sam Dekker stands out for Wizards without cutting corners

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- Scott Brooks doesn’t know much about Sam Dekker. Four games since the Wizards acquired the energy forward as part of a successful three-team deal, it’s clear the head coach is enjoying the homework.

John Wall’s passionate work from the start against the Los Angeles Lakers helped snap the Wizards’ four-game losing streak, but Dekker’s X-factor performance also stood out in Washington’s rousing 128-110 win Sunday night.

Sunday marked the Wizards’ first game since the weekend’s chaotic trade sequence that will ultimately bring Trevor Ariza back to Washington. The deal doesn’t become approved by the league until Monday. With Otto Porter (right knee contusion) sidelined, Washington took the court shorthanded at positions where players would contend with LeBron James.

Brooks admitted pregame he loved the undermanned challenge. Dekker’s constant and perceptive movement helped Washington play at needed levels without cutting corners.

“Sam is a great cutter. That is what I am finding out,” Brooks said. “I didn't really know everything about his game, I still don't.”

Brooks isn’t alone in learning about the fourth-year player. Dekker received regular rotation work the previous two seasons with the Rockets and Clippers, but his NBA career has yet to blast off.

An ankle injury kept him off the court in Cleveland earlier this campaign until the Dec. 7 trade involving Jason Smith landed him in Washington.

The general scouting report played out in real life against the Lakers. High motor player. Athletic 6-foot-9 forward. Scattered shooting from distance.

The two positive traits showed in the open court and on the move. Dekker repeatedly found space when Wall or Tomas Satoransky ran the offense. They frequently found him for dunks and layups. Dekker finished 10 of 15 from the field.

“Whenever I have the ball or attack, penetrate, he’s a great cutter,” said Wall, who finished with a season-high 40 points and 14 assists. “We were just talking about it. He said ‘Whenever you have the opportunity to be aggressive, I’m always a guy that’s cutting and doing the little things. I don’t mind doing the dirty work.’”

The Wizards (12-18) need more grit in their world considering their underachieving start to the season. That’s something Dekker believes he can provide. Considering he doesn’t have full grasp of the team’s playbook terminology, falling on the back of basketball basics is necessary for now.

“They called out a couple of plays tonight and I looked at John, looked at Brad (Beal) and I’m like where (do I go), Dekker said spastically. “(They) would just say go to the corner. OK. That part of it is tough.

“One thing you can control is how hard you play and how smart you play. When you put yourself in a position to do some good things, and help the team. That’s really all I’m trying to do right now.”

Going forward Dekker will try finding a spot in Washington’s rotation. Ariza, who was Dekker’s basketball tutor when the two played in Houston during the 2016-17 season, likely moves into the starting lineup.

Reserve minutes opened when Washington traded Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers to Phoenix for Ariza.  The basics of Dekker’s game compares to the popular Oubre, but with perhaps a steadier baseline.

He has yet to run the court with complete ease. Dekker remains on a minute’s restriction because of the ankle injury. “I was able to do some things tonight that I haven’t been able to in the past couple of games. That was a positive,” he said.

There’s no guarantees for minutes or the 24-year-old being part of Washington’s future. Dekker is one of several restricted free agents on the roster. For now the goal is simple: Play and play hard.

“I’m just trying to prove myself every night. I’m trying to show coach I’m a guy that can help this team,” Dekker said. “I’ve helped teams in the past, but I really want to be part of a playoff run here.”

Color Brooks impressed, with one clear clanking exception.

“I'm assuming that he is going to be able to shoot threes better than he did,” Brooks said after watching Dekker air ball a 3-point attempt and wildly miss on another. “But he cuts to the basket, he moves the ball, he plays hard, he brings energy, he plays with the proper respect for the game. That is what I love about him, he always seems to be prepared. He doesn't have to turn the switch on, it's on.”