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Kelly Oubre, Ian Mahinmi may be keys to helping Wizards snap out of defensive funk

Kelly Oubre, Ian Mahinmi may be keys to helping Wizards snap out of defensive funk

With the Wizards struggling defensively coming out of the All-Star break, it was perhaps inevitable that head coach Scott Brooks would eventually turn to second-year forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. for a spark. Though Oubre's minutes had taken a hit since the trade for Bojan Bogdanovic, Oubre at times this season has been one of their best defensive players, a matchup nightmare with a 7-foot-2 wingspan and the versatility of a Michael Bay-dreamt Transformer.

On Wednesday night, with the Wizards' desperately seeking a win after losing four of five for the first time since November, Oubre stepped up in the opportunity he was given and wreaked havoc like Brooks knows he can. That even included guarding point guard Dennis Schroder at times.

"Another good game defensively. I like how he's piggy-backing game after game," Brooks said. "He's had four games of being really locked in defensively. He can keep doing it. With Kelly, it's just focusing in and being really good at that role. The game rewards him by doing that. He gets the fastbreak dunk, he makes the wide open three. But it's all predicated on the defensive end."

Oubre kept it simple. In his 18 minutes he grabbed five rebounds, hit an open three-pointer and did a lot of things that don't show up on the boxscore. Like, the turnover he forced on Schroder in the second quarter. Oubre picked him up at halfcourt and harrassed Schroder all the way to the baseline where he lost the ball out of bounds.

"He needs to come in and play defense," guard John Wall said of Oubre. "That's his job, to be a lockdown defender for us, make spot-up threes and do a good job of cutting to the basket when he can for us. When he does that, when he understands is role, he's going to be an X-factor for us in the playoffs."

[RELATED: State of the Wizards: Defensive woes, by the numbers]

Oubre spoke recently with CSN about how he hit a wall before the All-Star break, how he was mentally and physically worn out. That coincided with the trade for Bogdanovic and after averaging 20.7 minutes through his first 53 games this season, he saw just 11.7 minutes per night in the next 11 games out of the break. Oubre had bottomed out with just :39 seconds of run against the Timberwolves a DNP against the Mavericks last week.

Oubre has seen 19.5 minutes on average in the four games since, though, and appears to be earning back the trust of the Wizards' coaching staff. He along with backup center Ian Mahinmi, who logged an impressive +22 rating and had 10 rebounds in 20 minutes against the Hawks, provide Brooks some defensive weapons off the bench. Jason Smith, who had two blocks and four rebounds in 15 minutes vs. Atlanta, can be included in that mix.

"[Ian] brings us a presence that we've been missing all season," Wall said.

There were still some moments on Wednesday where the Wizards looked out of sorts defensively, but they finished the night with a 104-100 win over a team currently heading to the playoffs. And they held the Hawks to just 39.5 percent shooting. That was just the fifth time this season the Wizards have held a team to under 40 percent.

The Wizards need to get things in order defensively before their upcoming road trip and Wednesday night seemed like a step in the right direction.

[RELATED: Beal thinks Wizards got their swag back vs. Hawks]

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Scott Brooks has a simple reason for why Bradley Beal should be an All-Star

Scott Brooks has a simple reason for why Bradley Beal should be an All-Star

WASHINGTON -- Bradley Beal was not picked as a starter for next month's NBA All-Star Game through a voting process that included fans, the media and fellow players. Now it is up to NBA head coaches, who select the seven reserves for each conference.

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks is not allowed to vote for his own player, but believes Beal has a good chance to be picked based on one simple reason. He can tell how much opposing coaches respect Beal each and every night the Wizards play a game.

"Brad's an All-Star. I know that because every night I get to see it. Every night I get to see the defensive schemes against him. He gets double-teamed I want to say every game. That tells me that coaches feel the same way," Brooks said.

Brooks doesn't lobby other coaches to vote for his players, but said others have tried to persuade him in the past. He will "respectfully listen," he says, but believes it is important to do his own research and make his own choices.

"We all take pride in our choice," Brooks said. "It's an elite group and it's hard to get in."

Though Beal isn't a starter, he has a good case for being a reserve. This season he is averaging 28.1 points (third in East), 6.3 assists (10th in East) and 4.5 rebounds per game. 

If Beal doesn't make the All-Star team, it will likely be blamed on the Wizards' record. They are 15-30 and some of his competitors could get credit for being on better teams.

Brooks, though, believes other coaches should consider the circumstances Beal has been in. He says he takes that stuff into account with his own vote.

"There's a lot of factors that go in," Brooks explained. "It's situations. Guys that are on teams that are not playing well... are they not playing well because of him or are they not playing well because they have a lot of young guys, or because they're injured? A lot of players are injured. We've had a lot of injuries this year."

Beal has been an All-Star each of the past two years. We will find out on Thursday if he is in for the third time.

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Trae Young joins Kobe Bryant in historic feat against Wizards

Trae Young joins Kobe Bryant in historic feat against Wizards

Following the passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant on Sunday, emotions were high. 

Many current and former players paid tribute to Bryant, including Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young, who dominated in the Hawks 152-133 win over the Wizards. 

He ended the night with a spectacular performance of 45 points, with 14 assists, making 13-of-24 FGs and 13-of-16 free throws as well as six 3-pointers, six rebounds and one assist. 

Young is the first player to have a 45-point double-double with under 25 field goal attempts against the Washington Wizards, since Kobe Bryant on December 17, 2006.

In honor of his mentor and favorite NBA player, Young wore a No. 8 jersey and took an 8-second-violation after the opening tip. 

He even wore his shoes with a tribute to Bryant as well. 

Young was able to channel his emotions into the game, leaving everything on the floor.

In an emotional night, Young was able to keep himself composed leading the Hawks past the Wizards. 

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