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Morning tip: 50-plus wins, No. 2 seed finally look realistic for Wizards

Morning tip: 50-plus wins, No. 2 seed finally look realistic for Wizards

There are two numbers that matter most to the Wizards, and that's 50 and two. Bradley Beal has his sights set on both after opening a five-game road trip with wins in a back-to-back. 

The Wizards (39-24), who haven't won 50 or more games since 1979, have been perfect in four consecutive back-to-backs after Wednesday's 123-113 rout of the Denver Nuggets. 

"It was a goal of mine coming into the year for the team to get 50 wins. Be a playoff team again. We're on track for it," said Bradley Beal, who had 23 points and five assists. "That won't make us. That won't define us as a team to be a part of history, having a 50-win season. I think we have the team to be able to do so. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't."

With two more wins, the Wizards will equal their total from a 41-41 non-playoff season a year ago. They play at the Sacramento Kings and at the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday and Saturday. They end the trip Monday at the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

They're No. 3 in the East and tied in the loss column with the No. 2 Boston Celtics (41-24), who beat the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday. To unseat Boston, the Wizards have to play better defensively than they've started on this trip because they have the tougher schedule to end the season.

The pivotal game to decide the season series, which will be crucial if there's a tie at the end of the season with the Celtics, is March 20 at TD Garden. 

"I think it's important especially if we make it out the first round having that home court in the second round and see where you go after that," Beal said of the No. 2 spot behind the Cleveland Cavaliers. "We love our chances. Our job is to win. Where it puts us a the end of the year, we'll let the chips fall where they may." 

In the Wizards' two playoff seasons in 2014 and '15, they were a No. 5 seed so they opened on the road and didn't have home court. Still, they pulled off upsets of the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors but ran into the No. 1 seed in the East in the second round to end their run. 

[MORE WIZARDS: Bojan Bogdanovic is a perfect fit for set-up artist John Wall]

By finishing as high as No. 2, they could avoid the Cavs until the conference finals if everything in the earlier rounds go according to plan. 

The Wizards have been an offensive juggernaut. In beating the Nuggets and Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, they've scored 254 points. But those teams don't defend like the Celitcs and are among the NBA's worst defenses.

Denver shot 53% overall (46 of 87), including 46.4% from three (13 of 28). The Suns shot 50%, making 44 of 88 shots that included 13 of 27 three-pointers (48.1%).

"We got to find a way when we get up 20-something points," said John Wall, who had 30 points and 10 assists vs. Denver. "Our defense started to (lag). Not playing with the sense of urgency that we played to get to that lead. That's something that we have to figure out, do a better job of because when we get to the playoffs you want to be able to get those guys out of the way and not give them any life. We gave them a little bit of life."

The Nuggets never regained the lead after falling behind by 24 points. But they made it more tense than it had to be late on several occassions. Phoenix erased a 22-point deficit, took an 11-point lead and eventually lost. 

The Wizards recently had to come back from 17 points down to beat the Orlando Magic, a team that's not in their class.

So while a win is a win, they have to develop better habits with three road games left at the Sacramento Kings, at the Portland Trail Blazers and at the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

"We just had some slippage on defense again," Beal said. "It almost cost us."

[RELATED: VIDEO: Morris ejected for kicking Plumlee in groin]

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

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USA Today Sports Images

Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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Bradley Beal receives zero All-NBA votes, which itself is a snub

Bradley Beal receives zero All-NBA votes, which itself is a snub

On Thursday the NBA revealed the All-NBA teams for the 2017-18 season.

Not surprisingly, Bradley Beal and John Wall did not make it to one of the three five-player teams. Of the two superstars, only Wall has been recognized once in his career.

What is surprising is that neither Beal nor Wall received a single vote in the whole process, especially Beal.

The 2017-18 season was without question the best in Beal’s career. He played in all 82 games, coming right off of the heals of his All-Star recognition. Beal seems to agree in his snubbing, tweeting this minutes after the teams were announced:

Looking at the list of players who made the top three teams, it shouldn’t be an issue, but these three guys got more votes than the Wizards' duo combined: Steven Adams, Trevor Ariza, and Dwight Howard. It is not surprising that Beal and Wall did not make an All-NBA team. It is odd that Beal didn’t receive a vote.

Here is a list of the full All-NBA Teams:

ALL-NBA FIRST TEAM: 

LeBron James (Cavaliers), James Harden (Rockets), Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers), Kevin Durant (Warriors)

ALL-NBA SECOND TEAM:

Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks), Russell Westbrook (Thunder), Joel Embiid (76ers), LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs), DeMar DeRozan (Raptors)

ALL-NBA THIRD TEAM:

Stephen Curry (Warriors), Victor Oladipo (Pacers), Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves), Jimmy Butler (Timberwolves), Paul George (Thunder)

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