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Morning tip: Defensive leaks finally catch up to Wizards to end trip

Morning tip: Defensive leaks finally catch up to Wizards to end trip

To allow an average of 121 points a game and come back to Verizon Center at 4-1 from a Western Conference trip defies conventional wisdom. But the Wizards' methods in winning were indeed unconventional.

Monday, they fell 119-104 at the Minnesota Timberwolves, the 17th highest-scoring offense in the NBA. 

"Probably the biggest thing is getting back to our defensive concepts, getting back to our rhythm on defense," said Bradley Beal after the Wizards allowed Minnesota to shoot 52.3% from the field and almost 50% from three-point range. "We're out of whack a little bit. We're not communicating. ...We got to break those habits."

The Wizards (41-25) had to mount comebacks of 11 points to the Phoenix Suns (after leading by 22 themselves), 15 to the Sacramento Kings and 21 to the Portland Trail Blazers. They won all three, but it's too much to ask for them to do when they're playing five games in seven days. 

They return to D.C. and will be off Tuesday before a two-game homestand that starts Wednesday vs. the Dallas Mavericks, who beat them in their second game of 2017 before the Wizards won 18 of 21 going into the All-Star break. 

RELATED: 5 must-see moments from Wizards vs. T-Wolves

Portland shot 51.1% from the field and 50% from three. The Denver Nuggets were 52.9% overall and 46.4% from deep. The Suns shot 50% and 48.1% on threes. The Kings were 47.8% overall and 54.5% with the long ball. 

Those percentages are nothing short of alarming. But the Wizards were able to overcome their defensive ineptness with superior offense. Monday, that spigot halted. They only shot 42.9% and just 26.9% from three.

That they were in range to pull out a flawless five-game road trip for the first time in franchise history speaks to their offensive potency. But 102-97 would be as close as the Wizards got in Minneapolis. Then Karl-Anthony Towns made sure there'd be no comeback as he led a 17-7 run.

"It was just glimpses tonight. We would play good defense two possessions  in a row and then we'd go on a drought for a couple of possessions. They'd go on a 7-0 run," Beal said. "It was inconsistency with not being able to guard. It wasn't just one person. It was everybody." 

Sometimes it was Wall gambling for steals too often. Other times it was Marcin Gortat not being aggressive enough in his help. Or Otto Porter was getting caught under screens against red-hot shooters.

The Wizards can play elite defense, which is how they beat the Golden State Warriors, Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics in key matchups recently. For some reason, when they play teams with bad records, their defense lowers in its intensity, too.

That won't be an issue for the playoffs, of course, but it's a major one as they're trying cement themselves as no worse than No. 2 seed in the conference.

MORE WIZARDS: Brooks on challenge of Towns and Rubio in loss to Wolves

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NBA offseason grades: LeBron James leaving changes everything in Central Division

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USA Today Sports Images

NBA offseason grades: LeBron James leaving changes everything in Central Division

Here is a look at how the 2018 NBA offseason went for teams in the Central Division...

Cleveland Cavaliers, C

2017-18 finish: 50-32, lost in NBA Finals
In: G Collin Sexton, F Channing Frye, F Sam Dekker
Out: F LeBron James, F Jeff Green, G Jose Calderon

Technically, the Cavaliers had the worst offseason of any team in the NBA simply because they lost James in free agency, but overall they did quite nicely for themselves as they prepare to enter a new era as a franchise. Sexton seems like a solid first round pick and gives them a nice young piece to build around. They also signed All-Star Kevin Love to a contract extension. Cleveland should have enough to remain competitive, at least for the back-end of the playoffs, but they need to clear some salary to justify the step back they are about to take.

Indiana Pacers, B+

2017-18 finish: 48-34, 1st round of playoffs
In: G Tyreke Evans, G Aaron Holiday, F Doug McDermott, F Kyle O'Quinn
Out: G Lance Stephenson, F Glenn Robinson III, F Trevor Booker

There was nothing flashy about the Pacers' offseason, but they did a good job adding talent and depth. Evans on a one-year, $12 million deal is almost certain to work out well for them. McDermott should add shooting and O'Quinn is an underrated big man. And Holiday, their first round pick, is an intriguing young guard who could help on both ends of the floor. Indiana may not have enough to join the top teams in the conference, but they should be set up to recreate the success they had last year.

Milwaukee Bucks, B

2017-18 finish: 44-38, 1st round of playoffs
In: C Brook Lopez, F Ersan Ilyasova, G Pat Connaughton, G Donte DiVincenzo
Out: F Jabari Parker, G Jason Terry

The Bucks didn't have a whole lot to play with in terms of money in free agency or trade assets, and they let Parker go, so it wasn't a great summer for Milwaukee. They did, however make some smart moves in acquiring Lopez and Ilyasova for reasonable prices. The reason they got a 'B' has a lot to do with their decision to hire Mike Budenholzer as head coach. Beyond young guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo getting better, Budenholzer offers the Bucks their best chance to improve year-over-year.

Detroit Pistons, C+

2017-18 finish: 39-43, missed playoffs
In: G Kyhri Thomas, C Zaza Pachulia, F Glenn Robinson III, G Jose Calderon
Out: F Anthony Tolliver, F James Ennis III

It was another low-key offseason for the Pistons, who didn't have much money to spend in free agency and didn't make any major trades. Their biggest acquisition was through the draft with Thomas, a guy who offers intrigue on both ends of the floor. They get a decent grade, however, because of the move to hire Dwane Casey as head coach. If it weren't for that, their grade would be very low.

Chicago Bulls, B+

2017-18 finish: 27-55, missed playoffs
In: F Jabari Parker, F Wendell Carter, Jr., F Chandler Hutchison
Out: F Noah Vonleh

The Bulls had arguably one of the better offseasons in the East. They got Parker on a bargain and brought in two nice young players as first round picks in Carter and Hutchison. Carter was particularly impressive in the Summer League and could form a nice combination with Lauri Markkanen, who looks like a future All-Star. The Bulls might be one draft away from having the necessary pieces to start ascending into the next stage of their rebuild. They just keep chugging along with smart moves.

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NBA offseason grades: With Kawhi Leonard, Raptors shined most in Atlantic Division

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NBA offseason grades: With Kawhi Leonard, Raptors shined most in Atlantic Division

Here is a look at how the 2018 NBA offseason went for teams in the Atlantic Division...

Toronto Raptors, B+

2017-18 finish: 59-23, 2nd round of playoffs
In: F Kawhi Leonard, G Danny Green, C Greg Monroe
Out: G DeMar DeRozan, C Jakub Poeltl, C Lucas Nogueira

The Raptors had one of the more consequential offseasons of any NBA team this year. First, they fired Dwane Casey, the 2017-18 NBA Coach of the Year, following a season in which they won 59 games. Then, they pulled off the biggest trade of the summer, a deal that featured two perennial All-NBA players. They let go of DeRozan and brought in Leonard in return. If they hadn't parted with DeRozan and Casey, they may have gotten an A. But it's hard to tell how much better they will be following the deal and Leonard does bring with him some concerns based on his quadriceps injury and the fact he has only one year left on his contract. The Raptors do, however, also get points for re-signing point guard Fred VanVleet.

Boston Celtics, C

2017-18 finish: 55-27, conference finals
In: C Robert Williams, G Brad Wanamaker
Out: C Greg Monroe

One year ago, the Celtics flipped nearly their entire roster and brought in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. This year, they mostly stood pat and didn't add much of anything in free agency or trades. Their biggest acquisition was Williams, who they took 27th overall in the first round of the draft. The Celtics will hope they improve from within. They re-signed Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes, and should get Irving and Hayward back from injuries. They should have plenty of talent to compete for an NBA Finals berth, but as far as this offseason goes, they didn't do much.

Philadelphia 76ers, D+

2017-18 finish: 52-30, 2nd round of playoffs
In: F Wilson Chandler, C Mike Muscala, G Zhaire Smith, G Landry Shamet
Out: G Marco Belinelli, F Ersan Ilyasova

Where do we begin? This summer was about as dramatic and bad as it could get for the Sixers. First, they had to fire their general manager because of a burner Twitter account scandal. Then, they struck out miserably in free agency with LeBron James and Paul George, and in trade talks for Leonard. After that, Smith - their first round pick - hurt his foot. And along the way, Ben Simmons has been dating a Kardashian, flirting with the curse that has claimed many pro athletes before him. Philly did re-sign J.J. Redick and Johnson, and the Chandler trade was nice, but all in all it was an offseason that fell way short of the Sixers' expectations. That said, they can still get way better next season based solely on their young players taking another step.

New York Knicks, B

2017-18 finish: 29-53, missed playoffs
In: F Mario Hezonja, F Kevin Knox, F Noah Vonleh, C Mitchell Robinson
Out: F Michael Beasley, G Jarrett Jack, F Kyle O'Quinn

It's been a while since the Knicks had an offseason to write home about and this one is no exception. There was nothing they did that would flirt with an A-grade. However, the early returns on their draft are excellent. Knox and Robinson were both standouts in the Summer League and offer fans a little bit more hope about the team's future. As long as Kristaps Porzingis can return this season safe and sound from his ACL tear, the Knicks could take a step forward in 2018-19.

Brooklyn Nets, C+

2017-18 finish: 28-54, missed playoffs
In: F Ed Davis, F Kenneth Faried, F Jared Dudley
Out: F Dante Cunningham, G Nik Stauskas, C Jahlil Okafor

The best news about the Nets' offseason is that their trade with the Celtics, the one that stripped them of years of first round picks, is finally over. Next year, the Nets will have a first round pick. This summer, they once again didn't add any major pieces in the draft, but seemed to make some smart moves in free agency. The Davis deal is solid and Faried may benefit from a change of scenery. More baby steps for Brooklyn.

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