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Morning tip: Figuring out how to win on road remains hurdle for Wizards

Morning tip: Figuring out how to win on road remains hurdle for Wizards

As good as the opening 12 minutes were for the Wizards, the third quarter vs. the Houston Rockets turned out to be a disaster that flipped the momentum of the game. A loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the second game of a back-to-back tonight would constitute two steps back but they're still in a good spot to get back to .500.

The Wizards, who have won eight in a row at Verizon Center, are just 3-11 on the road after Monday's 101-91 loss vs. a potent offensive team.

"We play for 48 minutes at home," said John Wall, who had 18 points and 12 assists for his 21st double-double. "On the road we play for 24 minutes sometimes, sometimes 32. We got to play for the full 48. When we figure that out, when we don't have the crowd behind us on the road and we're not making shots we still got to defend at a high level."

Bradley Beal led the Wizards (16-17) with 27 points on 9-for-18 shooting but he could've had more had he looked more for his shot. There were opportunities as the Rockets were slow to close him out on pindowns from Marcin Gortat. 

The Wizards held them to 14 points in the first quarter, a season low, but the outcome turned after halftime when Washington lost a 53-41 lead. 

"I thought we had too many mitsakes defensively and they capitalized with threes. I think they made seven threes in that quarter. Then we had six turnovers," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "The combination of both those things happening created that 37-17 quarter. I thought we played a pretty good game throughout the game. You just take away seven or eight minutes in that third quarter."

The lead quickly evaporated because of the giveaways. The Wizards had 17 that led to 15 points for Houston which isn't noted for its defensive prowess. But to start the third quarter there was no rhythm to the Wizards' offense because of the uneven sets in the halfcourt. The transition buckets dried up as well.

"We didn't come out with the same intensity offensively. We knew there was going to be a time in the game when they were going to make shots," Wall said. "We weren't being as aggressive. They were trying to trap me and Brad and get the ball out of our hands."

As well as the Wizards' bench has played in recent games, including 50 points in a blowout of the Brooklyn Nets last weekend, they needed more from them than 13 points against an elite West team. Eric Gordon, a starter for his career until he signed with Houston as a free agent, had 31 of the Rockets' 42. He made 6 of 12 from deep.

"Sometimes we would rotate for no reason. Be in the lane when we shouldn't have been," said Beal. "We gave up some easy catch-and-shoot threes that anybody in the league can make."

[RELATED: 5 must-see moments from Wizards loss to Rockets]

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Rui Hachimura's learning curve can be seen on offense late in games

Rui Hachimura's learning curve can be seen on offense late in games

WASHINGTON -- Wizards forward Rui Hachimura has translated so smoothly to the NBA level that it is easy to forget he is still just a rookie with only 31 games under his belt. For a reminder of his inexperience, just look at the fourth quarter.

Hachimura tends to start games hot on the offensive end, like he did on Friday in the Wizards' loss to the Cavaliers when he had eight points by the end of the first quarter. But he scored only nine points after that and went scoreless through seven minutes in the fourth.

That has been a consistent theme for him this season. He averages 4.8 points in the first quarter shooting 48.4 percent from the field, 4.0 points in the second shooting 57 percent and then 4.3 points on 47.9 percent in the third. In the fourth quarter those numbers plummet to 1.9 points on average and 33.3 percent shooting.

Basically, Hachimura often comes out on fire but then slows down considerably once opponents make midgame changes. Against the Cavs, Hachimura said it was because they disrupted passing lanes.

"They are an NBA team. They just adjusted. They didn't want me to catch the ball. They didn't let me just catch the ball. I think that's why," he said.

The Wizards have seen teams switch defensive match-ups midgame to counter Hachimura. Sometimes taking away his midrange jumper will be prioritized. The Cavs seemed to find success playing Hachimura more physically in the second half, bumping him away from his comfort zones.

Over time, Hachimura can improve his ability to sustain scoring throughout games simply by becoming more versatile. The more consistent he becomes at making three-point shots and creating off the dribble, the more difficult it will be for teams to stop him. As long as he keeps improving, he will reach a point where he can stay ahead of the defense with a multitude of counters.

Developing a more reliable outside game and more dribble combinations will take some time. For now, Hachimura believes the key to him keeping up his scoring pace involves working with his teammates, particularly star shooting guard Bradley Beal.

"I just gotta connect more with Brad. Brad is the one everybody is trying to guard. Screens and pick-and-rolls with him, that kind of stuff will help me," Hachimura said.

Hachimura's game against the Cavaliers reflected how the team played overall. After scoring 41 points in the first quarter, they managed only 42 in the second half. They blew a 16-point lead and lost, 113-108.

So, he wasn't alone. And those rooting for Hachimura to round out his game should feel good about his odds. He has a relentless work ethic and is often staying after practice to go over film with player development coach Dave Adkins.

Hachimura is perceptive and driven to improve. In order to take the next step as a scorer, he will have to get better at closing games.

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Tristan Thompson calls Bradley Beal one of the best shooting guards in the league

Tristan Thompson calls Bradley Beal one of the best shooting guards in the league

Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson spoke with reporters after the team's victory over the Wizards Friday night, praising Bradley Beal, who was snubbed from All-Star consideration this season despite averaging nearly 30 points-per-game.

The Cavaliers held the Wizards to just 21 points in the fourth quarter, and Thompson said their main focus was neutralizing Beal.

"The Wizards are really good offensively when they are making their runs," Thompson said postgame. "Bradley Beal is an All-Star in our league. One of the top-three two-guards in our league right now, so we were just trying to make it tough for him."

Beal finished the night with 26 points, but struggled from the floor. Beal shot 9-for-28 from the floor and the Cavaliers' stingy defense was clearly a factor.

Beal and the Wizards will have a chance to get back on track on Sunday night at Capital One Arena when they host the Chicago Bulls for the final time this season.

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