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Morning tip: Kelly Oubre likely will spend time defending Kyrie Irving

Morning tip: Kelly Oubre likely will spend time defending Kyrie Irving

Whenever the Cleveland Cavaliers would be in need of a bucket vs. the Wizards, they'd run pick-and-rolls with Kyrie Irving and LeBron James to force switches that would get them both in favorable positions and in space for high-percentage looks. 

It would result in one of those two having Jared Dudley in front of them to beat.

But that was so 2015-16 season.

The Wizards (30-20) already have a 6-10, more athletic Markieff Morris there as the starter to give them a better chance. They also will have the 7-2 wingspan of Kelly Oubre, who has emerged in his second year, to give them a unique look when the two teams face off on Monday night at Verizon Center.

Oubre usually takes the floor late in the first quarter as the small forward while starter Otto Porter shifts to the "stretch" forwards. He'll also find hmself cross-matched against point guards by the fourth quarter. 

The latter is a strategy that Washington used in a 15-point win over the Boston Celtics when the NBA's leading scorer in the fourth, Isaiah Thomas, was held to one field goal. At 6-7, Oubre has the length and athleticism to bother guards and force them to finish tougher shots. And if he ends up switched onto the stronger James, he won't cede ground in the post. 

"Sometimes on defense, when they don't have their other main guys in. I'll not take a break but just get a little more rest," said John Wall, who'll assume an easier assignment while Oubre focuses on defending  the point guard. "We use it at times. But in the game I want to be on those guys. I'm one of those point guards that likes to go against the point guards to make it a matchup.  

"Not to say it's a one-on-one but at times we usually switch it up. A lot of good teams do that. That's why you've got defensive stoppers."

Irving scored a game-high 29 in a 104-95 win on Nov. 11 at Verizon Center. It's just one of six home losses.

They won't be able to shut down everyone, but the Wizards can't allow Irving and James to be effective simultaneously. If they can take away one of the Big Two, chances are Oubre will have something to do with it. 


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Trevor Ariza exited Wizards OT loss to Bulls with groin strain, but not as serious as anticipated

Trevor Ariza exited Wizards OT loss to Bulls with groin strain, but not as serious as anticipated

Trevor Ariza was unable to take the court late in the Wizards overtime loss to Chicago after leaving the game mid-way through with a groin strain.

His availability for Thursday's matchup at home against the Nuggets will be at the discretion of the team of whether that quick of a turnaround could put more pressure on the injury.

Ariza finished with six points in just 14 minutes of action. NBC Sports Insider Tom Haberstroh documented Ariza's health as the season winds down prior to Wednesday's injury. The veteran swingman is on a one-year, $15 million deal.

Ariza said he couldn't pinpoint which play caused the discomfort. His status for the bout with Denver will surely be a topic of interest.


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Wizards' loss to Bulls ensures they'll finish under .500 as clock ticks down on season

Wizards' loss to Bulls ensures they'll finish under .500 as clock ticks down on season

The Washington Wizards lost to the Chicago Bulls 126-120 on Wednesday night. Here are five observations from the game...

1. Among the Wizards shortcomings this season, road games and the first games of back-to-backs have been their most stubborn bugaboos. On Wednesday, those problems loomed large against a Chicago Bulls team that already isn't good and was missing several key players.

The Bulls were without Zach LaVine, Wendell Carter Jr. and Otto Porter Jr., among others, yet the Wizards still couldn't take advantage. They are now 8-28 on the road this season. Only four teams have been worse. Washington is now 2-12 in the first games of back-to-backs.

The Wizards have lost three of four and two straight. Only 10 games remain in the season and they are 30-42. At this point, it might take a miracle for them to make the playoffs. 

2. Well, at least Jabari Parker enjoyed himself.

Parker has made it no secret he was not happy with his time in Chicago and more specifically how coach Jim Boylen treated him. He clearly has an ax to grind against the Bulls.

On Wednesday, Parker was a force with 28 points in 38 minutes. He shot 3-for-5 from three and had six rebounds and two blocks.

3. Bobby Portis also got some revenge on his former team, in a way. He was called for a Flagrant 1 foul late in the fourth quarter when he smacked Lauri Markkanen in the face on a rebound attempt.

It was hard to tell even on slow-motion replays if the contact was intentional or inadvertent, but he got Markkanen pretty good.

This, of course, isn't the first time Portis has hit a Bulls player in the face. The last time earned him an eight-game suspension and an awkward locker room at United Center.

4. The second half began with some injury news, as Trevor Ariza was ruled out during halftime with a groin strain. The severity wasn't initially clear and we probably won't know until at least tomorrow how serious it is.

At this point, with the Wizards fading into the pack in the playoff race, there is no reason to push it. Even if the injury is minor, it would make sense if he didn't play on Thursday against the Nuggets in the second game of a back-to-back.

Ariza, of course, also has his contract future in mind. He has 10 games left in this season before he hits free agency. And as the Wizards get closer and closer to elimination, we could see some changes in how players like Ariza and others are treated in terms of minutes restrictions.

5. Troy Brown Jr. started in Ariza's place to begin the second half and ended up logging 30 minutes on the night. He played well with nine points and a career-high 10 rebounds.

Whether Ariza misses time or not, Brown should get more minutes going forward. There is no reason why he shouldn't play at least 20 minutes, if not something closer to 30 minutes, each night for the rest of the season.

Not only has Brown played well enough to earn a larger role, having shown the promise expected of a 15th overall pick, but the Wizards need to develop him into a legitimate rotation piece for next season.

With John Wall likely to miss most of next season, if not all of it, due to injury, they need Brown to be a factor. It would really help if he could continue to improve as a point guard and serve as at least a primary backup to Tomas Satoransky or whoever starts at the position next year.

The future should be now for Brown.