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Morning tip: At least 44 wins if Wizards can do this before All-Star break

Morning tip: At least 44 wins if Wizards can do this before All-Star break

At 21-19, the Wizards finally are on the verge of creating a new identity as a team that is defense-first, offensively potent and to be reckoned with beause of their home-court.

But they have 15 games left before the All-Star break to create the separation needed to give them breathing room in a muddled Eastern Conference and there are plenty of tiebreakers to be had, too.

They play the Memphis Grizzlies at Verizon Center tonight, where they've won 12 games in a row. But in the next week alone they can secure their season series with the N.Y. Knicks, take 2-0 leads over the Charlotte Hornets and Detroit Pistons and go up 2-1 vs. the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks. Two of the last three games before the break are against the Indiana Pacers, who they're tied against 1-1.

A 10-5 stretch from now until the break for the Feb. 19 All-Star Game in New Orleans would put Washington at 31-24 with 27 games left in the regular-season.

If the Wizards can go no worse than 13-14 from that point, they'd finish the season 44-38, the minimum win total required for a No. 8 seed in last year's playoffs. 

Because of the shaky bench play, the Wizards have been an inconsistent road team. Reserves tend to play better at home so banking the wins now becomes more crucial.

To end the season, the Wizards have two games left with the Utah Jazz and Golden State Warriors. They have five-game road trip in early March against teams they've already beaten: Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets, Sacramento Kings, Portland Trail Blazers and Minnesota Timberwolves.

But it's those games out of All-Star break that will set the tone. After playing the Philadelphia 76ers are their first meetings with the Jazz, Warriors and two dates with the Toronto Raptors in less than a week.

There never are truly easy stretches, but it's all relative. Go into the All-Star break playing out of any kind of hole with that death lineup to kickstart the stretch run -- the Wizards lost 109-102 in Philadelphia minus Joel Embiid already -- puts everything in jeopardy. 

[RELATED: Kelly Oubre shows signs of development on both ends vs. Blazers]

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Wizards barely put up a fight vs. Raptors after Bradley Beal's strong comments

Wizards barely put up a fight vs. Raptors after Bradley Beal's strong comments

The Washington Wizards lost to the Toronto Raptors 140-111 on Friday night on the road. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

1. In case anyone was wondering how the Wizards would respond to Bradley Beal's strong comments about the team's culture, the answer is not well.

The Wizards barely put up a fight against the Toronto Raptors in a lopsided loss. They lost by 29 and trailed by as many as 33.

One reason was they committed 28 turnovers. They also allowed the Raptors to make 22 threes. That's the third-most allowed in one game by the Wizards in franchise history.

This was the Wizards' 41st game of the season. With a 13-28 record, they are on pace to win 26 games.

2. The Wizards didn't just lose this game, they may have lost backup shooting guard Jordan McRae for an extended period of time.

McRae stepped on a shoe at midcourt and rolled his left ankle. He immediately went down in obvious pain and had to be carried off the floor and into the locker room. 

It was reminiscent of the ankle injury Garrison Mathews suffered nearly two weeks ago. That one fortunately did not result in a fracture or ligament damage. He just had a bad ankle sprain.

Just like Mathews, McRae suffered his injury at a time when he was playing well and really coming into his own. Tough timing.

3. There weren't many positives for the Wizards in this one, but Isaac Bonga certainly was one. The second-year wing dropped a career-high 17 points to go along with 10 rebounds and a steal. Five of his rebounds were on the offensive end.

Bonga shot 6-for-9 from the field and hit two threes. His continued development as a scorer has been impressive to watch this season.

4. Davis Bertans is such a good shooter that when he releases the ball, it is expected to go in. Even rarer, it seems, he misses two in a row.

Every once in a while, once in a blue moon, he has a legitimate off-shooting night. Friday was one of those nights. Bertans had 12 points and shot 3-for-11 from three.

Per usual of late, Bertans wasn't exactly open due to his place on the scouting report but he got decent looks. Many of his threes clanged off the front of the rim. 

Maybe he had tired legs. Whatever it was, the Latvian Laser didn't have it like he usually does.

5. The Isaiah Thomas experience has not been good as of late. The Wizards point guard at another bad game, this time with eight points in 16 minutes.

He just looked off; sluggish and making mental mistakes. That included two turnovers in the first quarter when he passed the ball as the shot clock expired.

Those decisions were inexcusable and in his last 10 games, Thomas has averaged 8.5 points while shooting 34.4 percent. He has not been the same guy since coming back from his calf injury in mid-December. But it's been more than physical. His head hasn't seemed to be in the game like it was earlier this season.

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Bradley Beal records an impressive four-point play against the Raptors

Bradley Beal records an impressive four-point play against the Raptors

Bradley Beal emphasized the Wizards' need to start winning games and changing the culture after the team's 115-106 loss to the Bulls on Wednesday night. Two nights later, Washington responded with an opening half riddled with turnovers, which led to a deficit that grew to as high as 24 points before halftime.

In the third quarter, the Wizards began to make a charge, highlighted by Beal's four-point play after draining a three while drawing contact.

Raptors forward Serge Ibaka closed out too aggressively on Beal and landed on the guard's foot. The officials assessed a flagrant one foul to Ibaka for not allowing space to land, and Beal converted the ensuing free throw. 

Beal's four-point play cut the Wizards' deficit to 77-64 and was the start of an 8-0 run that cut the Raptors' lead to single-digits at 77-68.

But Toronto answered back quickly, reeling off an 8-0 spurt of its own to build the lead back up and pull away for a commanding 140-111 win. Beal finished with 14 points on 4-for-12 shooting, including 3-for-6 from beyond the arc. 

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