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Morning tip: Pressure lightens for Wizards' starting 5 to be great every time

Morning tip: Pressure lightens for Wizards' starting 5 to be great every time

LOS ANGELES -- During their previous five-game road trip, the Wizards were able to pull out four heart-stopping victories with two of them comebacks in overtime.

That was two weeks go, and they've begun this one by upsetting the Clevlend Cavaliers on their home floor.

What set up that 127-115 win Saturday was what took place Friday in the first game of a back-to-back.

They routed the Brooklyn Nets 129-108 in a game in which they never were threatened. No starter played more than 24 minutes. That made it easier for the reerves to step in.

"We really locked in, did our job, got the guys some extra minutes rest and it paid off," coach Scott Brooks said. 

This is how elite teams are able to develop their benches heading into the postseason. The Wizards (45-28) didn't have thier leading bench scorer, Bojan Bogdanovic, vs. Cleveland because of lower back stiffness the following night but that was OK.

Second-year forward Kelly Oubre filled that void by shooting 7 of 8 for 16 points and a team-high seven rebounds. Jason Smith continued to show three-point range and an ability to switch onto perimeter players. His play gives Brooks options in the middle behind Marcin Gortat. He can go to Smith or starter Markieff Morris with his smaller lineups or Ian Mahinmi who is a traditional big.

They Wizards have been able to win with Gortat, Morris and even Otto Porter not producing the type of offense now that they posted before the All-Star break. More than any other team in the NBA, all starting five for the Wizards have posted more double-digit scoring games than any other in the NBA. Gortat has stuggled the most and has seen his minutes reduced significantly.

"You don’t need everybody to play at a high level offensively. They just have to play at a high level energy and commitment, focusing on doing the things to help the team win. It’s not about  minutes," Brooks said. "I keep telling all of our guys, 'If you want minutes, you just play well. You get extra minutes. And if you play we’ll you’re still going to get some sub time.'

"We have a good bench and we’re going to use it. Ian has done a great job. Jason has done a good job. It’s not what March has done. He hasn’t played well but our guys have stepped up and played well but he’s going to bounce back."

The Wizards scored 40 points in the first quarter in Cleveland. John Wall set the tone by pushing the tempo even when they didn't have numbers in transition and still got uncontested layups.

Tuesday, it's a game at the L.A. Lakers in the first game of a back-to-back. They should put them away early, too.

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Wizards release new red alternate jerseys, their fifth uniform

red-alternates-wiz.jpg
WashingtonWizards.com

Wizards release new red alternate jerseys, their fifth uniform

The Washington Wizards have another new alternate jersey. On Wednesday, they released pictures of their 'Earned Edition' kit, which is essentially a red version of their 'The District' series.

The Wizards now have five jerseys. They are one of 16 teams with an 'Earned Edition' because they made the playoffs last season.

Here is a look at the new uniforms:

(photos via WashingtonWizards.com)

Notice the nod to the Washington monument up the sides of the jersey. Also, the D.C. flag on the waistband is a nice touch. 

The Wizards now have red and black versions that say 'The District' on the front. Last season, they they had one in white.

The Wizards will debut the uniform on Dec. 29 when they host the Chralotte Hornets.

Expect them to be mixed in for a few games over the course of the rest of this season.

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The story behind Kelly Oubre's post-dunk pose that went viral

The story behind Kelly Oubre's post-dunk pose that went viral

Kelly Oubre Jr. didn’t know precisely what the moment required. The hops and charisma are always on standby regardless.

In one of his more controlled performances of the season, the Wizards’ forward managed to stand out in Monday’s road loss at Indiana. Not solely for his 23 points, even though it established a new season-high. Not just for a rim-rattling follow dunk, though props for the aerial work.

What came after the slam - his look to the camera and pose - is what got social media jumping. It’s why his popularity surpasses his production. It’s why his critics sometimes cannot help but smile.

Two days after turning 23, Oubre explained how the jam and viral video pose went down.

It started with two aspects not always associated with his game: Passing and court awareness.

Washington already trimmed Indiana’s 25-point lead to eight as the clock moved closer to the nine-minute mark of the fourth quarter, and the Wizards executed a play.

Bradley Beal and Markieff Morris ran interference for Oubre as he dribbled toward the right elbow.  Despite openings for a drive or shot, the player who passes with the frequency of a wishbone quarterback stuck with the plan. He looked for Morris rolling toward the basket.

“I just looked at the situation. The play was for Keef to roll and be open. He was open,” recalled Oubre.

Enter Myles Turner. The Pacers’ center dominated the paint throughout, finishing with 12 rebounds and five blocks. Oubre’s dribble brought Turner his way, but on the pass, the mobile big man quickly shifted across the paint. Morris created space and lofted a half-hook. Turner’s wingspan, on display with ferocity all night, altered the shot.

Oubre thought it might. Standing alone and with a clear path to the basket, the sleek forward made his move. Quick and light steps positioned out front if a miss bounced his way. It did.

“Myles is a great rim protector," said Oubre. "I just figured that since he’s been altering shots all game. I’d at least jump to give myself a chance to follow it up.”

Morris’s banked shot went short off the glass, sending the ball off the front of the rim. Oubre read the carom’s angle like geometry major. He rose with ease and hammered dunk the miss with two hands.

“Perfect timing, the stars aligned.”

Then the personality popped.

Before Oubre touched back down, the smile began to form. He stuck the landing like a 6-foot-7 Kerri Strug, though with two good ankles. As the grin enveloped his face and Oubre looked out into the crowd of non-well-wishers, both hands attached to his hips, forming a perfect pair of isosceles triangles. 

Oubre: “The pose was just me having fun. Their fans was talking crazy [expletive] though. I was just smiling at them the whole game.”

Just posing would have put a nice capper on the high-rising moment. Ever the showman, Oubre added a final flourish.

As the megawatt smiled remained, he went with a full head nod toward the crowd. He knew what they witnessed and that they didn’t love it. Regardless, they had to appreciate the style and let them know he felt the same.

“I don’t really look around when I’m playing," said Oubre. "It was really just because the fans didn’t want us to do good.

“I just have a lot of personality, you know? It was a good time, man.”

Oubre’s highlight reel includes a new entry. Such moments wow fans and keep scouts intrigued. If only Oubre could hone the rest of his game, they think. He’s shooting under 30 percent on 3-pointers since January. His shot selection and struggles with team defensive concepts cause exasperation.

Some team might fall in lust regardless and offer the 2015 first-round pick a hefty contract when he hits restricted free agency this coming summer. The Wizards can match any offer. Considering their salary cap concerns and Oubre’s uncertain trajectory, they might not.

Oubre wants more and says he works to improve his game daily while pushing free agency thoughts aside.

“Just getting better every day. Just taking it one day at a time, trying to live in the moment,” Oubre said. “Not necessarily looking at the future because the future will happen if I take care of now. Today I got better. Tomorrow is a new game, a new opportunity.”

Tomorrow comes Wednesday when the Wizards host the rival Boston Celtics.

“The Celtics have a lot of guys who are talented basketball players, and I’m a competitor,” Oubre said. “I’m looking forward to going to play against them.”

When it comes to the entertaining Oubre, even those head-scratching doubters probably feel the same.

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