Wizards

Wizards

CLEVELAND -- The athleticism and 7-2 wingspan covers for whatever shortcomings second-year forward Kelly Oubre, 21, has as a player. The Wizards moved up to draft, developed and cultivated the lockdown defender into a key piece of Scott Brooks' rotation.

How far they can go in the postseason will hinge on if Oubre is able to maintain his recent form. 

"The game for Kelly, to me, is simple. Just compete," coach Scott Brooks said after Saturday's 127-115 win at the Cavaliers. "Deflections. Getting into the passing lanes. Contesting at the rim. Switching on our pick-and-roll coverage because he can guard one through four depending on the matchup and then rebound. The game rewards him when he does that."

Oubre was a nuisance, much like he has been recently against the likes of Kemba Walker, Isaiah Thomas, Dennis Schroder and Jeremy Lin. Saturday, it was Kyrie Irving's turn. 

Though Oubre spent most of his time chasing LeBron James in relief of Otto Porter, he went back to the familiar fourth-quarter role of making it difficult on the guards.

And when the Cavs tried to make him defend size, such as Kevin Love, he was too quick.

"I was being guarded by bigs," said Oubre, who played 26 minutes, his most time since Feb. 8 vs. the Brooklyn Nets when he started for an injured Markieff Morris. "I knew I was going to be more energized than them."

Deron Williams telegraphed a feed to James and Oubre jumped the passing lane for a steal and converted a layup for a 107-98 lead with 9:05 lef in the fourth quarter.

 

Following a missed jumper by John Wall, Oubre put back the rebound for a 113-105 lead. Morris missed a post-up shot and Oubre's putback streched the advantage to 10 points with 5:29 left.

"He took advantage of who was guarding him, shots going up. He got two or three offensive rebounds, putbacks. Those are easy points," said Bradley Beal, who had 27 to go along with Wall's 37. "They're momentum-changers."

Indeed, the Wizards have been on the receving end. They gave up 20 offensive rebounds in an eight-point loss to Boston. They were victimized by the Charlotte Hornets in a five-point loss. 

Irving shot just 8-for-23 and found himself trying to get free from Wall. He'd run the pick-and-roll and end up with Oubre on the switch, an actual tougher matchup. This wasn't what he faced from the Wizards a year ago, when Irving and James isolated the weaker, less athletic defenders such as Jared Dudley in a similar situation. 

Then-coach Randy Wittman didn't trust the then-rookie to do the job. Brooks, who has been steady in guiding Oubre, has gone away from him in small stretches when he was undisciplined but always gave him a chance to play his way back in the rotation. 

Brooks deployed Oubre in the "funeral game" victory over the Celtics as he kept Thomas, the NBA's leading scorer in the final 12 minutes, to just one field goal in the fourth quarter. In a loss last week to Boston, the Wizards cut the deficit to six in the final minutes with Oubre hawking Thomas in to repeated mistakes down the stretch. 

His defense translates to easy offense. Oubre made 7 of 8 shots for 16 points, and had a team-high seven rebounds.

"He's been on a nice (run) for six games, " Brooks said, "just locking in and focusing in on what his role is and being a superstar in that role."

There is a market for wing defenders like Oubre, who the Wizards swapped picks to move from 19th to 15th in 2015. 

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