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Morning tip: Unenviable task for Marcin Gortat vs. T'Wolves

Morning tip: Unenviable task for Marcin Gortat vs. T'Wolves

The pressure doesn't lessen for Marcin Gortat. The Wizards' center, a traditional big man accustomed to playing in the paint, has had to defend on the perimeter more than ever this season by stepping out to the three-point arc vs. DeMarcus Cousins, Myles Turner, Brook Lopez, Dirk Nowitzki and likely will chase Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnestoa Timberwolves on Friday.

"He’s been able to get some practice with that, even last game guarding Dirk," said Wizards coach Scott Brooks of the 113-105 loss at the Dallas Mavericks earlier in week. "They have two guys that can stretch you out. Gorgui (Dieng) doesn’t shoot threes as much as Towns but you have to be ready for it. It’s hard. It’s an adjustment he’s going to have to continue to work on. The league is going that way. Every team has (big) guys that can shoot.”

Cousins scored 36 points but it took 34 shots in a loss for the Sacramento Kings. Surprisingly, the Wizards didn't trap the ball or offer a lot of help. Gortat did the job. Turner dropped 20 points but only made one three in a win and was held to 15 points and no threes in a loss. Lopez lit it up in their first meeting with 25 points but Gortat responded in the rematch by holding him to 11 points. 

Towns is averaging a double-double in just his second season at 21.6 points, 11.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists for Minnesota (11-24). 

"In terms of his skill he’s like Boogie," said Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal, referring to Cousins, who also went to Kentucky before Towns. "He likes to step out put the ball on the floor, he plays hard, plays aggressive, has a great post game. Has a good motor. He’s going to be tough. ... With a guy like that we’d rather him shoot those jumpers than be inside. He’s a huge piece to being around the basket, finishing, grabbing rebounds, so hopefully we can contest his jumpers and he’ll (feel) comfortable out there.”

In the only meeting in D.C. last season, the Timberwolves went to double overtime to win 132-129 amid some mild controversy. The last two-minute report released by the NBA revealed a lot of missed calls, including in the extra periods, and most went against Washington. 

Towns had 27 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Dieng, who had 18 points, nine rebounds and five assists, drained the final shot of regulation to force the first overtime. 

Towns has had 30 points or more four times. His set his career-high with 47 and also had 41. He has had 15 or more rebounds nine times. He's just a 31% shooter from three but he can't be left alone as he evolves from distance.

"I feel like he's more dangerous on the perimeter," said Wizards point guard John Wall. "He's able to shoot the ball. He's able to put the ball on the floor. He's able to find his teammates."

[RELATED: Film study: What leads to Wizards' leaky 3-point defense]

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Wizards fall flat in battle with young Grizzlies

Wizards fall flat in battle with young Grizzlies

The Washington Wizards lost to the Memphis Grizzlies 128-111 on Saturday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

1. It was just over a week ago the Wizards had their best win of the season against the Sixers. Saturday night was one of their worst.

They went into Memphis to play an emerging, but struggling team and got their you-know-whats handed to them. The Wizards jumped out to a 13-6 lead in the first, then lost the momentum and never got it back.

By halftime the Wizards were down 15. That deficit grew to 24 in the second half.

The Wizards ended up losing by 17, but it wasn't as close as the score would suggest. It was Washington's seventh loss in eight games.

Maybe it was the three-day layoff. Perhaps they weren't sharp. Whatever the reason, that was a bad one.

2. As this game went on, it became very obvious that Memphis' gameplan was to make sure Davis Bertans didn't beat them. They swarmed the Latvian Laser on the perimeter and guarded him well beyond the three-point line.

Bertans was held to nine points on 2-for-9 shooting and 1-for-6 from three. His one three was a quick release shot from about 27 feet out. Soon after that, the defense was picking him up at halfcourt.

 

This type of treatment was inevitable for Bertans, who has been the biggest surprise of the Wizards' season so far. He has turned into one of the league's best three-point shooters and the second-best scorer on the team. Teams now know it.

3. Rui Hachimura's college teammate stole the show in this one. Brandon Clarke, who played last year with Hachimura at Gonzaga, put on an impressive scoring display highlighted by a series of vicious dunks. He measured a max vertical of 40 1/2 inches and used every inch of it to dunk all over the Wizards.

He had 19 points in the first half, including an alley-oop where his head was level with the rim and a poster dunk on the fastbreak that nearly ended Ian Mahinmi's career.

 

Clarke had 25 points on 11-for-14 shooting with four rebounds. Coming out of the draft, he was considered a good defensive player but too old (he's 23) and too raw offensively without a three-point shot.

So far, he's looking like a major steal at the 21st overall pick. 

4. The Grizzlies might not be good, but they are fun to watch and have a nice young core with Clarke alongside Jaren Jackson Jr. and Morant. Jackson is a unicorn at 6-foot-11 with the ability to drive coast-to-coast and hit threes. Morant is a force of nature, able to play well above the rim despite being 6-foot-3.

Morant nearly pulled off one of the most disrespectful plays in basketball on Bradley Beal. He tried to pull a "Michael Jordan on Ron Mercer" by snatching the ball off the glass with two hands. But he clipped the rim and was called for goaltending. Still, it was impressive because of how high he got in the air.

Memphis has an exciting young team. They might contend for a playoff spot next year with a good offseason. If they were in the East, they could really make some noise.

5. The Wizards were without several key regulars once again. Isaiah Thomas missed his fifth straight game with a left calf strain and Moe Wagner was out with his left ankle sprain after playing in the past four games.

They did get back Garrison Mathews, though. The two-way guard played in his first game since Oct. 25 after sitting out due to a stress reaction in his right leg. It was Mathews' third professional game, but he made his first shot - a corner three. It happened to come in his home state of Tennessee. 

Mathews might actually get some minutes in the next few weeks because he is the second-best shooting guard on the roster with Jordan McRae out due to a finger injury.

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Wizards release statement on the passing of John Wall's mother

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Wizards release statement on the passing of John Wall's mother

The Washington Wizards announced the passing of John Wall's mother, Frances Pulley on Friday. 

Wall's mother had been battling cancer before her passing. She was 58. 

In a statement on Twitter, the Wizards said, "Sending thoughts and love for John Wall and his family after the passing of his mother, Frances Pulley. She will forever be a part of our #DCFamily."

Zach Leonsis, the senior vice president of strategic initiatives at Monumental Sports & Entertainment, also released a statement

"Thinking of @JohnWall and his family right now. Keeping you guys in our prayers. So terribly sorry for your loss and know that she will be remembered forever. #DCFamily

Wall's Kentucky coach, John Calipari also expressed his condolences for his former star: 

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