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Morning tip: Wizards find blueprint to victory in a loss

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Morning tip: Wizards find blueprint to victory in a loss

Bradley Beal isn't in the mood to hear about quality losses, especially since the Wizards dropped their 26th game of the season on Wednesday night to the Golden State Warriors 134-121.

But he gets the overall point. 

“I went right into the locker room and I said, ‘Guys, if we play like this, and put it on the floor, we're gonna be really good.’ That's all you can ask for as a coach," said Don Newman, who has filled in for Randy Wittman the last two games while he's on personal leave. 

Against the NBA's best scoring defense, the Wizards shot 46 of 91 (50.5%). They assisted on 26 of those makes. John Wall scored a season-high 41 points followed by Beal's 18. 

“I hate losing," Beal said. "We did play hard. If we play like that every game, we should be able to beat everybody. We just can't show up against Golden State because it's Golden State. We have to be able to carry this out throughout the rest of the year. It's do or die.” 

The Warriors (45-4) are on a historic pace. The problems the Wizards have had all season when it comes to focus and effort didn't appear to be the issue. They made adjustments on Curry to trap the ball out of his hands when he scored 36 of his 51 points in the first half. But they just ran into a buzzsaw.

"We played with a lot of energy. We competed. I think we understood ... if we don’t play well we’ll lose by 50 or 60," Wall said. "It’s something we talked about at shootaround. I think we just need to take the way we competed tonight and do that the rest of the season no matter who we play. We give ourselves a lot of chances to win games and our defensive coaches are right, we just need to make some big plays.”

The Wizards practice this morning and have a winnable game at home vs. the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday followed by a few more heading into the All-Star break. 

“I still feel like we could have beat them, just sitting there reminiscing about everything. We still have opportunities to win. We could have eliminated his threes but he had a lot of them, he had a lot of cherry picks, he had a lot of open ones," Beal said of Curry shooting 11 of 16 from three-point range. " Of course he's gonna knock it down. I think we could have done a better job of taking everybody else away.

"If he's gonna have that many points, there's no way everybody else should have 20 or anywhere in the teens. We have to do a better job of knowing our personnel, but you have to give credit where it's due. They're a great team."

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The same day the Mystics clinched a playoff spot, Natasha Cloud made some history of her own

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USA Today

The same day the Mystics clinched a playoff spot, Natasha Cloud made some history of her own

Ladies and gentlemen, it doesn't get much better than this. 

The same night the Mystics clinched a playoff spot with an 86-79 win over the Minnesota Lynx, Natasha Cloud made some history of her own.

With 8:25 left in the first quarter, Cloud hit an open Elena Della Donne who finished strongly at the basket. With the pass, Cloud became the franchise's all-time leader in assists. 

Drafted by the Mystics back in 2015, Cloud has been integral to the team's rise to the top of the standings. She's averaging a career-high 5.4 assists and 8.8 points while leading the team in minutes at 32.3 per game. 

Needless to say, her teammates were excited for her. 

Hopefully, this magical season will finish with a championship, redeeming the Mystics of their 2018 Finals loss. 

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As Monumental Basketball gets underway, Mystics are leading the charge

As Monumental Basketball gets underway, Mystics are leading the charge

Monumental Basketball, the new vertical that encompasses the NBA's Wizards, the Capital City Go-Go of the G-League, the Mystics of the WNBA and District Gaming of the NBA 2K League, is designed to help all of the respective teams owned and operated by Ted Leonsis and his partners. The Mystics, though, don't need nearly as much assistance as the others.

Sitting atop the WNBA with a league-best 18-7 record, the Mystics look well on their way to another deep playoff run. Last year, it ended in a loss in the WNBA Finals. This year, they have an even better roster capable of winning it all.

On Wednesday, the Mystics routed the Seattle Storm, last year's champions, by 29 points. They did so despite missing All-Star point guard Kristi Tolliver and with their best player, Elena Delle Donne, scoring 14 points. They might be the deepest team in the WNBA with a bench that is starting lineup-caliber.

The Mystics have already arrived, but it took some time to get here. When head coach and general manager Mike Thibault took over in 2013, they had won 11 total games the previous two years. Five years later, they were title contenders.

Leonsis wants to see the same upward trajectory for his other teams. Thibault believes the new program can help everyone get on track.

"The overall structure can be so good when you are inclusive and you have services that are available to everybody," Thibault told NBC Sports Washington. 

"I think that one of the things that I learned in trying to rebuild the Mystics is that you need a lot of hands to make it work. I go back to the days where you had a head coach and one or two assistants. The game has changed so much. If you can make a player coming in, whether it’s to the Mystics or the Wizards, feel like they are a part of something bigger."

Thibault, 68, knows what good organizations look like, as he has been a part of many over the years. He was a scout for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s during their dynasty. He later worked for the Chicago Bulls and oversaw the scouting department when they drafted Michael Jordan. It wasn't until the 2000s that he joined the WNBA ranks, first with a successful run as coach of the Connecticut Sun before coming to Washington.

Thibault believes the player services arm of Monumental Basketball will be particularly helpful.

"Let’s say you’re traded to the Wizards. You’re coming from a different city and it’s a new environment. Your family has to move and you have kids. That’s a whole thing in and of itself," he explained.

"What can we do for their post-career ability? Do they want to be a coach? Do they want to go into broadcasting, or business? There are so many things you can do to enhance how comfortable a player and a family is coming to an organization. It’s something that just makes you special as an organization."

Thibault says some of benefits Monumental Basketball will provide have already been utilized by the Mystics, including mental health professionals and nutritionists. What can help the Mystics in particular is more synergy with the Wizards.

This is the first season the Mystics are playing at the new arena at St. Elizabeth's in Southeast Washington. They now share a practice facility and office space with the Wizards. Thibault believes there are positives to feeling part of a larger operation.

"I think our players already sense that," he said. "You see Wizards players, you see Tommy Sheppard and others at our games. That makes you feel like you’re a part of a bigger thing. We have a dining room where all of the players can socialize in both of the organizations."

When the creation of Monumental Basketball was announced, Leonsis noted Thibault will have a certain level of autonomy in what he does. Some of the executives hired by the organization like John Thompson III, who will help with player wellness, and Dr. Daniel Medina, who will assist in training and health, will provide services to the Mystics. But Thibault will pick the players and set the vision for basketball operations.

Thibault, though, knows Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard well and thinks the team is in good hands.

"He’s got ideas. He’s very forward thinking. I think he’s a great judge of personnel and character. I think he’s very thorough in what he does," Thibault said. 

"I think that when you’re trying to build an organization, there are process you have to go through and steps you have to take to be good. I think he knows you have to have patience to do that. I think if fans give him the chance to do what he’s great at, they will see the results over time. It might take time, but he will get them there."

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