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Takeaways from Wizards' 21-point come back over Blazers in OT

Takeaways from Wizards' 21-point come back over Blazers in OT

The offensive hot streak continued, and the absentee defense that plagued the Wizards for this road trip evaporated in second half as they erased a 21-point deficit to pull out a 125-124 overtime win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday at Moda Center.

It was their second win in a row in the extra session after beating the Sacramento Kings 130-122 on Friday.

The Wizards (41-24) got it together late and used a 22-6 run to cut a 70-49 halftime deficit to single digits, took the lead after John Wall buried a couple of three-pointers and then Bradley Beal made a three. They won both games of a back-to-back for the fifth time in a row and are 4-0 on this West trip with their final game Monday at the Minnesota Timberwolves.

They've almost matched their win total from a year ago when they went 41-41 and are now 15-15 on the road. 

Wall (39 points, nine assists) led Washington while Beal (26 points, six assists), Marcin Gortat (15 points, 15 rebounds), Otto Porter (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Markieff Morris (13 points, 11 rebounds) rounded out the starters.

The Blazers rode the hot hand of C.J. McCollum (team-high 34 points) and Damian Lillard (33 points, seven assists). Mo Harkless (15 points) and Allen Crabbe (14 points, six rebounds).

The Wizards cut the deficit to 98-97 but went cold. Morris short an airball on a post up of Al-Farouq Aminu (11 points) and then turned it over on another post up. But the biggest play came when Beal jumped a handoff from Jusuf Nurkic to McCollum and had a layup.

He missed and it led to a three-pointer for Lillard for a 106-97 lead. That’s when Wall and Beal took over and led 112-106.

Portland, however, tied the score at 112 with a pair of foul shots from Nurkic that followed a four-point play. Morris was called for a defensive three seconds which led to a technical foul shot and Aminu made a three-pointer to set up the finish in regulation.

Both teams traded shots in overtime. Lillard scored nine of Portland's 12 points, but with 16 seconds remaining and the Blazers up 124-123, Wall blocked Lillard's shot. Brooks called timeout after his team looked confused with six seconds left.

After Porter inbounded the ball to Beal off a curl around staggered screens, he drove into the lane, drew three defenders and found an open Morris in the corner. Morris pump-faked, put the ball on the floor and knocked down a mid-range jumper that proved the game-winner. Portland protested that Morris stepped out of bounds before the shot, which postgame replay confirmed, but referees ruled it was not reviewable. 

– The more aggressive team on the defensive end made the runs. The Blazers, who really aren’t that good on defense, had been allowing 112.7 points per game since the All-Star break. They were physical in the first half when they gained their lead, but when the Wizards made their second-half run they flipped the script. The multiple efforts by Wall and Beal sparked a unit that had more active hands and did a better job contesting shots and blowing up dribble handoffs. 

– The coverage on flare screens was inadequate in the first half. The Wizards got out to an 11-4 lead but seemed unprepared or unaware of how the Blazers prefer to use their shooters. McCollum would come from the corner on the strong side of the floor, loop to the weakside and get a flare screen from a post player. His three-point looks were mostly clean as the trailer was a step late and help from the big stepping over wasn’t there. It’s how McCollum scored 25 of his points in the first half on 9 of 12 shooting, including 4 of 5 from three.

– Coach Scott Brooks said he doesn’t believe in taking games off or holding out players for no reason. “I don’t. Not at all,” Brooks said about having his stars take games off. “We all have 82 games to play and coach and you have to do your best each game. You can’t give into the schedule. You can’t give into the back-to-backs, four in five nights in four different cities. … My job is to adjust the minutes and make sure everybody is as fresh as they can.” Wall played 40 minutes but Beal, who played 42 vs. Sacramento, was kept to 33.

– McCollum only had 12 points in the first meeting, a 120-101 loss to the Wizards in January. But McCollum was held to 0-for-3 shooting in the fourth quarter and Lillard 3-for-8 when the Wizards made their run. Overall, the Blazers shot 7-for-21 while the Wizards were 11-for-22.

– Wall was forced to score more as the Blazers committed to taking Beal away and Porter couldn’t knock down open looks from the short cornter. He shot 23 times, making 13 of them, but it took him away from his primary role as a facilitator. It's why despite Wall's activity he only had two assists in the first half when they trailed. When the Wizards got back into the game, they found space for Beal and he alternated with Wall to keep the Blazers off-balance.

– Brandon Jennings (1-for-4 shooting) still hasn’t found his footing offensively. With a chance to knock down an open three as he went uncovered, he shot an airball with 30.8 seconds left. Lillard took it the other way for a layup and a 93-82 lead. Then early in the fourth, the Blazers allowed Jennings into the paint without a contest and he short-armed a floater. Even though the bench has been upgraded, it only contributed 14 points. Bojan Bogdanovic (11 points) made 2 of 4 threes, both of his makes coming in the fourth during the comeback.

MORE WIZARDS: ​Morris steal sets up Wall left-hand jam

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Scott Brooks on how journeyman veterans like Ish Smith can be leaders by example

Scott Brooks on how journeyman veterans like Ish Smith can be leaders by example

WASHINGTON -- When identifying leaders from an outside perspective, it is only natural to look at the Washington Wizards and see Bradley Beal and John Wall, their two All-Star guards. Logic would suggest they set the tone for younger, less experienced players, that they are the ones the rookies should look up to.

But Wizards head coach Scott Brooks sees similar value in less-heralded members of his team, the journeyman veterans to whom nothing has been given. Guys like Ish Smith and Gary Payton II have bounced around the league to varying degrees. In Payton's case, that has included extended time in the G-League.

Brooks has been tasked with creating an environment for the Wizards that is conducive to the development of young players and he believes those types of veterans set an important example.

"If you're really good, you have two or three All-Stars on your team," Brooks said. "But the league is made up of guys like Ish. His story can help the younger guys make it and stay in the league. It's what the league is about. He has the grit, the fiber, the substance and the experience to share with all the players who are trying to make it."

Brooks has used similar language to describe Payton II, who was first signed by the team to a 10-day contract last season. He was let go, then returned this past December and then had his contract guaranteed for the rest of the season earlier this month.

"He's fought and he's been cut many times and sometimes those are the guys you want in your program because they have that fiber, that toughness and that anger because they know that it can go away," Brooks said.

Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard has said on several occasions they want Brooks to install a culture and mindset with their young roster similar to the one he helped build in Oklahoma City. Smith happens to remind Brooks of one of his former players with the Thunder.

"I love guys on a team like Ish. We kind of had that guy with Nick Collison [in OKC], just a winning player on and off the court. Ish is the same way. I look at Ish the same exact way," Brooks said.

Collison averaged a modest 5.9 points in 14 NBA seasons, but was so respected for his leadership role that his jersey number was retired by the Thunder last year. 

There is another person guys like Smith and Payton II remind Brooks of and that is himself. Before he became a coach, he was a 10-year NBA player. And he carved out that career as an undrafted, undersized point guard.

He was constantly fighting for his NBA future on the fringe of rosters and was able to stick around only because of his hard work and toughness.

Though he played with some great teammates like Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing, Brooks likes to think he left his own mark.

"I always took pride in having a relationship with the best player to the, well, myself; the worst player," he said.

"This game, it's a family and it's fun and it's about relationships; empowering and inspiring one another. You don't have to be a star player to do that. I've had great conversations with Olajuwon. I've had great conversations with players that only play on a 10-day or a year in the league. I took pride in it and I think Ish does the same thing. I think it's pretty important that we all are blessed and honored to be in the league, that now it's your job to leave your situation better than when you started it. We have a couple of guys on our team that can really carry on what we want our team to be about."

Ultimately, though, the Wizards' young players have to put in the necessary work to reach their potential. Brooks can teach them lessons directly and guys like Smith can do so indirectly.

But the players themselves have to understand the message.

"Now it's up to the younger players to listen to it. It's one thing to listen to John and Brad, but there's a great chance you're not going to be as good as John or Brad. There's a chance you're going to be a player like Ish," Brooks said.

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Mystics unveil 2020 schedule, featuring the first-ever Commissioner's Cup

Mystics unveil 2020 schedule, featuring the first-ever Commissioner's Cup

The Washington Mystics and the WNBA have announced their schedules for the 2020 season.

Expanded to 36 games for the first time in the league's history, each team will have an additional home and away contest on the year. As defending WNBA Champions, the Mystics will play the WNBA's first nationally televised game of the season at home on May 16 against the Los Angeles Sparks on ESPN. Other teams will open their season on May. 15 and May 17. 

It will be the first of four Mystics games that will be broadcast across the country. They also host the Storm on June 2 (ESPN2), the Sun on June 28 (ESPN2) and Sept. 20 (ABC) - all of which are at home. 

The schedule also includes a full month off for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics from July 13 - Aug. 13. After the athletes return stateside, the WNBA will host the inaugural Commissioner's Cup which will feature the top two teams from each conference based on conference record. The Commissioner's Cup is a new addition to the league in the 2020 collective bargaining agreement. 

WASHINGTON MYSTICS 2020 SCHEDULE

May 16: Los Angeles Sparks at Mystics - 4:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)
May 20: Mystics at Indiana Fever - 7:00 p.m. ET
May 22: Mystics at Atlanta Dream - 7:00 p.m. ET
May 29: Mystics at Seattle Storm - 10:00 p.m. ET
May 31: Mystics at Phoenix Mercury - 6:00 p.m. ET

June 2: Seattle Storm at Mystics - 8:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
June 5: Indiana Fever at Mystics - 7:00 p.m. ET

June 7: Mystics at Chicago Sky - 6:00 p.m. ET
June 9: New York Liberty at Mystics - 7:00 p.m. ET
June 11: Atlanta Dream at Mystics - 7:00 p.m. ET
June 14: Chicago Sky at Mystics - 3:00 p.m ET

June 17: Mystics at Chicago Sky - 8:00 p.m. ET
June 23: Mystics at Minnesota Lynx - 8:00 p.m ET
June 25: Mystics at Indiana Fever - 7:00 p.m. ET
June 28: Connecticut Sun at Mystics - 3:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

July 3: Mystics at Atlanta Dream - 7:00 p.m. ET
July 5: Mystics at Connecticut Sun - 3:00 p.m. ET
July 6: Mystics at New York Liberty - 7:00 p.m. ET
July 8: New York Liberty at Mystics - 11:30 a.m. ET (Capital One Arena)
July 10: Minnesota Lynx at Mystics - 7:00 p.m. ET

July 13 - Aug. 13: Olympic Break

Aug. 14: Commissioner's Cup

Aug. 16: Atlanta Dream at Mystics - 3:00 p.m. ET
Aug. 18: Mystics at Dallas Wings - 8:00 p.m. ET
Aug. 21: Las Vegas Aces at Mystics - 7:00 p.m. ET
Aug. 23: Los Angeles Sparks at Mystics - 3:00 p.m. ET
Aug. 25: Phoenix Mercury at Mystics - 7:00 p.m. ET
Aug. 28: Dallas Wings at Mystics - 7:00 p.m. ET

Aug. 30: Mystics at Dallas Wings - 4:00 p.m. ET

Sept. 1: Mystics at Las Vegas Aces - 10:00 p.m ET
Sept. 3: Mystics at Los Angeles Sparks - 10:30 p.m. ET
Sept. 6: Mystics at Phoenix Mercury - 3:00 p.m. ET
Sept. 8: Mystics at Seattle Storm - 10:00 p.m. ET
Sept. 11: Minnesota Lynx at Mystics - 7:00 p.m. ET
Sept. 13: Indiana Fever at Mystics - 3:00 p.m. ET

Sept. 16: Mystics at New York Liberty - 7:00 p.m. ET
Sept. 18: Los Vegas Aces at Mystics - 7:00 p.m. ET
Sept. 20: Connecticut Sun at Mystics - 3:00 p.m. ET (ABC)

In addition to the rematch of the 2019 WNBA Finals on June 28 and Sept. 20, the Sun and the Mystics will square off in Connecticut on July 5.

After a contentious WNBA Semifinals matchup with the Las Vegas Aces, the two will play on Aug. 21, Sept. 1 and 18. Liz Cambage's "get in the weight room" comment electrified an already competitive series and became a memorable one on and off the court. 

There is one back-to-back on the docket on July 5 and 6. It will also be a part of three road games in four days at the beginning of July. 

All home games will be at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Southeast D.C. except for July 8's game against the New York Liberty. That contest will be in their old home confines of Capital One Arena.

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