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Takeaways from Wizards' blown chances in loss to Heat

Takeaways from Wizards' blown chances in loss to Heat

A chance to win consecutive games for the first time, the Wizards allowed one of the league's worst offensive teams, the Miami Heat, light up Verizon Center from long-range on Saturday in a 114-111 loss.

Bradley Beal (34 points, five rebounds, four assists) and John Wall (34 points, eight assists) led them but couldn't find much help elsewhere as the tandem of Goran Dragic (22 points) and Hassan Whiteside (18 points, 18 rebounds). 

The next highest contributor for the Wizards was Marcin Gortat (10 points, 16 rebounds, five blocks) but no one else reached double figures until late in the fourth quarter. 

Miami (4-8) trailed 42-35 midway through the second quarter but went on a run to take the lead 60-59 at halftime. Five of its buckets in that stretch were layups. When the game was blown open in the third quarter it was because of the 13-for-23 shooting that extended the lead to 91-82 entering the fourth. 

-- The Wizards fell into too much dribbling and not enough passing and moving off the ball in the second half. That led to an elite defense such as Miami's loading up to the ball, forcing contested shots and being in position to grab the defensive rebound. Conversely, the Heat didn't wait to shoot. If the open look was there, they took it.

-- Miami was 13-for-27 from three-point range, getting mostly open look as the concern was bumping down on pick-and-rolls to eliminate easy looks for Whiteside at the rim. The Heat entered the game 22nd in the league in three-point accuracy (33.6%) and 28th in scoring (94.5). They had 91 points after three quarters. They finished at 48.1% shooting from three.

-- Markieff Morris (6 points) only played nine minutes after he went down with a right ankle sprain in the second quarter and didn't return. Morris was replaced by Tomas Satornasky (eight points, four assists) initially as they went to a three-guard lineup. When the Wizards started the third quarter, Jason Smith (four points) was with the first unit. 

-- Andrew Nicholson made an early appearance at center and despite size and athletic disadvantage vs. Whiteside. He froze the shot-blocker with a variety of pump and ball fakes. Nicholson was on the court just six minutes but was 2-for-3 (4 points). 

-- Satoransky's defense with the second unit was a bright spot as he was able to make Dragic work for his looks. At 6-7, he can recover to challenge shots. But the Heat were dominant on the boards with a 48-38 edge. Eighteen of those grabs were on the offensive end.

[RELATED: Jennings says Wizards, other teams try harder against Knicks]

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Real Marquee Matchup: Wizards go big-game hunting vs. NBA-best Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo

Real Marquee Matchup: Wizards go big-game hunting vs. NBA-best Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo

The Wizards have made a habit this season of pulling off upsets, now to the point that they aren't all that surprising anymore. By beating teams like the Sixers, Heat, Nuggets and Celtics, they have proven they can on any given night find another level and challenge some of the NBA's best.

On Tuesday night, they will have their most difficult task yet in playing Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. All of the Wizards' most impressive upsets so far have come at home. This one will be in Milwaukee where the Bucks are 21-2 and haven't lost since Dec. 16. 

The Bucks also have the league's best record overall at 40-6, which has them on pace to win 71 games this season. That would be the third-best record in NBA history.

Antetokounmpo, meanwhile, appears on track to win his second consecutive MVP award. He is putting up even better numbers this year with averages of 30 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game.

But as good as the Bucks are, the Wizards hanging with them and even beating them cannot be ruled out. And the Bucks happen to have a weakness the Wizards may be able to exploit.

Milwaukee has the best defense in the NBA based on defensive rating (101.6), but they have major trouble guarding three-point shots. The Bucks are last in the NBA in threes allowed (14/g), last in three-point attempts allowed (39/g) and 20th in opponent three-point percentage (36.0%).

All six of Milwaukee's losses this season have come when opponents make 15 threes or more. And when teams make 16 or more, Milwaukee is 9-5 which is solid but not nearly as good of a win percentage as their overall record.

The Wizards, meanwhile, are 5-3 when they make 16 threes or more in a game. That's not amazing, but it's much better than their 15-30 record on the season.

Getting hot from three seems to be the most likely way, if not the only way, the Wizards can pull off a victory on Tuesday night. It is basically an impossible task these days to contain Antetokounmpo and the Wizards, like every team, do not have an obvious option to guard him. The reigning MVP has scored 43 and 37 points in his last two meetings against Washington.

Yeah, it won't be easy. It could even be ugly. But, if we have learned anything this season, the Wizards can't be counted out , no matter who they are playing.

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The Big Twenty: The rise and fall of Gilbert Arenas

The Big Twenty: The rise and fall of Gilbert Arenas

For the next two weeks, NBC Sports Washington will be rolling out the 20 biggest stories in DMV sports in the past 20 years. Here is No. 14.

When asked to point out when Gilbert Arenas' downfall began, most would cite his infamous decision to bring guns into the Wizards locker room in Dec. 21, 2009. But those who followed his career closely know the turning point was actually on April 4, 2007.
 
That night the Wizards were playing the Charlotte Bobcats when forward Gerald Wallace missed a layup in traffic and fell into Arenas' left knee, tearing his medial collateral ligament (MCL). Even at the time, the injury did not seem as daunting as a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or Achilles tendon, yet little did we know Arenas would never be the same.
 
That moment was the beginning of the end of one of the most promising careers in the NBA at the time. Arenas rose to stardom quickly, but he crashed just as fast, leaving many to this day wondering what could have been.
 
Arenas' ascension began with the Golden State Warriors, where he went from a second-round draft pick to the NBA's most improved player in 2002-03 to free agency, all in a span of two years. Due to a loophole in the league's collective bargaining agreement that has since been changed, Arenas was able to bolt from the Warriors and sign for more money with the Wizards.
 
By his second year in Washington, Arenas was an NBA All-Star. And by his third year he was competing for scoring titles, averaging 29.3 points per game, second in franchise history only to Walt Bellamy's 31.6 in 1961-62.
 
The Wizards had been to the playoffs just once in 16 years before 2005 when Arenas helped lead them to three straight postseason runs. He made All-NBA three times, the first Wizards/Bullets player to do so since Elvin Hayes in the 1970s. The only other Wizards player to make All-NBA this century was John Wall and he's done it once.
 
Arenas wasn't simply an NBA star, either. He was a showman with a knack for coming through in big moments. He made a series of buzzer-beaters during the brief time he was at his peak powers, including one to win a playoff game against the Chicago Bulls in 2005.
 
Arenas had many other clutch shots during the regular season, including one against the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan. 3, 2007 when he turned and casually walked away, as if he knew it was going in. He made fans who showed up to the arena always feel like they could see something special that night.
 
Arenas holds the franchise record for points in a single game with 60, set on Dec. 17, 2006 on a night the late Kobe Bryant famously said Arenas had "no conscience." That game fell within a 30-day stretch where Arenas scored 50 points or more three times. Just six days later, after dropping 60 at Staples Center, he scored 54 against the Steve Nash-led Phoenix Suns, one of the best NBA teams of that decade.
 
To understand just how special Arenas was as a scorer, just look at this list. Here are the only players since 2000 to score 50 points or more three times within a single season: Bryant, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Dwyane Wade and Allen Iverson. Arenas is the only one who won't end up in the Hall of Fame. That's how good of an offensive player he was. 
 
Arenas’ size and strength for a point guard, 6-foot-4 with broad shoulders, was a major match-up problem. He was before his time in that regard, a bully at the position years before big point guards like Wall and Westbrook became commonplace.
 
Arenas combined that strength with a cat-quick first step and deep shooting range that pushed the boundaries of what was possible. He could pull up from 35 feet and sink a jump shot or put the ball on the floor and muscle his way to the rim. That combination led to him being one of the best in the game at getting to the free-throw line, where he shot 80.3 percent for his career. He averaged as many as 10 free throws per game back in 2005-06.
 
All those factors made Arenas one of the most gifted scorers of his generation. Several years ago, former teammate Caron Butler compared his game to Harden's and it's easy to see why. A lot of what we see today from Harden and other elite deep shooters like Curry and Atlanta’s Trae Young has roots in Arenas’ days in Washington.
 
There was also Arenas’ personality which, though quirky and with a dark side that would later reveal itself in full, helped make him a larger-than-life superstar. He would light up opposing teams, then deliver front-page quotes afterward. Lines like “my swag was phenomenal” and “hibachi” were part of his legend.
 
Unfortunately, Arenas' career can't be explained without including a wide variety of negative storylines. His knee injury was followed by a frustrating saga between him and the Wizards’ medical staff. His post-playing career has been marred by controversial statements and a disconnect with the Wizards franchise. And, of course, there is the gun incident in the locker room at Capital One Arena, among the most ill-advised off-court decisions in league history.
 
Arenas lived an eventful, yet incomplete NBA life. His career was over at age 30. If he had only stayed healthy, and out of his own way, maybe he would have ended up in the Hall of Fame. Maybe he would have led the Wizards to places they haven’t been in decades. We’ll never know. All we can do is continue to marvel at his extraordinary rise-and-fall, even all these years later.