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Takeaways from Wizards' blowout loss to Bucks

Takeaways from Wizards' blowout loss to Bucks

The second three-game road trip of the Wizards’ season came to the same conclusion as the first time at 1-2. They were obliterated by the Milwaukee Bucks, 123-96, on Friday.

It was the most lopsided loss of the season for Washington (13-16) who were flat defensively from the opening tip which led to career-high scoring for Giannis Antetokounmpo (39 points, eight rebounds and six assists), rookie Malcolm Brogdon (17 points, seven assists), Jabari Parker (21 points, eight rebounds),

Milwaukee (14-14) tied the season series at 1-1 with a rematch set for Monday at the Verizon Center. The Wizards opened the trip with a two-point loss to the Indiana Pacers, came back from double digits to beat the Chicago Bulls and then produced this result. In their only other road trip of three games, they lost games at the end to the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs before salvaging it with a win at the Brooklyn Nets.

The Wizards got off to a good start offensively. Otto Porter (18 points) returned from missing the second half of Wednesday’s win at the Chicago Bulls with back spasms to make his first four three-point shots. John Wall (18 points, 10 assists) did most of his damage in the first half and Markieff Morris (14 points) followed.

--The Wizards got their scoring done. They had 29 points in each of the first two quarters, shooting 51.2% (22 of 43). Milwaukee had 36 and 37 points and shot 66.7% by halftime (26 of 42).

--The pick-and-roll coverage, without Kelly Oubre on the floor, and switches on defense created a lot of busted coverages. Porter and Bradley Beal routinely confused the coverage which led to either uncontested layups and dunks or open three-point shots. They opened the third quarter with a botched exchange that allowed Tony Snell (11 points) and layup.

--It wasn't just screens by Parker that the Wizards had difficulty getting over. Matthew Dellavedova set screens that they couldn’t be covered properly. Their perimeter defense was absent. The help rotations from Morris and Marcin Gortat (eight points, six rebounds) weren’t there, either. Brogdon was 7-for-7. This is why Milwaukee had 66 points in the paint, 20 more than Washington.

--The eight game streak of consecutive games with 20 points or more ended for Beal (10 points). He only got up 10 shots in 31 minutes but dished out six assists.

--The energy and legs that the Wizards had in Chicago evaporated. They were beaten in fast-break points 27-8 despite only being minus-3 in turnovers. They had 15.

--The Wizards shot 0-for-8 in the third quarter from three-point range. Any chance they had of making a comeback from a 73-58 halftime deficit were nil after that. They brought the Bucks’ shooting accuracy down to 43.5% (10 of 23) but still were outscored 27-20.

[RELATED: 5 must-see moments from Wizards' loss to Bucks]

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GM Tommy Sheppard so far proving he is good at exactly what Wizards need

GM Tommy Sheppard so far proving he is good at exactly what Wizards need

There is an argument, and I've made it before, that John Wall's contract and injury situation combine for one of the biggest roster-building obstacles in NBA history. Never before has a player making as much money as he is suffered an injury as serious as his ruptured left Achilles. He takes up 35% of the salary cap, is not playing this season and has no guarantees of returning to his All-Star form once he comes back.

Even if Wall does return to his prime form, and there's reason to be hopeful he can, his contract includes a lot of money for the Wizards to work around. And that has created a scenario where making small moves count matter even more than they otherwise would.

The Wizards have to maximize all of their other resources, much like the Brooklyn Nets did when they ultimately overcame the disastrous 2014 trade with the Boston Celtics that left them paying a debt of high first-round picks for years. Brooklyn worked around their draft pick blackhole by hitting on late-round selections plus minor signings and trades. And they built a foundation along the way that made them surprising heavyweights in free agency. 

The Wizards have plenty of work to do, but first-year general manager Tommy Sheppard is already proving his worth in peripheral transactions, the types that turned the Nets around. They may be less-heralded acquisitions, but they can also become major separators between GMs.

Sheppard has been running the Wizards front office for less than a calendar year, yet he already has an impressive list of marginal moves. Just recently he turned Isaiah Thomas, who was a glaring detriment on the defensive end, into Jerome Robinson, the 13th overall pick just 20 months ago.

Last offseason, his first as GM, he flipped Aaron White, a former second-round pick who was stashed in Europe, for Davis Bertans, who has become one of the best shooters in the NBA. He also turned cap space into Moe Wagner and Isaac Bonga, two guys with intriguing potential. Wagner, in particular, has emerged as a building block.

There are other minor moves Sheppard has made that stand out as good ones. He may have found something in Garrison Mathews, a rookie on a two-way deal who can light it up from three. Anzejs Pasecniks and Gary Payton II have been nice surprises as end-of-the-roster guys. And signing Ish Smith for less money instead of retaining Tomas Satoransky has proven to be smart decision.

Sheppard continues to nail the smaller moves but he has also hit on some of the bigger ones. He drafted Rui Hachimura ninth overall in June and he has exceeded expectations thus far. Sheppard also re-signed Bradley Beal to a contract extension in October, a move few saw coming.

What will ultimately be the story of Sheppard's tenure as GM are decisions even bigger than those. There will also be some level of luck between the draft lottery, injuries and other factors.

But the best signs for what the Wizards should hope they get from Sheppard are already there. They need someone who can maximize all roster-building opportunities and work within the tight space of their remaining salary cap.

So far, Sheppard has done just that.

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Cavaliers reportedly parting ways with coach John Beilein ahead of matchup with Wizards

Cavaliers reportedly parting ways with coach John Beilein ahead of matchup with Wizards

As the Wizards continue to enjoy the All-Star break and prepare for the stretch run toward the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, their first opponent following the break just made a significant change to their team. 

According to The Athletic's Shams Charania and Jason Lloyd, the Cavaliers and head coach John Beilein have agreed to part ways after 54 games. It was Beilein's first year on the job after a 12-year run at Michigan. 

Cleveland is expected to promote associate head coach J.B. Bickerstaff to replace Beilein. 

According to The Athletic's report, several factors weighed on Beilein and the Cavaliers' decision to part ways, including the team's on-and-off-court struggles, and his son's resignation at Niagra University. The Cavs were 14-40 under their new head coach this season. 

For the Wizards, they're in a position to build off a two-game winning streak they built going into the All-Star break with a matchup against a bad Cavaliers team going through major structural changes. Though it's possible the Cavs could play better under new leadership. 

Entering Friday's clash with the Cavs, Washington sits three games behind the Magic for the last playoff spot in the East. 

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