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Takeaways from Wizards' blowout win over Pistons

Takeaways from Wizards' blowout win over Pistons

After having no identity in the first part of the season, the Wizards appear to have found one. They played their most disciplined game of the season Friday, committing just five turnovers and followed the lead of John Wall and Bradley Beal in a 122-108 win over the Detroit Pistons in front of 15,573 at Verizon Center.

They were the first opponent to score more than 100 points on Detroit in eight games. The Pistons were allowing just 95.7 points per game, second fewest in the NBA, but the Wizards reached 95 after three quarters.

John Wall (29 points, 11 assists, three steals) led the way with Beal (25 points, four assists) in support. Marcin Gortat (12 points, 14 rebounds, four assists) continued to get the better of his matchup with Andre Drummond as the Wizards won for the sixth time in eight games of the series.

Markieff Morris (11 points, four assists), Otto Porter (15 points, eight rebounds, three assists), Marcus Thornton (11 points) were the other players to reach double figures.

The Wizards (11-14) have won four of their last five games and will have a chance to have their first three-game winning streak of the season when they face the L.A. Clippers on Sunday.

Detroit (14-14) was led by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (24 points), Jon Leuer (17 points), Tobias Harris (14 points), Drummond (13 points, 12 rebounds) and Reggie Jackson (14 points).

--Through three quarters, the Wizards had just one turnover and ended up with six. Their previous low this year was nine. Last year, it was six and in 2014-15 season it was five. Coming into the game, the Pistons committed the fewest in the league (12). They only had nine in this game. The miscues came into play when mostly reserves occupied the floor late.

--Even off made baskets, Wall kept pace into the game. He drew Jackson’s fourth foul at 7:03 of the third. Aron Baynes picked up his fourth on Wall’s drive into traffic with 2.6 seconds left. Baynes had three fouls in just four minutes of the first half alone. Wall went to the foul line 12 times. He made nine.

--Morris started out well after missing the last game with a sore right foot. He had three assists in a matter of minutes, but he also picked up two quick fouls to park himself on the bench. Early foul trouble off reach-ins has been a bad habit all season. But he was a force in the third quarter on both ends, including stuffing his brother’s drive on a fast break with a block, to get the Wizards ahead by as many as 18 points at that point. He only needed to play 18 minutes while Kelly Oubre played starter's minutes off the bench with 34.

--Wall contested three shots on help, an indication of his multiple efforts, to prevent baskets. One was on Caldwell-Pope who’d made his two previous three-point shots. The other was on Harris as he had a clean run to the rim for a dunk that back-rimmed as a result of Wall’s challenge.

--Jason Smith had another good start off the bench, but he left at 7:21 of the second quarter with a strained right hamstring, walked to the locker room and didn’t return to the bench. He was 2-for-2 in five minutes and has found his groove offensively. Instead of running screen action with Thornton, Smith ran it with Beal who automatically gets trapped. That opens the look for Smith when he pops mid-range because all of the attention that Beal draws. Thornton doesn’t command such a scheme which minimizes Smith’s ability in that situation. Despite his injury, coach Scott Brooks didn’t go to Andrew Nicholson much until the game was out of reach in the fourth.

--Tomas Satoransky had registered six DNP-CDs (did not play coach’s decision) but played five minutes in the first half. He didn’t take a shot but he took the floor at the three spot – not as a point guard – initially as he was used as a playmaker/extra ball-handler. Satoransky had two assists. He shifted to point guard when Trey Burke left the floor and Beal returned.

--Beal’s first three-point shot, which came at the 4:07 of the second quarter for a 53-42 lead, gave him his 500th of his career. Only two players have reached that benchmark in franchise history, Antwan Jamison and Gilbert Arenas.

--The bench, led by Thornton, had 30 points. Oubre (seven points, six rebounds) went back to his reserve role and played a major part in the Pistons' starting forwards shooting a combined 6-for-24 from the field.


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Ways to jump-start the Wizards sooner than later


Ways to jump-start the Wizards sooner than later

We’ve reached Tuesday, a game day. The Los Angeles Clippers and Marcin Gortat are in town. What timing. Their arrival and the contest itself aren’t the main focus, not after Monday's drama. What changes if any the Wizards make is.

In the short-term, think lineup and rotation. For the big picture, don’t start crossing names off the roster just yet.

Monday’s headlines included an ESPN report  that the Wizards “started to deliver teams an impression that every player on their roster -- including All-Star guards John Wall and Bradley Beal -- is available for discussion in trade scenarios.” It would be the surprise of all surprises for a trade to go down before Tuesday’s tipoff.

Despite the 5-11 start and contrary to the report, Wall and Beal have not been made openly available on the trade market, multiple league sources tell NBC Sports Washington. Despite the frustrating and taxing start, 66 games remain in the regular season. For a needed turnaround, Wall and Beal are the types of talented players required.

Yet something must change immediately. The Wizards have lost two in a row, both by at least 10 points. They trailed by 20 points in the first quarter and by as many as 29 in the second half during Sunday’s 119-109 setback against Portland. Head coach Scott Brooks called the effort and enthusiasm “embarrassing.” 

“There is no team in this league that can win games if you don't compete for your teammates,” Brooks said Sunday. "And I got to find five guys that are willing to do that.”

That comment alone doesn’t signal an impending change. Brooks has used such language often over the last two seasons yet the starting lineup remained the same outside of injuries. It’s possible Tuesday is different. Lineup changes are being explored ahead of the Clippers game, according to multiple sources familiar with the Wizards thinking.

There’s a possible cheat here. Center Dwight Howard exited Sunday’s loss in the first quarter with a reoccurrence of aggravated gluteal soreness. He did not practice with the team Monday. 

The simple solution means starting Ian Mahinmi if Howard sits, which is actually something he literally cannot do during games because of the soreness. Using Jeff Green for a smaller look is a tick more outside the box.

Let’s ponder a Wizards roster with all intact.

For all the talk surrounding Wall, Beal, Otto Porter and, based on injury, Howard, Markieff Morris is the starter struggling the most. Never a strong rebounder, the 6-foot-10, 245-pound power forward is averaging 3.6 boards in nine games this month.

Whether he’s slowed by an undisclosed injury or another factor, Morris isn’t providing needed energy and big man production. Those aspects are required when Brooks wants to deploy small-ball lineups, and use Morris as the 5-man. Morris, one of the eight players on the roster entering some form of free agency this summer, played only 19 and 20 minutes respectively in the last two games.

Green, Morris' primary backup, had 13 rebounds in 25 minutes against Portland. That level of board work is abnormal, but the 32-year-old’s athleticism has stood out all season. While the streaky shooter’s numbers are starting to trend the wrong way after a hot start earlier this month, Green is shooting 51.5 percent from the floor.

With Green starting, Morris could serve as the anchor for the second unit, or Brooks could manipulate his rotation so that the pair play together. Neither is a needed rim protector, but both provide more offense than Mahinmi.

Sliding Kelly Oubre Jr. into the starting lineup – for Morris, not Otto Porter – is another consideration. The Oubre-Porter pairing along with Wall, Beal, and Gortat was among the top net-rating lineups in the entire NBA over the last two seasons. Brooks hasn’t used a similar look as much this season.

Where Oubre offers clear help is energy. The 6-foot-7 forward flies around the court continuously even during games where teammates don’t. Defending opponent’s straight-on, even small guards, is another strength. Starting Oubre opens the door for using him against guards when Wall and Beal struggle to keep foes from penetrating.

This shouldn’t be considered a promotion if it occurs. Oubre remains prone to gaffes in team defense concepts. He is shooting 28 percent on 3-pointers. We’re talking about changing the Wizards’ trajectory. All options should be explored.

In either case, another way for more urgency in the lineup could come from using first-round pick Troy Brown Jr. or center Thomas Bryant. Both were on the court as the Wizards rallied against the Blazers. Brown is an obvious Oubre replacement on the second unit if Oubre joins the starters with Mahinmi the likely odd-man out in the spot.

Here’s the hope for the Wizards: Whatever anger was unleashed recently leads to the needed fix now that the expressions of frustration reached the public. Teams squabble. Feelings are hurt. There is no denying Washington isn’t right. Surely, other teams are checking in per usual, but with a bit extra interest since doors may be open. For now, that’s not the case.

It’s easy to say Washington would be wise to get its collective head straight, put forth a good effort against the Clippers and move forward from Monday’s show. We’ll see what happens. Based on the opening 16 games and Monday’s tabloid-esque headlines, we’ll see. Something must change. If it's not the roster, that leaves the lineup.


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Three things to watch for Wizards vs. Clippers, as Wizards aim to get back on track

Three things to watch for Wizards vs. Clippers, as Wizards aim to get back on track

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Dwight Howard and the Washington Wizards battle Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Marcin Gortat and the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

Here are three things to watch...

Looking for something

The Wizards enter Tuesday night’s game while dealing with an array of issues both on and off the court. They have lost two straight games and sit 5-11 on the season. Meanwhile, rumors of trade talks and dysfunction have them in national headlines for all the wrong reasons.

The Wizards will now have to compartmentalize all of it and play a basketball game. Awaiting them is a tough and determined Clippers team.

L.A. beat them just three weeks ago on Oct. 28 and have an impressive 10-5 record. That’s tied for third-best in the Western Conference.

Can Wall or Beal get going?

The Wizards’ two best players are scuffling right now. In their last three games, two of them losses, John Wall and Bradley Beal have not been themselves.

Beal is averaging just 17.3 points while shooting 39.6 percent from the field. Wall is putting up just 16.0 points and 6.3 assists per game while shooting 38 percent from the field.

If the Wizards are to get out of the hole they are in, a big game from either Wall or Beal would certainly help.

Gortat returns

The irony of the current mess is that Marcin Gortat will be making his D.C. return in this game. He started five years for the Wizards and was entangled in some of their controversies over the years. Now he comes back with his new team in a much different position than his old one.

Surely, Gortat will address the media about his return. Will he take the high road or throw salt in the wounds? And how will fans receive the former Wizard? He had a complicated legacy in Washington.