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Takeaways from Wizards' comeback from double digits vs. Bucks

Takeaways from Wizards' comeback from double digits vs. Bucks

The Wizards erased a 10-point deficit midway through the final quarter when Bradley Beal heated up and the matchup problem, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, went invisible thanks to the two-way brilliance of Otto Porter.

Three-pointers from Porter and Beal, followed by a jumper from Markieff Morris, put the Wizards on top with 3:08 left and they held on to win 107-102. They have a 2-1 series lead in a conference that’s muddled in the middle. Head-to-head tiebreakers are crucial when it comes to playoff seeding.

Porter (32 points, 13 rebounds) led Washington (14-16) followed by Beal (22 points), John Wall (18 points, 16 assists) and Morris (18 points). The Wizards avenged Friday's 27-point loss in Milwaukee.

Relative to his career-high 39 points the last time, Antetokounmpo (22 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists) was held in check. Sixteen of his points came in the first half. Tony Snell (20 points) made 6 of 11 three-pointers and had help from Greg Monroe (16 points, five rebounds) off the bench and Jabari Parker (14 points, six rebounds).

The Wizards trailed by double digits for the first time midway through the final quarter, but consecutive threes from Porter and Beal trimmed the deficit to 96-92 and set the stage for a frantic conclusion:

--Wall and Marcin Gortat began the fourth quarter in hopes of getting them off to a strong finish as the Wizards trailed 84-82 but they were disheveled on both ends. They had to call two timeouts by the 7:51 mark and trailed 96-86 as Milwaukee exploited matchups with Michael Beasley and Monroe in the post. 

--Porter and Morris were given free range to roam. Henson helped out on the pick-and-roll and was challenging Beal wherever he went. That left spots open for the supporting cast to get open for high-percentage looks. Porter took 12 shots by halftime and had 18 points and six rebounds. Morris had 14 points on seven shots as he got to the foul line four times. The Wizards gave up Snell who had open threes for 15 points as he made 5 of 6. They still couldn’t limit Antetokounmpo, however, as he had 16 points on nine shots, went to the foul line five times and had seven rebounds to go with four assists.

--With Henson pulling away so often from the rim, Gortat wasn’t able to have much impact. He only had four points and only took five shots. The Wizards should’ve had a significant edge in rebounding and second-chance points with such sacrifices being made by Milwaukee but trailed 26-20 in paint points and 21-19 on the boards.By the end, however, they were even in rebounding (40-40), flipped the fast-break points from 27-8 disadvantage Friday to a modest 13-8 edge and doubled up on made three-pointers (12-6).

--Oubre’s defense was vital if the Wizards had any hope in slowing down Antetokounmpo. Before the game, Scott Brooks said his second-year forward hadn’t played well since sustaining a concussion four games ago in a game vs. the Pistons. Oubre had five points and three assists in 10 minutes played. He had a strip of Snell in the open court that led to his own dunk, but the Bucks still shot 48.8% in the first half. That’s still much better than 66.7% in the first half of Friday’s game, but Porter proved to be the more impactful. Antetokounmpo only attempted one shot during seven minutes of play in the fourth and that was a dunk with 22.8 seconds left. 

--Mirza Teletovic lit up the Wizards in their first meeting earlier this month, a 110-105 loss for Milwaukee. He had 25 points in just 26 minutes off the bench as he made 5 of 6 threes. Teletovic didn’t play in this one because of a concussion. Snell filled that void with the shooting that Malcolm Brogdon (six points) and Michael Beasley (eight points) couldn’t for any prolonged stretch off the bench. Snell was the only player for Milwaukee to make threes. Everyone else was 0-for-10.

--Andrew Nicholson didn’t play after being on the court for eight minutes in the last game. Neither did Sheldon McClellan, who wasn’t good defensively in the last meeting. Daniel Ochefu was expected to play at least a small role given the Bucks’ size and the rookie’s recent time on the floor, but that didn’t come. Jason Smith  played little (six minutes) after he had a terrible time trying to match up previously with Monroe in the low post. 

[RELATED: Giannis' paint persistence a problem for Wizards]

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With nine games left, where do the Wizards stand in the East and NBA Draft Lottery?

With nine games left, where do the Wizards stand in the East and NBA Draft Lottery?

At the beginning of the week, the Washington Wizards had 12 games left on the schedule and needed to win a minimum of eight or nine of those games if they hoped to make the playoffs.

It’s Thursday night and Washington’s loss to the Jazz makes three in a row.

With nine games left on the schedule, where do they stand in the East postseason race and the draft lottery order?

Eastern Conference Standings

Losing three-straight games hasn’t actually dropped the Wizards from the 11th spot in the East, where they’ve hovered the last couple weeks. For that they can thank the tanking Atlanta Hawks.

Don’t think those L’s aren’t costing Washington, though. In the same span of time, the 8-seed Heat have won three in a row.

Now Bradley Beal and Co. are a full six games out of the final playoff spot with nine games to go. They also trail Orlando (34-38) in ninth and Charlotte (32-39) in 10th.

They’re not absolutely, certainly, 100-percent eliminated from playoff contention, but they must win every game left.

Even that might not be enough.

NBA Draft Lottery

Back-to-back-to-back losses took a major toll on whatever playoff hopes Washington had left. For a silver lining, look no further than the team’s draft lottery position.

The Wizards started the week ninth in the draft lottery order, which gave them 20.3 percent odds of scoring a top-four pick (preferably in the form of a Duke freshman or Ja Morant). That ninth spot also carries a 4.5 percent chance at the top-overall pick.

While the Wiz kids were busy dropping 3 games, the two teams immediately ahead of them in the lottery order had better luck.

The Grizzlies won their only game so far this week, while the Pelicans won one of two.

Those results dropped New Orleans to number nine, boosted Washington to number eight and left them tied with Memphis at 15.5 games out of number one in the lottery order (though Memphis’s win percentage is fractionally lower and keeps them in seventh).

If the Wizards can pass the Grizzlies and climb into seventh, that’s a big deal in terms of lottery odds. Simulating the drawing, the ninth-place team gets a top-four pick once in every five simulations. The seventh-place team gets a top-four pick once in every three simulations.

Look Ahead

Washington can’t lose another game if they want to make the playoffs. This is literally must-win territory.

Even winning out is no guarantee they’ll advance to the postseason.

Up next, Washington hosts Miami at home on Saturday, followed by a West Coast road trip the following week.

Games to Watch

Heat at Wizards, Saturday 7 PM

Timberwolves at Grizzlies, Saturday 8 PM

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Ja Morant turning into a 'hell, yeah' NBA Draft option if Wizards get lottery lucky

Ja Morant turning into a 'hell, yeah' NBA Draft option if Wizards get lottery lucky

The Washington Wizards selected John Wall first overall in the 2010 NBA Draft. Other lottery picks followed in subsequent years. None were point guards. Nobody bothered contemplating such a scenario.

That’s no longer the case.

There is Wall’s uncertain physical status for next season and beyond because of a ruptured Achilles.

Thursday’s mind-blowing performance from Murray State point guard Ja Morant put such contemplation into overdrive.

For many NBA-only fans, the 12th seeded Racers' 83-64 thrashing over no. 5 Marquette in its West Region first-round game marked the initial opportunity to watch the buzz-worthy Morant. He did not disappoint.

Morant, who only trailed Duke phenom Zion Williamson for jaw-dropping highlights this season, dazzled with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 16 assists for the first triple-double in the NCAA Tournament since 2012. His next chance to wow comes Saturday against fourth-seeded Florida State.

Imagine the Wizards receive some lottery luck ahead of June’s NBA Draft. Not the overflowing pot of gold kind that means grabbing Williamson first overall, but jumping up above the average options to the second or third selection. Washington (30-43) has a 26.3 percent chance of landing a top 4 selection, according to the draft website Tankathon.

Williamson might be the only player selected ahead of Morant in June in what one NBA executive deems a two-player draft. “Zion makes it feel better than it is. After Zion and Ja, just an average draft,” the executive said.

You’re on the clock. Duke’s RJ Barrett is another top 3 candidate, but Morant gained ground on the wing guard and others all season by averaging 24.0 points, 10.0 assists and multiple viral video moments a game. By June, Morant might be the clear-cut second-best player.

Wall’s recovery timeline keeps the five-time All-Star sideline for the majority if not all of the 2019-20 season. He will eventually return, however. That factor cannot be ignored especially with his 4-year, $170 million supermax contract starting next season. Ideally, the selection compliments Bradley Beal and Wall in the starting lineup.

Wall also turns 29 in July and recovery from such a devastating injury presents significant unknowns.

Tomas Satoransky, Wall's primary backup and the current starter, is a restricted free agent this summer. The Wizards would like him back, but the marketplace might have other ideas.

Time’s up. Turn the selection card in. Take Morant or not?

“Hell, yes!” multiple college basketball sources responded via text.

Others went with a standard roster-building approach.

“I take the best player available and figure it out,” an NBA scout texted.

In other words, hell yeah on Morant.

Another NBA scout received his first extended look at wispy yet athletically super-charged Morant last summer at Chris Paul’s basketball camp. “I thought he was ordinary because he played more off the ball,” the scout said of the 6-foot-3, 174-pound Morant. “But now he’s really, really good. Can pass with either hand.”

The scout offered an NBA comparison: John Wall. “Not as fast as John, but he’s got the same explosive athleticism at the rim.”

The counter-argument, a mild one at that, looks beyond next season.

Playing time ranked high among the reasons why the Wizards sought low-cost backup point guards over the years for Wall. Combo guards aside, if Wall goes 35-38 minutes nightly, why invest significant assets into a 10-13 minute-a-game player.

There’s some debate over whether Morant could play off the ball next to Wall. The sophomore is shooting 33.6 percent on 4.8 three-point attempts per game this season.

Based on the initial reaction from the various sources, nobody cares. Take the talent and figure out the rest. It's unclear what the Wizards have in Wall going forward. Maybe trade one of them down the line. The Wizards only have three healthy players under contract for next season. The 2019 first-round pick could immediately become a high-rotation player.

Such expectations rise if the Wizards jump up in the lottery. Historically there’s no chance they consider a point guard in the lottery with Wall on the roster. Times are different especially if there’s a chance to grab a hell yeah talent like Morant.

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