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Takeaways from Wizards' comeback win over Lakers to win first division title in 38 years

Takeaways from Wizards' comeback win over Lakers to win first division title in 38 years

LOS ANGELES – In terms of helping a team’s position for the playoffs, winning the Southeast Division title for the first time – and their first since 1979 – doesn’t mean anything for the Wizards.

Still, it means a lot. They swept the season series with the L.A. Lakers on Tuesday, 119-108 at Staples Center, coming from 16 down with a fourth-quarter rally started by the second unit and closed out by stars John Wall and Bradley Beal. 

The win keeps the Wizards (46-28) ahead of the red-hot Toronto Raptors (45-29) in the East.

John Wall (game-high 34 points, 14 assists, four steals) got them out to a 20-8 lead in the first quarter of a game that appeared headed to a blowout. By the end of it, a layup by David Nwaba (eight points) tied it at 27 at the buzzer and the tone changed for good.

The Wizards are 2-0 on this road trip with their next game Wednesday, also at Staples Center, vs. the L.A. Clippers.

Wall led them back midway through the fourth when he stole the ball from DeAngelo Russell to draw them even at 101. From there, it was the defensive pressure that had been missing for most of the game that sealed the outcome.

Beal (16 points) made a pair of foul shots and then converted a three-point play with 2:51 left to give them breathing room at 108-104.

Otto Porter (16 points), Marcin Gortat (seven points, 10 rebounds) had production early but Ian Mahinmi (10 points, five rebounds) keyed the comeback with his play in the middle in the fourth.

Russell (28 points, nine assists) caught fire early by making 4 of 6 threes and Tyler Ennis (22 points) made his first two. Then Jordan Clarkson (22 points) heated up and the shots kept falling.

The Lakers (21-53), however, couldn’t keep it going as turnovers and empty possessions cost them in the end. 

A catch-and-shoot three-pointer from Kelly Oubre (14 points) made it 113-108 and then Markieff Morris (seven points, 10 rebounds) forced a turnover with a deflection on a pass from Julius Randle (six points, six rebounds).

--Faster starts have been the focus for coach Scott Brooks. When his team beat the Lakers almost two months ago, the Wizards allowed 12 of 22 shooting for 29 first-quarter points. But they forced 15 first-half turnovers. In this one, the Lakers shot 11 off 27 in the first quarter, or 40.7%. By halftime, they had six fewer turnovers to keep Wall out of transition.

--Beal could’ve set the franchise record for made three-pointers in a season. He went into the game with 203, two shy of the record set by Gilbert Arenas in 2006-07. Beal made his first long ball but couldn’t find his range after that. Beal finished 1-for-5 from three. Before this season, Beal’s career high for made threes in a season was 138 in 2013-14.

--In the last month, the Lakers have allowed 139, 137, 133, 125, 122, 119 (twice), 118, 115 and 110 points (twice).

--Rookie Brandon Ingram (right knee soreness) was inactive along with Nick Young. Corey Brewer (nine points) started in Ingram’s place.

--Morris knocked himself out of the rotation by picking up his third foul with 1:26 left in the second quarter. It’s why he played just 27 minutes.

--The Lakers repeatedly switched Randle onto Beal and he didn’t always attack the matchup the way he should’ve each time. On the and-1 to make it a two-possession game, he finally did it with a stepback jumper. The spacing was better as he could size up Randle from the top of the key rather than the slot where he had fewer options.

--Mahinmi was a forced in the fourth quarter with stopping layups at the rim, jumping passing lanes and getting deflections to disrupt Los Angeles. It seems every game for him lately is his new “best performance of the season.” But that’s why he was brought in for $64 million. Gortat only played eight of 24 minutes in the second half.

[RELATED: VIDEO: D'Angelo Russell consoles kid after running into bench]

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Markieff Morris

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Markieff Morris

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Markieff Morris' season...

Player: Markieff Morris

Position: Power forward

Age: 28

2017-18 salary: $8 million

2017-18 stats: 73 G, 27.0 mpg, 11.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.5 bpg, 48.0 FG%, 36.7 3P%, 82.0 FT%, 53.6 eFG%, 116 ORtg, 112 DRtg

Best game: 12/1 vs. Pistons - 23 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, zero turnovers, 10-for-16 FG, 2-for-3 3PT

Season review: It took quite a while for Markieff Morris to get healthy in the 2017-18 season. He was sidelined to begin last offseason with the ankle injury he suffered against the Celtics in the playoffs, then in September had surgery on both his abdomen and groin. The sports hernia surgery was known, while the groin procedure was revealed once the season was over.

Morris only missed nine games in the entire season, but took time to find his rhythm early. He averaged just 9.0 points and 4.4 rebounds in 14 games in the month of November. He picked it up after that, though he never quite reached the level we saw from him in 2016-17 in terms of volume production.

Morris played less minutes, took less shots, scored fewer points and grabbed less rebounds than the season before. On the other hand, he was more efficient than ever. Morris shot 48 percent from the field, his best since 2013-14, and posted career-highs in three-point percentage (36.7) and effective field-goal percentage (53.6). 

The Wizards could use more scoring from Morris moving forward, especially at times when one of their primary options is injured, as was the case in 2017-18 when John Wall missed 41 games. An active and engaged Morris changes everything for the Wizards. 

When Morris scored 15 points or more this season, the Wizards went 15-8. The season before, they went 22-9 when he got to the 15-point mark. 

It's a bit difficult to project Morris' role for the 2018-19 season at this point, given the fact he's entering a contract year and the most logical area for the Wizards to make significant changes (if they choose to) is in their frontcourt. Also, as Morris discussed in his exit interview, he knows more time at center in small-ball sets could be in his future.

Regardless of what happens with the team, it's a huge summer for Morris individually. If he sets himself up well for a big year in 2018-19, he could earn a nice payday in what might be his last long-term contract given his age.

Potential to improve: Rebounding, screens, scoring

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

Marcin Gortat, C

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Marcin Gortat

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Marcin Gortat

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Marcin Gortat's season...

Player: Marcin Gortat

Position: Center

Age: 34

2017-18 salary: $12.8 million

2017-18 stats: 82 G, 25.3 mpg, 8.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.7 bpg, 51.8 FG%, 67.5 FT%, 51.8 eFG%, 112 ORtg, 107 DRtg

Best game: 10/18 vs. Sixers - 16 points, 17 rebounds, 3 blocks, assist, 7-for-12 FG

Season review: Marcin Gortat is self-aware enough to know that what happened to him in 2017-18 was inevitable in many ways. He even publicly called it before the season.

He was one year older, with Ian Mahinmi healthy and in the rotation, and with the NBA continuing to move towards small-ball and big men who can play on the perimeter. As a result, Gortat saw his role in the Wizards rotation pared down noticeably.

Though he still started all 82 games, his minutes went down from 31.2 per game the year before the 25.3. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who played the majority of the season coming off the bench, logged more minutes than Gortat, though he was a starter.

Gortat's minutes were his fewest since the 2009-10 season, when he was a 25-year-old bench player for the Orlando Magic. His numbers this season followed suit. Gortat's points and rebounds per game were both the lowest since that 2009-10 campaign.

Gortat averaged a career-best 10.4 rebounds per game in 2016-17, but the minutes had a direct effect on his volume of boards. He pulled in 2.4 less per game this season despite his rebound percentage (17.0) being close to his career average (17.5). That career average, by the way, is 30th-best all-time an eighth among active players.

Not getting the same opportunities he had in years past, plus public misunderstandings with teammates, combined to make for a frustrating year for Gortat. He said on the Wizards Tipoff podcast midseason it was the worst year of his career. Gortat, though, did continue to make an impact setting screens for the Wizards and he rallied to finish relatively strong.

He had several solid outings in the playoffs, including his 16 points in Game 3 and his 12 rebounds in Game 5. The question is whether that is the last time we will see Gortat in a Wizards uniform.

Washington has played with the idea of trading Gortat for a while now. He popped up in rumors around the trade deadline in February, but remained on the roster. Now he has an expiring contract working in his favor, making it a bit more likely he gets dealt.

Gortat knows his future in Washington is uncertain, though he said following the season he would like to stay. It would not be surprising to him or anyone if he were traded this summer. If not, he's got one year left with the Wizards and could very well have his role decreased even more.

Potential to improve: Rim protection, midrange shooting, free throw percentage

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

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