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Takeaways from Wizards comeback win vs. Nets to end road trip

Takeaways from Wizards comeback win vs. Nets to end road trip

BROOKLYN – With a winless road trip looking like a real possibility as the deficit grew to 15, the Wizards came out of the locker room after halftime with an energy and effort on the defensive end that they had lacked for the first 24 minutes.

Then John Wall (25 points, 13 assists) and Bradley Beal (18 points, four rebounds, four assists) closed out the 118-113 win at Barclays Center on Monday. 

Both knocked down key shots late and Wall stripped Joe Harris from behind for a breakaway dunk and a 109-106 lead with 3:09 left. Wall found Markieff Morris for a backdoor layup and Beal stripped Bojan Bogdanovic to prevent an attempted three to tie the score with the Wizards ahead 116-113.

Otto Porter (18 points), Morris (16 points, four steals) and Marcin Gortat (10 points, 12 rebounds) rounded out the starters for Washington, which lost games in Oklahoma City and San Antonio to start this trip that they failed to close out with leads.

Marcus Thornton (11 points) and Kelly Oubre (10 points) were pivtoal off the bench along with Trey Burke (eight points).

Wall buried his first three-point shot of the game to give the Wizards (7-12) their largest lead of the game out of a timeout, 112-106. On the next play, Beal drew extra attention and delivered a bounce pass to Gortat for a layup. 

Robin Lopez (25 points, six rebounds, five assists) led the Nets (5-15) followed by Sean Kilpatrick (21 points) and Bogdanovic (18 points).

-- Ball pressure turned the tide in Washington’s favor. Morris had four steals in the third quarter alone when the Wizards had their best output with a 32-15 edge in scoring. The ball-handling for Brooklyn is suspect even with its starters, but particularly when Joe Harris was on the floor and they ended with 22 turnovers that created 35 points for the Wizards. Porter, Beal and Wall each had three steals, too.

-- The Nets made 26 of 46 shots in the first half, or 56.5%. They also made half of their 16 three-point shots. When the Wizards were able to make their run out of halftime, the Nets didn’t get their first field goal until 8:25. They shot 5 of 18 in the third, 27.8% and had 10 turnovers.

-- Gortat was left on an island to defend Lopez, and he was able to hit a variety of shots from the outside. He started to play closer to the rim, something Lopez hadn’t done much of recently, and was able to finish with up-and-under moves as well as bank shots. When the Wizards came out after halftime, they were more creative in defending him. They trapped the ball immediately. Jason Smith played spot minutes in the fourth to help on Lopez and slow his roll offensively. Lopez only scored nine points after halftime.

-- Burke supplanted Tomas Satoransky off the bench in the rotation again and didn’t hurt his chances for the future. He had eight quick points, a three-pointer tying the score at 44 at 6:55 of the second quarter.

-- Morris, displeased with his third foul at 4:00 of the second quarter, picked up another technical as his team came unhinged. That gives Morris five which is tied for second-most in the league. He responded with a second half in which he was a major part of the defensive pressure that threw the Nets off-balance.

-- From 4:31 to 3:11 of the second, the Wizards went from trailing 51-48 to 61-48. They had two turnovers, one each from Wall and Beal, and when Satoransky was left open as the Nets played under Gortat’s screen, he barely drew iron from 20 feet.

-- A pair of layups from Bogdanovic forced a quick timeout from Wizards coach Scott Brooks with the score 80-74.  That prevented the lead from ballooning to double-digits. Brooks called Beal’s number and got him an easy deuce over Gortat’s screen to steady them on both ends. 

[RELATED: CSN Insider Notebook: Noel to the Blazers?]

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What Wizards learned in the bubble about their offseason needs

What Wizards learned in the bubble about their offseason needs

The Wizards got a better idea of what to go shopping for this offseason based on their eight games in the bubble. Here is what they learned...

Bryant is capable of good defense

It wasn't perfect, he had some ups and downs, but Thomas Bryant showed more defensively during the Wizards' eight games in Orlando than he had previously in his Wizards career. He even earned some really high praise from head coach Scott Brooks following their loss to Joel Embiid and the Sixers, which Brooks called the best defensive game he has ever seen Bryant play. 

Bryant finished with some encouraging numbers. He averaged 2.0 blocks per game and held his match-ups to 45% from the field, down from his 48.7% season clip. Embiid went just 3-for-11 against Bryant, for example. Bryant's 14.9 contested shots per game were up considerably from his season average (10.3/g) and would rank fourth in the NBA if held over a full season (Robin Lopez, Rudy Gobert, DeAndre Ayton). 

Now the question is how much Bryant can be asked to solve the team's desperate and years-long need for rim protection. He had a good stretch, but can he do that over a full season? The Wizards would probably be smart to still look for help in that area. They may be able to find it in the draft with James Wiseman of Memphis, if they have some lottery luck, or Onyeka Okongwu of USC if they don't move up.

Brown can play some PG, but how much?

Troy Brown Jr. had an odd trajectory in Orlando where he started out really well and then struggled late. He thrived early on as a playmaker on the wing and did enough to earn some time exclusively at point guard. But while playing point guard, his production dropped off.

All in all, it was a strong showing for Brown in the bubble. He averaged 15.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists. He just didn't score efficiently, as evidenced by his ugly 37.9 field goal percentage. He shot 25.4 percent in the final two games while starting at point.

Brown, though, arguably did enough to earn some time on the ball next season. Exactly how much of that responsibility the Wizards can offer is unclear. John Wall will be back as the starting point guard and they have Ish Smith also returning. At the very least, maybe the Wizards can skip past the need for a third point guard and count Brown among their options. He could back up Wall and Smith and if Wall needs to sit for rest, like for back-to-backs, Brown can move into the top-two point guard rotation and maybe even start there.

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Robinson may solve a problem at back-up SG

Jerome Robinson had the best stretch of his career while playing in Orlando in what was his first extended offering of playing time. He averaged 14.8 points while shooting 36.7 percent from three on 6.1 attempts. The numbers may not show it, but he also had some encouraging moments on defense when he was asked to take on some tough defensive assignments, like Devin Booker of the Suns.

Robinson displayed enough to be given a good look this fall as Bradley Beal's primary back-up at the shooting guard spot. Brooks even mentioned using Robinson at the three so they can find him more minutes.

The question is whether Robinson can establish consistency while playing in a back-up role. It won't be easy to pull off with fewer minutes and shots to work with.

Wagner and Schofield are question marks

It might be a bit unfair to magnify the seeding games too much given there were only eight of them, but two guys in particular didn't play very well. That would be Moe Wagner and Admiral Schofield. Wagner averaged 5.1 points in 16.0 minutes and shot just 36.8 percent from the field and 15.4 percent from three. Schofield was held to 2.7 points in 12.6 minutes and shot 29.4 percent, though he did knock down a decent 35.7 percent from long range.

Wagner has more of a track record to fall back on, and Schofield should be cut some slack given it was his first season and he spent much of it in the G-League. But the Wizards will have to examine players like them on their roster - Anzejs Pasecniks, Jerian Grant, Jarrod Uthoff and Jonathan Williams III included - and determine whether they have roles on the team next season. Wagner right now looks like the No. 2 center behind Bryant, but if the Wizards do add a rim protector, or a center in the draft, Wagner could be bumped down the depth chart.

They need more help

There were many positives to pull from the Wizards' 11 total games in Orlando (including the exhibition), many of which were mentioned above. But it also told the Wizards that if you remove Beal, Wall and Davis Bertans from the team, the drop-off is significant. They competed in some games, but only managed one win and it came against a Celtics team that was missing their top seven scorers.

The Wizards need to take a long look at the supporting cast they have developed and determine whether these guys can be relied upon next year in important roles. Just because a guy is showing promise doesn't mean his spot on the roster couldn't be upgraded. Maybe some players work better as trade assets rather than building blocks.

Forward remains an area of need. Next season, there is currently an opening in the starting lineup alongside Rui Hachimura and Bryant in the frontcourt. Maybe it is filled by Brown or Isaac Bonga, but the Wizards will have some options to add to that mix.

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Kevin Durant posts cryptic, oddly timed tweet after Nets lose to Trail Blazers

Kevin Durant posts cryptic, oddly timed tweet after Nets lose to Trail Blazers

The Nets, playing without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and most of their key rotation players, lost to Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers Thursday night, clinching a play-in opportunity for Portland as the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

Lillard had 42 points and was masterful from deep. At one point, he even pulled up from the logo just beyond half-court and drilled a three. 

While Lillard was the story of the game, Durant drew some attention on social media afterward by tweeting a picture of himself dunking in Drake's "Laugh Now Cry Later" music video.

Durant's been out all year recovering from Achilles surgery, but for some reason Nets fans are still holding out hope that he might return, so one of the leading theories for the motivation behind the tweet is that Durant would return for the playoffs. The Nets hold the seventh seed in the East and are set to face the defending champion Raptors in the first round.

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He would have to enter the bubble and quarantine for 10 days before presumably playing in his first game in over a year with little to no ramp-up. If Durant entered the bubble today, he'd be able to return by the time the Nets play the Raptors in Game 5 of the first round. Seems unlikely.

Another theory is that because the Blazers beat the Nets, there's a good chance the Lakers will have a tougher road to the NBA Finals. Given we have no reason to believe he's interested in the Lakers winning a title or that he'd actually be happy after his team loses probably busts this one as well. 

Could it be that Durant was excited about being in a popular music video and tweeted a still of himself coincidentally 30-or-so minutes after his team wrapped up its regular season? Probably, but when has that ever stopped the Twitter detectives from going nuts online?

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