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Takeaways from Wizards' defensive letdown vs. Heat

Takeaways from Wizards' defensive letdown vs. Heat

Offense isn't a problem for the Wizards with the way John Wall and Bradley Beal are playing. They bled points, however, to the depleted Miami Heat again in a 112-101 loss Monday at American Airlines Arena.

John Wall (30 points, eight assists, six rebounds) led the way for the Wizards, who couldn't win their third game in a row for the first time this season. Bradley Beal (29 points, four steals), Markieff Morris (10 points), Otto Porter (nine points) and Marcin Gortat (seven points, 10 rebounds) rounded out the starters. 

Goran Dragic (season-high 34 points) was unstoppable as he made 14-of-23 shots as Miami ended a five-game losing streak and shot 51.1percent from the field. 

In early November, the Heat scored 114 points -- about 21 over their average at the time -- in a win at Verizon Center. 

They had fewer pieces available Monday with Dion Waiters (groin) out. 

-- The Wizards fell down 86-82 to start the fourth quarter, but it was Kelly Oubre (six points, five rebounds) who energized them yet again. Oubre drove to the basket and got a foul call and made both shots. He then stole an inbounds pass from Tyler Johnson (11 points) for a dunk to tie the score.

--The bench did its job to hand the starters a 38-30 lead in the second quarter after two free throws from Trey Burke (four points). But when they went into halftime, the Wizards trailed 59-53.

-- Dragic picked up his fourth foul in the first two minutes of the third quarter and he had to go to the bench. The Wizards were able to chop down an 11-point deficit and take an 80-75 lead.

-- The coverage on the screens between Dragic and Whiteside started out strong, but Gortat and the backcourt didn't seem in sync most of the time. 

-- Coach Scott Brooks went to a smaller lineup in the fourth. Instead of Wall, Beal, Oubre, Porter and Gortat, he used Morris as the center. The problem was the Heat started running pick-and-rolls with James Johnson (14 points), a reserve forward playing as a spread five, running the set. Dragic, instead, was screening for him and popping for the open shot. The Wizards had no idea how to defend that wrinkle and it showed.

[RELATED: NBA Insider Notebook: Time for a Magic-Rockets trade?]

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Austin Rivers getting cut by Suns may change perception of Trevor Ariza trade to Wizards

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Austin Rivers getting cut by Suns may change perception of Trevor Ariza trade to Wizards

When the Suns traded Trevor Ariza for Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers, the thought by most was that Rivers, though not a perfect fit, would slide in at point guard to fill their biggest need. Instead, on the day the trade became official, Phoenix opted to waive Rivers and make him a free agent.

The Suns will pay about $8 million to let Rivers go, according to ESPN. He is now free to sign with any team except for the Wizards. That means he can return to the L.A. Clippers, where he played last season, if he wants.

Rivers, 26, has had a dramatic fall in a matter of months. In July, the Wizards sent starting center Marcin Gortat to the Clippers to acquire Rivers, who was coming off a career year. They believed he could solidify their backup shooting guard position and become an asset off the bench.

Rivers, though, proved a poor fit. He struggled with fewer shots and fewer minutes, averaging only 7.2 points while shooting 39.2 percent from the field and 31.1 percent from three. 

Rivers arrived in Washington with numbers that suggested he could score efficiently. But his stint with the Wizards showed he may need more volume to sustain a rhythm.

The Suns cutting Rivers makes the trade between the teams from a Suns perspective essentially an Ariza-for-Oubre swap. Phoenix wanted to clear some money and part with Ariza, who was wasting away on their last-place roster. Now they can see what they have in Oubre over the course of the rest of this season before he hits restricted free agency.

From the Wizards' side, this move shows how far Rivers' trade value had dropped, as one of the league's worst teams has cut him loose. That they were able to unload Rivers' salary while prying away Ariza may change slightly how the trade is viewed.


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With Trevor Ariza now in store, Wizards begin new phase against Hawks

With Trevor Ariza now in store, Wizards begin new phase against Hawks

The Wizards have undergone a midseason roster renovation over the past week-plus, culminating with a trade over the weekend to acquire Trevor Ariza. On Tuesday in Atlanta, a new phase will begin for the Wizards as they take on the Hawks at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

Ariza has joined the team on the road in anticipation of his debut. With Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers now out the door, the team brought back guard Chasson Randle. Those two will help make up a new-look rotation for Washington, as they try to recover from a 12-18 start to this season.

Ariza will likely slide into the starting lineup, certainly in the short-term as Otto Porter Jr. recovers from a minor knee injury. The changes should also present opportunities for a few players who otherwise may not have played.

Sam Dekker, for one, will clearly be in the mix. He has averaged 13.5 minutes per game since coming over in a three-team trade last week. On Sunday against the Lakers, he put up a season-high 20 points. Even when Porter returns, he should have a role, as his path to play was carved by Oubre's departure.

The adjustments should, in theory, also clear the runway for rookie Troy Brown Jr. The 2018 first round pick has only appeared in 13 of the Wizards' 30 games this season because of a logjam at his position. 

But on Sunday, the first game since Oubre and Rivers were dealt, he played 15:21 against the Lakers. It wasn't in garbage time, either. He entered in the first half and made an instant impact with three steals and two rebounds.

Though Tomas Satoransky has played an important role this season as a backup guard and temporary starter, his standing was made even more secure when the Wizards traded Rivers. They have Randle and two-way player Jordan McRae, but Satoransky is now their primary backup guard. Barring a trade or another signing, they have no choice but to rely heavily on him to spell John Wall and Bradley Beal.

Speaking of Wall and Beal, they will bear watching despite nothing changing in their roles with the Wizards. They, along with Markieff Morris and Porter, have been the core of this team throughout the tumultuous last two years. The Wizards brought in Ariza to help compensate for their shortcomings in defending the perimeter, rebounding and - this year, at least - three-point shooting. 

If Ariza's arrival has a domino effect on teammates, if it lights a spark and brings the best out of the Wizards, those are the guys to watch. The Wizards want consistency from them, more of what they saw against the Lakers. And Ariza's commitment on the defensive end, the team hopes, can rub off on others.

The Wizards have already played one game since trading Oubre and Rivers, but now that Ariza is in store and ready to debut, the Wizards can officially hit the restart button. Will this trade prove the catalyst and help get them back on track? Tuesday night will give the first answers to that question.