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Takeaways from Wizards' hard-fought win over Hornets

Takeaways from Wizards' hard-fought win over Hornets

What changed for the Wizards after going down by 10 points early in the third quarter and playing short-handed against the best team in the Southeast Division on Wednesday night? Defense.

They turned the tide by being a more physical team, which they were not in a loss to the Miami Heat two nights prior, in a 109-106 win over the Charlotte Hornets in front of 13,447 at Verizon Center.

The Wizards (10-14) had six players in double figures before the third quarter ended and John Wall (25 points, 10 assists) led the way. Wall also had a career-high of seven steals and set the franchise record for career steals along the way (793).

Wall was followed by Bradley Beal (20 points, nine assists), Kelly Oubre (15 points, six rebounds, two steals), Marcin Gortat (16 points, 12 rebounds, two steals) and Otto Porter (10 points, five rebounds).

Charlotte (14-12) was led by Nic Batum (20 points, eight assists) but he didn’t have much help outside of Kemba Walker (17 points, nine assists) and Cody Zeller (18 points). Marco Belinelli (16 points) came off the bench to spark them when they trailed in the fourth, but the Hornets could never regain the lead. Walker's tying three-pointer rimmed out at the final buzzer.

-- The Wizards were more aggressive in the pick-and-roll coverage, especially Gortat, which threw off Walker’s execution. Gortat didn't get stuck in-between. When he had to contain on Walker, he did so aggressively and prevented the pass over the top to the roller. While they got a few buckets early, the coverage posed problems. Walker tried to split a trap of the ball late but Gortat poked it away to put the Wizards in transition where they had a 20-5 edge in points.

-- Gortat posted up Zeller early. While Zeller is an athletic center who can face up from mid-range, he’s not strong enough to defend for long periods under the basket. Zeller had four fouls by 1:42 of the third as a result. He had a minimal impact on the boards with just two rebounds, an area that the Wizards dominated 41-33.

-- A 10-0 run by the Hornets to open the third quarter broke the game open for a 66-56 lead. It came after Beal made his first shot of the game, a three, to tie the score at 10:12. But the Wizards locked down defensively and cut the deficit to 67-65 with 6:12 left behind hustle plays, defense and creating turnovers by Charlotte. The Hornets had seven in the third that produced 10 points for Washington which was credited with five steals. It was a 38-point third for an 87-77 lead entering the fourth. 

--The second unit did its job for the second game in a row. The Wizards trailed 30-26 entering the second quarter, Jason Smith (season-high 12 points, seven rebounds) had a steal and a layup and Marcus Thornton (five points) had a three and a layup to tie the score at 33. In regards to plus-minus ratings, three of the Wizards were on the positive and Andrew Nicholson was even. Smith reached double figures for the first time this season. And Smith's jumper when the Hornets cut the deficit to 91-85 in the fourth was clutch.

--The absence of Markieff Morris, who was a late scratch because of a sore left foot, meant more time than usual for Smith (19 minutes) and Nicholson (0 points in 5 minutes) but it didn’t result in Tomas Satoransky getting off the bench. The rookie point guard has played some at small forward this season in three-guard lineups because he’s 6-7.

-- Belinelli was stuck on Wall in an isolation and was beaten to the rim. Wall putback his own miss and the two had words as the Wizards went up 99-93. But Wall was assessed his sixth technical foul of the season in the process. 

[RELATED: WALL BECOMES WIZARDS' FRANCHISE LEADER IN STEALS]

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Three things to watch for Wizards vs. Nets, as Wizards aim for fourth straight win

Three things to watch for Wizards vs. Nets, as Wizards aim for fourth straight win

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Dwight Howard and the Washington Wizards battle Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen, D'Angelo Russell and the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

Here are three things to watch...

Wizards are on a roll

Say what you will about the opponents they've beaten, but the Wizards are heating up. They have won three straight games with their last one a blowout over the Cavs. This is their longest win streak of the season.

Four in a row would be a nice number. The Wizards only had two win streaks of at least four games last season. One stopped at four and the longest ended at five. 

Nets have their number

Speaking of last season, the Wizards had a heck of a time facing this same Brooklyn team. They lost two of their three meetings in 2017-18 with the lone win coming in overtime. One of their losses was by 35 points.

The Nets, though they haven't won 30 games in each of the past three seasons, are now pushovers. They are well-coached by Kenny Atkinson and are known for trying very hard despite their lack of talent. The Wizards generally have problems with those types of teams. Winning this game could help them prove this is a new year.

Nets have some players now

Brooklyn has been ridiculed in recent years as the Boston Celtics have reaped the benefits of their high draft picks stemming from the infamous Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett trade. But along the way, the Nets have done a decent job of finding young talent without hitting the lottery.

Caris LeVert was probably the best example of that, though he is now nursing a serious ankle injury and will miss this game. But Brooklyn also has guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who this year is averaging 14.2 points and 4.2 assists while shooting 47.5 percent from the field and 38.2 percent from three. They also have Joe Harris, who is putting up 13.4 points on a ridiculous 52.4 percent from the field and 52.6 percent from three. 

Then there's Jarrett Allen, who was acquired using a first round pick the Wizards sent Brooklyn in the Bojan Bogdanovic deal. At just 20 years old, he's turning into a nice young player. This year he's averaging 11.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks.

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Austin Rivers wants to interview Jay-Z and Barack Obama; still can't get John Wall on his podcast

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USA Today

Austin Rivers wants to interview Jay-Z and Barack Obama; still can't get John Wall on his podcast

Just one episode into his new podcast 'Go Off,' Wizards guard Austin Rivers is already learning plenty about the media world. With plans to become a television analyst when his playing days are done, Rivers is gaining a new appreciation for what it takes to speak at-length without stumbling over his words.

He's also starting to realize one of the biggest pain points for a media member: waiting on guests. Rivers has tried to line up interviews with his teammates and it's been much easier said than done.

Rivers is set to have Dwight Howard on as his first guest, but the original plan was point guard John Wall. Wall, though, has been giving him the runaround.

"That's the hardest thing is getting guests to show up," Rivers said. 

"It's impossible to get John on my podcast. At this point, I just don't expect it anymore. He says he'll do it next week and then the week comes. John has like 15 things to do a day. I don't know what these guys do. I play in the league, too. I know how un-busy my life is outside of this. And I've got a kid. John has a brand to run. He's a different level. Sorry, you can see the frustration on my face with not getting John on my podcast, man."

Rivers hopes to have many of his teammates on. He mentioned Kelly Oubre Jr. and how an interview with Oubre "might be a little out there." He also gave a hint about what his conversation with Howard will be like.

"I'm definitely gonna have some interesting topics to bring up with Dwight. I told him 'listen, you might want to check with your publicist before coming on my podcast.' We only talk about real conversations on here," Rivers said.

Rivers says he plans to start with fellow NBA players and then work in special episodes with guests outside of the league and even outside of basketball. He hopes to record an episode with financial advisors to talk about money and investments. He wants to take a deep dive into the AAU circuit and how it can be fixed.

Eventually, Rivers wants to aim very high with his guests. He gave a list of his dream interviews and there are some big names.

"Kobe Bryant or Dwyane Wade. Dwyane Wade is my favorite player. I'm gonna get Dwyane Wade on my podcast, for sure. I'm gonna go ahead and put that out there," Rivers said.

"Off-the-court, I would love to get Denzel Washington on there. That would be my dream... I want to do a podcast with me and my dad and Jaden Smith and Will Smith. I think that would be really dope, talking about parent-to-son success and how he related to his son to have a work ethic and how my dad did it to me."

Rivers went even higher. He wants to interview a president.

"I guess if I could go the highest, I would go Jay-Z or [Barack] Obama. But let's be realistic, here," Rivers said.

"[Interviewing Obama] would be incredible, bro. I would be so nervous. I'm not there yet, I'll be honest. I need like six or seven or eight more podcasts before I can get Obama on there because I'm gonna be stuttering. I can't do it with Obama yet. I don't know if I could handle Denzel right now."

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