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Takeaways from Wizards' last-second loss to Pistons

Takeaways from Wizards' last-second loss to Pistons

Markieff Morris had what appeared to be the biggest play of the game, blocking a putback attempt from his brother, Marcus, to keep the Wizards ahead going into the final minute on Saturday.

But the Detroit Pistons had multiple shots on the final possession as Marcus Morris tipped in Tobias Harris’ shot for a 113-112 win to snap Washington’s four-game winning streak.

John Wall (19 points, 10 assists) posted his 26th double-double of the season followed by Markieff Morris (19 points, nine rebounds), Bradley Beal (17 points), Otto Porter (11 points, seven rebounds) and Marcin Gortat (12 points, seven rebounds) among the starters.

Jason Smith (season-high 16 points) and Kelly Oubre (11 points, two steals) led the bench.

Beal made two free throws to put the Wizards ahead 112-111 before the final sequences between the Morris brothers. It had erased a 16-point deficit in the third quarter.

Morris’ tip, however, draws the season series to 1-1 and the Wizards (23-20) have a final game on this three-game trip Monday at the Charlotte Hornets.

Marcus Morris (25 points, 11 rebounds) led Detroit, followed by Reggie Jackson (19 points, eight assists) and Tobias Harris (18 points, nine rebounds).

--The Wizards had a chance to take a three-point lead before Detroit had its final possession. Wall, however, dribbled out the clock and took a low percentage fadeaway over Jackson from deep that failed. Morris had popped to the top of the three-point arc to either face up Andre Drummond, who sagged deep into the paint to contain Wall’s driving.

--Beal’s shooting woes continued after shooting 4-for-14 and 4-for-13 in the Wizards’ previous two games. Detroit was physical. Beal was trucked by Jackson on a drive as he took a charge and had the back of his head slam to the floor. Then Beal was fouled by Harris on his arm on the fast break and clutched his left knee on the fall. Porter signaled for medical help but Beal was able to rise and make the key free throws late to put them ahead. Beal shot 4-for-17, including 0-for-7 from three despite having a lot of open looks. Beal is 1-for-21 from three in his last three games.

--Drummond (three points, 10 rebounds) was rendered a non-factor as he got into foul trouble early. He picked up his third foul by 5:44 of the second quarter. He only played 17 total minutes because he had five fouls.

--Coach Scott Brooks went with Oubre and Morris on the floor for the final possession rather than Gortat. Oubre was outmuscled on a switch by Drummond to create the extra shot attempts at the end. After Wall missed the final shot, the Pistons didn't call timeout to set up a play. They continued which prevented Brooks from going big again with a substitution. It was the right decision had they converted and taken a three-point lead. Meaning, they would've needed to defend the three-point line which was better achieved with Oubre on the floor.

[RELATED: VIDEO: Pistons beat Wizards on last second tip-in]

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With John Wall's injury in mind, defense should be big priority for Wizards in 2019 draft

With John Wall's injury in mind, defense should be big priority for Wizards in 2019 draft

The Wizards will not truly know what they have in John Wall following his Achilles surgery until he returns to game action, and that may not be until the 2020-21 season. He is expected to be out at least 11 months, but there is a chance he misses a full year and owner Ted Leonsis has already endorsed the idea, if it is the best course for his recovery.

The Wizards, though, can start taking measures for Wall's return as soon as this week with Thursday's NBA Draft. Using the draft, trades and free agency, they can begin to build a roster around Wall to increase the odds he comes back an effective player.

Much of the analysis of how Wall will be affected by the injury has focused on the offensive end and whether he will lose some of his trademark speed. But there is an argument to be made that the defensive end will be a larger concern and the best area to find Wall some help.

Offensively, Wall will still have strengths to play to even if he is no longer the fastest, quickest player on the court. He is one of the league's best passers. When committed, he rebounds well for his position. And he could expand his game to the post with a size advantage over most of his opponents.

Would a more consistent three-point shot help? Sure, but he can still be effective.

Defensively, it might be a struggle and especially early on. He will be tasked with staying in front of cat-quick point guards like Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook and Kemba Walker. Wall already had his defensive issues before the surgery and matters will only be more difficult now after an injury known for affecting lateral quickness.

What the Wizards can do is try to build a defensive foundation around Wall to mitigate those potential problems. They can surround him with physical perimeter defenders and install rim protection behind him. Then, Wall would be asked to do less. He could focus on playing sound team defense and directing his opponents into traffic created by his teammates.

The problem is that the Wizards will essentially have to build their defense from scratch. Though they have some capable defenders like Bradley Beal and Troy Brown Jr., and though Dwight Howard's rebounding will help, the Wizards are coming off a year in which they had one of the worst defensive units in the league. 

The Wizards were 27th in defensive rating and 29th in points allowed. They gave up the fifth-most three-pointers and at the fourth-highest percentage. And they surrendered more field goals within five feet of the rim than any other team.

Defense has been highlighted as a major long-term need by the Wizards' current staff, though they still hold the 'interim' label until further notice. Under head coach Scott Brooks, the team has made strides on offense but has lost their way defending the ball. They want more balance moving forward.

Several of Brooks' assistants are not under contract for next season and the team has explored hiring a defensive specialist, according to a person with knowledge of their plans. One assistant who could be replaced is Maz Trakh. He is in contract limbo and has not been present at the team's pre-draft workouts.

NBA coaches, though, can only do so much. A defensive renaissance will have to come from the players.

The Wizards will have some options that could help when they are on the board with the ninth overall pick in Thursday's NBA Draft. It could be a shot-blocker like Bol Bol, Brandon Clarke or Jaxson Hayes. Nassir Little would add toughness to the perimeter. Sekou Doumbouya would give them versatility.

Revamping their defense probably wouldn't include re-signing Bobby Portis or Jabari Parker, the latter of which has a team option the Wizards are likely to decline later this month. Thomas Bryant and Tomas Satoransky aren't lockdown defenders, either, but do offer some upside on that end.

With limited money to spend, free agency won't offer any quick fixes for the Wizards. The best they could likely do is find cheap players to help begin an overall culture change. 

When it comes to the draft, the Wizards do not have the luxury to draft solely for need. They have to get the best player available, no matter the position. That could even be a point guard, despite Wall being due $170 million over the next four years.

But it might be smart to favor defense over offense and the same applies to free agency and beyond. That approach could come in handy once Wall is ready to go.


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Tom Haberstroh: 'I just don't know if the timing is right' for Masai Ujiri to join Wizards

Tom Haberstroh: 'I just don't know if the timing is right' for Masai Ujiri to join Wizards

As soon as the clock hit zero in Game 6 of the NBA Finals and cemented the Toronto Raptors as the 2019 NBA Champions, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that the Wizards were preparing to make a lucrative offer to Toronto GM Masai Ujiri. 

NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig confirmed that Washington was prepared to give the Raptors top front office executive a deal that would be hard to refuse.

The rumored interest in Ujiri became the topic of the most recent Wizards Talk Podcast discussion, and Monday, NBC Sports NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh spoke on the potential pairing. 

"If you're Ted Leonsis and the ownership in D.C., you're hoping that the Raptors are out [of the playoffs] early so you can start the talks and you can try to lure Masai Ujiri over a few days or a week but they dont have that time before Thursday's draft," Haberstroh said.

"I just don't know if the timing is right for Masai to make such a huge decision in his career in the next couple of days."

Ted Leonsis' offer isn't the only factor trying to bring Ujiri to the nation's capital. The Raptors' executive has a relationship with former President Barack Obama, which could weight in the Wizards favor, and Ujiri's wife, Ramatu, attended high school in the D.C. area as well.

"If he takes this job, it is not about the basketball reasons, its all about the off-court reasons, whether it's Barack Obama recruiting him, or it's his wife who is from the area," Haberstroh added.

While Wizards fan would welcome Ujiri to Washington with open arms and hope that he is the missing piece to set the franchise in the right direction, Haberstroh isn't sure that Ujiri bolts from Toronto so soon.

"I just don't know if the timing is right for Masai Ujiri to leave a champion in Toronto," Haberstroh said.