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Takeaways from Wizards' overtime loss to Thunder

Takeaways from Wizards' overtime loss to Thunder

The Wizards came close to making history. They had their best chance to win a game in Oklahoma City, battling back from a 16-point deficit in the first half in coach Scott Brooks' return to where he was fired in 2015. 

They lost it, however, as Russell Westbrook buried a three-pointer to force overtime where the Thunder won 126-115 on Wednesday night at Chesapeake Arena.

The Thunder (12-8) erased a seven-point deficit in the fourth and Westbrook's three-point shot was his first of the game.  

Bradley Beal (31 points) led the Wizards and the other four starters contributed. Markieff Morris (19 points), Marcin Gortat (12 points, 11 rebounds), John Wall (15 points, 15 assists) and Otto Porter (11 points, 8 rebounds) provided a balanced effort. 

Westbrook (35 points, 11 rebounds, 14 assists) was held mostly in check until the sparked an 8-0 run to start the extra period and the Wizards couldn't recover. 

The Wizards (6-11) played better defensively in the second half and a three-pointer from Beal put them up 97-90 as the momentum shifted by the midpoint of the fourth quarter. But Beal made a crucial mistake late.

Needing a three-pointer to tie the score with 17 seconds left, Westbrook got free. Beal sank too deep in the paint against Westbrook who sprinted back to the arc for the open look to tie the score.

-- The Wizards ran a pick-and-roll to end regulation and Wall had a shot at the rim to win it. He got a mismatch on Jerami Grant in the paint and instead of taking a floater or trying to force the issue one step deeper to get to the rim, Wall passed it back to Morris who'd set the screen. The ball ended up in the hands of Porter who did have a clean look. 

-- When Gortat is playing one-on-one defense, he's at his best lately. His low-post battle with Steven Adams (12 points, six rebounds) solid. He bodied up the physical big man for the Thunder, didn't cede ground and mad it tough. Adams can shoot jump hooks for either block with either hand. Gortat pushed him out farther than he'd like from his sweet spot, prevented the full extension on the shot and contested. 

-- For the second game in a row, Kelly Oubre (12 points, 6 rebounds) had energy that was vital. The Wizards were able to cut the deficit by more than half as they trailed 60-63 at halftime. He made two foul shots as he was fouled on a drive.  He had a steal and finish in transition for a layup. When the Wizards surged late in the third quarter, Oubre nailed a three-pointer. He hit another one early in the fourth for a 89-86 lead. But aside from his stats, it was the ball pressure and the problems he caused the Thunder in disrupting their offense with deflections. 

-- Westbrook was held to 12-for-35 shooting. The key? The Wizards sent multiple bodies at him. They didn't overcommit by trapping him on pick-and-rolls. Instead, they played containment, gave him the three-point shot which is the weakness of his game and sealed off the paint. But Westbrook's effort plays that included battling for a rebound for a missed foul shot in overtime and the putback was the difference. 

-- Without Ian Mahinmi (right knee), Wizards won the rebounding battle 48-47 with the NBA's top rebounding team. They also were plus-two on the offensive side with 11 which is how they came back and made it a game. Wall and Beal combined to grab 11 and Morris and Porter had 15. 

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Rui Hachimura's learning curve can be seen on offense late in games

Rui Hachimura's learning curve can be seen on offense late in games

WASHINGTON -- Wizards forward Rui Hachimura has translated so smoothly to the NBA level that it is easy to forget he is still just a rookie with only 31 games under his belt. For a reminder of his inexperience, just look at the fourth quarter.

Hachimura tends to start games hot on the offensive end, like he did on Friday in the Wizards' loss to the Cavaliers when he had eight points by the end of the first quarter. But he scored only nine points after that and went scoreless through seven minutes in the fourth.

That has been a consistent theme for him this season. He averages 4.8 points in the first quarter shooting 48.4 percent from the field, 4.0 points in the second shooting 57 percent and then 4.3 points on 47.9 percent in the third. In the fourth quarter those numbers plummet to 1.9 points on average and 33.3 percent shooting.

Basically, Hachimura often comes out on fire but then slows down considerably once opponents make midgame changes. Against the Cavs, Hachimura said it was because they disrupted passing lanes.

"They are an NBA team. They just adjusted. They didn't want me to catch the ball. They didn't let me just catch the ball. I think that's why," he said.

The Wizards have seen teams switch defensive match-ups midgame to counter Hachimura. Sometimes taking away his midrange jumper will be prioritized. The Cavs seemed to find success playing Hachimura more physically in the second half, bumping him away from his comfort zones.

Over time, Hachimura can improve his ability to sustain scoring throughout games simply by becoming more versatile. The more consistent he becomes at making three-point shots and creating off the dribble, the more difficult it will be for teams to stop him. As long as he keeps improving, he will reach a point where he can stay ahead of the defense with a multitude of counters.

Developing a more reliable outside game and more dribble combinations will take some time. For now, Hachimura believes the key to him keeping up his scoring pace involves working with his teammates, particularly star shooting guard Bradley Beal.

"I just gotta connect more with Brad. Brad is the one everybody is trying to guard. Screens and pick-and-rolls with him, that kind of stuff will help me," Hachimura said.

Hachimura's game against the Cavaliers reflected how the team played overall. After scoring 41 points in the first quarter, they managed only 42 in the second half. They blew a 16-point lead and lost, 113-108.

So, he wasn't alone. And those rooting for Hachimura to round out his game should feel good about his odds. He has a relentless work ethic and is often staying after practice to go over film with player development coach Dave Adkins.

Hachimura is perceptive and driven to improve. In order to take the next step as a scorer, he will have to get better at closing games.

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Tristan Thompson calls Bradley Beal one of the best shooting guards in the league

Tristan Thompson calls Bradley Beal one of the best shooting guards in the league

Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson spoke with reporters after the team's victory over the Wizards Friday night, praising Bradley Beal, who was snubbed from All-Star consideration this season despite averaging nearly 30 points-per-game.

The Cavaliers held the Wizards to just 21 points in the fourth quarter, and Thompson said their main focus was neutralizing Beal.

"The Wizards are really good offensively when they are making their runs," Thompson said postgame. "Bradley Beal is an All-Star in our league. One of the top-three two-guards in our league right now, so we were just trying to make it tough for him."

Beal finished the night with 26 points, but struggled from the floor. Beal shot 9-for-28 from the floor and the Cavaliers' stingy defense was clearly a factor.

Beal and the Wizards will have a chance to get back on track on Sunday night at Capital One Arena when they host the Chicago Bulls for the final time this season.

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