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Takeaways from Wizards' thorough victory over Pacers

Takeaways from Wizards' thorough victory over Pacers

A 13-point lead had been reduced to 71-68, Bradley Beal was out and the Wizards were struggling to find points to fend off the Indiana Pacers.

John Wall (34 points, 9 assists, 11 rebounds) came to the rescue by taking over in the third quarter by scoring 12 consecutive points en route to a 111-105 victory Wednesday at Verizon Center in front of 16,172. It is the seventh win a row at home for Washington (15-16) which is now 12-6 here.

Marcin Gortat (13 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists), Otto Porter (22 points) and Beal (12) contributed along with 18 points from the bench. 

The Pacers (15-18) were led by Paul George (34 points) and Jeff Teague (19 points, 11 assists). George made it uncomfortable in the final minutes when his three-point shot cut the deficit to 96-94 but the Wizards held on. Porter’s three-pointer with 1:40 left pushed the lead to 103-98 to make it a two-possession game.

With the East loaded with teams at or just above and below .500, the Wizards are now 1-1 in their season series with the Pacers, Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks; 2-1 vs. the Milwaukee Bucks and 1-0 vs. the Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks.

A win Friday vs. the Brooklyn Nets would put the Wizards at .500 to end the calendar year. They’re 9-5 in December and are tied with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the longest active home winning streak.

-- Though Myles Turner was matched up with Gortat, he’s no match for him in the low post. The last time these teams played, Gortat had 21 points and 13 rebounds as the defense focused more on the backcourt and allowed single coverage. The Wizards had a 54-34 edge in rebounding. Turner spends a lot of time on the perimeter and Pacers coach Nate McMillian even went to a big (slow) lineup of Al Jefferson and Kevin Seraphin on the floor at the same time when Wall made his 12-point run. Both are major liabilities in pick-and-roll coverage.

--Morris’ passing out of double teams has been an underrated part of his game. He accepts being trapped and is patient with how he finds the open man which usually results in the Wizards getting a quality look. Morris was stuck on the baseline and found Porter cutting, who drew a third foul on George with 3:47 left in the half. Morris (10 points, seven rebounds) was limited by foul trouble again himself.

--Beal rolled his right ankle in transition at 1:29 of the first quarter, when he made contact with Monta Ellis. Beal was able to shoot his foul shots but went to the locker room. Beal played six minutes of the second quarter and shot 1-for-3 but never looked comfortable. He had the ball in transition and had a chance to go in for a strong finish but deferred to Porter. When the Wizards came out of halftime, Sheldon McClellan started in his place. Beal was listed by the team as having a sprain with a questionable return.

--Jason Smith (seven points, seven rebounds) has continued to ride a hot streak. With Daniel Ochefu (illness) not available, Smith played 18 minutes and was vital in the pick-and-roll to help free Wall with screens. Marcus Thornton (seven points) also made key buckets to sustain them minus Beal. George, however, was able to exploit Thornton’s presence late when he ran screen-roll action with C.J. Miles, forced Porter to switch and get a matchup with the smaller guard. In the final two minutes, that advantage was taken away with Morris and Kelly Oubre.

[RELATED: VIDEO: Beal heads to locker room after rolling ankle]

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Scott Brooks practices tough love in benching, calling out Moe Wagner

Scott Brooks practices tough love in benching, calling out Moe Wagner

WASHINGTON -- Wizards head coach Scott Brooks has shown some different traits this season, now that his primary goal is player development. He has been much more willing to both bench players within games and then afterward offer harsh assessments as to why.

Second-year big man Moe Wagner got that treatment on Sunday night in the Wizards' 135-119 loss to the L.A. Clippers. After starting the game and playing 14 minutes in the first half, he played three minutes in the second half.

And during his postgame press conference, Brooks didn't mince his words when offering an explanation.

"His head wasn't in the game," Brooks said. "When you're a young player, you've gotta lock in. You have to do what we need to be done. We talked about it. We talked about it at halftime and he didn't want to do it."

Brooks has employed a similar strategy with other young players. Both Troy Brown Jr. and Rui Hachimura have been benched and then criticized publicly, albeit to different degrees.

In the past, Brooks has stopped short of publicly calling out players, particularly veterans and stars. But clearly he sees this as a tactic that can help light a fire under young players who have not yet established themselves in the NBA.

Wagner, for one, didn't take issue with Brooks' assessment.

"He's not wrong," Wagner told NBC Sports Washington. "I didn't have the energy I usually have... I think that's the biggest thing when you're young, the consistent effort and the consistency of doing your job. It's easy to do it every other night, but you have to do it every night."

Wagner's numbers weren't awful on Sunday. He had seven points and six rebounds and was 2-for-2 from three. 

But he had some head-scratching moments on defense and seemed to flop looking for fouls at times when he may have been more impactful playing within the team's defensive system.

"[I need to] do the easy things right. Just do your simple job. Don't overdo it. Don't do crazy stuff out there," Wagner said.

Wagner, 22, is playing heavy rotation minutes for the first time. Last year with the Lakers, he only appeared in 43 games and averaged 10.4 minutes per night. He is learning on the fly how to find consistency at the NBA level.

The good news for Wagner is that Brooks doesn't have much of a choice whether to play him. With Thomas Bryant out for at least a few weeks due to injury, he is the best center on the roster. 

But Brooks dropped a line that should serve as a warning to Wagner, that nothing is guaranteed, even in the situation the Wizards are currently in.

"I don't believe in doghouses, I believe in a fair house. If he doesn't do what we need, we move on to the next guy," Brooks said. 

"Everybody deserves that opportunity that works hard every day in practice. Next man up. Hopefully he will come back and be locked in against the Hornets. And he will."

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Scott Brooks, Bradley Beal rip officiating after loss to Clippers

Scott Brooks, Bradley Beal rip officiating after loss to Clippers

WASHINGTON -- Wizards head coach Scott Brooks and guard Bradley Beal have a general policy when it comes to answering questions about officiating. Usually, they avoid details because they don't want to be fined by the league. Often, they say plenty with what they leave unsaid.

Sunday night was not one of those times. After the Wizards' 135-119 loss to the Clippers, both the coach and player broke character, rolled their sleeves up and gave the refs a good old fashioned takedown.

Brooks went first and initially said (sarcastically) the officials got all the calls right in the game. After that, he said what he was really thinking.

"When they grab you and hold you and the rules are saying you've got to call a foul, that's a foul. We don't get that. [Bradley Beal] doesn't get that and it's frustrating," Brooks said.

"The rule is you can't grab a guy with two hands. It's not my rule, it's not their rule; it's the NBA rule. If they're not going to call those more, what are we going to do? We're gonna get frustrated, we're gonna get [technicals] and that's not fair. That's not fun for the coaches, that's not fun for the players, that's not fun for everybody."

Beal, who 20 points and five assists but shot 5-for-18 from the field, didn't hold back, either. And he even explained why he felt he had to speak up this time as opposed to other games when he has been more tight-lipped.

"Honestly, [my frustration] is out the roof. It really is. It's really unfair and unacceptable that they allow a lot of stuff to go on with me out there and I do not calls. Period. It's just unacceptable," he said.

"They fine us for saying something. When we do say something on the floor it's 'oh, I didn't see it' or 'it wasn't my call.' I'm just so tired of hearing that. There's three guys out here. I know nobody's perfect, but the blatant ones have to be called and they're not being called. That s--- ain't fair."

Brooks got a technical for arguing a first-half play he thought should have been a charge taken by Moe Wagner. Davis Bertans and Ish Smith, two of the Wizards' more mild-mannered players, also got T'd up.

Brooks thought Smith getting a technical embodied the evening perfectly.

"When Ish [Smith] gets a [technical foul], I know something's going on. That guys is the nicest guy on the planet. He gets a technical by just telling a referee to call it the same on the other end," Brooks said.

Beal was not assessed a technical, though he said he was appreciative of Smith and Bertans sticking up for him. He also said he feels like the lack of respect from referees has been worse this year and suggested the Wizards aren't getting the respect other teams like the Clippers do because of their 7-15 record.

To be fair, the numbers didn't exactly back up those claims on Sunday. The Wizards had 30 free throw attempts, three more than L.A. did. And Beal led all players with nine. He made all nine of them. Beal is also ninth in the NBA in free throw attempts at 7.2 per game, up from his average last season of 5.5.

This was, though, clearly something that had built over a series of games. And the Wizards are averaging the fifth-fewest free throw attempts per game this season at just 20.4 per contest. The Clippers, for comparison, are fourth in the NBA at 26.2.

But when the Wizards are in a close game with a team like the Clippers, who have way more talent than they do, it is hard for them to accept when they feel the referees aren't giving them a fair chance.

And for Brooks, it was particularly bad for Beal, whom he says "gets held all the time." And it's bad for rookie Rui Hachimura, who made all seven of his free throw attempts but should have had more if you ask his head coach.

"He attacks and he gets zero free throws. I understand nobody knows him, but we know him. That doesn't mean anything. You should be able to get to the free throw line with the way he attacks," Brooks said.

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