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Takeaways from Wizards' win over Atlanta Hawks behind big fourth quarter from John Wall and Bradley Beal

Takeaways from Wizards' win over Atlanta Hawks behind big fourth quarter from John Wall and Bradley Beal

The Wizards and Atlanta Hawks are slumping, and Wednesday they didn’t do anything to cure their woes on the offensive end.

Somebody, however, had to win and in the final six minutes the team with the superior talent -- the Wizards -- finally created the separation needed behind their defense and backcourt play with a 14-4 run to pull out a 104-1oo victory at Verizon Center in front of 18,137.

Bradley Beal (28 points, nine rebounds) led Washington to end a two-game skid followed by John Wall (22 points, 10 assists), Otto Porter (10 points, eight rebounds) and Markieff Morris (13 points, seven rebounds). It was Wall's 46th double-double, just three shy of tying his career high from last season.

The Wizards (43-28) trailed for most of the game and took the lead in the fourth quarter on a three-pointer from Kelly Oubre (five points, five rebounds).

Both sides traded baskets but the tone of the game changed when Morris went at Ersan Ilyasova to exploit his matchup advantage in the fourth. In between, Wall and Beal had dunks off of steals and Morris had an and-1 of his own when going at Ilyasova in the paint.

The Wizards pushed their lead quickly to double digits but it was trimmed to three in the final minute.  Wall’s pullup jumper pushed the advantage to 101-96 to stop Atlanta’s momentum and then had a steal to seal the outcome.

Tim Hardaway (29 points) led the Hawks who were playing without two starters, Paul Millsap and Kent Bazemore, because of knee soreness. Dwight Howard (14 points, 16 rebounds) and Dennis Schroder (18 points, six assists) contributed but the Hawks lost their fifth game in a row and continue to slide down the East standings.

[RELATED: No early-season panic for Leonsis; he trusted the analytics]

--The second unit trimmed the deficit to 30-28 early in the second quarter, but when the Wizards went back to their starters it quickly climbed to 39-30. Open shots didn’t fall and they allowed the Hawks to get easy looks in transition. On one possession, Wall posted up Schroder and four teammates watched it. He threw the ball away because he had no passing angle when a double-team came from Taurean Prince. At least Prince’s man has to move without the ball to make himself available for the kickout and a high-percentage look.

--The Hawks are a top-10 team when it comes to isolation offense, which is surprising because they’re not talented enough to be one. They repeatedly went into Howard in clearouts vs. Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi (four points, 10 rebounds) without much success. The only good iso heavy teams in the NBA in the top 10 are Cleveland and Toronto and that’s because they have superior 1-on-1 players in LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and DeMar DeRozan. The Hawks? Not so much. The Wizards were better off when Atlanta, which flourished in recent years because of ball movement with the now-departed Kyle Korver and Al Horford, used this strategy.

--Wall missed all eight of his shots in the first half and didn’t score. He finally made his first shot on a three-pointer at 10:58 of the third quarter and compensated for his poor shooting by forcing whistles. Wall appeared to make a more concerted effort to draw whistles and it worked. He got into the paint and appeared about to pass the ball but instead threw up a difficult shot and got a foul called. Schroder was too hands-on attempting to defend Wall on a screen and Wall immediately launched a shot. The whistle came shortly after and he was awarded three foul shots.

--Foul trouble again impacted Morris who picked up his third 37 seconds into the third quarter. He was only 2-for-7 shooting and had missed both of his three-point attempts at the time. His production coupled with Gortat (four points, six rebounds) has leveled off as a result. Gortat avoided fouls but focused more on defending Howard than looking for his offense. Morris started the end-of-game run by scoring nine of his points in the fourth.

--The rebounding issues the Wizards had in a loss to Boston, when they allowed 20 offensive, was flipped. They had a 55-44 edge in overall rebounding and 18-11 offensively.

[RELATED: Wizards' Brooks has little sympathy in NBA rest debate]

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Three things to watch for Wizards vs. Blazers, as John Wall and Damian Lillard square off

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Three things to watch for Wizards vs. Blazers, as John Wall and Damian Lillard square off

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Dwight Howard and the Washington Wizards take on Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic and the Portland Trail Blazers. Tipoff is at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

Here are three things to watch...

Schedule heats up

The Wizards really needed that one on Friday night. Though the Nets, even without Caris LeVert, aren't an easy out, the Wizards wanted to fully take advantage of a soft spot of their schedule. It's tough to lose to the Nets when you consider the road ahead.

The Wizards play seven straight games against teams at .500 or better. That includes a road game against the Raptors, who are tied for the league's best record. They also see the Rockets, the Pelicans twice and play at the Sixers. It all begins Sunday against the Blazers, who are tied for the fourth-best record in the NBA.

Rematch

Most of the Wizards' games this season have been lopsided one way or the other, and usually in the direction they would not prefer. But they have played a few close games and their most entertaining one happened to come against this same Blazers team.

The Wizards and Blazers went to overtime on Oct. 22 in Portland. The Wizards forced the extra period thanks to a three by Bradley Beal, and they won thanks to Otto Porter Jr. blocking Damian Lillard's shot in the closing seconds. 

The Wizards and Blazers have played some classics in recent years. Markieff Morris beat them with a game-winning three two years ago and last season Beal dropped 50 at the Moda Center. The matchup between both teams' star guards seems to bring the best out in everyone.

Howard vs. Nurkic

Much of the focus in this matchup is always on John Wall and Beal vs. Lillard and C.J. McCollum, but there will be a lot of action in the paint with Dwight Howard going up against Jusuf Nurkic. The Blazers are one of the best rebounding teams in the game and Nurkic, who pulls in 10.7 per game, is a big reason why. Nurkic also averages 15.5 points.

Howard is coming off his best game as a Wizard. He had 25 points and 17 rebounds against the Nets on Friday night. He was hurt when the teams first met in Portland.

Both are bruisers around the rim who don't stretch the floor with outside shots. It should be a physical battle on Sunday night.

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Former Wizard Jared Dudley: Time for a Wizards shake-up

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Former Wizard Jared Dudley: Time for a Wizards shake-up

Jared Dudley spent one season with the Washington Wizards. The core pieces on the current roster were there during that 2015-16 campaign. Based on that prior experience and a first-hand look Friday night, the Brooklyn Nets forward offered a candid assessment of the 5-10 squad. 

"I’m seeing a team that has been together too long,” Dudley told NBC Sports Washington following the Wizards’ 115-104 home loss. “They haven’t made progress, so it’s time to change things over there.”

John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter were teammates of Dudley for a full season. Markieff Morris joined the roster at the 2016 trade deadline. Washington failed to make the playoffs that season, but qualified in each of the next two and has reached the postseason in four of the five last years. 

The Wizards did not advance beyond the second round during any of those postseason appearances and lost in the first round last season after a 43-39 regular season. Following a 2-9 start, Washington won three in a row before falling to a scrappy Nets team that lost leading scorer Caris Levert earlier in the week to a gruesome ankle injury.

Dudley started and played 22 minutes in Brooklyn's win. The 12-year veteran's opinion on Washington included suggestions like extended use of a small-ball lineup. 

“I think (they have) good players, but sometimes, good players need different situations. For them, I think that it’s tough the way the league is changing. They play two bigs,” Dudley said about the combination of power forward Markieff Morris and center Dwight Howard. “In this day in age, Otto needs to play more four because he’s tall enough, more spacing.”

Facing a Brooklyn defense that leads the league in opponent mid-range shots, Washington often settled for such looks. The Wizards attempted a season-low 18 three-point attempts. 

The NBA rumor mill continually attempts to plot a new course for the Wizards. New York Times NBA insider Marc Stein reported that the Minnesota Timberwolves tried to “engage” Washington in trade talks for Jimmy Butler before shipping the All-Star guard to Philadelphia. “But the Wizards have kept Beal off limits amid their 4-9 start,” Stein reported earlier this week. “They would naturally prefer to trade the struggling Otto Porter, or perhaps even John Wall, but both possess hard-to-move contracts.”

Dudley sees the logic of moving at least one of those three players.

“I think they’ve had enough time, but they really haven’t (broken) through,” Dudley said. “I can see by the All-Star break or summer time one of these pieces moving. It’s going to be good for them. If it’s John, or Otto or Brad, one of them three, I think their next move is going to be good for both teams."