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Takeaways from Wizards' win over Bulls to extend home streak

Takeaways from Wizards' win over Bulls to extend home streak

This looked like a repeat of what happened almost a year ago, when the Wizards were desperately trying to get over .500 and went to play the depleted Chicago Bulls only to lose. They overcame an 18-point deficit Tuesday to win 101-99 in a game that was much harder than it should’ve been and saved by consecutive jumpers from John Wall.

The Bulls (19-20) were without Jimmy Butler (illness), Dwyane Wade (scheduled rest), and Nikola Mirotic (illness). That didn’t prevent them from getting out to a blazing start fueled by 13 first-half turnovers from Washington (19-18).

Wall (26 points, 14 assists) posted his 23rd double-double, followed by Bradley Beal (19 points), Markieff Morris (19 points), Otto Porter (11 points) and Marcin Gortat (10 points, 12 rebounds). Wall's jump shot with 47.4 seconds tied the score at 99 and at 5.9 seconds set the final margin as the Wizards lead the season series 2-1 with one meeting left vs. Chicago.

For Chicago, Denzel Valentine (19 points) came off the bench to make 5 of 11 three-pointers to set his career-high, followed by Michael Carter-Williams (14 points), Bobby Portis (13 points, seven rebounds), Robin Lopez (14 points, six rebounds), Taj Gibson (10 points, 12 rebounds) and Rajon Rondo (12 points, six assists)

The Wizards gave up 36 first-quarter points and trailed 61-49 at halftime. They went on a 32-16 run in the third to get back on top but a pair of three-point shots from Portis and Valentine put the Bulls back up 92-85 with 7:35 left.

Before Morris fouled out with four minutes left for Washington, he'd made a pair of three-point shots and had a steal and putback in transition for a 95-92 lead to set the stage. Lopez's two foul shots gave the Bulls a 99-97 lead but the Wall took over from there to close out their third win in a row.

-- Rondo had been 1-for-16 shooting in the first two games vs. the Wizards. He’d been parked on the bench by coach Fred Hoiberg in the previous five games too, losing his starting job to Carter-Williams. Inexplicably, the Wizards were going over the screen on the picks, allowing Rondo to get into the paint and find teammates for easy looks. Instead, the Wizards need to go under, clog the paint to take away the lane and force him into shots he can’t make which is almost everything that isn’t going to the rim. Rondo had eight points and five assists in 13 first-half minutes.

-- With Lopez and Gibson, the Bulls go hard on the offensive glass to clean up misses. That allowed the Wizards to get out in transition for 26 fast-break points. They had 32 in the last meeting.

-- The worst three-point shooting team in the NBA at 31.6%, the Bulls shot 80% in the first half (8-for-10) as Valentine made 4 of 5 and Portis 2-for-2. But a better effort to close out those shooters led the Bulls going 0-for-9 from deep in the third quarter when the Wizards made a run to regain the lead 81-77. Jason Smith and Kelly Oubre, in particular, played a role in that.

--The reserves for the Wizards took a step back. Sheldon McClellan (0 points) was responsible for Rondo’s early flurry as he went over unnecessarily on the screens. Smith (seven points, six rebounds), however, was the best of the bunch. He had modest numbers, but his three points, four rebounds and block in the third quarter factored into the comeback.

--Foul trouble remains an issue for Morris who picked up his fourth foul at 6:32 of the third quarter trying to take a charge from Carter-Williams. He got his third at 9:05 of the second quarter because he got too close to a non-shooter in Rondo and fouled him on the blow by. When Morris fouled out, he cleared out Gibson with an elbow as he tried to sweep through to make an offensive move. He lasted just 22 minutes.

RELATED: McClellan earns trust of Wizards' coaching staff

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5 observations about the Wizards at the midway point of the 2019-20 season

5 observations about the Wizards at the midway point of the 2019-20 season

The Wizards' 29-point loss to the Raptors on Friday night was the 41st game of the year, meaning Washington's 2019-20 regular season is officially halfway through.

With that in mind, here are five observations from the season so far; some expected and some unexpected...

They are who we thought they were

In some ways, this season has gone exactly how most thought it would. Bradley Beal has been an All-Star level player, but poor defense and an inexperienced roster around him has led to a team headed safely towards the lottery. They are 13-28 after 41 games, meaning they are on pace to win 26 on the season.

That's about what Vegas predicted, as evidenced by over/under win totals that stayed around 28.5. And that's what most reasonable forecasts had them being; a team with intriguing talent that was probably a year away from contending for the playoffs again.

Sheppard has found some guys

The early returns on the Tommy Sheppard era are good and that should be seen as one of the most important positives of this season so far. Just look at the gems he has acquired in a relatively short period of time as general manager. He drafted Rui Hachimura, a plug-and-play guy, with the ninth overall pick. He got Davis Bertans, Moe Wagner and Isaac Bonga in trades basically for nothing. 

He got Garrison Mathews out of nowhere. He signed Ish Smith instead of giving more money to Tomas Satoransky. And even his minor deals with guys like Anzejs Pasecniks and Gary Payton II have impressed to a degree.

It is very early in his tenure, but Sheppard is showing he has the ability to find diamonds in the rough, a skill that is one of the biggest separators between GMs.

It has also become evident on social media that Sheppard is gaining some clout among fans. Given the previous distrust in the front office, that is definitely worth noting.

The injuries have been ridiculous

Though injuries happen to every team and they are ultimately no excuse, the health of the Wizards has undoubtedly been a major part of their season to this point. They have had as many as eight players missing at times due to injury, or in other words more than half of their roster.

That has included two hardship exceptions and the players acquired as a result were even starting at times. Their best players have been hurt, even Beal who had previously played 194 straight games. Lately, they have been getting healthy, but the rash of injuries was enough to leave its mark on their 2019-20 campaign as a whole.

Beal may or may not be sold on the future

Though this season has mostly gone as expected, it has been fair to wonder how Beal has handled it all, given he is far and away their best player. He signed a contract extension to be part of this, but he's used to winning more games and it's only natural for him to be frustrated with how things have gone.

Beal backed up those theories with his comments this week about the team's culture, and the whole situation is going to be worth watching closely moving forward. The Wizards' best player appears to be a bit anxious about the franchise's future. Whether they can match their timeline to contend with his remains to be seen.

The Wall thing is going to get interesting

This was also pretty easy to call going into this season. Now over 11 months into his recovery from a ruptured Achilles, John Wall is making steady progress towards a return and the debates of whether he should come back this season or not are coming into focus. 

The discourse was taken up a notch recently with NBC Sports Washington's report about him playing in three-on-three scrimmages, and then again days after with video of those games. Though he isn't quite ready to come back, he is looking good and there are still three months remaining in the Wizards' season. 

Will he be ready one month from now, or two? Even if he is, will the Wizards bring him back or wait until next season? Those are major questions with no easy answers.

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Wizards committed more turnovers against the Raptors than they have in any game in 25 years

Wizards committed more turnovers against the Raptors than they have in any game in 25 years

Whether it's good or bad, nothing the Wizards do is subtle. 

They'll score a million points and give up two million points. They'll beat the Heat, Nuggets and Celtics without Bradley Beal but also blow an 18-point fourth quarter lead to the Bulls. 

The Wizards had some turnover issues Friday night, but again, they're never subtle. 

Washington committed 28 turnovers on the way to a 29-point loss. Following the first seven minutes of play, the Wizards had seven turnovers and seven points. 

The last time the Wizards turned the ball over that much was April 2, 1994, in a 104-96 win over the Bucks. The last time an NBA team turned it over 28 times? The 2010 Suns. 

Nine Wizards players had multiple turnovers, while five players had at least three. 

Following Bradley Beal's comments criticizing the team's culture and need to develop winning habits, the Wizards' response left more than enough to be desired. Credit the Raptors defense utilizing their length and ball pressure to take advantage of when the Wizards were loose with the ball, but it takes more than good defense to turn it over 28 times. 

The bright side is this was an uncharacteristic performance for the Wizards. They currently average the 10th-fewest turnovers per game in the NBA, so there's a good chance they clean things up on Monday against the Pistons. 

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