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Takeaways from Wizards win over Hornets to clinch best record since 1978-79

Takeaways from Wizards win over Hornets to clinch best record since 1978-79

The best basketball team Washington has seen since the 1970s earned another notch on their belt Tuesday night with a 118-111 victory over the Charlotte Hornets at the Verizon Center. That pushed the Wizards to 47 wins on the season, the most for the franchise since 1978-79, also the last year they won the division and also the last time they advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. The number 47 may not carry the same weight as 50, a goal both John Wall and Bradley Beal have specified publicly, but it's a place this franchise hasn't been in almost four decades.

This win also came at a good time in that it snapped a three-game losing streak for Washington, which tied a season-high. It was their longest slump since Nov. 16 and the third time they have lost three straight. Now that it's over, the excuse of those three losses coming on the road against playoff-bound Western Conference teams holds more validity.

The third-place Raptors also lost to the Pacers on Tuesday night. With the Wizards' win, they are now tied with Toronto at 47-31 on the season. The Raptors hold the tiebreaker based on the head-to-head season series, but the Wizards once again are in good position to move up.

Charlotte gained momentum in the fourth quarter to cut the Wizards' lead to four with 1:30 left after Frank Kaminsky hit a corner three. But Kelly Oubre, Jr. answered with his third three of the night as the near sellout crowd of 18,614 erupted. Otto Porter helped seal the victory with a corner three with 37 seconds left, his first of the game. That put the Wizards comfortably ahead up eight.

The Hornets made a big push in the second quarter. They outscored the Wizards 20-10 in the final five minutes of the first half. The Wizards would answer coming out of the break with a 15-6 tear to cut the Hornets' lead to three and force coach Steve Clifford to call a timeout. The Wizards kept going and finished the third leading 87-81.

John Wall caught fire in the third with 14 of his 23 points. He also had six of his 13 assists in the frame. He led the charge for a Wizards team that closed their season series with Charlotte at 3-1. Washington has won seven of the last 10 meetings between the teams.

Bradley Beal was next on the Wizards after Wall with 19. Jason Smith had 17 and five rebounds. Oubre scored 15 points and grabbed five boards. Markieff Morris had 14 points, tying his most since Feb. 28, and added six rebounds. 

Kemba Walker led the Hornets with 37 points. Behind him were Marco Belinelli with 16 points and Nic Batum with 13 points. Kaminsky had 12 points, five rebounds and three threes. Cody Zeller had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

The win avenged an ugly loss for the Wizards to the Hornets on March 18. They shot a season-low 36.7 percent that night in Charlotte and made a season-low 29 field goals.

[RELATED: LeBron apologizes for on-court outburst toward teammate]

- The Wizards improved to 30-11 at home. This is the first time they have hit the 30-mark since the 1988-89 season when they also went 30-11. Only three other teams - the Warriors, Spurs and Cavs - have 30 or more home wins this season. If the Wizards get to 31 wins, and they have just one home game left on Saturday against the Heat, they will have their most home wins since 1978-79.

- Like Wall, it was also in the third quarter that Beal got going. He scored eight points in the quarter, including a thunderous tomahawk slam to cut the lead to one at 69-68. Beal shot just 2-for-9 in the first half, but went 4-for-5 in the third and made his only three attempt.

- Wall set a new career-high for one season with his 50th double-double. He had 49 last season. Wall's 50 double-doubles are the most for the franchise since Moses Malone had 55 in 1987-88. Wall added six steals to tie a season-high set back on Dec. 14 against the same Hornets team.

- The Hornets couldn't be stopped in the second quarter with 39 points in the frame on 73.7 percent shooting. Most of that was Walker, who exploded for 17 points and shot 6-of-6 from the field. He was left open for several of those shots as the Wizards failed to switch on crosscourt passes. Walker was a perfect 3-for-3 from three in the second quarter and knocked down both of his foul shots. His 17 points were one more than he scored in the last meeting between the teams on March 13. 

The Hornets ended up with 63 points in the first half which made it three in a stretch of four halves going back to Friday's game vs. Utah that the Wizards gave up 60 or more points in a half. 

- Can we now call Smith a legitimate stretch-5? We knew he could hit midrange jumpers when the Wizards signed him, but Smith continues to fill it up from downtown at a rate never seen before in his career. He shot 5-for-8 from beyond the arc in the first half on Tuesday to reach a new career-high for threes made. His previous best was four set just four games ago against the Clippers on March 29. Smith made four threes all of last season with the Magic.

This was just the fifth game of his career that he's made three threes or more. Four of those games have not just come this season, but since the calendar turned to 2017. He now has 35 made threes this season, which is more than double his previous career-high of 15 set in 2014-15 with the Knicks. Smith, in fact, has made more than half of his 69 career threes in nine NBA seasons this year for the Wizards.

The Wizards hit 17 threes as a team and in doing so set a new franchise record for threes in a season at 720. The previous franchise best was 709, set last year.

[RELATED: Scott Brooks on Steve Kerr's apology, NBA's unwritten rules]

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Markieff Morris

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Markieff Morris

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Markieff Morris' season...

Player: Markieff Morris

Position: Power forward

Age: 28

2017-18 salary: $8 million

2017-18 stats: 73 G, 27.0 mpg, 11.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.5 bpg, 48.0 FG%, 36.7 3P%, 82.0 FT%, 53.6 eFG%, 116 ORtg, 112 DRtg

Best game: 12/1 vs. Pistons - 23 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, zero turnovers, 10-for-16 FG, 2-for-3 3PT

Season review: It took quite a while for Markieff Morris to get healthy in the 2017-18 season. He was sidelined to begin last offseason with the ankle injury he suffered against the Celtics in the playoffs, then in September had surgery on both his abdomen and groin. The sports hernia surgery was known, while the groin procedure was revealed once the season was over.

Morris only missed nine games in the entire season, but took time to find his rhythm early. He averaged just 9.0 points and 4.4 rebounds in 14 games in the month of November. He picked it up after that, though he never quite reached the level we saw from him in 2016-17 in terms of volume production.

Morris played less minutes, took less shots, scored fewer points and grabbed less rebounds than the season before. On the other hand, he was more efficient than ever. Morris shot 48 percent from the field, his best since 2013-14, and posted career-highs in three-point percentage (36.7) and effective field-goal percentage (53.6). 

The Wizards could use more scoring from Morris moving forward, especially at times when one of their primary options is injured, as was the case in 2017-18 when John Wall missed 41 games. An active and engaged Morris changes everything for the Wizards. 

When Morris scored 15 points or more this season, the Wizards went 15-8. The season before, they went 22-9 when he got to the 15-point mark. 

It's a bit difficult to project Morris' role for the 2018-19 season at this point, given the fact he's entering a contract year and the most logical area for the Wizards to make significant changes (if they choose to) is in their frontcourt. Also, as Morris discussed in his exit interview, he knows more time at center in small-ball sets could be in his future.

Regardless of what happens with the team, it's a huge summer for Morris individually. If he sets himself up well for a big year in 2018-19, he could earn a nice payday in what might be his last long-term contract given his age.

Potential to improve: Rebounding, screens, scoring

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

Marcin Gortat, C

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Marcin Gortat

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Marcin Gortat

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Marcin Gortat's season...

Player: Marcin Gortat

Position: Center

Age: 34

2017-18 salary: $12.8 million

2017-18 stats: 82 G, 25.3 mpg, 8.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.7 bpg, 51.8 FG%, 67.5 FT%, 51.8 eFG%, 112 ORtg, 107 DRtg

Best game: 10/18 vs. Sixers - 16 points, 17 rebounds, 3 blocks, assist, 7-for-12 FG

Season review: Marcin Gortat is self-aware enough to know that what happened to him in 2017-18 was inevitable in many ways. He even publicly called it before the season.

He was one year older, with Ian Mahinmi healthy and in the rotation, and with the NBA continuing to move towards small-ball and big men who can play on the perimeter. As a result, Gortat saw his role in the Wizards rotation pared down noticeably.

Though he still started all 82 games, his minutes went down from 31.2 per game the year before the 25.3. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who played the majority of the season coming off the bench, logged more minutes than Gortat, though he was a starter.

Gortat's minutes were his fewest since the 2009-10 season, when he was a 25-year-old bench player for the Orlando Magic. His numbers this season followed suit. Gortat's points and rebounds per game were both the lowest since that 2009-10 campaign.

Gortat averaged a career-best 10.4 rebounds per game in 2016-17, but the minutes had a direct effect on his volume of boards. He pulled in 2.4 less per game this season despite his rebound percentage (17.0) being close to his career average (17.5). That career average, by the way, is 30th-best all-time an eighth among active players.

Not getting the same opportunities he had in years past, plus public misunderstandings with teammates, combined to make for a frustrating year for Gortat. He said on the Wizards Tipoff podcast midseason it was the worst year of his career. Gortat, though, did continue to make an impact setting screens for the Wizards and he rallied to finish relatively strong.

He had several solid outings in the playoffs, including his 16 points in Game 3 and his 12 rebounds in Game 5. The question is whether that is the last time we will see Gortat in a Wizards uniform.

Washington has played with the idea of trading Gortat for a while now. He popped up in rumors around the trade deadline in February, but remained on the roster. Now he has an expiring contract working in his favor, making it a bit more likely he gets dealt.

Gortat knows his future in Washington is uncertain, though he said following the season he would like to stay. It would not be surprising to him or anyone if he were traded this summer. If not, he's got one year left with the Wizards and could very well have his role decreased even more.

Potential to improve: Rim protection, midrange shooting, free throw percentage

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!