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Takeaways from Wizards' win over Lakers, 16th straight home victory

Takeaways from Wizards' win over Lakers, 16th straight home victory

Even when the Wizards don’t play their best, they’re still winning by double-digits which was the case after they held on in Thursday’s 116-108 win over the L.A. Lakers for their 16th win in a row at Verizon Center in front of 16,473 -- the second-longest home winning streak in franchise history.

When the Lakers (17-35) were here last season, in Kobe Bryant’s final game on this floor, the Wizards underperformed in one of their worst losses in front of a pro-Lakers crowd.

Almost everything was the same except the Wizards (29-20)  won despite an uncomfortable finish. They lost a chunk of what had been a 19-point lead in the third quarter when a dunk from Luol Deng cut the deficit to 67-60. Then a turnover led to a lob dunk for Larry Nance to get it to 91-78 with 9:58 left.

John Wall (33 points, 11 assists), however, scored 16 in the fourth to lead all scorers with his 29th double-double, followed by Bradley Beal (23 points, four assists) and Marcin Gortat (21 points, 14 rebounds) with his 28th double-double. Markieff Morris (12 points, 11 rebounds, three steals, two blocks) and Otto Porter (11 points, six rebounds) came alive in the second half when their production was needed most.

D’Angelo Russell (17 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds) led the Lakers followed by Jordan Clarkson (20 points), Deng (17 points), Lou Williams (15 points) and Tarik Black (13 points, 11 rebounds).

[RELATED: Will the Wizards make a big move at the trade deadline?]

--The Wizards led just 31-29 after the first quarter when they allowed 12-for-22 shooting, 54.5%, and 5 of 12 from three, or 41.7%. Then the game turned because of a second unit. When Beal returned at 8:03, the Wizards were up 39-31. When Wall and Gortat re-entered at 6:37, it was 42-33. In that stretch Kelly Oubre made a 6-footer and a 19-footer. Trey Burke and Jason Smith had layups and the Lakers went cold. The second unit, however, wasn’t as efficient to begin the fourth quarter.

-- The Lakers had 15 first-half turnovers that produced 17 points the other way. Russell had five giveaways in the first half alone and finished with seven. Williams came off the bench had three in just nine minutes of the first half with his only field goal coming on a contested three by Oubre. But the Lakers were more responsible with the ball in the second half where they only committed five to get back into the game.

--Beal appeared to be on his way to setting a career-high for three-pointers, eclipsing his mark set earlier this season vs. the Sacramento Kings when he made seven. He was 5-for-6 in the first half but lost his touch. He has had six made threes twice, in a loss at the Boston Celtics and in a win over the L.A. Clippers.

--The open looks were there for Morris and Porter, but they only combined to make 1 of 8 three-pointers in the first half for a total of seven points. Still, the Wizards led 58-44 because of their superior guard play of Wall and Beal combining for 29. Porter heated up in the third quarter with a pair of treys to get the lead back up to double digits. Morris compensated for his 3-for-14 shooting by going 6-for-8 from the foul line and coming up with key rebounds and a block of Larry Nance at the rim that put the Wizards in transition for a 101-93 lead.

--The Lakers came out aggressive in the third by denying passing lanes and handoffs as they were able to disrupt the Wizards’ rhythm and pace. They got the deficit down and even got even at 91 but couldn’t keep Gortat off the glass or stop the pick-and-roll. He shot 10-for-13 after entering the game shooting 81% from the field in his previous four games.

--Perhaps the key sequence of the game came at 4:38 after Morris missed a dunk and the Wizards ahead just 101-96. The botched play put Russell in transition. Porter and Beal hustled back and Beal swatted it off the backboard. Deng recovered the ball and tried to drive but Gortat was there for the charge. The next time down the floor, Morris converted a lob dunk to make up for it.

-- Timofey Mozgov, who signed for $64 million with Los Angeles last summer, had as many points as Ian Mahinmi. Mozgov missed his only shot and was held scoreless in 17 minutes as a starter. Mahinmi, who also signed for the same amount but has been out injured all season for the Wizards except for one game, could be near a return. 

[RELATED: Ian Mahinmi goes through Wizards shootaround for 1st time since Nov.]

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5 things to know about new Wizards senior vice president Sashi Brown

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5 things to know about new Wizards senior vice president Sashi Brown

The Washington Wizards announced Monday that Sashi Brown will be named the new senior vice president for the team.

Here are 5 things to know about Brown...

1. Sashi Brown used to be an executive for the Cleveland Browns.

Yes, you read that correctly. Sashi Brown used to work in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns. Prior to working with the Browns, Brown also worked with the Jacksonville Jaguars as their lead counsel. 

2. Brown is a Harvard Law graduate.

Sashi Brown received his law degree from Harvard University in 2002. Brown utilized his Harvard Law degree with the Jaguars and the Browns to advise them in various business making decisions. He will do the same for the Wizards.

3. Brown has D.C. roots.

Brown is no stranger to D.C. Prior to working with the Browns and Jaguars, Brown worked at the Washington, D.C. based law firm of Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale and Dorr. 

4. Brown will be moving from Ohio to D.C.

Sashi Brown currently lives in a suburb outside of Cleveland, Ohio, with his wife, Paige and two sons Robeson and Ellison and his daughter, Zora.

5. Brown is only 43 years old.

Sashi Brown is only 43 years old and was featured as a 38-year-old in Sports Business Journal's "Forty under 40" in 2015.

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Wizards show creativity in front office shakeup by hiring Sashi Brown from NFL ranks

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Wizards show creativity in front office shakeup by hiring Sashi Brown from NFL ranks

Now that the pieces are falling into place, the Wizards' months-long process to revamp their front office is beginning to make more sense. The outcome was unexpected, but sensible as the Wizards aim to begin a new era while still holding onto some of their own personnel they see value in.

After allowing Tommy Sheppard to run their offseason with an interim tag, it was only logical to promote him long-term, so that's what they did. Yet, they were still able to bring in a collection of new people to change their direction and vision.

The most notable hiring was of Sashi Brown to serve as a senior vice president. But the Wizards also brought in Daniel Medina to improve their medical program and John Thompson III to assist in player development and wellness.

The Wizards deserve some credit for creativity in the end when at times over the past few months it appeared they lacked it. Reports had them trying to poach from other teams and some of their targets seemed entirely unrealistic. They were criticized for not having their own ideas.

But the Wizards were able to find an intriguing executive in Brown, they just had to look outside of their sport. Wizards managing partner Ted Leonsis scanned the other major leagues including the NFL, MLB and in European soccer. He found Brown in the football industry, waiting for his next gig after he was fired as executive vice president of the Cleveland Browns in 2017.

It is an outside-the-box decision by Leonsis that parallels what the Browns did back in 2016 when they overhauled their front office and brought in Paul DePodesta from the New York Mets, fresh off a run to the World Series. DePodesta was a longtime baseball executive, having served in a variety of roles including as the GM of the L.A. Dodgers. Though he played football in college, the NFL was not his expertise.

The jury is still out on whether the Browns were smart in going that direction. They are seen as a team on the rise, but have yet to accomplish anything of significance.

Brown, 43, certainly understands how a professional sports organization should work, having served both with the Browns and the Jaguars. But he is not an experienced basketball executive. That presents some risk and probably some learning on the job.

The latter point is important to consider regarding the timeline Brown's addition. In hindsight, the Wizards had good reason to not install their new executive in the middle the offseason bustle. Brown will have some catching up to do first.

Brown has never run an NBA team before, but what he did with the Browns is extra-interesting as for how it could pertain to the Wizards. Brown was known as a Sam Hinkie-like figure in the NFL because of the extensive teardown he orchestrated in Cleveland. The Browns tanked, got super young and accrued as many draft picks as possible.

Like Hinkie, Brown was fired before his work brought dividends. But will he advise the Wizards to follow a similar path? That would seem to put trading Bradley Beal on the table, though Sheppard and Leonsis are not in favor of such a move at this point.

Leonsis has compiled a collection of smart people to run his franchise, though only time to tell whether they are a good fit together. Now there are more cooks in the kitchen and they come from different backgrounds. It is worth noting, however, that Sheppard himself has football roots, having played at New Mexico State University.

What happens if it doesn't work will be interesting. Is Sheppard's fate tied to Brown in any way? How long is their leash?

What is clear is that Leonsis is adding more resources to the Wizards. Fans will appreciate that. Most will also like their significant push into analytics.

And it will likely be appreciated by many that Leonsis is taking a risk in this hire. The nature of the NBA rewards those who swing big, those who are aggressive. With this new front office dynamic, Leonsis believes the Wizards can be factors in free agency next summer.

According to a person familiar with their plans, the Wizards aim to enter next offseason with the cap room and young assets to acquire major difference makers. They want to add pieces of significance around John Wall and Bradley Beal. Brown will help them make their free agent pitch.

The operational word for the Wizards now is 'reboot' and not 'rebuild.' The Wizards see a path to contention that doesn't require an extended period of lottery picks.

Few things in sports offer guarantees and certainly, front office hirings are included. The Wizards, though, are showing some imagination and could be rewarded for it.

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