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Takeaways from Wizards' win over Pistons behind Bradley Beal's big night

Takeaways from Wizards' win over Pistons behind Bradley Beal's big night

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Fifty wins are still in play for the Wizards after they went without John Wall and Otto Porter to turn out the lights at The Palace on Monday, 105-101.

Kelly Oubre (10 points, six rebounds) and Brandon Jennings (two points, six assists, five steals) started in their place as Washington (49-32) never trailed after the midway point of the first quarter. They led by as many as 15 in the final home game for the Pistons at the arena they have called home since 1988.

Bradley Beal (33 points) was on fire from the start. He made 7 of 10 shots, including a Hail Mary off a difficult catch in the corner for a 55-42 halftime lead.

Markieff Morris (20 points, eight rebounds) and Marcin Gortat (eight points, eight rebounds, five assists) started while Ian Mahinmi (six points, 11 rebounds) was a force inside off the bench along with Tomas Satoransky (11 points, three assists) and Bojan Bogdanovic (nine points).

The Pistons (37-44) were listless outside of Ish Smith (16 points, nine assists) and a muted performance from Andre Drummond (10 points, seven rebounds) who only played 24 minutes. Tobias Harris (22 points) helped trim the deficit to 79-73 entering the fourth and tied it twice.

They Pistons could never regain the lead. Beal had two plays where he blew by Stanley Johnson, one off a curl and another on a face-up move, for layups in a 43-second span that squashed their hopes after getting to within 90-88. Beal had a thunderous dunk with 34 seconds left and drew the foul. That put the Wizards ahead 103-97 and he made the final two free throws to cap the scoring. 

The Wizards won the season series with Detroit 2-1. Their regular-season finale is Wednesday at the Miami Heat, who have won all three of their meetings. A win puts them at 50.

The Pistons will move downtown next season to Little Caesars Arena. The Palace, almost an hour's drive outside the city, will be demolished despite being one of the NBA's better facilities to watch a game.

[RELATED: VIDEO: Mahinmi leaves game after apparent leg injury]

--Jennings set a brisk pace from the opening tip. He was able to gamble more successfully vs. Smith, who isn’t a threat from deep and can be contained if playing him for the drive. Jennings got the offense going right away and had a nifty one-hand pass to Mahinmi that should’ve been an assist but the big man missed. Up 98-94 with 90 seconds left, Jennings opted for a quick flip pass in transition that was too difficult to handle for Jason Smith (six points, six rebounds, three assists) that was a turnover. Detroit responded with a three-pointer to give it new life.

--Boban Marjanovic (eight points, eight rebounds) was confused by Mahinmi, who could match the 300-pound center’s strength and defended him in isolation in the post. Marjanovic couldn’t get deep post position as Mahinmi used an arm bar technique perfectly to stand him up and beat him to the spot when he tried to make a counter move.  When Drummond was in, Mahinmi pressured him in the high post to prevent the cutters from getting the ball cleanly going to the rim. But at 4:47 of the fourth, Mahinmi contested Ish Smith’s jumper and had to limp off the floor after consultation with the head athletic trainer.

--With Wall out, Trey Burke became the backup behind Jennings played his first real minutes since Feb. 28 after Jennings was signed as a free agent. Burke had made just two appearances since then totaling seven minutes. Burke contributed to what started out as a fruitful second quarter but had two turnovers in eight minutes and lost Ish Smith off the ball. He didn’t play after that.

--Morris had his second consecutive strong offensive game as he was too skilled for Henry Ellenson, who couldn’t defend him in the mid-post or facing up. The Pistons had to send a help defender, usually Drummond or Marjanovic, but that’s why they were outrebounded 48-36. Morris went at Jon Leuer (zero points) in a move across the lane for a fading jumper to push the lead to 98-94. He faced up Leuer again and went baseline with a sweepthrough move for the falling down jumper and a 100-97 lead. Beal did the rest.

--Satoransky has more confidence in his shot. He made 4 of 6, including a three-pointer from the short corner when Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ran at him to contest. When the Pistons tied the score at 79, Satoransky broke it with a pull-up jumper the next time down. His first assist was to Jason Smith in the fourth and Satoransky had two free throws for an 85-81 advantage. He played 19 minutes, his most since Jan. 14.

--No regular starter played more than Beal’s 33 minutes. Gortat logged 21 and Morris 27.  

[RELATED: Wizards complete biggest turnaround from 2-8 start in NBA history]

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LeBron James had his worst ever game against the Wizards in Lakers' loss

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LeBron James had his worst ever game against the Wizards in Lakers' loss

No Wizards fan needs to be reminded of the torment their favorite team has suffered at the hands of LeBron James for the last decade-and-a-half. He has eliminated them from the playoffs three times, scored 57 in their building and hit a variety of game-winning shots.

So, it should be considered no small feat what the Wizards did on Sunday night in their 128-110 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. They held James, arguably the league's best player, to only 13 points. That's his lowest scoring total ever against the Wizards franchise.

James has played the Wizards 65 times over the years, between the regular season and the playoffs. His previous career low vs. the Wizards was 14, back on Feb. 7 of 2004, when he was a rookie.

While in the Eastern Conference for his first 15 NBA seasons, James played the Wizards four times a year and often had the upper-hand. In his career, even with Sunday's loss, he is 30-19 against them with a 26.9 points per game average.

Usually, James powers his way to the rim against the Wizards and scores at will. Not on Sunday night.

"I have no clue," head coach Scott Brooks said when asked for the secret to shutting him down.

"It seems like every night it's 40 points here. He makes shots. Last year, here I think he averaged [39.9 points, 11.0 assists and 10.0 rebounds]. He's a pretty good player."

James shot just 5-for-16 from the field on Sunday, good for 31.3 percent. He was 0-for-2 from three and had four turnovers with only three assists. He was a -21 in the box score.

Some of James' struggles could be attributed to fatigue, as the Lakers played the night before in Charlotte. And James did have an off-night with some missed shots he would otherwise make.

But the Wizards had a plan and it worked. They deployed Jeff Green to guard him in isolation. Green is not only the Wizards' best match from a physical standpoint, he knows James well having played with him last season with the Cavaliers.

Green did an excellent job matching James' physical style without fouling. He had only one foul on the night despite playing bump-and-run coverage on many of James' drives to the basket.

Green and the Wizards also took away his three-point looks by closing early and making him pass to teammates. James' two three-point attempts were a season-low.

"Give a lot of credit to Jeff. Jeff did a great job," guard John Wall said. "It was one game. We know he is how he is. Just gotta tip your hat for us, making him make tough shots and make plays tonight."

The Wizards wanted others to beat them from long range and James' teammates didn't come through. While James didn't get off many threes, other Lakers did. They just didn't hit them.

Josh Hart went 0-for-5 from long range. Lonzo Ball went 2-for-7 and Kyle Kuzma went 0-for-4. 

“I think we did a good job of making it difficult on [James], showing him a lot of bodies, active hands," guard Bradley Beal said.

With James in check, the Wizards took advantage. They forced 22 total turnovers and that allowed Wall to feast in transition. He scored a season-high 40 points and dished 14 assists.

For one night, the Wizards had James' number. After 16 years of domination, it was about time.

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Sam Dekker stands out for Wizards without cutting corners

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Sam Dekker stands out for Wizards without cutting corners

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- Scott Brooks doesn’t know much about Sam Dekker. Four games since the Wizards acquired the energy forward as part of a successful three-team deal, it’s clear the head coach is enjoying the homework.

John Wall’s passionate work from the start against the Los Angeles Lakers helped snap the Wizards’ four-game losing streak, but Dekker’s X-factor performance also stood out in Washington’s rousing 128-110 win Sunday night.

Sunday marked the Wizards’ first game since the weekend’s chaotic trade sequence that will ultimately bring Trevor Ariza back to Washington. The deal doesn’t become approved by the league until Monday. With Otto Porter (right knee contusion) sidelined, Washington took the court shorthanded at positions where players would contend with LeBron James.

Brooks admitted pregame he loved the undermanned challenge. Dekker’s constant and perceptive movement helped Washington play at needed levels without cutting corners.

“Sam is a great cutter. That is what I am finding out,” Brooks said. “I didn't really know everything about his game, I still don't.”

Brooks isn’t alone in learning about the fourth-year player. Dekker received regular rotation work the previous two seasons with the Rockets and Clippers, but his NBA career has yet to blast off.

An ankle injury kept him off the court in Cleveland earlier this campaign until the Dec. 7 trade involving Jason Smith landed him in Washington.

The general scouting report played out in real life against the Lakers. High motor player. Athletic 6-foot-9 forward. Scattered shooting from distance.

The two positive traits showed in the open court and on the move. Dekker repeatedly found space when Wall or Tomas Satoransky ran the offense. They frequently found him for dunks and layups. Dekker finished 10 of 15 from the field.

“Whenever I have the ball or attack, penetrate, he’s a great cutter,” said Wall, who finished with a season-high 40 points and 14 assists. “We were just talking about it. He said ‘Whenever you have the opportunity to be aggressive, I’m always a guy that’s cutting and doing the little things. I don’t mind doing the dirty work.’”

The Wizards (12-18) need more grit in their world considering their underachieving start to the season. That’s something Dekker believes he can provide. Considering he doesn’t have full grasp of the team’s playbook terminology, falling on the back of basketball basics is necessary for now.

“They called out a couple of plays tonight and I looked at John, looked at Brad (Beal) and I’m like where (do I go), Dekker said spastically. “(They) would just say go to the corner. OK. That part of it is tough.

“One thing you can control is how hard you play and how smart you play. When you put yourself in a position to do some good things, and help the team. That’s really all I’m trying to do right now.”

Going forward Dekker will try finding a spot in Washington’s rotation. Ariza, who was Dekker’s basketball tutor when the two played in Houston during the 2016-17 season, likely moves into the starting lineup.

Reserve minutes opened when Washington traded Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers to Phoenix for Ariza.  The basics of Dekker’s game compares to the popular Oubre, but with perhaps a steadier baseline.

He has yet to run the court with complete ease. Dekker remains on a minute’s restriction because of the ankle injury. “I was able to do some things tonight that I haven’t been able to in the past couple of games. That was a positive,” he said.

There’s no guarantees for minutes or the 24-year-old being part of Washington’s future. Dekker is one of several restricted free agents on the roster. For now the goal is simple: Play and play hard.

“I’m just trying to prove myself every night. I’m trying to show coach I’m a guy that can help this team,” Dekker said. “I’ve helped teams in the past, but I really want to be part of a playoff run here.”

Color Brooks impressed, with one clear clanking exception.

“I'm assuming that he is going to be able to shoot threes better than he did,” Brooks said after watching Dekker air ball a 3-point attempt and wildly miss on another. “But he cuts to the basket, he moves the ball, he plays hard, he brings energy, he plays with the proper respect for the game. That is what I love about him, he always seems to be prepared. He doesn't have to turn the switch on, it's on.” 

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