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What has led to Wizards' recent turnaround in play?

What has led to Wizards' recent turnaround in play?

The light hasn't just come on for the Wizards. They've gradually played better and are they're starting to see their way out of being under .500 all season, and that could happen before the calendar year ends.

They erased a 13-point deficit to beat the Chicago Bulls on their home floor Wednesday and sit at 13-15 with a chance to have a winning record on this three-game road trip.

They play at the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday, a team they beat 110-105 earlier this month.

So why the about-face after they struggled mightily to defend the three-point line, rebound and finish of games that were close late?

They've won six of their last eight games: "We got stops. We got to the free-throw line. We were being aggressive," said John Wall, who led the Wizards with 23 points, nine assists, six rebounds and three steals.

"Our second unit did a great job of giving us a six-point lead. Me and Brad (Beal) came back and we just closed it out from there."

RELATED: WIZARDS' MOST MUST-WATCH GAMES UNTIL ALL-STAR BREAK

-- Beal hasn't just been an All-Star caliber player on the offensive end. He has played All-Star level defense, too. Dwyane Wade was held to four points in the second half as Beal bodied up the veteran in the mid-post and forced him beyond his shooting range. Wade shot 2-for-9 in the second half. Beal's defense during this streak has been exceptional, but it also preceeded it. Wall, who wasn't nearly as good to begin the season, has caught up now that he's in better shape since his knee surgeries May 5. 

-- Marcin Gortat is 44 of 70 from the field for 62.8%. Those aren't empty stats. He's not only taking what defenses are giving him -- and a lot of them during this stretch are giving up the roll man to take away the three-point shot from Beal or Wall's dribble penetration. The pocket passes are there and Gortat is finishing them to make them pay.He attempted just four, eight and five shots in the first three games of this stretch and has since gotten 11, 10, eight, 15 and nine on the back end.

-- Coach Scott Brooks has found a bench rotation that works. He had to go deeper than expected vs. Chicago when Otto Porter left after halftime with back spasms and resort to Sheldon McClellan. Even if Kelly Oubre isn't scoring, his defense is valuable and he has learned how to stay on the court. Trey Burke is playing to his true self which is to look for his shot and score, similar to Ramon Sessions when he was here. It's what he does best. Burke isn't a pure point guard but when he has a mismatch he's not settling for fallaway contested jumpers. He's attacking off the dribble, breaking down defenses and getting to the rim. Jason Smith isn't hesitating to shoot the mid-range jumper from the elbow. Defenses are giving him that shot and he's staying in his lane and just taking it. 

--Beal and Wall are doing two things well together: Getting to the foul line and creating for others.Wall has attempted 7.8 free throws during this stretch and averaging 9.3 assists. Beal is attempting the exact number of foul shots as Wall, 7.8 per game (63 total) and 4.5 assists. That's helping them get easy points, distribute the wealth and put opponents in foul trouble. 

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Rui Hachimura falls to Devin Booker in NBA 2K Players Tournament

Rui Hachimura falls to Devin Booker in NBA 2K Players Tournament

Coming off a nail-biting win over Donovan Mitchell in the first round, Rui Hachimura lost to Suns star Devin Booker in the quarterfinals of the NBA 2K Players Tournament Thursday night. 

The Wizards' rookie forward played with the Clippers, while Booker went with the Mavericks. Not only did Hachimura have the more talented team in this matchup, but it looked like he had a coach sitting near him the whole time too. 

Hachimura's biggest challenge in this one was finding easy points against Booker's defense. Booker did a good job using his center to close down driving lanes while leaving Hachimura's big men wide open in the corner.

The Clippers bigs aren't great outside shooters, so outside of a few surprising makes from Montrezl Harrell, it was a rough night offensively. Hachimura tried to go with a small-ball lineup with Marcus Morris at the center spot, but then he started giving up way too many offensive rebounds. 

On the flip side when Hachimura tried to do the same thing to Booker, Kristaps Porzingis and Maxi Kleber were able to knock those shots down. That left the door open for Luka Doncic to get open looks and that's how Booker eventually pulled away in the second half. 

It was a good run for Hachimura in the tournament. He knocked off the four-seed in Mitchell and delivered one of the more memorable moments of the first round. He just ran into a buzzsaw in Booker, who may have a decent chance to win the whole thing. 

The semifinals and finals of the 2K Players Tournament will begin on Saturday. 

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GM Tommy Sheppard says Wizards plan to retain Shabazz Napier in free agency

GM Tommy Sheppard says Wizards plan to retain Shabazz Napier in free agency

With the NBA season on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, the extra free time has given teams an opportunity to reflect on the first 64 games of the 2019-20 campaign. 

Whichever direction the league decides to go with returning to play, the 2020 NBA draft and free agency period loom large once the season is over. For the Wizards, they have a pair of key players set to hit the open market: Davis Bertans and Shabazz Napier. 

John Wall's return significantly elevates expectations surrounding the Wizards next season and will make the team's offseason decision-making process that much more important. In the case of Napier and Bertans, Washington's general manager Tommy Sheppard talked highly of both in a Q&A with Dave Johnson Thursday

"I think with [Napier and Bertans], when we acquired them not as rentals we acquired them to stay here," Sheppard said. "I think the players that we acquired, they're here to show that they can be here for the future. With Davis and Shabazz, they showed enough to us that certainly we would love to retain them. We plan to."

What Sheppard had to say about Bertans isn't necessarily new. He maintained the stance all year that the Wizards intended to keep Bertans this summer and held true to it when Washington reportedly turned down offers including first-round picks at the trade deadline. 

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Napier's future with the team, on the other hand, has not been talked about publicly by someone like Sheppard. The Wizards acquired him from the Nuggets in exchange for Jordan McRae at the trade deadline and the six-year veteran appeared in 15 games for Washington before the season was suspended. 

Napier started eight games and averaged 12.2 points, 4.4 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 1.7 steals while shooting 43.1% from the field and 38.1% from three. Based on production alone, it's not that surprising Sheppard wants to bring the former UConn star back. 

However, if the Wizards can re-sign Napier this summer, they'd have quite a lot of viable point guards on their roster going into next season. Wall will be back and Ish Smith will be in the final year of his two-year contract.

Napier would figure to be either the third point guard or Washington's backup shooting guard depending on how you look at things. Then you have to ask how comfortable you are with Napier potentially taking minutes away from Jerome Robinson and ball-handling opportunities from Troy Brown Jr., both young wings the Wizards need to take a step forward next year. 

But shooting and playmaking are at a premium in the NBA today, and as defensively challenged as an Ish Smith-Shabazz Napier backcourt would be off the bench, there's no doubt Washington's second unit would be able to put up a ton of points. 

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