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Wizards break down in 119-117 loss to Celtics: Five takeaways


Wizards break down in 119-117 loss to Celtics: Five takeaways

The Wizards had a chance to officially turn the corner with Saturday's game against the Boston Celtics, but they faltered late in a game they controlled most of the way and lost to them for the third time this season and failed to get over .500.

John Wall (season-high 36 points, 13 assists, seven rebounds seven steals) led all scorers as all of Washington's starters reached double-figures. Marcin Gortat (18 points, 11 rebounds), Jared Dudley (15 points, seven rebounds), Garrett Temple (12 points), Kelly Oubre (10 points, six rebounds) and Gary Neal (10 points).

In two meetings in Boston in November, the Celtics blitzed them 118-98 and 111-78. On Saturday, the Wizards (19-20) blew out the Indiana Pacers 118-104 after they'd been embarrassed at home by them in November but came up short in this one after they tied the score at 117 on a pair of foul shots from Temple.

Isaiah Thomas, who made two foul shots with 21 seconds left, led the Celtics (22-19) with 32 points but Jae Crowder (22 points) had the game-winner on a layup on an inbounds play.

Wall was able to get up the court and have a layup but it trickled off the rim and Nene's putback dunk to force overtime was too late.

  • It's amazing how ball security makes everything better, or the lack of it causes the wheels to fall off. When the Wizards lost in Boston on Nov. 6, they had 24 turnovers that led to 24 points and were outrebounded by the smaller team 53-45. In a Nov. 27 loss, the Wizards had 22 turnovers that produced 17 points and were outrebounded again 58-46 (19 offensive). They only had nine through three quarters Saturday but opened the fourth with five which allowed Boston to get back in it.

  • At 3:31 of the first quarter, the Wizards went with Nene along with four guards -- Wall, Temple, Neal and Ramon Sessions. It produced as the Wizards extended the lead to 11. They're better off going smaller against the Celtics anyway because they force so many switches on bigs who can shoot from the arc. Not having Kris Humphries (knee) doesn't hurt against teams that go small like this. Not having Otto Porter (hip) hurts far more.

  • Bradley Beal didn't play because this was the second game of a back-to-back. He has played 23 and 22 minutes coming off the bench since returning from a stress reaction in his lower right leg and this has been the plan all along. Nothing is wrong with his leg but given that he has had the same injury four consecutive seasons they're taking every precaution. 

  •  Without Beal, Wall played a season-high 44 minutes. Going into the All-Star break, this is where the Wizards have to be careful so he doesn't develop any other ailments that could hinder their best player. Expect him to get a lot of practice time off while they deal with even more injuries to other players as they only had 10 active. Drew Gooden (left calf) had to sit this one out, too.

  • If there's a better coach at drawing up lays after timeouts than Brad Stevens, who is it? He's a master at it. Kelly Olynyk and Avery Bradley got clean looks during crucial plays in the fourth quarter to give the Celtics breathing room. With the score 111-110, the Celtics were able to get Bradley opne for a three that looked like the dagger. After the Wizards tied it, the layup by Crowder came on an ATO as well, the ball lobbed over the top of Oubre who was fronting the post. The were expecting the play to go through Thomas. Crowder was the last option which is why there wasn't help on the backside for Oubre.

MORE WIZARDS: Morning tip: When Nene isn't hurt, he's special

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Austin Rivers' connections to D.C. make him feel at home with Wizards

Austin Rivers' connections to D.C. make him feel at home with Wizards

The city of Washington, D.C. first made an impression on Austin Rivers when he was 14 years old, a little brother tagging along to watch his older brother, Jeremiah, play college basketball.

The older Rivers played two seasons at Georgetown in Northwest Washington before transferring to Indiana University. Austin would accompany their parents on trips up north from their home base of Winter Park, Florida. 

"I used to love coming up here. I used to love the street in Georgetown, the area is so cool. They have all the boutique shops and restaurants and stuff," Austin said, referring to the area near M St. and Wisconsin Ave.

Twelve years after Jeremiah became a Hoya, Austin has joined the Wizards. He was traded to Washington in a July deal that sent Marcin Gortat to the L.A. Clippers.

Rivers' perception of D.C. has changed over the years, as he has grown older and seen it from a different viewpoint. Judging D.C. as a road city when you're an NBA player takes on different elements than his first impression as a young high schooler traveling with his parents.

Rivers, though, has grown to like Washington even more after coming to town on NBA road trips. He said the Four Seasons hotel in Georgetown is one of his favorites in the NBA's landscape.

Rivers has also noticed an energetic crowd at Wizards games that is craving for an NBA contender. He thinks there is a lot of potential for the team to grow its fanbase.

"You look at the sports and you saw what the Capitals did [winning the Stanley Cup]. They've got the Redskins. It's a good sports town," Rivers said. "I think the city would have a lot of energy around if we were able to do something like that and go far in the playoffs and make things shake. I'm excited to be here."

Rivers said his fianceé is also looking forward to making Washington home. Though he has just one year left on his contract, they plan to make the most of their stay, however long it ends up being.

"My fianceé is huge into the museums, so I've already gotta check her and be like, 'We can only do so much,'" he said. "We've gotta find somewhere to live here first."

Regardless of how long Rivers stays in Washington, he and his family will have a lifelong connection to the city. The couple is expecting their first child, Kaden James Rivers, who will go by K.J. 

K.J. is going to spend at least the first few months of his life in D.C. Rivers certainly hopes for some positive on-court memories to pair with all of the off-court links already in place.

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Wizards got far fewer national TV games than the NBA's marquee teams

Wizards got far fewer national TV games than the NBA's marquee teams

After winning 43 games last season and losing in the first round of the playoffs, the Wizards are seeing the effects of what amounted to a down year.

The 2018-19 NBA regular season schedule release was on Friday and, as always, people took note of which teams are playing on national TV and how often. The Wizards are very far down the list.

That is despite the fact they added Dwight Howard this offseason and despite the fact their disappointing 2017-18 season was largely due to John Wall missing 41 games. Still, the Wizards have fallen quite a bit from their standing just a year ago.

Here is the entire NBA in order from most national TV games to the fewest:

Lakers - 32
Warriors - 29
Rockets - 28
Celtics - 27
Thunder - 27
Sixers - 27
Bucks - 18
Raptors - 15
Nuggets - 14
Spurs - 13
Blazers - 13
Pelicans - 13
Timberwolves - 13
Pacers - 12
Jazz - 11
Wizards - 8
Knicks - 5
Mavericks - 5
Heat - 5
Pistons - 4
Suns - 3
Bulls - 3
Clippers - 3
Cavaliers - 2
Kings - 1
Magic - 1
Grizzlies - 1
Hornets - 1
Hawks - 1
Nets - 1

(list compiled by @JADubin5 and does not include NBATV)

As you see, the Wizards have eight total games on ESPN, TNT or ABC. They are 16th in the NBA, exactly where they finished in terms of their regular season record last season.

This is a major drop from the year before when the Wizards had 18 national TV games. That was following a 2016-17 season when they won 49 games and reached Game 7 of the second round of the playoffs. Six fewer wins and one less round in the playoffs has made the difference of 10 national TV games.

Only two teams that made the playoffs last season have fewer national TV games than the Wizards. One is the Heat, who don't have a superstar player, and the other is the Cavaliers, who still have Kevin Love but lost LeBron James to the Lakers in free agency.

Meanwhile, several teams with either equal or less starpower than the Wizards got more national TV love. The Pacers, Jazz, Pelicans, Blazers and Timberwolves are all fun to watch and have All-Stars, but the Wizards are arguably on their level in terms of player Q-rating and intrigue.

There are no surprises at the top of the list. The Lakers getting more games than anyone after signing James was to be expected. The Warriors and Rockets being up there at the top is appropriate, given they were the NBA's two best teams last season.

Beyond them, the list shows how several teams are making significant leaps in terms of their place on the national stage. The Sixers are tied for the fourth-most national TV games with 27 after their breakout year. The Bucks have 18, a sign that more and more people want to see Giannis Antetokounmpo. Also, the Nuggets at 14 national TV games is an indication of their expected rise.

For the Wizards, they have to once again prove themselves to be a marquee team. Two years ago, being overlooked seemed to work in their favor. They used it as motivation and ended up changing the narrative very quickly.

Keep in mind that national TV games can be added on the fly during the season. The Wizards earned more during the 2016-17 season and then got a ton of them for 2017-18. Given they seem to operate better as underdogs, this might end up a positive.

The other silver lining is that there will be more games on NBC Sports Washington. That means more Steve Buckhantz and Kara Lawson and greater odds for "Dagger!" calls. Surely, no one will complain about that.

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