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Wizards can't shake those scoring droughts


Wizards can't shake those scoring droughts

Right now for the try hard Wizards, all the scrap in the world cannot overcome those dreaded - right now persistent - scoring droughts.

Rewind the season to November 3 against the Celtics. The Wizards rally and take their first lead with just under three minutes remaining only to never score again under a wave of missed shots, turnovers and inspired Kevin Garnett-led defense by the visitors.

Four days later in Boston, Washington fights its way into overtime against the star-studded Celtics, but miss 7 of 10 shots in the extra session. Another loss.

Friday night against the Bucks, the game tied at 72 with four seconds remaining in the third quarter, Milwaukee converts a 3-point play. That starts a 13-0 run as Washington goes over five minutes without a point, never seriously challenged the Bucks again.

"You go from a one, two point game to down 10, 11," Randy Wittman said following the loss to Milwaukee. "Somehow, we got to figure out how to alleviate those things from our game. We just struggle offensively to score."

The Wizards coach would make similar comments Saturday night following the 89-85 loss at Pacers, which dropped Washington to 0-5. There was not one, but two notable stretches where the scoring spigot went dry.

Facing his former team, A.J. Price's starry night included scoring five points during a 9-0 second quarter run that gave Washington a 47-40 lead with 3:32 left in the half. Good times, right? Close the half with the lead and even better, extend it. At least, that was the plan. Despite several opportunities to push the margin out further, the Wizards came up empty, scoring only two more points before halftime. Instead, Indiana tied the game at 49 heading to the locker room.

"We didn’t close out the second quarter," Wittman following Washington's eighth straight loss in Indiana, the coach's home state. "I think it was 47-40 and we have to come with a lead." 

Holding the ball with a three-point lead and a chance to run the clock down to around five seconds in the quarter, Bradley Beal's driving attempts missed with 11 seconds remaining. With time for a final play, Indiana's Paul George hoisted a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Splash, tie game.

"We give them the last shot when we should have taken the last shot," Wittman said. "We shoot too soon and they come down and hit a three. There’s three more points that they shouldn’t have."

Similar tale in the fourth quarter. Jordan Crawford's 3-pointer put Washington ahead 75-70 with 11:33 remaining. The Wizards next points came on a Booker dunk nearly five minutes later. In between Indiana scored 10 straight points. The lead remained with the home team from then on, though Washington pulled within two points and put up the potential tying shot with four seconds remaining. Trevor Booker's half hook missed.

The non-scoring at times is not simply about missed shots. Five of Washington's 12 turnovers came in the fourth quarter, two by Beal.  

"One of our problems is that we turn the ball over too much towards the end of games," said Beal, who matched Emeka Okafor with a team-high 17 points, but had two of those fourth quarter turnovers. "We’re hesitant in our movement and our passes and a lot of other things. We have the parts we need, it’s just putting it all together and having better overall execution.”

Those late turnovers are also a function of who is not playing.

Good things happened against Indiana, including  Price doling out a career-high 14 assists. Emeka Okafor had his mid-range jumper working. Beal and Jordan Crawford combined for six of the team's 10 3-pointers. Yet for the most part, they aren't closers. Until John Wall and Nene return and everybody can return to their proper roles, this team simply lacks a go-to scorer when needed.

Back to Beal. The rookie's take on why the costly miscues crop up is both accurate and a message to himself. Beal's becoming more aggressive with each passing game, not to mention accurate; he made all three of his shots from beyond the arc against Indiana. However at times he passes on open looks, being overly deferential to his less accurate teammates.

He'll learn from that. Heck, he's only 19 with five NBA games on his growing resume. The Wizards collectively must learn from their bouts of scoring woes. Yes, the season is still young, but these droughts are getting old while the losing streak grows and grows. The team cannot afford to wait for those missing to return to action before solving the problem.

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Austin Rivers getting cut by Suns may change perception of Trevor Ariza trade to Wizards

Austin Rivers getting cut by Suns may change perception of Trevor Ariza trade to Wizards

When the Suns traded Trevor Ariza for Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers, the thought by most was that Rivers, though not a perfect fit, would slide in at point guard to fill their biggest need. Instead, on the day the trade became official, Phoenix opted to waive Rivers and make him a free agent.

The Suns will pay about $8 million to let Rivers go, according to ESPN. He is now free to sign with any team except for the Wizards. That means he can return to the L.A. Clippers, where he played last season, if he wants.

Rivers, 26, has had a dramatic fall in a matter of months. In July, the Wizards sent starting center Marcin Gortat to the Clippers to acquire Rivers, who was coming off a career year. They believed he could solidify their backup shooting guard position and become an asset off the bench.

Rivers, though, proved a poor fit. He struggled with fewer shots and fewer minutes, averaging only 7.2 points while shooting 39.2 percent from the field and 31.1 percent from three. 

Rivers arrived in Washington with numbers that suggested he could score efficiently. But his stint with the Wizards showed he may need more volume to sustain a rhythm.

The Suns cutting Rivers makes the trade between the teams from a Suns perspective essentially an Ariza-for-Oubre swap. Phoenix wanted to clear some money and part with Ariza, who was wasting away on their last-place roster. Now they can see what they have in Oubre over the course of the rest of this season before he hits restricted free agency.

From the Wizards' side, this move shows how far Rivers' trade value had dropped, as one of the league's worst teams has cut him loose. That they were able to unload Rivers' salary while prying away Ariza may change slightly how the trade is viewed.


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With Trevor Ariza now in store, Wizards begin new phase against Hawks

With Trevor Ariza now in store, Wizards begin new phase against Hawks

The Wizards have undergone a midseason roster renovation over the past week-plus, culminating with a trade over the weekend to acquire Trevor Ariza. On Tuesday in Atlanta, a new phase will begin for the Wizards as they take on the Hawks at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

Ariza has joined the team on the road in anticipation of his debut. With Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers now out the door, the team brought back guard Chasson Randle. Those two will help make up a new-look rotation for Washington, as they try to recover from a 12-18 start to this season.

Ariza will likely slide into the starting lineup, certainly in the short-term as Otto Porter Jr. recovers from a minor knee injury. The changes should also present opportunities for a few players who otherwise may not have played.

Sam Dekker, for one, will clearly be in the mix. He has averaged 13.5 minutes per game since coming over in a three-team trade last week. On Sunday against the Lakers, he put up a season-high 20 points. Even when Porter returns, he should have a role, as his path to play was carved by Oubre's departure.

The adjustments should, in theory, also clear the runway for rookie Troy Brown Jr. The 2018 first round pick has only appeared in 13 of the Wizards' 30 games this season because of a logjam at his position. 

But on Sunday, the first game since Oubre and Rivers were dealt, he played 15:21 against the Lakers. It wasn't in garbage time, either. He entered in the first half and made an instant impact with three steals and two rebounds.

Though Tomas Satoransky has played an important role this season as a backup guard and temporary starter, his standing was made even more secure when the Wizards traded Rivers. They have Randle and two-way player Jordan McRae, but Satoransky is now their primary backup guard. Barring a trade or another signing, they have no choice but to rely heavily on him to spell John Wall and Bradley Beal.

Speaking of Wall and Beal, they will bear watching despite nothing changing in their roles with the Wizards. They, along with Markieff Morris and Porter, have been the core of this team throughout the tumultuous last two years. The Wizards brought in Ariza to help compensate for their shortcomings in defending the perimeter, rebounding and - this year, at least - three-point shooting. 

If Ariza's arrival has a domino effect on teammates, if it lights a spark and brings the best out of the Wizards, those are the guys to watch. The Wizards want consistency from them, more of what they saw against the Lakers. And Ariza's commitment on the defensive end, the team hopes, can rub off on others.

The Wizards have already played one game since trading Oubre and Rivers, but now that Ariza is in store and ready to debut, the Wizards can officially hit the restart button. Will this trade prove the catalyst and help get them back on track? Tuesday night will give the first answers to that question.