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Wizards come through in 'must-win situation' to upset Golden State Warriors

Wizards come through in 'must-win situation' to upset Golden State Warriors

The last time John Wall met Stephen Curry here, they had a duel in which they combined for 92 points in a victory for the Golden State Warriors at Verizon Center.

Tuesday, it wasn't nearly as attractive but the result worked out in the Wizards' favor. They won 112-108 as Wall had just 12 points but tied a career-high with 19 assists.

After losing the big one against the Cleveland Cavaliers 140-135 to the Cleveland Cavaliers in overtime a few weeks ago, getting this one looms large for the Wizards who had lost their first two games coming out of the All-Star break. 

"They are healthy and they have a good rhythm and they know who they are and how they are going to be successful," said Curry, who missed a three that could've given them a one-point lead in the final seconds. "They have individual guys playing well and it shows in the win column, so they are going to be a tough out in the playoffs."

This was a much smarter and more discplined team than the Wizards were when they gave up 120 points in a loss at the Philadelphia 76ers and fell by double-digits to the Utah Jazz. 

The ball movement was crisp (29 assists on 41 makes). The defensive rotations were, too, such as Wall allowing Draymond Green to have a breakaway dunk rather than sinking in and leaving Klay Thompson wide open for a three-pointer (8 of 28, 28.6%). 

[RELATED: Wizards, Brandon Jennings reach agreement]

Curry didn't make his first long ball until the third quarter. His last one put him at 2-for-9 from three. Thompson was 3-for-7 at halftime but went 0-for-6 in the final two quarters.

"I just didn't want Klay to get into a rhythm," Wall said. "Take the two, we're still up two points. Deal with it. We just try to make them put the ball on the floor and shoot a lot of mid-ranges instead of threes."

The Wizards (35-23) play at the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night, the second of three meetings in which they trail the season series 0-1.

"We're back. We're back to our regular selves," said Otto Porter, who'd made just three field goals in each of their previous two games but had a three-pointer for a 102-100 lead and a key offensive rebound that led to foul shots to help seal the victory. "We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game and we had to bring our A-game. It just kind of solidifies us coming back out of the break."

This was the type of edge that the Wizards had by going 18-3 into the All-Star break, a team that was dominant at home where they'd won 17 in a row.

"We gave up two that we feel like we should have on and this is a must-win situation for us," said Bradley Beal, who had a game-high 25 points. "We wanted to get back on track and this is a great team to do it against."

[RELATED: Durant declared out of Wizards game, set for MRI]

 

 

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5 observations about the Wizards at the midway point of the 2019-20 season

5 observations about the Wizards at the midway point of the 2019-20 season

The Wizards' 29-point loss to the Raptors on Friday night was the 41st game of the year, meaning Washington's 2019-20 regular season is officially halfway through.

With that in mind, here are five observations from the season so far; some expected and some unexpected...

They are who we thought they were

In some ways, this season has gone exactly how most thought it would. Bradley Beal has been an All-Star level player, but poor defense and an inexperienced roster around him has led to a team headed safely towards the lottery. They are 13-28 after 41 games, meaning they are on pace to win 26 on the season.

That's about what Vegas predicted, as evidenced by over/under win totals that stayed around 28.5. And that's what most reasonable forecasts had them being; a team with intriguing talent that was probably a year away from contending for the playoffs again.

Sheppard has found some guys

The early returns on the Tommy Sheppard era are good and that should be seen as one of the most important positives of this season so far. Just look at the gems he has acquired in a relatively short period of time as general manager. He drafted Rui Hachimura, a plug-and-play guy, with the ninth overall pick. He got Davis Bertans, Moe Wagner and Isaac Bonga in trades basically for nothing. 

He got Garrison Mathews out of nowhere. He signed Ish Smith instead of giving more money to Tomas Satoransky. And even his minor deals with guys like Anzejs Pasecniks and Gary Payton II have impressed to a degree.

It is very early in his tenure, but Sheppard is showing he has the ability to find diamonds in the rough, a skill that is one of the biggest separators between GMs.

It has also become evident on social media that Sheppard is gaining some clout among fans. Given the previous distrust in the front office, that is definitely worth noting.

The injuries have been ridiculous

Though injuries happen to every team and they are ultimately no excuse, the health of the Wizards has undoubtedly been a major part of their season to this point. They have had as many as eight players missing at times due to injury, or in other words more than half of their roster.

That has included two hardship exceptions and the players acquired as a result were even starting at times. Their best players have been hurt, even Beal who had previously played 194 straight games. Lately, they have been getting healthy, but the rash of injuries was enough to leave its mark on their 2019-20 campaign as a whole.

Beal may or may not be sold on the future

Though this season has mostly gone as expected, it has been fair to wonder how Beal has handled it all, given he is far and away their best player. He signed a contract extension to be part of this, but he's used to winning more games and it's only natural for him to be frustrated with how things have gone.

Beal backed up those theories with his comments this week about the team's culture, and the whole situation is going to be worth watching closely moving forward. The Wizards' best player appears to be a bit anxious about the franchise's future. Whether they can match their timeline to contend with his remains to be seen.

The Wall thing is going to get interesting

This was also pretty easy to call going into this season. Now over 11 months into his recovery from a ruptured Achilles, John Wall is making steady progress towards a return and the debates of whether he should come back this season or not are coming into focus. 

The discourse was taken up a notch recently with NBC Sports Washington's report about him playing in three-on-three scrimmages, and then again days after with video of those games. Though he isn't quite ready to come back, he is looking good and there are still three months remaining in the Wizards' season. 

Will he be ready one month from now, or two? Even if he is, will the Wizards bring him back or wait until next season? Those are major questions with no easy answers.

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Wizards committed more turnovers against the Raptors than they have in any game in 25 years

Wizards committed more turnovers against the Raptors than they have in any game in 25 years

Whether it's good or bad, nothing the Wizards do is subtle. 

They'll score a million points and give up two million points. They'll beat the Heat, Nuggets and Celtics without Bradley Beal but also blow an 18-point fourth quarter lead to the Bulls. 

The Wizards had some turnover issues Friday night, but again, they're never subtle. 

Washington committed 28 turnovers on the way to a 29-point loss. Following the first seven minutes of play, the Wizards had seven turnovers and seven points. 

The last time the Wizards turned the ball over that much was April 2, 1994, in a 104-96 win over the Bucks. The last time an NBA team turned it over 28 times? The 2010 Suns. 

Nine Wizards players had multiple turnovers, while five players had at least three. 

Following Bradley Beal's comments criticizing the team's culture and need to develop winning habits, the Wizards' response left more than enough to be desired. Credit the Raptors defense utilizing their length and ball pressure to take advantage of when the Wizards were loose with the ball, but it takes more than good defense to turn it over 28 times. 

The bright side is this was an uncharacteristic performance for the Wizards. They currently average the 10th-fewest turnovers per game in the NBA, so there's a good chance they clean things up on Monday against the Pistons. 

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