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Wizards do the little things right in ugly win over Nuggets

Wizards do the little things right in ugly win over Nuggets

Wins in the NBA can come in many different forms and what transpired at the Verizon Center on Thursday night was by no means pretty. The scoreboard didn't even work for the first few minutes and when it came back to life the Wizards trailed the Nuggets 17-5.

By the end of the first the Wizards were shooting 36.4 percent and had eight turnovers. In the fourth quarter, they managed just 17 points and only scored four in the final 3:47 of play. 

Offense was not the reason why they won this one, a 92-85 final score. No, this one was paved by defense - they held the Nuggets to 33 points in the second half and 12 in the fourth - and hustle plays in key moments that helped the Wizards seal their seventh win of the season.

The Wizards forced 29 Nuggets turnovers and held them to 11-of-35 shooting - including 1-for-18 from three - in the second half. Denver may have started out hot, but it didn't last long.

"I think we just played harder in the second half, that's the reason we came out with a win," said John Wall, who lamented his teammates effort after Tuesday night's loss to the Magic.

“It was not the prettiest game but we fought, we battled, we battled, we stayed in front of our men; we did a good job of guarding. We made them miss a lot of shots," head coach Scott Brooks said.

That extra effort included a big block by Marcin Gortat with 4:24 remaining in the fourth quarter. With Will Barton going up on the left side of the hoop after a steal, Gortat adjusted while backpedaling to reject him at the rim. 

It kept the Wizards up 85-83 at the time and Brooks raved about it afterwards.

"I thought Marcin [Gortat] struggled most of the night but he had a huge block. That's what you have to do. You can't worry about you last play. You have to worry about helping the next player and help your teammates out," Brooks said.

With 46 seconds remaining, Bradley Beal pulled off a play that went a long way towards clinching the win. On a Jameer Nelson missed three-pointer, Beal dove to a full-stretch to bring in the rebound. He fell to the ground and called timeout right in front of the Wizards' bench as his teammates leapt out of their seats to rejoice.

It was a loose ball that Beal made sure he was determined to get.

“It’s whatever it takes to get a win, even if it’s diving on the floor," Beal said. "They were telling me to try out for the Redskins because I laid out and caught it, got possession, two feet in, tucked and rolled. But we need plays like that to win games, and whatever it takes at this point.”

"Those are winning plays. That's what we needed all game and that's what we need every game, winning plays late like that. That just showed that guys really care about winning," forward Markieff Morris said. "When you've got one of your best players giving everything he's got to win, it has to send a jolt [to teammates]. If it doesn't, then something is wrong."

The Wizards have talked plenty this season about controlling what they can control. When they don't have it on offense, make sure the effort is there on the defensive end and more often than not they will be in games with a chance to win. On Thursday, the proof was on display.

[RELATED: Brooks on Wizards' effort following Wall's comments]

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Markieff Morris

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Markieff Morris

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Markieff Morris' season...

Player: Markieff Morris

Position: Power forward

Age: 28

2017-18 salary: $8 million

2017-18 stats: 73 G, 27.0 mpg, 11.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.5 bpg, 48.0 FG%, 36.7 3P%, 82.0 FT%, 53.6 eFG%, 116 ORtg, 112 DRtg

Best game: 12/1 vs. Pistons - 23 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, zero turnovers, 10-for-16 FG, 2-for-3 3PT

Season review: It took quite a while for Markieff Morris to get healthy in the 2017-18 season. He was sidelined to begin last offseason with the ankle injury he suffered against the Celtics in the playoffs, then in September had surgery on both his abdomen and groin. The sports hernia surgery was known, while the groin procedure was revealed once the season was over.

Morris only missed nine games in the entire season, but took time to find his rhythm early. He averaged just 9.0 points and 4.4 rebounds in 14 games in the month of November. He picked it up after that, though he never quite reached the level we saw from him in 2016-17 in terms of volume production.

Morris played less minutes, took less shots, scored fewer points and grabbed less rebounds than the season before. On the other hand, he was more efficient than ever. Morris shot 48 percent from the field, his best since 2013-14, and posted career-highs in three-point percentage (36.7) and effective field-goal percentage (53.6). 

The Wizards could use more scoring from Morris moving forward, especially at times when one of their primary options is injured, as was the case in 2017-18 when John Wall missed 41 games. An active and engaged Morris changes everything for the Wizards. 

When Morris scored 15 points or more this season, the Wizards went 15-8. The season before, they went 22-9 when he got to the 15-point mark. 

It's a bit difficult to project Morris' role for the 2018-19 season at this point, given the fact he's entering a contract year and the most logical area for the Wizards to make significant changes (if they choose to) is in their frontcourt. Also, as Morris discussed in his exit interview, he knows more time at center in small-ball sets could be in his future.

Regardless of what happens with the team, it's a huge summer for Morris individually. If he sets himself up well for a big year in 2018-19, he could earn a nice payday in what might be his last long-term contract given his age.

Potential to improve: Rebounding, screens, scoring

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

Marcin Gortat, C

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Marcin Gortat

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Marcin Gortat

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Marcin Gortat's season...

Player: Marcin Gortat

Position: Center

Age: 34

2017-18 salary: $12.8 million

2017-18 stats: 82 G, 25.3 mpg, 8.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.7 bpg, 51.8 FG%, 67.5 FT%, 51.8 eFG%, 112 ORtg, 107 DRtg

Best game: 10/18 vs. Sixers - 16 points, 17 rebounds, 3 blocks, assist, 7-for-12 FG

Season review: Marcin Gortat is self-aware enough to know that what happened to him in 2017-18 was inevitable in many ways. He even publicly called it before the season.

He was one year older, with Ian Mahinmi healthy and in the rotation, and with the NBA continuing to move towards small-ball and big men who can play on the perimeter. As a result, Gortat saw his role in the Wizards rotation pared down noticeably.

Though he still started all 82 games, his minutes went down from 31.2 per game the year before the 25.3. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who played the majority of the season coming off the bench, logged more minutes than Gortat, though he was a starter.

Gortat's minutes were his fewest since the 2009-10 season, when he was a 25-year-old bench player for the Orlando Magic. His numbers this season followed suit. Gortat's points and rebounds per game were both the lowest since that 2009-10 campaign.

Gortat averaged a career-best 10.4 rebounds per game in 2016-17, but the minutes had a direct effect on his volume of boards. He pulled in 2.4 less per game this season despite his rebound percentage (17.0) being close to his career average (17.5). That career average, by the way, is 30th-best all-time an eighth among active players.

Not getting the same opportunities he had in years past, plus public misunderstandings with teammates, combined to make for a frustrating year for Gortat. He said on the Wizards Tipoff podcast midseason it was the worst year of his career. Gortat, though, did continue to make an impact setting screens for the Wizards and he rallied to finish relatively strong.

He had several solid outings in the playoffs, including his 16 points in Game 3 and his 12 rebounds in Game 5. The question is whether that is the last time we will see Gortat in a Wizards uniform.

Washington has played with the idea of trading Gortat for a while now. He popped up in rumors around the trade deadline in February, but remained on the roster. Now he has an expiring contract working in his favor, making it a bit more likely he gets dealt.

Gortat knows his future in Washington is uncertain, though he said following the season he would like to stay. It would not be surprising to him or anyone if he were traded this summer. If not, he's got one year left with the Wizards and could very well have his role decreased even more.

Potential to improve: Rim protection, midrange shooting, free throw percentage

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

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