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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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Remembering Kobe Bryant's 55-point game in his last matchup against Michael Jordan

Remembering Kobe Bryant's 55-point game in his last matchup against Michael Jordan

As the basketball world mourns the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, memories of his career and the highlights that made us fall in love with him are surfacing. One of the most well-told narratives of Bryant’s 20-year career was his pursuit of Michael Jordan as the greatest player of all-time. 

Bryant idolized Jordan and was relentless in his pursuit of at least matching Jordan’s six championships. He competed like Jordan, scored like Jordan, berated teammates and opponents alike like Jordan and came up one title short of his idol’s total.

On one night, however, Bryant did get the best of His Airness -- in their last of eight head-to-head matchups. 

On March 28, 2003, a Friday night in Los Angeles, Bryant put on a show, scoring 55 points in what would stand as his highest scoring total ever against the Washington Wizards.

The Lakers defeated the Wizards, 108-94. Jordan, who had just turned 40 that February and was less than a month from ending his legendary career, finished with a team-high 23 points in over 40 minutes.

Bryant was in a different zone, though, dropping 42 points in the first half alone. Through the first two quarters, he made 14 of 19 shots from the field, including 8 of 11 three-point attempts. While he cooled off in the second half, shooting just 1-for-10, he added to his point total by knocking down 10 free throws. The performance stands as the ninth-highest scoring total of Bryant’s career, and his three-point shooting that night -- 9-of-13 -- is the biggest reason the Wizards are the only team he shot over 40 percent from three against in his career.

Going into that game, Bryant was already a three-time NBA champion at 24 years old and seemed to have gained Jordan’s respect as a player. But Jordan may have inadvertendly fueled Bryant's performance that night. Ex-Wizard Gilbert Arenas told a story on "The No Chill Podcast" of MJ telling Bryant he could never fill his shoes after the Wizards defeated the Lakers earlier in the season. Arenas claims Bryant didn't talk to his teammates for two weeks leading up to the rematch -- he internalized the jab from Jordan and turned it into the 55-point game he put up against the Wizards.

After learning of Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash on Sunday, Jordan released a statement through his spokeswoman saying Bryant was like a little brother to him.

“I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe’s and Gianna’s passing. Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling," the statement read. "I loved Kobe -- he was like a little brother to me. We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much. He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force. Kobe was also an amazing dad who loved his family deeply -- and took pride in his daughter’s love for the game of basketball. Yvette joins me in sending my deepest condolences to to Vanessa, the Lakers organization and basketball fans around the world.”


Jordan and Bryant exchanged some fun and memorable banter in not only that game but in several of their meetings towards the latter part of Jordan’s career. Just a month earlier, the two went head-to-head in the 2003 All-Star Game. Each started, and clocked 36 minutes, in the double-overtime game, Bryant scoring 22 points for the winning Western Conference, Jordan scoring 20 for the East.

Bryant actually finished his career with a 5-3 head-to-head record against Jordan -- four of those matchups coming against the Wizards. Jordan averaged 24.5 points in those games and Bryant averaged 22.8 points. Whether Bryant actually surpassed Jordan or other legends as the greatest basketball player is debatable, but most agree that Bryant’s style and how he approached the game was as close to Jordan as any other player.

There was no better example of this than that March night in 2003.

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Rui Hachimura says, 'Kobe was a hero for me'

Rui Hachimura says, 'Kobe was a hero for me'

Kobe Bryant's popularity stretched far beyond the United States. He was a global icon and especially loved in Asia. 

Following the NBA star's shocking death on Sunday, the entire sports world grieved and shared fond memories of Bryant all over social media. 

Rui Hachimura grew up in Japan idolizing Bryant, so he took to Twitter a day after the accident to share his thoughts on his hero.  

"I was very shocked to hear of this incident," Hachimura said. "I really can't believe it. I can't speak. Kobe is also a hero to me, and I've seen [him] a lot since I was little. I have met him only once.

"Three years ago, during [the] Final 4, [Bryant gave] a special pair of shoes as a surprise to the team," he said. "Not only that, he talked about what Mamba Mentality is and what people should be before basketball players. 

"He was more than just a basketball player," he said. "It is really sad that this accident was like this. I wish good luck to his family and those who have been involved in this accident. Thanks, Kobe."

After Michael Jordan retired, Bryant became the most popular player in Japan. Along with Hachimura, he inspired players like Grizzlies forward Yuta Watanabe to play the game of basketball in the first place. 

Similar to what made Bryant so popular in the United States, Japan loved him for his tireless work ethic and killer instinct on the court. That's what earned him 15 All-NBA selections and five NBA titles, and along with his efforts off the court post-retirement, earned him the love and respect of so many people around the world. 

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