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Wizards drop 3rd in a row to Nuggets 117-113: Five takeaways


Wizards drop 3rd in a row to Nuggets 117-113: Five takeaways

The hope of starting two post players in Nene and Marcin Gortat improving the Wizards' chances at rebounding and defending, two major weaknesses all season, didn't completely work. 

The Wizards (20-24) had seven players score in double figures -- Garrett Temple (20 points), Bradley Beal (17 points), John Wall (17 points, nine assists, seven rebounds, four steals, two blocks), Nene (15 points, seven rebounds), Dudley (12 points), Marcin Gortat (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Ramon Sessions (11 points) -- but couldn't overcome an 18-point deficit in Thursday's 117-113 loss to the Denver Nuggets.

They're 1-3 with two bigs starting, the only win coming last week in a matchup with the injury-depleted Miami Heat.

Denver (18-29) was led by Danilo Gallinari (26 points), rookie Emmanuel Mudiay (20 points) and Nikola Jokic (15 points, 10 rebounds).

After leading 64-58 at halftime, the Nuggets blew open the game with multiple easy baskets at the rim. Gallinari was 3 of 4 from three-point range in the third quarter. 

  • The Wizards made a run to erase an 18-point deficit with their three best players on the court when it comes to net rating, meaning the difference in points scored and allowed per 100 possessions according to the NBA's SVU cameras player tracking data -- Nene, Dudley and Temple. Nene was the only big on the floor when the run occurred as Gortat didn't play in the fourth. 

  • Beal, playing with a mask after missing the last game with a broken nose and concussion, didn't settle for long shots to avoid contact. Three of his first four baskets came in the paint. 
  • Otto Porter isn't 100%, playing though a tear in his right hip and recently missed four games because he re-aggravated it. And he's not pressing the issue offensively as evidenced by his one shot attempt in nine minutes of the first half. Porter's final output (0-for-3, two points) has to be greater with Beal not able to start again and so many other weapons on the bench in suits. Porter, however, might join them. He headed back to the locker room by the eight-minute mark of the fourth quarter and didn't return. He lasted 15 minutes.

  • Wall only had one turnover for most of the game, but then had two in the final five minutes when they had a chance to take the lead sooner. Missed foul shots by Wall and Beal didn't help either. 

  • When the Wizards went away from Drew Gooden (seven points) and to Dudley, the Nuggets picked on him by getting a few easy buckets for Darrell Arthur (13 points) in the post. Eventually though, Dudley's impact on both ends (four assists, four steals) won out. His activity creates open-court opportunities and allows others to make plays even if Dudley doesn't.

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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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