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Wizards end skid with 108-99 win vs. Magic: Five takeaways

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Wizards end skid with 108-99 win vs. Magic: Five takeaways

Just like the first time these teams met, the Wizards and Magic went down to the wire. The result remains the same as they won 108-99, beating Orlando for the 10th time in a row, but instead of John Wall and Bradley Beal it was Kris Humphries and Garrett Temple who had career nights as the Wizards snapped a three-game losing streak.

Temple made his first start of the season for Bradley Beal, who missed his second game in a row with a left shoulder contusion. He had 18 points to tie his personal mark set last season when he started for Beal who had a wrist injury then.

Humphries, who had made just two career three-pointers from 2004-14, had a career-high five on eight attempts for a team-high 23 points.

The Wizards (4-4) edged the Magic 88-87 in the season opener for both teams with Wall and Beal dominating in the fourth. In this one, they spread the wealth.

Orlando (5-6) was on a two-game winning streak and were playing their second game of a back-to-back. Victor Oladipo was out because of a concussion and Nik Vucevic had 10 points in the first quarter but only nine in the next three.

The Wizards fell behind  15-5 and were sluggish as the Magic shot 60% in the first quarter. But they took a 31-27 lead entering the second.

They trailed 90-86 at the six-minute mark when Marcin Gortat blew a layup but outscored Orlando 23-9 to end the game.

Wall had 15 points and 11 assists, Gortat 13 points and 10 rebounds and Otto Porter nine points, 10 rebounds, four assists and four steals. Nene had nine points, six rebounds, three assists and one block in 20 minutes. Gary Neal had seven points and Ramon Sessions five points, five assists and four rebounds.

  • After being criticized by coach Randy Wittman for playing soft in a 24-point loss to Oklahoma City when he grabbed just one defensive rebound, Gortat looked uneasy and jittery as made just 1 of 4 shots to begin the game. His first shot was a putback off a miss by Humphries but that was off. Then it was an errant left-hand hook. Vucevic came back at him on the other end, backed down Gortat and scored with a right-hand jump hook. Gortat botched a layup on a nice feed from Wall late in the fourth but his strong finish made up for everything. The next down the court he converted a three-point play, was caught on a switch with Elfrid Payton and blocked his shot, ran back in transition and tipped in a missed layup from Temple for a 94-90 lead. Gortat couldn't grab the rebound off Porter's missed three-pointer but tapped it out for a second chance and Wall buried the jumper for a 101-94 lead.
  • The Wizards were better with Nene, who comes off the bench, vs. Vucevic than Gortat. Nene gets physical with him in ways that can cause him to misfire and is a tougher cover because of his passing ability (see the layups for Neal and Sessions of his reads in the first quarter). While Nene isn't a shot-blocker, he doesn't have to be. He's an excellent position defender and when it comes to making reads with the ball. When Gortat was back on him, Temple's double-teams disrupted Vucevic's rhythm. 
  • Payton lost his dribble and Wall had the loose ball in front of him. Payton, however, dove to the floor, to come up with it and somehow it got into the hands of Aaron Gordon who got to the rim for the layup and a foul on Porter. He completed the three-point play by making the foul shot but it typifies how bad this team remains when it comes to 50-50 balls.  
  • Temple started in place of Beal instead of Neal, who did so in the previous game vs. Oklahoma City. Temple made two three-point shots in the first half and was the Wizards’ leading scorer with nine points. But he was put in this spot because of his defense and having to match up with Evan Fournier, who has given the Wizards problems in the past. Temple’s strip of Tobias Harris late in the second quarter led to a layup for Nene that trimmed the deficit to 52-50. This is who Temple is -- a glue player that every team needs in a pinch.
  • Rookie Kelly Oubre played four minutes in the first half while Drew Gooden remained on the bench. Oubre was active in the paint. He went coast-to-coast with his one rebound, got into the paint, double-clutched and scored for a bucket. He started the fourth quarter, too, of a close game which is significant. That means Wittman is beginning to trust him more. Oubre had four points on 2 of 3 shooting in 10 minutes.

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Despite struggles at Oregon, Wizards believe Troy Brown can develop into a good shooter at NBA level

Despite struggles at Oregon, Wizards believe Troy Brown can develop into a good shooter at NBA level

The NBA is so perimeter-oriented these days that often the first statistic cited for a player leaving college for the pros is three-point percentage, regardless of the position. Even big men are expected to knock down threes, for if they can't then there is less space on the floor and like Neil deGrasse Tyson, NBA teams love them some space.

Three-point shooting, however, is not a strength for Wizards' first round pick Troy Brown, Jr., at least not yet. In his lone season at Oregon, he shot just 29.1 percent from long range. Brown can play multiple positions, from point guard to small forward, and shooting is important to be successful at all of them.

Brown and the Wizards, though, are not concerned about his potential to develop an outside shot in the long-term. Brown addressed the issue after his pre-draft workout with the Wizards earlier this month and cited a very specific reason not to worry.

"I don’t think it was my mechanics. I think it was my shot selection this year," he said. "Some of the shots I was taking weren’t very good. It’s about repetition, getting in the gym and putting up shots. I feel like I’ve been doing a good job showcasing that and I feel like a lot of teams are impressed with my shooting."

Brown knocked down plenty of shots in his workout with the Wizards. That helped convince them to select him at No. 15, as they see a guy with potential to become at least a serviceable shooter from long range.

“We’re very confident that we can improve it," head coach Scott Brooks said. "From what I understand, he’s very coachable and he wants to get better. That’s a big part of the step in developing a young player."

Team president Ernie Grunfeld seemed to agree with Brown's personal assessment, that it's not a problem with his mechanics per se. Surely they will tinker with his shot once he gets in their development system. But they don't see the need for a dramatic overhaul.

"He's got a nice stroke," Grunfeld said. "Obviously, when you're a freshman coming up to another level there are different things you have to work on, and we have a really good player development staff and we're going to get him to work right away."

Players of Brown's ilk developing an outside shot at the NBA level is more common than many may think. Just because someone isn't a good shooter in one college season, doesn't mean they will never be able to develop the skill once they mature as a man and a basketball player.

Though Brown's scoring repertoire may seem limited, plenty of players have gone from rags to riches offensively at the professional level. Brown may have to begin his NBA career helping in other ways, like on the defensive end, before his scoring abilities round into form.

Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler could be seen as a best-case scenario example. He made only 36 threes in three years in college and shot just 35.3 percent as a junior. When he was Brown's age, as a freshman he averaged only 5.6 points, and as an NBA rookie he shot just 18.2 percent from three.

Through years of hard work, Butler turned himself into a 20-point scorer with a respectable outside shot, including a career-beset 37.8 percent from three in the 2014-15 season. Some guys take more time than others. At only 18 years old, Brown has plenty of time to figure it out.

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How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

While meeting with Oregon's Troy Brown during the pre-draft interview process, evaluators from the Washington Wizards issued him an on-the-spot challenge. Head coach Scott Brooks pulled out a dry-erase clipboard and a pen. He wanted to see Brown draw up a play.

This is a test Brooks has administered before to other players. Some have failed miserably.

"It sounds easy to throw a board at somebody in front of a big group and say 'okay draw a play' and I have seen many plays drawn, and I have seen it where there are not five players on the floor," Brooks said.

That wasn't the case with Brown. He didn't just draw up one play, he drew up several. One in particular came to mind when asked by reporters on Thursday night soon after the Wizards took him 15th overall in the first round of the NBA Draft.

“I think it was a situation where we were down by two or something like that," he said. "It was like a back screen into a slip, and then the fade three and they gave you a lot of various options to cause mismatches on the court for a last minute shot to either go ahead, or even attack the basket for a layup to go into overtime.”

NBC Sports Washington analyst Cory Alexander, a veteran of seven NBA seasons, demonstrated what Brown's play looked like on a whiteboard:

The Xs and Os of basketball flow effortlessly for Brown and Wizards' brass couldn't help but be impressed.

"He really understands the game. I think for a kid that is 18 years old, that is rare but he just has a good feel," Brooks said. 

"We were impressed with his character and the type of person he is and his basketball knowledge," team president Ernie Grunfeld said. "Obviously, like any young player, he has a lot of work to do but he has a lot of the intangibles that I think you need in today's game."

Smarts are a big part of what makes Brown a good basketball player. He isn't a particularly explosive athlete, with a modest 33-inch max vertical leap, but he boasts a 6-foot-10 wingspan and solid agility. Being in the right place at the right time and knowing how to operate an offense helps him make the most of his natural abilities.

Passing is where his basketball IQ comes in handy. Brown is unusually good at distributing for a 6-foot-7 small forward. He averaged 3.2 assists as a freshman at Oregon and nine times had five assists or more in a game.

He can pass like a point guard and the Wizards are excited to implement that skill into their offense.

"Passing is contagious. We’ve been pretty good the last two years and with talking about that how we even want to take another step," Brooks said. "He has the ability to make a lot of quick plays and his ball handling is pretty good for a guy his size. That is one thing I was impressed in his workout last week or when we had him. He is able to take the contact and use his strong frame to get inside the key and make plays.”

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