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Wizards' Kelly Oubre says James Harden, not LeBron James, hardest to guard

Wizards' Kelly Oubre says James Harden, not LeBron James, hardest to guard

Kelly Oubre was subdued speaking to the media after the Wizards' 140-135 OT loss to the Cavaliers last night. But something he toward the end of his comments that could raise some eyebrows. 

Oubre was asked if the Cleveland offense was the toughest he'd had to guard this year. He said no. 

"No, it's not the toughest, but they do move the ball pretty well. You can't mess up on defense because if you mess up, they're going to capitalize," the Wizards wing said. "So I wouldn't say the toughest, but they're a pretty good team." 

A bit of an understatement for the defending NBA champions who also own the best record in the Eastern Conference. 

Reporters pressed him on whether LeBron James was the hardest player he'd guarded individually. Oubre was physical on James, but looked overmatched on several plays Monday night. 

"No. He's a great player, but I don't think he's the toughest matchup I've had to face though," 

Then who would that be?

"Um, I would say James Harden," Oubre said. "He's crafty with the ball. He can draw fouls. He's like a mixture between Lou Williams and Bradley Beal, he's tough to guard."

While it's not outlandish to say Harden is the toughest assignment in the league, it's dangerous to say anything that James could interpret as a slight. The King doesn't need any more bulletin board material. 

Meanwhile, these comments came right after James hit arguably the greatest shot of the year to send the game to overtime, though Oubre was not guarding him on that play. 

There's also the fact that James is averaging 29.5 points on 58.3% shooting per game against the Wizards this year. That's significantly more efficient than Harden's 27.5 points on 34.9% shooting per game against Washington. 

Wave Papi's own catchphrase probably says it best. 

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MORE WIZARDS: Even in defeat to Cavs, Wizards earn respect in East

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' loss to the Raptors, including Kelly Oubre Jr's putback slam

USA Today

5 must-see moments from Wizards' loss to the Raptors, including Kelly Oubre Jr's putback slam

The Washington Wizards lost to the Toronto Raptors 117-113 on Saturday night in the Wizards' 2018-19 regular season opener. Here are five plays or moments worth revisiting...

1. Early on in this one, there was a difference in Otto Porter Jr. He came out firing from long range after not taking a single three in the Wizards' season-opening loss to the Heat earlier in the week.

This was Porter's best play. Off an incredible fastbreak pass from John Wall, Porter knocked down a near-corner three and got the and-1:

It's often you see a four-point play. Porter finished with 11 points in 24 minutes after fading in the second half.

2. This may have been the best play of the night for the Wizards. Wall zoomed down the floor and missed a contested transition layup. But Kelly Oubre Jr. was there to clean it up with a vicious putback slam:

Oubre had eight points and six rebounds, but shot 3-for-8 and had two turnovers in 19 minutes.

3. It was a bad overall night for the Wizards, but Bradley Beal did provide a great moment in the second half when he knocked down his fifth three of the game. That one passed Gilbert Arenas on the Wizards/Bullets all-time list for career threes:

Beal had 32 points in 35 minutes on 12-for-21 from the field and 6-for-11 from three. He also added six rebounds, a steal and a block.

4. Per usual, Wall made a lot of plays attacking the rim on Saturday night. On this one, he got the bucket and the foul:

Wall finished with 25 points, six assists and four steals.

5. Those were the good moments for the Wizards. But the play of the game was by Raptors guard Fred Van Vleet.

On a broken play with the shot clock ticking down, Van Vleet threw up a desperation shot that went in and sealed the victory:

It has only been two games, but the Wizards failing to execute late to secure victories has been an early season theme. 

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With another low shot total for Otto Porter, Coach Brooks says Porter needs to do more to help himself

USA Today Sports Images

With another low shot total for Otto Porter, Coach Brooks says Porter needs to do more to help himself

After a night in which Otto Porter Jr. only took nine total shots, just two of them in the second half, many questions from Wizards reporters in the postgame locker room centered on how the team can get him more involved. This came on the heels of a seven-shot, zero-three outing for Porter against the Heat on Thursday and a preseason in which getting him more attempts was a persistent storyline.

It sounds like some are tired of talking about it. Point guard John Wall, who is part of the equation as the team's main distributor and highest usage player, put it in relatively strong terms.

"This will be the last time I talk about Otto Porter getting threes," Wall said. 

Wall went on to explain how it's a combination of defenses taking away the three-point line for Porter and the flow of the game creating better shots for others. It's a common explanation Wall has given on the matter in recent weeks, and it's understandable.

Head coach Scott Brooks has admitted his own role in Porter not getting enough shots, how more plays could be called for the small forward. But after the loss to Toronto, one in which Porter played just south of 25 minutes, he was a bit more blunt in his assessment.

Brooks believes Porter can be doing a lot more to help himself.

"Gotta get yourself open," Brooks said. 

When asked about Porter playing fewer minutes than usual, Brooks went on about the need for guys to play hard. That warranted a follow-up, as it seemed Brooks was questioning Porter's hustle.

Brooks explained what he meant by that in detail.

"You've got to move. You've got to set yourself up. You've got to run the floor. We got a fast point guard. I don’t know if you guys know that but he’s fast and if our wings aren’t running, what good is it when you’re going to have a one-man break? What makes teams play with pace is guys running." 

"I love Otto. You guys know that. But he has to play faster. He has to. Physically, he’s not going to jump over anybody and dunk over everybody, but he has to get himself into position. He’s a big-time player for us. He’s a glue guy. He makes winning basketball plays. He gets in plays but he has to do that consistently for us. He can’t do it for a half. He has to do it for the entire game. The guy can do it. I’ve seen it. He didn’t do it tonight but he’s going to bounce back. He didn’t do it the first two games but he’s going to bounce back and do it. And we need it.”

Porter, 25, was the Wizards' most efficient player last season, but averaged only 11.5 shots per game. With one of the best three-point shots in the NBA, the numbers suggest he should have a larger role.

The Wizards insist they are trying to get him more involved. In their eyes, it's time for Porter to do his part.