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Wizards lax on defense but Bradley Beal electrifies even better offense

Wizards lax on defense but Bradley Beal electrifies even better offense

Bradley Beal and John Wall looked up at the scoreboard at Golden 1 Arena, trailing by 15 points entering the fourth quarter vs. the Sacramento Kings. The Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors had lost to clear a path to the No. 2 spot in the East.

They decided it was time to flip the switch and responded by playing the type of basketball that should've made it a blowout from the opening tip. Beal scored 16 of his game-high 38 points in the fourth as the Wizards forced overtime and won 130-122 on Saturday.

"This beautiful arena has scoreboards everywhere. I was able to peek over and see Boston took an L and so did Toronto," said Beal, who was playing at the new home of the Kings for the first time. "It’s important for us in terms of the seeding. John and I both looked at it and said to each other we got to get it and turned it on in  the fourth quarter."

Wall had a chance to win the game in regulation but his fadeaway jumper over Willie Cauley-Stein rimmed out. 

The Wizards (40-24) are one win away from tying their win total for last season and drawing to .500 on the road. They're 14-15 entering tonight's game at the Portland Trail Blazers.

Beal has been potent since the All-Star break. In nine games, Beal is averaging 28.6 points, 54% field-goal shooting; 43.1% three-point shooting, 86.7% foul shooting; 4.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals. They're averaging 114 points since the break which is fourth-best in the NBA.

The Wizards are 3-0 on this five-game road trip but have given up an average of 120.7 points which has gone against the core principles of coach Scott Brooks.

"We love the wins but we’re putting ourselves in bad positions," Beal said. "We’re developing bad habits. Something we can’t have this late in the season, moving forward we’ll face tougher teams and against playoff teams you get down like that early they’re going to put you away.

The Kings were held to 9-for-26 shooting after the third quarter. Beal and Otto Porter were more physical on Buddy Heild, who failed to score after halftime. Wall's ball pressure was suffocating Darren Collison and Ty Lawson. 

"Once we do that, our whole momentum changes, our whole swagger, our whole identity changes," Beal said. "We’re more physical, we’re more locked into the game, we’re playing faster. Then our offense flows right out of it."

The Blazers are the NBA's best scoring offense since the break. They're averaging better than 50% shooting, too. The Wizards steamrolled them in their first meeting, 120-101, on Jan. 16 but they're not playing the kind of defense now that they showed then. The Minnesota Timberwolves are the final opponent on this stretch Monday.

"We have to figure it out. These two teams we got, they’ve got guys that can score at a really high level," Wall said. "To take the next step we got to get back to that. … We have to lock in and be better."

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Arizona's Nico Mannion, likely lottery pick, declares for NBA Draft

Arizona's Nico Mannion, likely lottery pick, declares for NBA Draft

The 2020 NBA Draft, whenever and however it ends up taking place, is shaping up to be heavy at the guard position. One of the highest rated prospects entered his name into the mix on Tuesday.

Arizona point guard Nico Mannion, a 6-foot-3 pass-first point guard, declared for the draft after one year in college. He is projected by most mock drafts to be taken in the lottery.

That means he could be one of the best options on the board when the Wizards make their first round pick. They currently have the ninth-worst record in the NBA.

Mannion, who turned 19 last month, is a gifted passer and is also known for his outside shot, though the percentages weren't there in college. He shot just 39.2 percent from the field and 32.7 percent from three. He averaged 14.0 points and 5.3 assists for the Wildcats.

Mannion is one of several prospects who could present an interesting decision for the Wizards on draft night. Teams often say they choose the best player available, but his style of play and position could clash with their highest-paid players.

Mannion is a pass-first point guard and so is John Wall, whom they have signed to a supermax contract. Whether they could play together or at least coexist in the same rotation would have to be determined by Wizards brass.

The Wizards also have point guard Ish Smith under contract for next season. He has carried a heavy load this season and will likely take up rotation minutes next year as Wall's back-up.

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Wizards team doctor on how long it would take to get players back into game shape

Wizards team doctor on how long it would take to get players back into game shape

Whether the NBA will resume its 2019-20 regular season remains a question as the world continues to avoid public gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic. League commissioner Adam Silver said this week a decision on if or when NBA games will next be played will come no sooner than May 1.

That presents a tricky dynamic for the teams and players. There are a lot of factors at play as they try to stay ready to return to action, if need be.

The Wizards have been using a variety of resources including video calls and remote assistance for training and nutrition. Dr. Daniel Medina, Monumental Basketball’s Chief of Athlete Care and Performance, recently joined the team's 'Off the Bench' podcast to explain that process.

He was asked what it would take to get the Wizards geared up to play games after the long layoff, which as of now is at about a month. He said it could take two weeks or more.

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“Let’s not forget, these are young, healthy athletes,” Medina said. “With the proper stimulus, they will be ready in a short period of time…As you all know, and as every basketball fan knows, the biggest challenge is, at this point when you stop, is tendon issues and chronic joint issues. In that sense, the program that we have put together, and a lot of credit to our PTs, let’s have our guys not lose much muscle, have those tendons ready to be uploaded and if we’re given two or three weeks to ramp up, we’ll be ready to do it.”

Medina said he believes the Wizards have been "super successful" at keeping the players active and engaged. But he also noted how the uncertainty of a return date complicates matters: “How do we manage to work through and understand a scenario where we don’t really know?”

Medina shared plenty more details about the Wizards' efforts to continue operating while quarantined. You can listen to the full podcast here.

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