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Wizards' problems late deeper than who gets last shot

Wizards' problems late deeper than who gets last shot

Until the Wizards figure out how to close games, the question about whether or not John Wall or Bradley Beal should be taking the last shot will come up time and again. But it's bigger than that and more about what happens in the waning minutes as the offense goes stagnant.

The Wizards found themselves ahead 99-92 with 3:10 left to the Oklahoma City Thunder just as they were ahead two nights prior to the Sacramento Kings. It was 91-86 with 2:24 following a three-point shot from Wall. In both games, however, the Wizards had to go into overtime. 

While they beat the Kings 101-95, they were steam-rolled 21-10 in the extra session in a 126-115 loss to the Thunder. 

Wall ran a pick-and-roll with Markieff Morris (19 points, seven rebounds) and got a mismatch when Jerami Grant switched off. Wall appeared to have a floater or finish at the rim possible, with Russell Westbrook switching onto the 6-10 Morris. Wall tried to make a last-minute pass that almost was stolen and Otto Porter found the loose ball and missed the potential game-winner. Against Sacramento, Wall ended regulation by taking a difficult jumper that had no chance of going in. 

"They were so focused on me, they were leaving guys open," said Beal, who had a team-high 31 points on 10-for-21 shooting in a game that the Wizards fought back from a 16-point hole in the first half. "They weren't helping off me so John just kept running high pick-and-rolls and we kept hitting Keef on the roll. They weren't guarding it. I don't mind that. I probably got to be more aggressive and go and get the ball."

The Wizards (6-11) blew their chance to win at Chesapeake Arena for the first time in franchise history. Wall had a chance to win a game on the final shot there in overtime in 2013 when he missed in the lane as Jeremy Lamb struck him over the forearm and didn't get the call. 

Their record this season is 1-2 in overtime. At the end of regulation in their first overtime loss, Wall made a bad read vs. the Memphis Grizzlies in the second game this season. He didn't get off a quality look as he went into the teeth of the defense without a screen to set the table. And the Wizards were ahead 96-88 with 3:17 left in that game.

Maybe fatigue is playing a factor, too. In the last six games, Beal has played 40, 40, 38, 38, 41 and 42 minutes. Wall has played 37, 38, 39, 37, 43 and 44.

"It's tough playing 40 minutes a night, having to come back and play all these tough teams all over again," said Beal, who'll have to play at the San Antonio Spurs on Friday. "I think they'll die down eventually. I think we'll get rolling. I think it's just a matter of us getting over this hump. We're right there. Our effort is there. We're playing defense the right way, the way we want to. The offense is there. We just got to put it all together now."

Closing games is difficult to do. As the leaders of the locker room, Wall and Beal have done most of the heavy-lifting. They need help. In the end though, teammates will look at them to make the right plays and the confidence they clearly lack in the clutch.

"This," said Wall, "is probably the most difficult one of the season, being up seven with (three) minutes to go."

[RELATED: Takeaways from the Wizards overtime loss vs. Thunder]

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Scott Brooks, Wizards adjusting quickly to life in the NBA's bubble

Scott Brooks, Wizards adjusting quickly to life in the NBA's bubble

They began with 36 hours in quarantine, a day-and-a-half of just sitting in their hotel rooms at Disney World, waiting to get to work as the NBA aims to resume and finish the 2019-20 season.

Wizards forward Isaac Bonga talked to his friends on the phone and played XBOX. Head coach Scott Brooks FaceTimed his family. Guard Ish Smith marveled at how similar his hotel room was to the one he stayed in last summer at Disney World.

They had just arrived to Orlando, FL from Washington, D.C. for the NBA's restart. They had to wait those 36 hours and test negative for coronavirus twice before going free.

"The forced relaxation drove me crazy. It was the weirdest thing," Brooks said.

The Wizards were eventually let out of their rooms and on Thursday held their first practice at Disney World; a 5 p.m. get-together that featured real, live basketball, the type they had abstained from for weeks at their training facility due to social distancing protocol.

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They were missing a few players and not just the previously established absences of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans; their three best players. Thomas Bryant, Gary Payton II and Garrison Mathews were all reportedly away from the team; the first due to coronavirus and Mathews because of personal reasons.

RELATED: ISH SMITH GRADES BUBBLE FOOD

Still, getting out in the open floor and scrimmaging was a major step for the Wizards as they look towards July 31, their first regular season game.

"I thought the practice was outstanding. I was real concerned because we hadn't done anything live," Brooks said.

"I don't know how they did it, how the NBA was able to get it all done. Our facility here, our gym is pretty incredible. The weight room is amazing. The hotels are great. Everything is good. I have no complaints. It's just like a road trip for us."

"It just felt good to be out there," Smith said. "It was very similar to a normal practice that we would have, just coaches have gloves and masks on."

What happens on the court, the NBA hopes, should feel familiar. It's off-the-court that will require the biggest adjustment, as everyone there will be away from their families for an extended period of time and in an environment intended to stop the spread of a worldwide pandemic.

But the early returns from the Wizards were good. They are pleasantly surprised with the situation so far.

"Look, we get to play basketball. To me, it's like going away to basketball camp," Brooks said.

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Charles Barkley jokingly admits he doesn't know anyone on the Wizards besides John Wall and Bradley Beal

Charles Barkley jokingly admits he doesn't know anyone on the Wizards besides John Wall and Bradley Beal

Without John Wall, Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans, Washington's three best players, the Wizards hopes of making the playoffs in the NBA's Orlando restart have taken a hit.

On Thursday, Wizards coach Scott Brooks joined the Inside the NBA team on TNT, where Charles Barkley genuinely asked him who has to step up for the team when the games begin.

Brooks' response was unexpected, yet also hilarious. Here was the exchange:

Barkley: "Obviously, without John and Bradley, your two best players, give us two names that really need to step up for you guys."

Brooks: "Well, I think we should play that game where you name two guys on our team besides those two guys." 

Barkley: "Let me tell you something, I don't know anybody on your team! So I want you to tell us two players on your team."

To Barkley's credit, much of the national media has not paid any attention to the Wizards this season. The team only had one game on national TV this season, a November clash with the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers.

RELATED: ISH SMITH SAYS BUBBLE FOOD ISN'T THAT BAD

When basketball does resume, the Wizards are six games back of the Orlando Magic for the eighth spot in the East. Washington needs to make up two games over the final eight contests in order to force a play-in game for the conference's final playoff spot.

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