The Washington Wizards lost to the Los Angeles Lakers 123-116 on Monday afternoon in their final exhibition game in Orlando, FL. Here are five takeaways from the game...
1. For the Wizards in Orlando, what happens within the games is arguably much more important than the results of the games themselves. Yes, they can make the playoffs. But more than anything, they want to leave Disney World feeling their young players took steps in the right direction.
So for Monday's game, the highlight was definitely Troy Brown Jr.'s successful return from a sprained right thumb. Brown had to miss the Wizards' loss to the Clippers on Saturday after suffering the injury and the team referred to him as day-to-day. That was indeed the case, as he not only came back against L.A. on Monday, he played well and appears to be set up for a strong showing for the season's homestretch.
Brown showed no signs of discomfort in his hand, continuing to pound the paint aggressively. He attacked and attacked, often converting baskets in traffic with deft finishes using both hands. Brown had 12 points, eight rebounds and three assists while shooting 5-for-14 from the field, which was skewed by some heat check attempts in the final minute.
The Wizards want Brown to gain some confidence in Orlando and that just might be happening. After dribbling around to drain a shot from the corner, he stared down Dion Waiters before running up the floor. You don't see that often from Brown, who has a stoic demeanor on the floor.
2. Though the Wizards were playing the Lakers, it was nothing close to the lineup L.A. will trot out on Thursday night in their season restart opener against the Clippers. LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard and Kyle Kuzma all didn't play. That is in addition to Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley already being out.
Without all of those guys, the Wizards saw a lot of J.R. Smith, Alex Caruso, Waiters and Kentavious Caldwell-Cope. JaVale McGee had some moments and so did Markieff Morris, as the Wizards and Lakers apparently have a lot in common when it comes to their preference in bigs.
The Wizards, meanwhile, were as whole as they are going to be in Orlando. They don't have John Wall, Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans, of course, but everyone else was available. Ian Mahinmi and Jonathan Williams III didn't play at all, which means don't expect to see them much once the real games begin.
3. Rui Hachimura had another solid game with 19 points and three rebounds. He also shot 7-for-13 from the field, which was a big improvement from his game over the weekend against the Clippers.
But more important than the numbers was his continued assertiveness with the ball. He has embraced his role as a go-to scorer and is not shying away from the extra responsibility.
Rui with a powerful putback. Take a seat, McGee 🪑 pic.twitter.com/CKHlmbTjti— NBCSports Washington (@NBCSWashington) July 27, 2020
Another guy who looks season-ready is Ish Smith. He had 12 points and six assists, with 10 points on a perfect 5-for-5 FG in his first nine minutes of work. Smith's handle is sharp and he's too quick for anyone to stay in front of.
Also in mid-season form: Moe Wagner's charge-taking ability. He got McGee with a good one in the second quarter when McGee tried to drive past him from the perimeter. Wagner had 11 points, seven rebounds, two steals and a block.
4. No one on the Lakers took advantage of the opportunity with everyone out more than Smith, who came out jacking threes left and right. To his credit, he made a lot of them and ended up with 20 points, including 6-for-7 from three. He had 14 points in his first 10 minutes.
Some of them were just absurd shots. Like, this one that he made with Smith on him despite having to adjust mid-air:
JR Smith couldn’t miss today if he tried. pic.twitter.com/wAxWhC2u2W— Chase Hughes (@ChaseHughesNBCS) July 27, 2020
In case anyone was wondering what type of shape Smith would be in at his age and with so much time off, he looks good. Though he's 34 years old (and turns 35 in September), Smith looks like he could actually help the Lakers as they gun for the bubble championship. Let's just hope he knows the time and score situation.
5. The Wizards had another rough outing from three-point range. After shooting sub-30 percent in their first two exhibition games, Washington hit on 10-of-34 from three, good for 29.4 percent.
This will continue to be something to watch for the Wizards in Orlando with Beal and Bertans out. And how they do could maybe even factor into the team's offseason needs. If they are absolutely terrible at shooting threes without Beal and Bertans, then two guys alone won't fix everything.
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