The Washington Wizards lost to the Brooklyn Nets 118-110 on Sunday afternoon in Orlando, FL. Here are five takeaways from what went down...
Playoff hopes are vanishing
The Wizards' time in Orlando was always going to be about player development more than anything and that is now officially going to be the case, as by losing to the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday, their playoff hopes have all but disappeared.
They not only lost to the Suns on Friday, their worst opponent in the restart, but fell to Brooklyn who is also not good and presented their only chance to directly help their cause. With an 0-2 start in Orlando, they are now 24-42 on the year.
Now it will take a Disney World miracle for them to make the postseason as they sit seven games back in the playoff picture, needing to get within four just to force a play-in tournament. That means the Wizards would have to go at a minimum 3-3 the rest of the way and their schedule is daunting. If the Wizards went 3-3, the Nets would have to finish 0-6.
That's okay, though, because this time is all about developing the young players for next season. And preserving their draft lottery odds, which are currently ninth-best, would not be the worst thing.
But now the NBA's new lottery rule is going to come into focus. With this loss, the Wizards are now tied with the Hornets for the eighth-most losses in the NBA. The league, however, has locked the bottom-eight teams into their lottery positions. So, the Wizards have a distinct possibility where they could have worse lottery odds than a team with a better record than theirs.
Bryant balled out
Head coach Scott Brooks highlighted two players he wanted to see step up in this game after their debuts against the Suns on Friday: Thomas Bryant and Troy Brown Jr. Both did exactly that.
First, on Bryant. He had a tough time against DeAndre Ayton of Phoenix and it didn't get much easier in this one with Jarrett Allen in the paint. But Bryant opened up his offensive game by knocking down three-pointers and, as Brooks was hoping, he brought more energy to the game.
Thomas Bryant is on another level today pic.twitter.com/ge7Tk2dHw9— NBCSports Washington (@NBCSWashington) August 2, 2020
That was evident in the first half when Brown found him for an open dunk, one that pushed the Wizards to an 11-2 lead and forced a Nets timeout. Bryant screamed into the air as he hung on the rim. It was reminiscent of the emotion he usually shows during games which is often boosted by the fans. Now, with no fans in the crowd, maybe it has affected him. But he looked like the animated version of Bryant we are used to in this game.
Bryant came through with a monster performane in the box score. He had 18 points and seven rebounds by halftime and ended up with 30 points (one off his career-high) and 13 boards. He shot 4-for-6 from three. He also had two blocks.
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All in all, it was exactly what the Wizards want to see from their young big man.
Brown stepped up
The other T.B. had a very good game himself and he too showed improvement from the opener. Brown had 15 points against the Suns, but was otherwise a no-show in the box score, which is uncharacteristic for him as he is known for his versatility and ability to rack up assists and rebounds.
This game was much more familiar. Brown was all over the place against Brooklyn, putting up 22 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, flirting with what was nearly his first career triple-double.
Beal: get TB involved more— NBCSports Washington (@NBCSWashington) August 2, 2020
Brown was decisive and aggressive, particularly on the fastbreak where would ignite the Wizards' offense in transition. But perhaps most telling was a first-half three-point shot he made, where he pulled up in the halfcourt from several feet behind the line. It displayed confidence in an area where he hasn't had consistent success so far in his career. What it reflected is that he is embracing his role as a primary scoring option and willing to look for his own shot when otherwise he might defer to Bradley Beal or other veteran teammates.
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While Bryant and Brown took steps in the right direction, Rui Hachimura did not. The Wizards' rookie had a dreadful first half with only two points on 0-for-2 shooting. It was an unusual sight considering he has been much more consistent this season than his experience would suggest. He also played very well on Friday.
Hachimura also had a play that harkened back to some of his more teachable moments of the season. It was in the first half when he tried to score on a baby hook in the lane, only to get blocked into oblivion by Allen. Brooks has remarked many times this year how Hachimura has to go up stronger, how he can't get away with the plays around the rim that worked for him in college. This was a good example of that learning curve.
Hachimura, to his credit, turned the tide in the second half. He came out more aggressive and finished with nine points, four rebounds and four assists.
Seesaw performances are probably to be expected as the Wizards play out their season in Orlando, given most of their roster is comprised of young and unproven players. The difference between those who fizzle out of the NBA quickly and those who carve out long careers is often consistency. Which of the Wizards' prospects can achieve it will say a lot about their future roles on the team.
Isaac Bonga and Moe Wagner struggled in this one, for example. Bonga, who shined during the exhibition schedule, had four points and was a -9 in the box score. Wagner had two points in seven minutes and was essentially benched for Anzejs Pasecniks in the second half.
The good news is that there are at least six games left for them to respond and how they do will say plenty. The problem is that after this game, the schedule will turn pretty brutal with a gauntlet of playoff teams awaiting them.
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