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Bertans erupts for 32 in 114-107 loss to Hornets

Bertans erupts for 32 in 114-107 loss to Hornets

The Washington Wizards lost to the Charlotte Hornets 114-107 on Tuesday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

1. The more the losses pile up for the Wizards, the more games like they had on Tuesday night can be viewed through a different lens.

They lost, but they battled and showed some signs that their future is bright. And by losing, all they did is help their long-term cause in a very small way by improving their draft position.

Yes, it may be early to be thinking in those terms. But by now it's looking like the Wizards are going to fall far outside the playoff picture.

Maybe they turn things around, but in this retooling phase, it wouldn't be the worst thing if they show some fight and upside, but still end up with a good enough draft pick to land another future star.

After moving to 7-16 on the year with their sixth loss in their last seven games, that certainly looks like the course the Wizards are currently on.

2. Bradley Beal was held to 16 points and shot just 6-for-19 from the field and 0-for-7 from three. Over the past seven games, he has shot just 37.9 percent (53-for-140) from the field. That's not what we're used to seeing from the Wizards' All-Star. 

Beal, though, still made the highlight reel with one of his best plays of the season and one of the more vicious dunks of his career. Beal dunked all over Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on a play where he cut from near halfcourt and got a good feed from Moe Wagner.

 

Beal doesn't think of himself as a dunker, but he sure looked like one on that play. 

3. Davis Bertans, man. The Wizards have found something special in the Latvian Laser, who erupted once again, this time for a career-high 32 points. He shot 8-for-12 from three, setting a new career-high for makes.

The most amazing part of Bertans' night might be the fact he converted two four-point plays. Yes, you read that right.

Bertans became the first Wizards/Bullets player to make five threes or more in four straight games. No one can stop him right now.

The more Bertans plays like this, the more debates about his future are breaking out. The Wizards, as many have noted, will have to decide at the trade deadline whether to entertain what are likely to be numerous and substantial offers from playoff teams in search of shooting.

But if Bertans is this good in an expanded role, should the Wizards trade him? The arguments could evolve over the next few months, but at this moment I'm leaning towards they should keep him. One reason is what happened with Bojan Bogdanovic. They let him go in free agency and it blew up in their face when he blossomed into a better player than Otto Porter Jr., whom they gave a max contract, and Kelly Oubre Jr., whom they also kept.

Another reason is Wizards chairman Ted Leonsis' edict for the team's rebuild to not take long. If they want it to be quick, it makes a lot of sense to keep Bertans rather than trade him for a future asset. Plus, it's not like they are going to find another shooter like him. What he does is extremely rare.

4. Rui Hachimura has already proven he's more pro-ready than your average rookie, specifically with his ability to score in the midrange. But he has some gaps in his game he will need to fill out over time and one of them is his passing.

Hachimura only averaged 1.5 assists per game in college and is at only 1.7 per game so far as a rookie. Beyond the numbers, he doesn't pass the eye test as a guy who makes plays for others as a distributor.

Hachimura had a few nice dimes in this one, though. He threaded the needle on a pass to Beal in the first quarter on a play that ended in a foul. And he dropped a deft pass from the high post to set up Ian Mahinmi for a layup.

Hachimra has the ball in his hands enough where he has the opportunity to make a difference with his passing. Tuesday's game suggested he is improving in that area of the game.

5. Early on in this game it was easy to tell how Beal had made an adjustment in dealing with the referees. He had blasted them after Sunday's loss to the Clippers and was facing a Hornets team that came into the match-up allowing the second-fewest free throws of any team.

So, Beal made a point to open a dialogue with the refs early and often. Before he shot a free throw in the first quarter, he had a lengthy exchange with a referee, likely in attempt to explain his reasoning.

As analyst Glenn Consor noted on the NBC Sports Washington broadcast, star players can have an impact on officiating by developing a relationship with referees. Beal is a two-time All-Star, so he has some clout. Given how frustrated he's been with not getting calls, it can't hurt to try something new.

That said, Beal only got five free throw attempts on Tuesday, below his season average of 7.2 per game.

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Beal makes his case in win over Cavs

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Beal makes his case in win over Cavs

The Washington Wizards beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-112 on Thursday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

1. Just before tip-off, the NBA announced it's 2019-20 All-Star starters and not included in the Eastern Conference backcourt was Bradley Beal. Boston's Kemba Walker and Atlanta's Trae Young instead got the honors.

Whether Beal knew that fact when he took the floor or not, he put in a performance against the Cavs that should add to his case for being a reserve. The two-time All-Star followed up a 38-point gem against the Heat with 36 points against Cleveland just one night later. He also had eight assists and shot 15-for-22 (68.2%) from the field and 4-for-8 from three.

Beal now has the fourth-most 30-point games in the NBA since the start of last season with 40 of them. Only James Harden (86) Gianiis (54) and Damian Lillard (45) have more.

This 30-point game helped the Wizards bounce back from a loss the night before in Miami. Washington is now 15-29 on the season and 5-5 in their last 10 games.

2. In his previous six games since returning from a quad injury, Davis Bertans had put up some solid numbers and shown flashes. Against the Cavs, though, he did what we saw him to much more often a few months ago when he was healthy.

Bertans not only lit a spark off the bench, but he did so in microwave fashion. He had 14 of his 17 points in the first half, including three consecutive threes in the second quarter to force a timeout as the Wizards' lead grew to 14. That marked a big turnaround after Washington trailed by as many as 12 in the first quarter.

Bertans helped lead a monster effort from the Wizards' bench as a whole. They outscored the Cavs' second unit, 59-34. The Wizards are second in the NBA in bench scoring and that is despite all of the injuries they have dealt with in recent months. Now that they are nearly whole, the bench is becoming even stronger.

 

3. The Thomas Bryant situation is getting more interesting as each game passes. He has now been back six games and has been kept between roughly between 12 and 21 minutes a night. He played 17 minutes against the Cavs and contributed nine points and three rebounds.

Bryant is a big man coming off a foot injury, so the Wizards have incentive to play it safe and maintain a minutes restriction. But it has now been nearly two weeks since he came back.

Is it as simple as a minutes limit or is Ian Mahinmi's improved play having a domino effect on Bryant? The more Bryant plays limited minutes, the more that could become evident, if this is indeed performance based. 

Mahinmi, by the way, had seven points, seven rebounds and played strong defense, helping the Wizards to hold Tristan Thompson to six points and three rebounds.

4. Much like last week when the Wizards saw the Pistons and Andre Drummond, watching this game was reminder that Kevin Love is reportedly available in trades. That begs the natural question of where he would fit, if he gets dealt soon, like before the Feb. 6 deadline.

Some might argue the Wizards as an option, given their best players are guards and Love would technically complement them well. Given his age and contract, however, it would probably be too much of a risk for the Wizards.

The Blazers seem like they could use him and the Raptors could also be interesting. He would also fit well with the Rockets, though they probably don't have enough trade assets to get him.

What about the Timberwolves? They have disappointed this year and need to find Karl-Anthony Towns some help. Love wouldn't be joining a contender, as he probably hopes to, but it could be an interesting story if he goes back to the team he started with. And him and Towns would be a tough duo to stop given how well they rebound and stretch the floor.

Speaking of Love, he had the viral moment of the night when he pretended to resuscitate Beal. 

5. Backup center Anzejs Pasecniks was back in the mix after missing two games due to a left ankle injury. And not only was he available, he actually got some burn.

Pasecniks played 15 minutes and scored four points to go along with three rebounds. So, even with Bryant and Bertans back from injury, and Johnathan Williams III still getting minutes, Pasecniks maintains a role in the rotation.

That could change once other players come back. Moe Wagner, in particular, will probably take minutes away from him at the backup center spot. But Pasecniks still hanging around in the rotation is a testament to him and the way he has played. No one predicted he would play this much of a factor this season.

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Bradley Beal among elite company with 40th 30-point game over last two seasons

Bradley Beal among elite company with 40th 30-point game over last two seasons

Bradley Beal secured his 40th three-point outing since the start of last season Thursday night with an efficient 36 points on 15-of-22 shooting. He surpassed Paul George for the fourth-most 30-point games over the last two seasons and now trails only Damian Lillard, Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden. 

The Wizards have not been a good team over the last two seasons, but for Beal to be in the company of two MVP's shows just how much he's grown as the leader of this team. 

The updated leaderboard for this elite scoring class now goes as follows:

Harden: 86
Antetokounmpo: 54
Lillard: 45
Beal: 40

Beal has tallied 15 30-point games this season while no other Wizard has more than one. He's well on pace to get more than 25, which was last season's total, and he's doing it on inferior shooting numbers.

 

Beal's shooting percentage (45.2 percent) is his worst mark since 2015-16, and he's never shot below 35 percent from three, let alone the 31.6 percent clip he has now. 

He's certainly had more opportunity to play with the ball in his hands given all the time John Wall has missed over the last two seasons, but it takes a special type of offensive player to score 30 points as many times as the likes of Lillard, Harden and Antetokounmpo. 

It'll be difficult to catch Harden and Antetokounmpo since they're on a different level as scorers. If Beal can stay hot through a light schedule right before the All-Star break, there's no reason to think he can't pass Lillard on this list. 

That's assuming Lillard doesn't score 30 over the next two weeks, which most likely won't happen. 

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