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Dwight Howard believes Wizards have enough talent to 'shock a lot of people'

Dwight Howard believes Wizards have enough talent to 'shock a lot of people'

The 2018 offseason got off to an ominous start for Dwight Howard, as he was traded by the Charlotte Hornets, a team that missed the playoffs last season, to the Brooklyn Nets, who despite not being a good team decided to immediately cut him loose with a buyout. But given all that went wrong in the first few weeks, Howard rebounded well with a free agent deal to join the Washington Wizards, a team that has made the playoffs in four of the past five seasons.

The Wizards, in fact, may be the most talented team Howard has played on in years. With two All-Stars in John Wall and Bradley Beal, they boast more high-end talent than either of his previous stops, the Hornets or Hawks, did at the time he played with them.

Howard believes Washington is a good opportunity for him to not only return to the playoffs, but to possibly go on a deep playoff run.

"We'll have a shot. We'll have a real shot," he said. "I think we are going to have a wonderful season. I think we are going to really just shock a lot of people."

The talent on the Wizards' roster and how he fits in was all considered when he chose to sign with the Wizards. He insists that winning is the most important thing at this point in his career and he believes, from experience going as far as the NBA Finals, that Washington has the goods to be contenders in the Eastern Conference.

Howard knows the Wizards' roster well, having played against them over the years and particularly in the playoffs in 2017. Back then he was the starting center for the Hawks and recalls being impressed when scouting the Wizards in film sessions.

Now that he is in the fold, giving the Wizards a new dimension with an athletic center, Howard believes they can be uniquely versatile.

"Man, we match up well with anybody. They're going to have to worry about trying to match up with us. We can go very big, go very small, we can play fast, we can slow the game down; which is going to be great for our team," he said.

"A lot of people, the casual fans of basketball, wouldn't understand that once you make it to the playoffs and the deeper that you go in the playoffs, the game slows down. Teams really have to use their third or fourth options to really get buckets because teams are always going to try to stop that first and second option."

The versatility of the Wizards stands out to Howard and so does their depth. In reeling off the pluses of the Wizards' roster, he went beyond the obvious of Wall, Beal and Otto Porter, Jr.

"Then you've got a guy like Kelly [Oubre, Jr.] who is young and plays with a lot of intensity and can pass the ball well. [Tomas] Satoransky, I liked him when we played against him last year. I thought this guy can really pass the ball, he can really shoot, he plays with a lot of energy. I could just go down the list and I thought 'man, this could be the perfect opportunity,'" Howard said.

Howard landed on his feet after the turmoil of his trade and buyout in a situation that is seemingly a great fit from a basketball perspective. The question, of course, will be whether they can make the most of their on-paper talent and not let intangible factors like locker room chemistry get in the way.

Tyler Byrum contributed to this report

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Middleton outduels Beal as Bucks bury Wizards

Middleton outduels Beal as Bucks bury Wizards

The Washington Wizards lost to the Milwaukee Bucks 151-131 on the road on Tuesday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

1. The Milwaukee Bucks may appear from afar like a one-man show; Giannis Antetokounmpo and a supporting cast of good, but nowhere near great players. On Tuesday night, the Wizards got to see the Bucks without their MVP, as he sat with a shoulder injury. Turns out they are still very, very good.

Milwaukee led by as many as 32 points and won by 20 as they demolished the Wizards for much of the night with the exception of some isolated second-half runs.The Wizards would end up cutting the lead to seven midway through the third quarter, but overall they were no match for the league's best team.

The Wizards fell to 15-31 on the season, while the Bucks improved to 41-6. That puts them on pace for 72 wins, which would tie the 1995-96 Bulls for the second-best regular season record of all-time.

2. We know the Wizards aren't a good defensive team. In fact, they might be the worst defense in today's game and are arguably one of the worst in league history.

But it was still shocking to see what the Bucks did to them in the first half of this game. Milwaukee made history in several ways by scoring 88 points by the break.

Those 88 points were the most ever allowed by a Wizards/Bullets team in any half. They were the seventh-most scored in a first half in NBA history. And they were the 20th-most scored by any team in any half.

The Bucks actually broke their own record against the Wizards. Last February, they scored 85 points in the first half against Washington, which at the time was the most ever scored against the franchise in a first half. At least that time they had Antetokounmpo.

This, by the way, was the sixth time this season the Wizards have allowed 140 points or more. That is the most 140-point games allowed by a team in a single season since the 1990-91 Nuggets. 

That Denver team had 24 such games, so well ahead of the Wizards' pace. But this is only Game 46 of 82 for Washington, so don't sell them short.

3. The reason why the Bucks were able do that without Antetokounmpo was because their second- and third-best players, Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe, stepped up and played like All-Stars. Middleton may very well be in the annual showcase next month.

Middleton had a career-high 51 points, 28 of which came in the first half. He went 7-for-10 from three.

Bledsoe added 32 points, including 22 in the first half. He was 11-for-20 from the field. He also had 10 assists and six rebounds, as he bullied the Wizards - even their big men - on the boards.

4. The Wizards were able to stick around and make it interesting because Bradley Beal also put in an All-Star performance. He dropped a season-high 47 points with six assists in 38 minutes.

It was Beal's sixth 40-point game of the season. Only James Harden (16) and Trae Young (8) have more. Beal now has 18 career 40-point games, third in franchise history behind Gilbert Arenas (28) and Walt Bellamy (23). 

5. It wasn't of the Antetokounmpo caliber, but there was a pregame injury update for the Wizards that is worth noting. Backup guard Jordan McRae wasn't able to go due to a sprained right ankle.

McRae rolled his ankle on Sunday against the Hawks and it is apparently more serious than his previous ankle injury, the one to his left ankle, that he suffered on Jan. 17 against the Raptors. That one appeared to be very severe at the time, yet he was able to play in their next game.

It is unclear how long McRae will be out, but the Wizards are expected to get rookie Rui Hachimura back, perhaps within the next week.

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Wizards fail to contain Khris Middleton and fall to league-leading Bucks by 20

Wizards fail to contain Khris Middleton and fall to league-leading Bucks by 20

The Bucks didn't have Giannis Antetokounmpo, but it didn't really matter in the end as the Bucks downed the Wizards 151-131 Tuesday night in Milwaukee. 

The Wizards trailed by as many as 32 in this one, and were down 25 at the half, but as we've learned with this team, they never truly go away. And they always give us a few moments worth watching again. 

Here are some of the best moments from Washington's loss at Fiserv Forum. 

Kobe Bryant tribute

Tuesday was the Bucks' first game since Kobe Bryant passed away Sunday in a helicopter crash so after they won the tip, they took a 24-second violation to honor the late NBA legend.

The Wizards already participated in a similar tribute against the Hawks but took an eight-second violation on the following play regardless. 

The entire sports world was gutted by Bryant's tragic death, and as we continue to see tributes dedicated to him every day, it shows just how far his reach was as a global icon. 

Beal posterizes Lopez

As we stated before, the Wizards were down by as many as 32 points and faced a 25-point halftime deficit. They were able to get things close at the end of the third quarter and into the fourth, and much of the credit should go to Beal's loud poster dunk over Brook Lopez. 

Beal was so pumped up after this slam that he got a technical foul for taunting Lopez after the play. Beal secured a career-high sixth 40-point game of the year and went shot-for-shot with Khris Middleton throughout the second half. 

Middleton just couldn't miss. At all. 

Thomas Bryant draws the Wizards close

There was a time that the Wizards nearly clawed their way into a one-possession game with the NBA's best team. Thanks to Beal's heroics of course, but also Thomas Bryant's finishing inside. 

Bryant had a double-double in the game in what was his best game since coming back from injury. 

Interestingly enough, he played his best at the center spot and not power forward. Scott Brooks has been starting Bryant next to Ian Mahinmi and it's resulted in clunky offense and embarrassingly bad defense for the Wizards. 

After this game, Brooks may want to think about changing up the starting five. 

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