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With Elena Delle Donne sidelined, so too are the Mystics' winning ways

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With Elena Delle Donne sidelined, so too are the Mystics' winning ways

The Washington Mystics, playing without an injured Elena Delle Donne, fell to the Phoenix Mercury 91-68 on Wednesday.

It was the second straight loss for the first-place Mystics and their worst of the season.

The Mercury were also playing without their sidelined star, Diana Taurasi, but Brittney Griner led her team with 25 points and eight rebounds. Tianna Hawkins led the Mystics with 24 points and Ariel Atkins put up 14.

Delle Donne is listed day-to-day after suffering a broken nose in the Mystics' loss to Los Angeles earlier this week. The injury appeared to happen less than a minute into the game when she collided with Candace Parker.  She missed the season opener while dealing with a knee injury. 

Since joining the Mystics before the start of the 2017 season, the team is 5-12 in games Delle Donne missed and 48-26 in-game she played, including the 2018 WNBA playoffs.

The Mystics are now 9-5 overall and 0-3 this season without Delle Donne on the court.

The Mystics, who are tied for first place in the East with the Connecticut Sun, are back on the court on Saturday when they host the Aces.

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Wizards may have found Thomas Bryant 2.0 in Moe Wagner, another steal from the Lakers

Wizards may have found Thomas Bryant 2.0 in Moe Wagner, another steal from the Lakers

Moe Wagner has openly expressed his desire to follow the trajectory of Thomas Bryant, whom he has reunited with as a teammate now in Washington after they previously overlapped in Los Angeles.

He is a big man who can stretch the floor and plays with loads of energy. And he was a Lakers castoff now hoping to find his NBA niche in a Wizards uniform.

Through 10 games in Washington, Wagner is ahead of schedule. What he did on Friday night in Minnesota was something Bryant didn't do until months into last season, and technically it was much rarer than that.

Wagner became the first player to put up 30 points and 15 rebounds off the bench since Yao Ming in 2002 and the first in Wizards/Bullets franchise history since Cliff Robinson in 1985. No NBA player had ever dropped 30 points with 15 boards and hit four threes off the bench before in NBA history.

Wagner did this, mind you, against Karl-Anthony Towns, one of the best centers in the league. And Wagner did it all in only 25 minutes as he battled through foul trouble to make 13-of-15 shots overall and shoot a perfect 4-for-4 from three. 

He had his moments on the defensive end as well. While Towns lit up the Wizards for 25 points in the first half and for 36 in the game, 19 of those came in the second quarter when Wagner had to take a seat because of his fouls. 

Wagner's defensive style isn't pretty. Without the length or instincts to block shots, he has to scrap his way to getting stops. He uses his fouls and has a knack for drawing them.

Wagner took three charges in Friday's game and now has 10 on the season, which leads the NBA. Last year, Bradley Beal and Jeff Green led the Wizards with 12 for the entire year.

Charges generally aren't utilized in the NBA because they are very difficult to achieve. Last season, the Dallas Mavericks led the entire league with 0.84 per game. Though Wagner is averaging one per game himself this year, that pace will be difficult to sustain. Last season, Ersan Ilyasove led the league with 0.73 charges drawn per game and DeMarcus Cousins was No. 1 with 0.5 per game the year before. 

But there are players for whom charges are a defensive weapon. Ilyasova and Cousins are always near the top of the league in the category and so is Blake Griffin. Shane Battier might be the most famous charge-taker of all-time. Maybe Wagner can be next.

Taking charges, though, are just one of the ways Wagner is using his energy and effort to affect games for the Wizards. After Wednesday's win over the Timberwolves, he is second on the Wizards in deflections, second in contested shots and second in screen assists; all hustle stats. And his net rating is best on the team and fourth-highest in the NBA. 

Wagner is so far proving to be a diamond in the rough, just like Bryant was last year. Keep in mind the Wizards got him in a salary-dump trade from the Lakers that also gave them Isaac Bonga and a second-round pick. All the Wizards gave up was cash considerations, which they used to be famous for coveting.

All of this makes it fair to wonder if the Wizards can do it again. They got Bryant from the Lakers and then Wagner.

So, who is the back-up center currently on L.A. they can poach next summer?

Well, technically that would be either Dwight Howard or JaVale McGee, so maybe not. But the Wizards already fooled the Lakers once and it looks like they did it again.

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Bradley Beal passes Gilbert Arenas and John Wall for most 40-point, 10-assist games in team history

Bradley Beal passes Gilbert Arenas and John Wall for most 40-point, 10-assist games in team history

Bradley Beal led the Wizards to their third win of the season Friday night with a brilliant 44-point, 10-assist performance against the Timberwolves. 

It was the third time in his career scoring 40 points and dishing out 10 assists, which is now a Wizards franchise record. Beal passed Gilbert Arenas (2) and John Wall (2) to become the outright leader in this high-profile category.

The other two instances where Beal went 40-and-10 were last season against Toronto (43 points, 15 assists) and in 2018 at the Suns (40 points, 15 assists). 

This wasn't the only impressive statistical feat Beal accomplished on Friday. He recorded his third 40-point game of the season while shooting over 60 percent, something only four other players have done so far in 2019-20.

Beal is now averaging 29.7 points, 6.8 assists and 4.6 rebounds on the year. He's clearly on his way to another All-Star game selection, and if he keeps up this level of production he'll earn himself his first All-NBA selection and perhaps a place in the MVP discussion. 

Even though the Wizards are in the midst of a rebuild and have had their fair share of frustrating moments, but at this point, Beal is must-see television. 

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