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Five observations from Wizards' 117-109 win over the Orlando Magic, including Jeff Green's takeover

Five observations from Wizards' 117-109 win over the Orlando Magic, including Jeff Green's takeover

The Washington Wizards beat the Orlando Magic 117-109 on Monday night. Here are five observations from the game...

Two in a row: The Wizards did something on Monday night they had yet to do this season. They won their second game in a row.

Now 4-9 on the season, the Wizards have some work remaining to regain respectability. But there were some encouraging signs. For instance, they won the rebounding margin for just the second time this season. They also made 13 threes.

This win, however, would have been a lot easier if they could lock down the three-point line. The Magic shot 15-for-30 from three. Perimeter defense continues to be a major blind spot for Washington.

Green dominated: Bradley Beal's comparison of Jeff Green to LeBron James all of a sudden doesn't sound so crazy.

Against the Magic, Green wasn't just good, he put the Wizards on his back and took over the game in the fourth quarter with a series of shots and defensive plays to keep Orlando at bay.

Green, who finished with 18 points in just 21 minutes, erupted for 10 points in the fourth quarter. He hit two threes in the frame and went 4-for-5 for the night. One of them bailed out Austin Rivers to beat the shot clock.

Green also had 19 points against the Heat on Friday. The veteran is playing well beyond expectations for the one-year contract he signed this summer. In the Wizards' past several games, he's given them starter production off the bench. 

Though Mike Scott was very good last season, Green is showing how he can do more because of how he can affect games defensively. It's no wonder why head coach Scott Brooks has relied on him in the fourth quarters of the last three games instead of starters.

Beal woke up late: With under five minutes remaining in the third quarter, Beal was ice cold. He had nine points on 3-for-13 shooting from the field and 0-for-6 from three.

But out of a timeout, Beal woke up and, like a button was pushed, took over the game. He began by sinking a tough layup off the glass. Moments later, he got his first three to fall. 

After that, he fed Dwight Howard for an and-1 on a drive set up by a slick behind-the-back move. And seconds later, he stole an errant pass and finished with a rim-bending slam on the other end.

Beal scored seven points in a stretch of about three minutes and almost single-handedly erased what was a 10-point deficit to take the lead. He did what we saw him do so often last year. Despite struggling for more than half the game, he never wavered and found a way to get the ball in the rim.

Beal made something of his uneven night to post 21 points, eight rebounds and four assists. He proved once again that opposing teams can only keep him in check for so long.

Wall is heating up: Though John Wall has long been criticized for his outside shot, many forget he set a career-high last season by shooting 37.1 percent from three on 4.1 attempts per game. That wasn't bad at all and it looks like Wall may be finding that stroke once again.

After a slow start out of the gate, Wall has been on fire from three recently. He went 2-for-3 against the Magic and is now 16-for-37 in his last seven games. That's good for 43.2 percent.

Wall may never be a lights-out marksman from long range. But he is becoming more than respectable as a perimeter threat.

Mahinmi played again: It appears that Ian Mahinmi has earned his job back. He was benched for three straight games, but has now played in each of the past two. 

Similar to the win over the Heat on Friday, Mahinmi did his part with a minimal, but noticeable impact on the game. He had a nice weakside block in the first quarter. Jarell Martin drove left and got by his man and Mahinmi helped by stepping across the lane to swat it out of bounds.

That's what they need Mahinmi to do, play defense and not get in the way on offense. When he's not affecting games on the defensive end, his other shortcomings become magnified. Through two games, he's done enough to probably stay in the rotation for the time being.

While Mahinmi is back in the rotation, Otto Porter Jr. appears to be in the relative doghouse. This was the third straight game he has sat out the fourth quarter. Markieff Morris was in the same boat for two games, but got the nod against Orlando.

Some of it is simply Brooks rolling with the hot hand. But Brooks must not like something Porter has been doing lately. The best guess is his defense, as Jonathan Simmons, among others, was getting past Porter with regularity in this one.

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Yes, Bobby Portis once bowled a 285 and that's another reason to strike up affection for the new Wizard

Yes, Bobby Portis once bowled a 285 and that's another reason to strike up affection for the new Wizard

WASHINGTON -- Spare your outrage upon hearing Bobby Portis’ take. 

The Wizards power forward believes his game, one honed in Chicago that includes a striking hook shot, is the NBA’s best. 

“I want to say I am. I’m pretty damn good. I’m not cocky at all about anything," Portis said, “but bowling is one thing I’m really confident with.”

Don’t split after that lede. At least wait until finding out more about an honor the Arkansas native received during the All-Star break that frames his high school career forever. There’s also the potential with the Wizards just two weeks after a trade X’d out the stretch-4’s time with the Bulls.

That deal also interrupted league play. 

Portis showed up every Wednesday to Diversey River Bowl in the Logan Square section of Chicago, at least when the Bulls’ schedule permitted.  At first, Portis just wanted to keep his skills sharp. You don’t roll a 285 by accident. 

“I’m a very active bowler. I loooove bowling,” Portis explained to NBC Sports Washington. “It’s something I do each and every day in the summer.”

The former University of Arkansas standout fell hard for the game back in his native Little Rock. He and a group of friends would battle with push-ups at stake.

He arrives at the alley with a 14-pound, bowling ball. The trusty multi-colored orb helps the NBA big man do damage in the lane.

“I throw the hook, man,” Portis proudly stated. “Bowling takes a lot of skill and exercise and a lot of relaxation. You can’t just go out there and throw it hard.”

Portis moved to Chicago after the Bulls selected him 22nd overall in the 2015 NBA Draft. After he settled into his new professional life, he went searching for a game.

The initial plan involved an incognito approach that was a real gutter ball.

“I tried to have my hood on the first time I went so nobody would notice me,” the 6-foot-11 NBA player admitted, “but after that, it was a wrap. Taking pictures all damn night.”

Portis got to know some of those picture takers. “Just random dudes,” he said. 

Soon Rajon Rondo and Lauri Markkanen weren’t his only teammates. 

“I would go just practice my game and found these dudes I was cool with,” Portis said. “I exchanged numbers with them. We starting hanging out a lot. Started bowling. Then they invited me to their little league. I was bowling in their league ever since.

His now famous “crazy eyes” bulged during the reminiscing.

“It’s a really cool league,” Portis said. “You see a lot of old people there. They’re really good. They bring their balls. I never really knew people loved bowling like that until I joined their league.”

The trade to Washington put the bowling league on hold. 

Portis did not quite know what to make of the deal initially. He entered his fourth season with a goal of being named Sixth Man of the Year. Suffering a right knee injury during Chicago’s fourth game derailed those hopes. Portis missed the next 23 games, returned for five and then sat out an extended stretch with an ankle issue.

The 2019 restricted free agent found his touch in January, averaging 14.2 points while shooting 42.5 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. The trade occurred three days after Portis scored 33 points on Feb. 3 and moments before Chicago hosted New Orleans.

 “It was a crazy experience,” Portis said. “Had my jersey on, was ready to play.”

With time for reflection, Portis now sees the positives with Washington.

“I get more time on the court, show what I can do,” Portis said. “I’m just happy to be a Wizard. …Trades happen. I’m over it now. Have a chance to fight for the playoffs.”

Portis made quite the impression on his new team after four games, averaging 19.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 29.3 minutes off the bench while sinking a staggering 54.5 percent of his 3-pointers.

“He surprised me how good of a 3-point shooter he is for his size and his position,” Wizards point guard Tomas Satoransky said. “I think it’s going to be fun also playing pick-and-roll, pick-and-pops with him.”

That fun could continue into next season if the Wizards retain Satoransky, another RFA, and Portis, who plays minutes at center with Washington.

“I can’t predict the future, whether I’ll be here or whether I’ll be somewhere else,” Portis said. “I know I can control the now. Now is me putting the work in each and every day.”

Back in the day Portis first gained notoriety playing for Little Rock’s Hall High School. He led the Warrior to four state championships. Those accomplishments plus his subsequent work in college and the NBA led to the school retiring Portis’ jersey during the All-Star break.

“When you’re a kid growing up playing the game of basketball, you’re just playing for the love of the game,” Portis said. “I never knew I would get my high school jersey retired. Man, it was a surreal moment for me and my family.”

Despite the honor, Portis is not the school’s most notable basketball alum.

“I think Sidney Moncrief is more famous than I am,” Portis said about the five-time NBA All-Star currently up for nomination to the Basketball Hall of Fame. 

More famous than Portis, sure. Better bowler, probably not. 

Among current NBA players, Portis only imagines another known bowling fanatic, Rockets guard Chris Paul, as competition. 

Perhaps someone should organize a game of one-on-one.

“Might have to,” Portis said, “especially since the All-Star game is in Chicago next year.” 

If that happens, expect a bunch of random dudes to spare some time for a former teammate back in town. 

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Wizards come out of All-Star break facing Hornets with playoff stakes on the line

Wizards come out of All-Star break facing Hornets with playoff stakes on the line

Eight full days will have passed between games for the Wizards when they tip off against the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night (7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington). That week-plus gave plenty of time for the Wizards to rest up and reset for the final 24 games of the season.

It also offered time for reflection and for where they currently stand in the playoff race to set in. While the game-by-game churn before the All-Star break allowed the team and their observers to get lost in the rhythm of the season, the reality is they have lost seven of 10 and are three games out of a playoff spot.

The Wizards will come out of the break hoping the time off shifted their momentum in the other direction. While teams that were on winning streaks aim to keep it rolling despite they layoff, the Wizards will look for a fresh start.

It won't be easy to make up the necessary ground in time before the regular season runs out, but they have a real opportunity against the Hornets. Charlotte is seventh in the Eastern Conference and 3 1/2 games ahead of the Wizards in the postseason hunt. 

A win against the Hornets would allow the Wizards to inch closer in the standings and give them a second victory against Charlotte this season. Head-to-head records can determine playoff tiebreakers and the Wizards won the first of four meetings between the teams back on Dec. 29.

There are four total games between the Wizards and Hornets this season. The final two are both in March. If the Wizards win on Friday, they will have two chances to take the tiebreaker.

There is some irony in the timing of the Wizards' match-up with the Hornets. It was this Charlotte team that Washington began their initial surge without John Wall against.

They learned Wall would be done for the season the day of their first meeting with the Hornets. That night, they beat Charlotte and went on to win eight of 12 games. 

The Wizards will need at least one more run like that if they are to climb back into the playoff race. They have to get hot and sooner than later.

Working in their favor will be the return of Tomas Satoransky to the starting lineup. The point guard missed the final two games before the break due to the birth of his first child

Perhaps they can get things going once again by starting with the Hornets, just like they did nearly two months ago.

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