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Five observations from Wizards' 119-95 blowout win over the Cleveland Cavaliers

Five observations from Wizards' 119-95 blowout win over the Cleveland Cavaliers

The Washington Wizards beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 119-95 on Wednesday night. Here are five observations from the game.

Finally, a Blowout: 

The Wizards' season so far has been largely defined by them making things harder than they need to be. On Wednesday, it all came together in a game in which they cruised to victory. Finally, they got an easy one.

Sure, it helped they were playing quite possibly the worst team in the NBA. But over the past year, these situations haven't always meant a guaranteed win. 

The Wizards led by as many as 27 points in this one. They scored 41 in the first quarter, their most in an opening frame since 2014. Though the Cavs made it slightly interesting in the third quarter, the Wizards were essentially in complete control from start to finish.

Important rest minutes: 

The Wizards haven't blown out teams often since the beginning of last season. At least, they haven't had many games so lopsided their starters could take the end of the night off.

Last season, they won by 20 or more points just three times. Considering there were 168 such games in the NBA last year, that isn't a whole lot.

Against the Cavs on Wednesday, the Wizards only needed to play John Wall 21 minutes. Bradley Beal played 28, Otto Porter Jr. 26, Markieff Morris 21 and Dwight Howard 20. It was a stress-free victory and every team needs those every once in a while.

Welcome to the league, rook: 

The box score will show that Cavs' rookie guard Collin Sexton had a big night offensively. The No 8 overall pick in the 2018 draft scored 24 points and shot a solid 9-for-16 from the field and looks like an excellent building block for Cleveland.

But a closer look reveals Sexton had a bit of a 'welcome to the league, rookie' game. Wall and Beal ate him alive on defense and forced him into four turnovers, all in the first half, with relative ease.

There was one play that exemplified Sexton's night against Wall, in particular. Wall got to the rim on an and-1 play that saw Sexton turn all sorts of ways as he tried to stay in front of the five-time All-Star:

That's a brand of sauce Sexton had probably never seen before.

Depth on display: 

The Cavs are so bad without Kevin Love, big picture conclusions can't be drawn from the success teams have against them. That said, the Wizards showed an impressive level of depth on Wednesday.

Their core bench players all registered double-digit plus-minus ratings. All five members of their second unit scored eight points or more.

One category of stats tells the story best and it involves Wall. The Wizards' star only scored eight points in 21 minutes. He shot 3-of-10 from the field and had three turnovers.

The Wizards had not won a game with Wall scoring eight points or fewer since 2014. They hadn't won with him playing 21 minutes or fewer since 2013.

Wall has been so important to their success over the years that they rarely win when he has off-nights. They haven't won when he's put up numbers that bad in years. 

Yes, it's the Cavs. But the Wizards have the depth now to be less reliant on Wall. That's a good thing for everyone.

Finally, a Ma3nmi!

Wizards fans who showed up on Wednesday night saw something no other NBA fans had ever seen before. You could say they saw history.

That's because Mahinmi, playing in his 11th season, made his first ever three-point shot. Yes, that's right. After missing his first 10 career attempts, Mahinmi finally got one to go down.

It was a special moment, particularly on Twitter, where the phrase 'Ma3nmi' could be used for the very first time during a regular season game.

All kidding aside, Mahinmi deserves some legitimate credit here. He worked diligently over the summer and all throughout the preseason to develop a game-ready three-point shot. At the end of every Wizards practice and shootaround, he can be seen taking shot after shot from long range.

Despite having already played a decade in the NBA, Mahinmi is still adding to his game. 

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Bradley Beal’s outrageous outing vs. Hornets highlights both good and scary for Wizards

Bradley Beal’s outrageous outing vs. Hornets highlights both good and scary for Wizards

All-Star Bradley Beal returned from the break Friday night with an All-NBA performance.

The Wizards still lost 123-110 at Charlotte.

Within those two sentences there's hope and fear for this season and beyond.

Beal destroyed the Hornets for a season-high 46 points. His work over 42 minutes included high-level efficiency – 16 of 25 from the field, sank all 10 of his free throws plus seven assists and one turnover – and powerful moments. 

Beal scored 26 points in the second half, including 10 of Washington’s 23 in the final period. The Hornets knew where to focus their defensive effort. Washington’s leading scorer couldn’t have cared less and turned in arguably his best all-around game of the season.

When viewing a Wizards team going forward this season and especially next year for however long the injured John Wall sits, performances like this from Beal offer hope. Add starter-worthy help this summer, let Beal’s vibe lead the way and perhaps the team isn’t climbing uphill from the start next campaign.

Finding steady assistance now is the dilemma. If the Wizards intend on bringing back many of the current pieces, that dilemma could linger.

The non-Beal’s made only 10 more baskets than Beal and finished 26 of 72 (36.1 percent) from the field. Their collective assist-to-turnover numbers (17-12) explain some unsteady moments, especially during the second quarter when Charlotte rallied after Washington led 38-27. They tried. They just didn’t offer enough as Washington lost for the eighth time in 11 games.

Washington insisted veteran forward and 2019 unrestricted free agent Trevor Ariza remains in its plans beyond this season. That’s understandable based on Ariza’s historically strong two-way play even if his age (33) and possible contract demands (earned $15 million this season) offer potential downside.

The Wizards haven’t received the full-throated version since the trade with the Suns sent Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers to Phoenix. Ariza had 10 points on 4 of 13 shooting (2 of 7 from deep) against the Hornets. Usually a viable perimeter threat, Ariza entered Friday shooting 31.9 percent on 3-pointers. Oubre, a consistent clank during his four-year career, is hitting 32.4 percent from beyond the arc. 

Ariza’s addition offers more than just scoring, and some aspects are not easily quantifiable. Some numbers that attempt that feat are not in love. Ariza’s PER (13.1) trails Oubre’s (16). 

Chasson Randle and Wesley Johnson are not Washington’s most curious backup guard tandem this decade. They might be close, however. Other contenders usually played behind Beal and Wall, thus limiting the downside.

Johnson missed all five of his field goal attempts against the Hornets, while Randle played a pedestrian 13 minutes. Head coach Scott Brooks resorted to a big lineup with Beal as the lone guard. This maneuver worked easier with Otto Porter or, at least defensively, Oubre on the court. Neither lives here anymore.

Bobby Portis and Thomas Bryant offer Brooks two energetic interior options. With their size, mobility and shooting range, they seem like a viable pairing. For a team battered on the boards all season, using Bryant and Portis together conceivably boosts Washington’s rebounding chances. 

Brooks skipped using them together much before this game. Their defensive struggles against Charlotte showed why. Washington was outrebounded 53-43 all the same.

This team looks nothing like the one Brooks coached during his first two seasons. Only Beal, Tomas Satoransky and Ian Mahinmi played for the team that came within one game of the 2017 Eastern Conference finals. 

Ideally, Brooks’ patchwork lineup generates needed momentum while a playoff berth remains in reach. Washington (24-35), now a season-worst 11 games under .500, fell four games back of Detroit for the eighth and final playoff berth. 

Conceivably, this core returns next season. Washington opened salary cap space by trading Porter’s hefty contract. Keeping Ariza, Jeff Green, Satoransky, Portis and Bryant eats up much of that space. Growth from 2018 first round pick Troy Brown and the arrival of a player with a 2019 first round selection increases the upside. The hope for a turnaround comes from those that faced Charlotte Friday night.   

The non-Beal’s can do more now. Asking extra from Beal is outrageous, even if the shooting guard suggests that’s possible.

“I wish I could pinpoint on one thing,” Beal told reporters postgame when asked how this team finds a winning path. “But I just have to elevate my play, that’s all I know I can do is elevate my play and my leadership to do whatever it takes.”

That Beal believes more is possible is why he’s a keeper. None of us should doubt him considering the strides made during his second All-Star season. His determined approach is the kind found with contenders.

Even two-time All-Stars need help. Beal’s teammates must provide some quickly to keep hope alive this season as the organization ponders plans for the next one.

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Bradley Beal drops 46, but Wizards return from All-Star break with ugly loss to Hornets

Bradley Beal drops 46, but Wizards return from All-Star break with ugly loss to Hornets

The Washington Wizards lost to the Charlotte Hornets 123-110 on Friday night. Here are five observations from the game...

1. The All-Star break may have given the Wizards some much-needed time off, but it did not produce the reset in momentum that they were hoping for. They lost again on Friday night in their first game back and have now dropped eight of their last 11.

The losing overall has been devastating to their playoff hope,s and their latest defeat came against a team they are directly competing against. The Hornets are seventh in the East, and the Wizards are 11th.

Time is starting to run out, and losses like Friday's cause extra damage for the Wizards' chances of making the postseason.

2. At least Bradley Beal was good. The Wizards' lone All-Star came out of the break like he never went away.

He had 14 points in the first quarter and 20 by halftime. He finished with a season-high 46 points to go along with seven assists and six rebounds. He shot 64 percent on 25 attempts.

Beal also threw down what might have been the best dunk of his career. Not known as a high-flyer, Beal got way up there for this one:

If the Wizards' season continues on this losing trajectory, at least Beal gives D.C. fans a reason to tune in every night.

Beal, by the way, now has 10 career 40-point games. That is tied for fifth in Wizards/Bullets history with Earl Monroe. The only guys ahead of him are Gilbert Arenas (28), Walt Bellamy (23), Bernard King (13) and Elvin Hayes (11).

3. The first quarter was a dream. The second quarter was a nightmare.

After scoring 38 points in the first, the Wizards allowed the same amount to Charlotte in the second. They were outscored by 16 in the frame and never regained control. 

It was in the second that the Hornets' bench imposed their will. Tony Parker carved the Wizards up off the dribble and Jeremy Lamb both got hot from long range and caught the Wizards by surprise with a series of intercepted passes.

For the game, the Wizards' bench was outscored 38-21. They couldn't hold up their end of the bargain on a night the starters mostly played well.

4. Tomas Satoransky was back after missing two games due to the birth of his first child. He hadn't played in 13 days before he returned to the starting lineup on Friday.

Despite the time off, Satoransky showed no signs of rust. He had 15 points (6-9 FG) and four assists, though he did have three turnovers.

With John Wall out, Satoransky is legitimately one of the Wizards' most important players. That would have been surprising to hear before this season, but nothing about this year has been predictable for the Wizards. 

5. We got another glimpse at the combination of Thomas Bryant and Bobby Portis on the floor together. It was just the second time in five games since Portis arrived in D.C. that has happened.

It will be interesting to watch how much they play together the rest of this season, considering they have some redundancy in their games.

Offensively, it might be able to work. They are both fast and can stretch the floor. But defensively, they are both limited in the amount of positions they can defend and neither protects the rim particularly well.

Because of that, there are varying opinions within the organization about whether they can form a consistent frontcourt combination. That uncertainty has been reflected so far in head coach Scott Brooks' rotation. It is also something to consider as we project their futures with both set to hit restricted free agency this summer.

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