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Five observations from Wizards' loss to the Cavs, including John Wall's career-low scoring night

Five observations from Wizards' loss to the Cavs, including John Wall's career-low scoring night

The Washington Wizards lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers 116-101 on Saturday night. Here are five observations from the game...

1. Step back: In case anyone was wondering if the Wizards had finally turned a corner, if three straight wins meant they had found their level and flushed the head-scratching, up-and-down inconsistency of last year out of their system, the answer is no. No, they did not.

The Wizards, as they have shown the past year-plus, do not know how to handle prosperity. They will take the biggest step back just when it appears they are finally charging forward. 

The Wizards entered Saturday night's game against the Cavs having won six of their last nine, yet they didn't put up much of a fight at all against one of the league's truly terrible teams. Cleveland happened to be playing the second game of a back-to-back, while the Wizards were fresh having not played since Wednesday.

It wasn't just the lopsided score, it was the nature of the game. The Wizards were listless and out of sync. They trailed by as many as 29 points, and during one stretch in the first half, they went 7:59 without a field goal.

Now they are 11-15 on the year with the Pacers and Celtics up next.

2. Wall was off: The Wizards had John Wall back, as the All-Star point guard returned from a one-game absence due to personal reasons. But, for whatever reason, Wall was a shell of himself on this particular night.

Wall was sluggish and stiff, unable to get past his defenders or to top speed on the fastbreak like we are used to seeing. He had one point in 26 minutes on 0-for-5 shooting. It was the lowest scoring game of his career.

Wall has been dealing with some minor injuries this season, including a contusion in his thigh. He has been icing his left foot after recent games.

Perhaps the few days off made it tough for him to get loose. He just wasn't himself in this one.

3. Thompson was a problem: The Wizards had absolutely no answer for Cavs big man Tristan Thompson and especially early. Thompson dominated the paint like Shaquille O'Neal in his prime. Wizards players hopelessly bounced off of him as he muscled his way to offensive rebounds and easy looks at the rim.

By halftime, Thompson had 19 points and 11 rebounds. Those 19 points tied his most for a full game since Nov. 10. He ended up with 23 points, a season-high, 19 rebounds and two blocks.

Thompson must have seen the Wizards' personnel as a match-up problem he could take advantage of. They are a bad rebounding team and neither Thomas Bryant nor their small-ball fives could equal his size and strength.

4. Oubre didn't have it: One of the Wizards' best offensive players in recent games was Kelly Oubre Jr., but his hot streak came to a screeching halt on Saturday.

Oubre chucked errant shot after errant shot to the tune of 13 points on 4-for-12 from the field and 0-for-3 from three. He's a streaky shooter and when he goes cold, he can go very cold.

What Oubre needs to learn is how to be effective offensively when his outside shot isn't going in. Sometimes, he can make up for it by attacking the rim and running the floor. That wasn't the case in this one.

5. Sexton killed them: The Wizards did a solid job against Cavs rookie Collin Sexton in their first meeting, but in this game he showed all of the talent that made him the eighth overall pick.

Sexton was lights-out shooting the ball and played well on both ends of the floor. He had a career-high 29 points with six assists and two steals. He shot 56.5 percent overall and 42.9 percent from three.

Sexton got by Wizards defenders too easily. Wall was a major culprit, but they collectively could not stay in front of him. And once he got penetration, it created opportunities for everyone else.

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The same day the Mystics clinched a playoff spot, Natasha Cloud made some history of her own

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USA Today

The same day the Mystics clinched a playoff spot, Natasha Cloud made some history of her own

Ladies and gentlemen, it doesn't get much better than this. 

The same night the Mystics clinched a playoff spot with an 86-79 win over the Minnesota Lynx, Natasha Cloud made some history of her own.

With 8:25 left in the first quarter, Cloud hit an open Elena Della Donne who finished strongly at the basket. With the pass, Cloud became the franchise's all-time leader in assists. 

Drafted by the Mystics back in 2015, Cloud has been integral to the team's rise to the top of the standings. She's averaging a career-high 5.4 assists and 8.8 points while leading the team in minutes at 32.3 per game. 

Needless to say, her teammates were excited for her. 

Hopefully, this magical season will finish with a championship, redeeming the Mystics of their 2018 Finals loss. 

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As Monumental Basketball gets underway, Mystics are leading the charge

As Monumental Basketball gets underway, Mystics are leading the charge

Monumental Basketball, the new vertical that encompasses the NBA's Wizards, the Capital City Go-Go of the G-League, the Mystics of the WNBA and District Gaming of the NBA 2K League, is designed to help all of the respective teams owned and operated by Ted Leonsis and his partners. The Mystics, though, don't need nearly as much assistance as the others.

Sitting atop the WNBA with a league-best 18-7 record, the Mystics look well on their way to another deep playoff run. Last year, it ended in a loss in the WNBA Finals. This year, they have an even better roster capable of winning it all.

On Wednesday, the Mystics routed the Seattle Storm, last year's champions, by 29 points. They did so despite missing All-Star point guard Kristi Tolliver and with their best player, Elena Delle Donne, scoring 14 points. They might be the deepest team in the WNBA with a bench that is starting lineup-caliber.

The Mystics have already arrived, but it took some time to get here. When head coach and general manager Mike Thibault took over in 2013, they had won 11 total games the previous two years. Five years later, they were title contenders.

Leonsis wants to see the same upward trajectory for his other teams. Thibault believes the new program can help everyone get on track.

"The overall structure can be so good when you are inclusive and you have services that are available to everybody," Thibault told NBC Sports Washington. 

"I think that one of the things that I learned in trying to rebuild the Mystics is that you need a lot of hands to make it work. I go back to the days where you had a head coach and one or two assistants. The game has changed so much. If you can make a player coming in, whether it’s to the Mystics or the Wizards, feel like they are a part of something bigger."

Thibault, 68, knows what good organizations look like, as he has been a part of many over the years. He was a scout for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s during their dynasty. He later worked for the Chicago Bulls and oversaw the scouting department when they drafted Michael Jordan. It wasn't until the 2000s that he joined the WNBA ranks, first with a successful run as coach of the Connecticut Sun before coming to Washington.

Thibault believes the player services arm of Monumental Basketball will be particularly helpful.

"Let’s say you’re traded to the Wizards. You’re coming from a different city and it’s a new environment. Your family has to move and you have kids. That’s a whole thing in and of itself," he explained.

"What can we do for their post-career ability? Do they want to be a coach? Do they want to go into broadcasting, or business? There are so many things you can do to enhance how comfortable a player and a family is coming to an organization. It’s something that just makes you special as an organization."

Thibault says some of benefits Monumental Basketball will provide have already been utilized by the Mystics, including mental health professionals and nutritionists. What can help the Mystics in particular is more synergy with the Wizards.

This is the first season the Mystics are playing at the new arena at St. Elizabeth's in Southeast Washington. They now share a practice facility and office space with the Wizards. Thibault believes there are positives to feeling part of a larger operation.

"I think our players already sense that," he said. "You see Wizards players, you see Tommy Sheppard and others at our games. That makes you feel like you’re a part of a bigger thing. We have a dining room where all of the players can socialize in both of the organizations."

When the creation of Monumental Basketball was announced, Leonsis noted Thibault will have a certain level of autonomy in what he does. Some of the executives hired by the organization like John Thompson III, who will help with player wellness, and Dr. Daniel Medina, who will assist in training and health, will provide services to the Mystics. But Thibault will pick the players and set the vision for basketball operations.

Thibault, though, knows Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard well and thinks the team is in good hands.

"He’s got ideas. He’s very forward thinking. I think he’s a great judge of personnel and character. I think he’s very thorough in what he does," Thibault said. 

"I think that when you’re trying to build an organization, there are process you have to go through and steps you have to take to be good. I think he knows you have to have patience to do that. I think if fans give him the chance to do what he’s great at, they will see the results over time. It might take time, but he will get them there."

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