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Five observations from Wizards' loss to the L.A. Clippers, including a horrid defensive night

Five observations from Wizards' loss to the L.A. Clippers, including a horrid defensive night

The Washington Wizards lost 136-104 to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday night. Here are five observations from the game...

Not good: The hits keep on coming for the Wizards, who are off to an atrocious 1-5 start to begin this season. Some of their losses have been close, or to really good teams, but this one classified as neither. The Wizards simply got their tails kicked and by a Clippers team that probably won't be in the playoffs this spring. 

The Clippers do not boast any stars, and may lack highlight reel talent, but they have a lot of blue-collar, gritty players. The Wizards have stars, but lack what the Clippers have. As they have shown in recent years, the Wizards are susceptible to teams just like L.A.

The Clippers pushed them around. They were the aggressors. And the Wizards didn't offer much resistance whatsoever.

Terrible defense: The Wizards entered this game as the worst defensive team in basketball based on points allowed and they lived up to that standard against the Clippers. The Wizards couldn't stop anyone on the Clippers. Really, anyone.

Nine different Clippers players reached double figures. They shot 54.4 percent from the field and, somehow, even better from three. L.A. knocked down 55.2 percent of their looks from long range, 16-for-29 to be exact.

The Clippers had 35 assists. The only other team to do that to the Wizards since 2015 is the Warriors.

It was just a disaster of a defensive effort. Of all the issues the Wizards have early this year, and there are many, their inability to get stops is the most troubling. Dwight Howard can't fix it all by himself.

Otto looks lost: The nightmare start to Otto Porter Jr.'s season continued on Sunday, as he managed only six points on nine shots in 30 minutes of work. He did grab five boards and added two steals and two assists, but it was another night where Porter was a complete non-factor on offense.

Through six games, Porter is now averaging 9.8 points per game while shooting just 41.1 percent from the field and 21.7 percent from three. He just has not been himself.

If this continues, it will be fair to wonder if Porter is dealing with an injury. This level of ineffectiveness is very uncharacteristic for him. Yeah, he won't blow up for 30 points all that often. But to score 11 total points over the past two games is quite strange.

Clippers caught them slipping: The Wizards came out in the first half with a listless performance, particularly on defense, and the Clippers took advantage. While Washington played sleepy, they got ambushed by L.A.'s bench.

Mike Scott, who played with the Wizards last season, popped off for eight quick points in the first half and finished with 11.

Montrezl Harrell's aggressive and physical style was a perfect contrast to the Wizards' dispirited defense. He came out and hit his first five shots, many of them just hustle plays around the uncontested rim.

Morris shaken up: Markieff Morris nearly missed this game with flu-like symptoms. He was only cleared after getting evaluated as a gametime decision.

Just 13 minutes into his night, he had more problems. While on defense, Morris took an elbow on the chin from Clippers forward Danilo Gallinari. Morris immediately dropped to the ground and laid there for a series of plays before trainers helped him up and off the court to the locker room.

Morris was ruled out for the rest of the game during halftime as he was checked for a concussion. It was easy to see why, as Morris could barely walk on his own after taking the hit and appeared out of it. He left with zero points in 13 minutes.

Concussions can be tricky. If he did have one, that could certainly put Tuesday's game against the Grizzlies in jeopardy. The good news is that the Wizards do not play again after that until Friday.

With Howard already out, Morris' absence is a big deal. That's both of the Wizards' starting big men.

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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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For now, Wizards anticipate leaning on Dwight Howard's experience more than his body

For now, Wizards anticipate leaning on Dwight Howard's experience more than his body

WASHINGTON -- Dwight Howard’s official return to the Wizards practice facility came with a new job description: Mentor.

“Since he can’t be on the practice court or the game floor, he’s going to have to share his wisdom,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said of the 14-year veteran.

Howard stepped onto Washington’s practice court Thursday for the first time since undergoing back surgery on Nov. 30. The veteran center began his rehab work in his native Atlanta before rejoining the team.

“He feels great. Said he has no pain,” Brooks said of Howard. “That’s good. That’s part of the process.”

For now Howard remains limited to non-contact work and is perhaps weeks away from game action.

Brooks intends on putting him to work regardless by having Howard impart his NBA insight onto Washington’s young big men, Thomas Bryant and Bobby Portis.

“The guy has a lot of experience. A lot of years under his belt,” Brooks said of Howard, an eight-time All-Star. “Now he has the ability to be around our guys every day. [Bryant and Portis] have to be a sponge. They have to pick everything up.”

Bryant, 21, replaced the injured Howard as Washington’s starting center. The Wizards acquired Portis, 24, on Feb. 6 in a multi-player trade that sent Otto Porter to the Chicago Bulls. Bryant and Portis, both restricted free agents this summer, represent Washington’s best interior options now and perhaps key building blocks going forward.

“You get better in this league by being around good veteran players that want to share their knowledge,” Brooks said, “and Dwight is going to be a guy that’s going to be able to do that for the next how many weeks until he gets on the court.”

Basic movements – sitting, for example – were issues for Howard pre-surgery. Brooks said he was not sure how much running Howard would do this week. He will start on the court solo. Eventually, a coach or three will work with Howard for 5-on-0 drills. Full contact practice with teammates comes later.

Howard was seen shooting free throws after practice concluded. Injured players are not required to speak with the media until participating during an official practice.

For now, the coach took pleasure in welcoming the projected opening game starter back to town.

“It was good to see him, good to have him back,” Brooks said. “He did some treatments and then did some work on the court, light shooting. That’s about it. It’s good to have him back. He has a good way about him. He’s always positive, always has a good spirit about him.”

Integrating the low-post presence into the small-ball approach Brooks leaned with Howard sidelined becomes a curious topic. That’s for later, perhaps weeks away, as the coach suggested. The playoff-pushing Wizards must forge on without Howard, who has played in only nine games this season.

Washington (24-34), 11th in the Eastern Conference and three games back of Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot, has 24 games remaining in the regular season.

Howard will stay behind when the team opens the post-All-Star-break phase Friday at Charlotte, but likely travels with the team going forward, Brooks said.

“He’s happy to be back,” Brooks said of Howard. “Now it’s just a phase of getting him on the court. I don’t know how long that’s going to be.”

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