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Five observations from Wizards' win over the Miami Heat with big games from Austin Rivers and Jeff Green

Five observations from Wizards' win over the Miami Heat with big games from Austin Rivers and Jeff Green

The Washington Wizards beat the Miami Heat 116-110 on Saturday night. Here are five observations from the game...

Bleeding stopped: The Heat have drawn rave reviews for their 'Miami Vice' special edition court; its pink, teal and black design so unique and crisp it pops off the TV screen like a work of art. No one may like the court better than the Wizards.

On Saturday night, it was in Miami that the Wizards found a momentary rebirth. Following a 2-9 start and a pair of disaster losses to bad teams, the Wizards rode a big second half to secure their third victory of the season.

The Wizards are still six games under .500 and can't feel great about their 3-9 record. But this was a nice way to end a tough road trip as they return to D.C. for a five-game home stretch.

Rivers got his swag back: One of the strangest parts of the first several weeks of this Wizards season has been Austin Rivers' complete lack of confidence and aggressiveness on offense. Whether it be an adjustment to fewer minutes and a bench role, or being on a new team in general, Rivers just hasn't had the swagger he has long been known for.

Rivers doesn't always make his shots, but he's usually reliable to take them. This season, however, he has been mostly lost, deferring to others and with the body language to suggest it's wearing on him.

A different version of Rivers showed up in Miami. He showed no hesitation attacking the rim and finished creatively with both hands. He had a season-high 18 points, five rebounds, three assists and a steal.

It was just the second time this season Rivers has reached double figures in points. His 10 single-digit scoring nights are almost as many as he had all of last season (12). 

In 2017-18, he averaged a career-best 15.1 points for the Los Angeles Clippers. The Wizards thought he would change games with his scoring off the bench. Finally, he did that. 

Perhaps this will build him up a little bit and lead to more assertiveness moving forward. 

Green gave them a lift: Jeff Green had an awful start to this game. He came in and quickly turned the ball over at the end of the first quarter when he seemingly lost track of the time left on the clock.

But Green recovered and ended up with his best game as a Wizard so far. Offensively, he was brilliant. Green poured in 19 points off the bench to go along with 10 rebounds. He shot 8-for-12 from the field and 2-for-4 from three.

Green was brought to Washington to provide scoring off the bench in the role Mike Scott performed so well in last year. So far this season, that impact hasn't always been there, but on Saturday Green was a major factor and was as responsible for the win as anyone.

They rebounded!: The Wizards entered this game sporting an ominous streak. They had been out-rebounded in all 11 of their games this season.

That was the longest such streak for the franchise since 1991 and it was nearly halfway towards the NBA record of 23.

But on this night, the Wizards took care of business on the glass. They won the rebounding battle 48-to-38. Their 17 offensive rebounds were a season-high.

Now, it wasn't a perfect performance. There were plenty of moments where the Wizards forgot to box out and let up rebounds when Heat players had no business getting them. But this game represented progress in an area of serious weakness for Washington.

Dwight Howard led the effort with 16 boards, including seven on the offensive end. He had nine in the third quarter alone.

Mahinmi was back: After getting benched for the past three games, Ian Mahinmi was back in the Wizards' rotation. The veteran center actually played fairly well, at least early.

Soon after he entered the game, Mahinmi had perhaps his best sequence of the season. He blocked a Tyler Johnson layup in transition, then secured a tough offensive rebound off a Kelly Oubre Jr. miss and put it back in for two. 

Mahinmi ended up with six points, two rebounds and a block in 14 minutes. Since head coach Scott Brooks isn't overt with his lineup changes, we'll have to see what happens in the next few games. If Mahinmi is back in the mix moving forward, then it was just a temporary benching. 

But just because he played one game, doesn't mean he has earned his job back. Brooks may have liked the matchup between him and Miami's bigs. 



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Natasha Cloud is tired of the Bradley Beal trade rumors

Natasha Cloud is tired of the Bradley Beal trade rumors

Mystics guard Natasha Cloud has had it up to here with trade rumors about Wizards guard Bradley Beal.

Beal has been a strong vocal supporter of the Mystics and the WNBA, in general. He works closely with Kristi Toliver, who, in her offseason, works as an assistant coach for the Wizards. His closeness with the Mystics has now manifested itself in Cloud voicing her opposition to Beal being traded on Twitter.

Beal is no stranger to trade rumors. Entering his eighth season, Beal has been connected to the Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, among others. Given that his name is frequently tossed around in trade talks, it should come as no surprise that the Clippers made a run at him to pair with Kawhi Leonard.

Despite the frequent and recurring rumors, Beal hasn't been traded, and very likely won't be traded. He's a star and a legitimate piece around which to build a franchise. At the summer league in Las Vegas, NBC Sports Washington's Chase Hughes sat with Shaquille O'Neal to discuss what the Wizards should do in free agency. Shaq said that between Beal and John Wall, the Wizards are just a piece or two from breaking through.

I definitely think [the Wizards] should keep him. He's a great shooter, but if he’s a great shooter looking to go somewhere, L.A. has $32 million [in cap space]. ... He's definitely the cornerstone of this franchise. He and John Wall have always, almost always, been there. They just need another one or two guys.

It's still unlikely that Beal is playing in anything other than a Wizards uniform on opening night, but if he is, expect to hear from Cloud about it. 


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Drew Gooden, Justin Kutcher to highlight NBC Sports Washington Wizards broadcast team

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Drew Gooden, Justin Kutcher to highlight NBC Sports Washington Wizards broadcast team

Drew Gooden was nearing the end of his second 10-day contract with the Wizards in the 2014 season when he went off for 21 points against Brooklyn. 

It was a game that changed his career, led to being signed to the team for the remainder of that season and ending his career as a Washington Wizard two years later. “My career was totally reborn as a veteran leader on the Washington Wizards,” he said. “And that’s something I never would have thought would come full circle.”

And now? Gooden will serve as the game analyst on NBC Sports Washington’s Wizards broadcast this season. NBC Sports Washington announced on Wednesday he will join new play-by-play announcer Justin Kutcher as part of the Wizards' game broadcast team. Chris Miller will return in his role as sideline reporter.

“It’s a dream and I never thought in a million years I would have retired a Wizard and that out of all my teams that I played for, that Wizards would be the favorite organization that I played for, never thought I would be a color analyst for NBC Sports Washington,” Gooden said. “All of this is a dream.”

And while Kutcher may not have the same playing resume that Gooden does, he promises to bring the same passion Gooden does to broadcasts.

During the early days of his career, Kutcher wasn’t just the voice of (and practice player for) the Boston University women’s basketball team. He was such a passionate fan that he was the one making the most noise on the team bus after a big win or a big loss. Now, after decades in the business, he’s not sure he’ll go to that extreme – but Wizards fans can expect him to be “a fan who’s calling the game,” he said. “I say that about myself all of the time. I think of myself as just this incredibly lucky person that gets to call a sport that I love. When I have a reaction, it’s a genuine reaction. So, I’ll keep everything professional, but I’ll get excited.”

Kutcher has 17 years of experience as a play-by-play announcer, having spent the last seven years at Fox Sports where he led national coverage of NCAA basketball and football, the NFL and MLB. Prior to FOX Sports, Kutcher served as a play-by-play announcer for ESPN for four years. During that time, he led live coverage for a variety of sports, including basketball, football, baseball, softball, volleyball and hockey, across professional, college and high school leagues and conferences. He also appeared on studio shows during his tenure with ESPN. In addition to FOX Sports and ESPN, he has also called collegiate events for CSTV, now CBS Sports Network, for two years, as well as BTN, and contributed to MLB.com digital programming.

“I have known Justin since he was a runner for us at FOX Sports,” said Joe Buck. “He’s gone from working hard behind the scenes to one of the best, young voices in sports. Wizards fans are getting a great broadcaster and a better person .”

Here’s five more fun facts about Kutcher and Gooden.

1.    Kutcher’s worked the past five Westminster Dog Shows. “I get more ticket requests for that than any other event I go to,” he said. But, at first he wasn’t sure he was going to stick with it. The first year, he said, was a little tough. “I called my dad after it airs and he said that it was my mom’s favorite thing that I’ve done.” But, he stuck with it. And now? “I love it,” he said. 
2.    His favorite thing in DC is … the breakfast at Ted’s Bulletin. “They have a breakfast burrito that I get, I eat two of them at a time and people can’t believe it,” he said. Oh, and also his family. His family in the area includes a 3-year-old nephew, who when asked for real estate recommendations in the area, declared “you can live at our house!”
3.    Meanwhile, you can find Gooden at his favorite crab shack. “Quarterdeck in Arlington is my favorite, favorite restaurant,” he said. In the two years he’s known about the crab spot, he’s eaten there, he estimates, “800” times. 
4.    Good news for Wizards fans: He thinks the Wizards will be a team everyone sleeps on – and that’s great for them. “They’re going to have the opportunity to surprise a lot of people early,” he predicted. 
5.    Kutcher expects Rui Hachimura to … “be one of the steals of the draft.” Kutcher covered the new Wizard as a play-by-play announcer during Hachimura’s college career. “I would not be surprised if you see Rui average 15-18 points per game and close to 8 rebounds per game. I think he’s that type of player, he’s a really good kid, when I saw the Wizards drafted him I said that’s a great, great pick,” he said.