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Game 1 showed how much Wizards need a healthy Otto Porter to win vs. Raptors

Game 1 showed how much Wizards need a healthy Otto Porter to win vs. Raptors

Otto Porter has demonstrated a knack for playing through and ultimately getting past injuries this season and the Wizards now need that to be the case more than ever.

The sharpshooting small forward left the team's penultimate regular season game with a right lower leg strain and missed the finale. In the Wizards' Game 1 loss against the Raptors, Porter looked hobbled by the injury, especially after landing awkwardly on his right leg early in the first quarter.


Porter, 24, has battled a right hip injury for years and it cropped up several times throughout the 2017-18 regular season. He would periodically leave games or miss practice, but would always bounce back quickly. Two full off-days between Games 1 and 2 should help that cause this time around with this particular injury.

The Wizards certainly hope so because they saw in Game 1 just how much they need Porter at full-strength. He is invaluable in several areas of the game where the Wizards struggled against Toronto, including shooting threes and defending them.

Porter finished third in the NBA this season in three-point percentage. He shot 44.1 percent on 4.1 attempts per game. In Game 1, Porter went just 1-for-3 and the Wizards made only eight threes. They averaged 9.9 per game during the regular season.

The Raptors allowed less three-pointers (8.9/g) than any team in the league and were second in preventing three-point attempts (25.0/g). Porter can help the Wizards break through the Raptors' perimeter defense, but he has to be healthy to do so.


Porter's game relies heavily on him moving without the ball, cutting to and from the basket and rolling off screens. He isn't the fastest guy to begin with and can't afford to lose the mobility he has. 

Porter topped out at nine points in Game 1 and attempted only seven shots. He had only one field goal attempt in the fourth quarter, a missed three-pointer with 5:18 to go. The Wizards were outscored by Toronto 28-21 in the final frame and lost by eight points.

John Wall and Bradley Beal combined to shoot 2-for-8 in the fourth, as the Wizards kept going back to them down the stretch. Porter was not a factor and it's one of the reasons their offense stalled late in the game. The mere threat of him shooting threes can space the floor and open up their offense.

The Wizards also need Porter for three-point defense. It is an area the Wizards have improved in significantly in the two years under head coach Scott Brooks and Porter has played an important role. He does a good job navigating screens to pressure perimeter shooters and has the length and timing to alter shots. 


Porter was third on the Wizards this season in contested three-point shots per game (2.3). Beal is one of the best in the NBA in the category with 4.1 contested threes per game and Kelly Oubre, Jr. was second on the team at 2.9. Those three lead the charge for the Wizards, who were sixth in opponent three-point percentage (34.9) and 12th in three-pointers allowed per game (10.2).

Those numbers did not hold up in Game 1. The Raptors went off for a franchise playoff record 16 threes and shot 51.7 percent from long range. That's not all on Porter, of course, but he is one of their best answers to make adjustments.

Porter's play is even more important than usual at the moment also because Oubre is struggling. Brooks only played Oubre 16 minutes in Game 1, 11.5 less than his season average.

The third-year forward has been mired in a shooting slump. He shot 30.6 percent from the field and 18.9 percent from three in his final 10 regular season games. He went 1-for-4 in Game 1.


Oubre is also not as consistent as Brooks would like him to be on defense and he committed a costly turnover with 6:36 left in the fourth quarter that led to a timely three for the Raptors. If Brooks wants to go away from Oubre like he did at times during last year's playoffs, he needs Porter at full capacity.

Porter is indispensable for the Wizards in all scenarios and especially now given the stakes of the playoffs and how he can help specifically against this Raptors team. How he rebounds from Game 1 and from this injury could determine plenty as the Wizards hope to extend their season.

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Austin Rivers getting cut by Suns may change perception of Trevor Ariza trade to Wizards

Austin Rivers getting cut by Suns may change perception of Trevor Ariza trade to Wizards

When the Suns traded Trevor Ariza for Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers, the thought by most was that Rivers, though not a perfect fit, would slide in at point guard to fill their biggest need. Instead, on the day the trade became official, Phoenix opted to waive Rivers and make him a free agent.

The Suns will pay about $8 million to let Rivers go, according to ESPN. He is now free to sign with any team except for the Wizards. That means he can return to the L.A. Clippers, where he played last season, if he wants.

Rivers, 26, has had a dramatic fall in a matter of months. In July, the Wizards sent starting center Marcin Gortat to the Clippers to acquire Rivers, who was coming off a career year. They believed he could solidify their backup shooting guard position and become an asset off the bench.

Rivers, though, proved a poor fit. He struggled with fewer shots and fewer minutes, averaging only 7.2 points while shooting 39.2 percent from the field and 31.1 percent from three. 

Rivers arrived in Washington with numbers that suggested he could score efficiently. But his stint with the Wizards showed he may need more volume to sustain a rhythm.

The Suns cutting Rivers makes the trade between the teams from a Suns perspective essentially an Ariza-for-Oubre swap. Phoenix wanted to clear some money and part with Ariza, who was wasting away on their last-place roster. Now they can see what they have in Oubre over the course of the rest of this season before he hits restricted free agency.

From the Wizards' side, this move shows how far Rivers' trade value had dropped, as one of the league's worst teams has cut him loose. That they were able to unload Rivers' salary while prying away Ariza may change slightly how the trade is viewed.


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With Trevor Ariza now in store, Wizards begin new phase against Hawks

With Trevor Ariza now in store, Wizards begin new phase against Hawks

The Wizards have undergone a midseason roster renovation over the past week-plus, culminating with a trade over the weekend to acquire Trevor Ariza. On Tuesday in Atlanta, a new phase will begin for the Wizards as they take on the Hawks at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

Ariza has joined the team on the road in anticipation of his debut. With Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers now out the door, the team brought back guard Chasson Randle. Those two will help make up a new-look rotation for Washington, as they try to recover from a 12-18 start to this season.

Ariza will likely slide into the starting lineup, certainly in the short-term as Otto Porter Jr. recovers from a minor knee injury. The changes should also present opportunities for a few players who otherwise may not have played.

Sam Dekker, for one, will clearly be in the mix. He has averaged 13.5 minutes per game since coming over in a three-team trade last week. On Sunday against the Lakers, he put up a season-high 20 points. Even when Porter returns, he should have a role, as his path to play was carved by Oubre's departure.

The adjustments should, in theory, also clear the runway for rookie Troy Brown Jr. The 2018 first round pick has only appeared in 13 of the Wizards' 30 games this season because of a logjam at his position. 

But on Sunday, the first game since Oubre and Rivers were dealt, he played 15:21 against the Lakers. It wasn't in garbage time, either. He entered in the first half and made an instant impact with three steals and two rebounds.

Though Tomas Satoransky has played an important role this season as a backup guard and temporary starter, his standing was made even more secure when the Wizards traded Rivers. They have Randle and two-way player Jordan McRae, but Satoransky is now their primary backup guard. Barring a trade or another signing, they have no choice but to rely heavily on him to spell John Wall and Bradley Beal.

Speaking of Wall and Beal, they will bear watching despite nothing changing in their roles with the Wizards. They, along with Markieff Morris and Porter, have been the core of this team throughout the tumultuous last two years. The Wizards brought in Ariza to help compensate for their shortcomings in defending the perimeter, rebounding and - this year, at least - three-point shooting. 

If Ariza's arrival has a domino effect on teammates, if it lights a spark and brings the best out of the Wizards, those are the guys to watch. The Wizards want consistency from them, more of what they saw against the Lakers. And Ariza's commitment on the defensive end, the team hopes, can rub off on others.

The Wizards have already played one game since trading Oubre and Rivers, but now that Ariza is in store and ready to debut, the Wizards can officially hit the restart button. Will this trade prove the catalyst and help get them back on track? Tuesday night will give the first answers to that question.