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Inability to make threes sinks Wizards vs. Nets, who happen to be great at stopping them

Inability to make threes sinks Wizards vs. Nets, who happen to be great at stopping them

In an age where taking and making a lot of threes is every NBA team's goal, the Brooklyn Nets have mastered the ability to prevent their opponents from doing so. The Wizards found that out the hard way on Friday night in their 115-104 loss, which dropped them to 5-10 on the season.

Against the Nets, the Wizards attempted only 17 threes. They made three of them, which is tied for the fewest long range makes for any team this season. 

Only three times this season has an NBA team made only three three-pointers. Brooklyn can boast two of those games, having also held the Cavs to three triples on Oct. 24.

To their credit, the Nets are exceptionally good at locking down the perimeter. After beating the Wizards, they have surrendered the fewest three-point makes and attempts in the NBA.

The Wizards haven't shot well from three this season, but they have at least been good at taking them. They are 27th out of 30 teams at 32.2 percent from three, but their 31.9 attempts per game are about five more than they averaged last season.

Shooting more threes has been the Wizards' intention. It's something head coach Scott Brooks wanted to see this season from his team. 

Though they aren't going in, he believes they will at some point. The Wizards were fourth in basketball last year in three-point percentage (37.5).

But on Friday, the Nets took the Wizards' recent shooting woes to the extreme. They did so by using a two-tiered defensive approach.

They closed out the three-point line, forcing the Wizards to pass or dribble into the mid-range. While the Wizards would normally keep going to the rim, waiting for them was center Jarrett Allen.

Allen blocks 1.9 shots per game and alters many more. He also happens to have been acquired with the 2017 first round pick the Wizards sent over in the Bojan Bogdanovic trade. 

Without an easy path to the rim, the Wizards were encouraged to settle for midrange shots. That's exactly what they do not want to do, but they took what the defense was giving them. 

It just didn't work.

"They were clogging up the paint and we just didn’t have anything going offensively," Brooks said.

Of the Wizards' 87 total field goal attempts against the Nets, 80.5 percent of them were two-pointers. Their season average is 63.5 percent.

"They forced us to take the midrange shot, which is a bad shot. It was tough," guard Austin Rivers said.

The Wizards have now lost three of their last four games against the Nets dating back to last season. In the three losses, they have made five threes or fewer. In the lone win, they made 10.

Though threes are always important in today's NBA, they have been a huge determinant of wins and losses in this particular matchup.

Shooting guard Bradley Beal, for one, believes the way to get threes off against Brooklyn is to play faster. He thinks they need to take more in transition.

That may be the case. But they have to figure out something against this Brooklyn team because the current approach hasn't been working.

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John Wall won't play in Wizards' Monday night clash with Pacers

John Wall won't play in Wizards' Monday night clash with Pacers

John Wall acknowledged he probably shouldn't have played in the Wizards' Saturday loss in Cleveland. It appears Washington's five-time All-Star will listen to his body Monday in Indianapolis.

Head coach Scott Brooks told reporters at Monday's shootaround that Wall would sit out the final game of the Wizards' four-game road swing, which takes place at 7 p.m. ET on Monday night. The point guard battled bone spurs in his left ankle in the 116-101 loss to the Cavaliers. 

Wall, who was also under the weather in Cleveland according to Brooks, scored a career-low one point in what he called the "worst game of my life." He missed all five of his field goal attempts in 26 minutes.

“It’s just like a bone spur but today it got really hot," Wall said Saturday. "Probably shouldn’t have played. That’s my fault… I’ve had it for a while. It comes and goes from days where it’s hot and today it’s like I really couldn’t run.”  

Wall played in the opening 24 games for Washington, but will now miss two of the last three. He sat out Wednesday's 131-117 win at Atlanta for "personal reasons." 

The Wizards thrashed the Hawks, setting a season-high with 35 assists. Bradley Beal established a new season-best in Atlanta with 36 points. Washington's other All-Star is averaging 28 points over the last four games.

Despite the shocking result in Cleveland, Washington is 2-1 during the current road swing. Finishing with a winning record won't come easy against an Indiana (16-10) squad that has won three in a row despite the continued absence of injured guard Victor Oladipo. The Pacers lead the NBA in points allowed (101.5) and rank fifth in 3-point shooting percentage (37.0).

Brooks played coy Monday over who replaces Wall in the starting lineup. Austin Rivers handled such duties against Atlanta, finishing with nine points, seven rebounds, and seven assists.

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The Wizards' latest trade breaks up positive pairing

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The Wizards' latest trade breaks up positive pairing

Ian Mahinmi and Jason Smith shared several similarities beyond being very tall men. At 32, they were the oldest players on the Wizards roster. Both arrived in Washington during the 2016 free agency period. They each fell out of the Wizards’ playing rotation this season with Thomas Bryant emerging as the starting center.

There’s another.

Despite receiving limited minutes in recent weeks, each remained remarkably upbeat to the point they could hold seminars on the topic of positive thinking.

“That’s the business. We’re in a tough business,” Mahinmi told NBC Sports Washington. “Me being in this league for 12 years, I understand it’s a long season. It’s a process. At the end of the day, you being mad isn’t going to much for yourself or the team. Have to be professional. You got to be positive.”

The Wizards (11-15) close their four-game road swing Monday against the Pacers (16-10). No doubt Mahinmi keeps that attitude Monday night against his former team even if the 6-foot-11 center doesn’t enter the game.

Smith would as well if he still played for the Wizards. Washington traded the 7-footer Friday in a three-team deal with the Bucks and Cavaliers. 

"When you see good basketball out there, it's easy to be upbeat. It's easy to be upbeat for your teammates out there,” Smith said to NBC Sports Washington Friday. Hours later Smith found out positively he was headed to Milwaukee.

Mahinmi remains as does what’s left of that four-year, $64 million contract that expires after the 2019-20 season. The signing was arguably curious from the start because of the contract terms and presence of now ex-Wizard Marcin Gortat. Positivity, perhaps Mahinmi's greatest contribution, doesn't show in the box score and the center's limited production is a constant source of annoyance for fans. 

The 10-year veteran also feels frustration. Mahinmi wants to play, contribute to the cause. For now, and likely going forward, Wizards coach Scott Brooks looks elsewhere except for spot minutes. Mahinmi didn’t play in eight of Washington’s last 11 games. While helpful as a rebounder and defender, he struggles offensively and averages six personal fouls per 36 minutes. 

Through it all, the smile and warmth remain for the husband and father of three. Fatherhood is yet another connection with Smith (and most of the Wizards roster at this point). Listening to them talk about the 21-year-old Bryant made it sound like a co-parenting situation.

“His absolute genuine joy is fun to see,” Smith said like a proud father. 

Despite Saturday’s 116-101 road loss to the Cavaliers, the Wizards are 6-4 since the energetic Bryant entered the starting lineup Nov. 20 against the Clippers. Washington’s season doesn’t hinge on Bryant’s development, but him turning into a steady option is essential. 

That’s an area Mahinmi seeks to offer help just like an NBA legend did for him upon entering the league with the Spurs in 2007.

“I’ll always remember when I was a young player trying to establish myself in this league and thrown into the mix. Obviously, it was very different. I was behind Tim Duncan. It meant everything to have the support of my elders, the vets and everyone around me. I’m trying to do this for (Thomas and the) young guys.”

While not playing consistently isn't ideal, Mahinmi said family life lifts his spirits, and maturity offers a new perspective.

“I can guarantee you if I was younger I wouldn’t be dealing with the challenges with the same approach,” Mahinmi said. “It’s good because basketball isn’t everything for me. I have bigger things, more important things going on in my life.”

Smith’s life changed Friday. He joined his new teammates Sunday and met with the Milwaukee media. He quickly impressed reporters with his attitude. 

Part of Smith knows he needs to impress NBA general managers and scouts with his play. 

His three-year contract, which included a player option of $5.45 million for the current season, expires this summer. Playing in only 12 of Washington’s 25 games before the trade didn’t help the cause of landing another deal.

“I mean, a little bit,” Smith said of free agency weighing on his mind, “but things will work out in the end. I’m 12 years in. This is all icing on the cake for me.”

Regarding his on-court role, it’s been a slippery road for Mahinmi since leaving Indiana in 2016. He’d love to play Monday in one of the NBA cities he considers home. The reality is others offer traits better suited to deal with the Pacers’ interior trio of Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis, and Thad Young.

Maybe Mahinmi, now the final remaining member of the questionable group of 2016 additions, sneaks in for some action. Regardless, the nice man from France will keep up the encouragement.

“You have to be genuinely happy for your teammates,” Mahinmi said. “You’ve got to be willing to go through those times as a player, find the benefits of all challenges. It’s definitely a challenge for myself, for Jason, but I’m here for the team.”

That’s where the similarities with Smith end.

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