The Washington Wizards lost to the Portland Trail Blazers 125-104 on Wednesday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down...
1. If, or as some might say when, the Wizards fail to make the playoffs this season, one reason to cite will be their youth and inexperience. That has been more evident than anywhere else in their trouble winning on the road.
The Wizards were blown out by the Blazers on Wednesday night and fell to 8-24 in away games. Compare that to their 14-15 home record and you see an obvious problem.
Young teams usually struggle on the road and that has predictably been the case for the Wizards. And the fact they close the season with four of their final six away from Capital One Arena does not bode well for their playoff hopes.
In this game, the Wizards came out sluggish as they have far too often this season. They gave up 71 points in the first half, their 19th time this season allowing 70 or more in a half.
With the loss, the Wizards dropped to 22-38 on the year. They now head home after the four-game West Coast trip to host the Hawks on Friday night.
2. Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura got a good look at his idol on Wednesday as he was matched up for much of the game against Carmelo Anthony, a player he grew up emulating. Hachimura studied Anthony's game via YouTube highlights when he was a kid in Japan and you can see some of the influence, especially in the midrange.
Hachimura, though, wasn't able to use that background to stop Anthony on the defensive end as the veteran NBA star went off for 25 points, including 20 in the first half. He got going early on a series of possessions in isolation against Hachimura where he used vintage Melo moves like hesitation dribbles and midrange fadeaways.
Hachimura, meanwhile, topped out at 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting. This came after he had scored 15 or more in four straight, perhaps the sign of fatigue in a back-to-back.
3. The Wizards were without two key regulars in this game, one that was not surprising and one that was. The not surprising absence was Thomas Bryant who sat out the second game of a back-to-back to manage his lingering right foot soreness. The Wizards have been doing that with him as a precaution.
The more surprising injury was to Ish Smith, who is now apparently dealing with a left hamstring strain. He missed his first game of the season after playing in all of the team's first 60 to start the year. And with him out, that left the Wizards thin at point guard. We even saw some lineups with Bradley Beal (29 points) playing at the one.
There was also another, non-injury related change to the rotation as Jerome Robinson was promoted to the starting lineup to take Isaac Bonga's place. Robinson has been a standout recently on defense and is an outside shooting threat, at least in theory. He seems to be turning into a favorite of the coaching staff.
Robinson, though, only had five points and shot 2-for-9.
4. In case you were wondering just how deep Ian Mahinmi is into head coach Scott Brooks' doghouse, we got an answer in this game as Mahinmi wasn't summoned from the bench even with Bryant out and third-string center Anzejs Pasecniks in early foul trouble.
Instead of calling Mahinmi's name, Brooks relied more on starter Moe Wagner and small-ball lineups with Hachimura and Davis Bertans as the bigs. It is now even more clear that Mahinmi has been banished to the end of the bench and it doesn't look like we will see him anytime soon.
5. Not that the Wizards are a defensive juggernaut when healthy, but they had absolutely no answer for Blazers big man Hassan Whiteside. He completely dominated them all night to the tune of 24 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks.
Whiteside was just too big, strong and athletic for any of the Wizards' centers to deal with. Though Whiteside isn't consistent enough to be an elite player, just how much he killed them helped further illustrate the Wizards' need for rebounding and rim protection as they look ahead to the offseason.
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