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Ja Morant, Grizzlies too much for Wizards in 106-99 loss

Ja Morant, Grizzlies too much for Wizards in 106-99 loss

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards lost to the Memphis Grizzlies 106-99 on Sunday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

1. Earlier this season, when the Wizards first saw the Ja Morant-led Grizzlies, I compared the two franchises in terms of which one was closer to contention.  At the time, I said the Wizards were closer in part because they had Bradley Beal, while the Grizzlies were still looking for their first certified star to emerge.

So, about that.

In the time since that first meeting on Dec. 14, the Grizzlies have soared into the playoff picture with Ja Morant playing not just like a star, but a potential superstar in the making. And Jaren Jackson Jr. has continued to blossom while Brandon Clarke has looked like the steal of the draft.

The Wizards have the advantage of being in the Eastern Conference, but this Grizzlies team is legitimate and they showed why on Sunday night as they beat the Wizards in Washington. Morant had 27 points, 10 points and 10 assists for his first career triple-double. Memphis has now won 14 of their last 18 games.

2. There is a cliche in basketball, really in all of pro sports, that by this time in a player's first season, they are not rookies. They are rookies in name only because of the experience they have already accrued over a series of months.

Some guys learn quicker than others and Rui Hachimura is one of them. He hasn't looked like a rookie really this whole season, from basically the moment he stepped on an NBA floor.

The way he has so smoothly adjusted coming back from injury is yet another example. It may have taken him one game to knock off the rust, but now it's like he never left.

This game featured a few plays that were great examples of perhaps his best trait. He plays at his own pace and doesn't let opponents speed him up. That is usually something rookies take time to grasp, but he just has it.

And part of that is his ability to get to his spots on offense. He knows exactly where his hot zones are and he gets to them consistently.

Hachimura had another strong night with 12 points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes. And he looked like an eight-year veteran along the way.

3. Moe Wagner's game keeps growing, particularly on the offensive end. We're at a point in the season where his efficiency does not appear to be a fluke and he is adding to his repertoire at a quick pace.

In this game, Wagner impressed with several drives to the rim off the dribble. On one, he went baseline and finished between two defenders with his left hand. And not long after, he drove right and scored through contact from Jonas Valanciunas.

Wagner was billed as a shooter coming out of college and he has so far backed that up in Washington more so than he did when he was with the Lakers. But he can also put the ball on the floor with both hands and weave his way through traffic pretty well for a big man.

Wagner might have more potential than people give him credit for. He had 19 points and nine boards. He shot 7-for-11 from the field.

4. Sunday was the first game for newly acquired shooting guard Jerome Robinson with the Wizards. He was brought in from the Clippers in the three-team trade that shipped Isaiah Thomas out of Washington.

The Wizards are hoping Robinson can follow the same track guys like Wagner and Thomas Bryant have. Like them, he wasn't getting minutes with his previous team, but should be have a better opportunity to play in Washington.

The early returns on Robinson, the 13th overall pick in 2018, were solid. He's pretty quick and athletic. And he's also not timid, considering his struggles as a pro so far and the fact he's entering a new situation. In fact, one of the first times he touched the ball he reared back trying to throw down a poster dunk.

Robinson's first points came on a three to beat the buzzer at the end of the first quarter. That's what the Wizards hope he can do at a base-level early in his career here, knock down outside shots. 

Robinson had five points in 16 minutes.

5. With Robinson and Shabazz Napier now in the mix, it looks like the minutes have gone away for combo guard Gary Payton II. He didn't play on Friday against the Mavericks nor did he in this one.

It's too early to tell whether it will be temporary or permanent. Head coach Scott Brooks has a tendency to throw new players right into the fire to see what he has. Last season, he did that with Ron Baker, Wes Johnson and others. Those guys played quite a bit early on before getting let go by the team altogether not long after they were acquired.

Brooks has to figure out what he has in Napier and Robinson and, at least for the time being, that means no Payton II.
 

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Re-live the best games of Bradley Beal's 25-point scoring streak

Re-live the best games of Bradley Beal's 25-point scoring streak

With the 2019-20 season on hold due to the coronavirus, we thought it'd be a good time to re-live some of the best moments the Wizards had before the league suspended play.

From January 20 to March 6, Bradley Beal put on one of the best scoring stretches in Wizards history. He scored at least 25 points in 21 consecutive games, good for the longest such streak in franchise history and the longest in the NBA all season, beating out the likes of James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

Over that 21-game stretch, Beal averaged 36 points and 5.6 assists while shooting 48.6% from the floor and 40.7% from three on nine attempts per game. He only scored less than 30 points five times throughout the course of the streak. 

30+ points: 16 games
40+ points: 6 games
50+ points: 2 games

Oh, and those 50-pieces came on back-to-back nights, which is something nobody in the NBA had done since Kobe Bryant in 2007. 

All-day Sunday, you'll be able to re-live the best games from Beal's streak on NBC Sports Washington. Here's a look at what you can expect. 

When: Sunday, April 5, 9:00 a.m.

Where:

  • NBC Sports Washington (channel finder
  • Any of our 24/7 authenticated streaming platforms

9 am -- Pistons @ Wizards from January 20, 2020: Beal starts off his streak by scoring 29 points in a much-needed win over the Pistons. This game also featured Beal crossing center Andre Drummond out of his shoes. 

11:30 am -- Wizards @ Hawks from January 26, 2020: In a trying day for the entire basketball world, Bradley Beal scored 40 points just hours after Kobe Bryant passed away in a helicopter crash. 

2 pm -- Mavericks @ Wizards from February 7, 2020: Beal scores 29 and hits the game-winning layup off a perfectly executed pass from Troy Brown Jr. 

4:30 pm -- Wizards @ Bulls from February 23, 2020: Setting a new career-high with 53 points, it's hard to look at Beal as a reason the Wizards lost this one. 

8 pm -- Bucks @ Wizards from February 24, 2020: One night later, Beal sets a career-high again by scoring 55 points in what he described was the most fun game he'd ever played in. 

11:30 pm -- Nets @ Wizards from February 26, 2020: Beal gets the Wizards back on track following a three-game losing streak post All-Star break with a 30-point night against the Nets at home. 

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Isaiah Thomas details Celtics' failed attempt at their own 'Funeral Game'

Isaiah Thomas details Celtics' failed attempt at their own 'Funeral Game'

Everyone has their own opinion of where and when the Wizards' bitter rivalry with the Celtics in 2016-17 all began.

You could point to Jae Crowder booping John Wall's nose, or Wall's confrontation with Marcus Smart, or even Crowder's history with ex-Wizards coach Randy Whitman. But the real start, the culmination of all those isolated events came on January 24, 2017. The Funeral Game.

It was a statement win for the Wizards. They buried Boston 123-108 and left a sour taste in the mouths of Celtics players like Isaiah Thomas, who joined Chris Miller on the Wizards Talk Podcast to talk about his team's own attempt at a Funeral Game and how intense the Celtics-Wizards rivalry really was. 

Thomas' Celtics went back and forth with the Wizards in the second round of the playoffs. The home team won each of the first five games heading into Game 6, and the two-time All-Star wanted to add another level of intrigue to the closeout game. 

"I send a text out to everybody before we leave Boston," Thomas said. "Everybody wear black because we're going to a funeral and we're gonna end it [in Washington].

"Nobody knew but the players," he said. "So then everyone wore black and when everybody walked in, people started to talk. Then when we ended up losing and John hitting the game-winner and him doing the interview after he's like, 'Don't ever wear black in my city.' I'm like [busts out laughing]."

LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW BELOW

Game 6 was an instant classic. The Celtics played well enough to win the game, Thomas was excellent down the stretch and Beal kept the Wizards in it by scoring 33 points. Everything came down to the Wizards' final possession and Wall delivered with a game-winning three to send the series to a seventh game. 

Boston ended up winning the series so Thomas can look back on everything fondly, but there's no denying how intense the rivalry really was. In a season that featured Kevin Durant's first with the Warriors and Russell Westbrook's triple-double tour, the Wizards and Celtics took center stage whenever they crossed paths on the floor. 

It got so heated that according to Thomas, his friendship with a couple of Wizards players took a considerable hit during the playoffs. 

"John's one of my close friends, like, I didn't even talk to John in the series," he said. "Markieff [Morris] is one of my close friends too from when we played on Phoenix and during that series, I didn't think we would ever talk again with how crazy it got."

We're about three years removed from that fateful series, with Wall, Beal and Ian Mahinmi as the only remaining Wizards from that season. In Boston, it's only Smart and Jaylen Brown. Thomas even played for the Wizards this season after stops with the Cavaliers, Lakers and Nuggets. 

In today's NBA, rivalries fade as fast as they develop, which makes feuds like the Wizards and Celtics that much more enjoyable when taking a trip down memory lane. 

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