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Rebounding issues arise again in Wizards' season opening loss to the Miami Heat

Rebounding issues arise again in Wizards' season opening loss to the Miami Heat

Realistically, the Miami Heat had no business even being in position to win on Thursday night in the Wizards' 2018-19 regular season opener.

They shot just 39.2 percent from the field, compared to 46.9 percent for the Wizards, and had 19 turnovers. 

The Heat were on the second night of a back-to-back, having lost a tough one to the Magic the night before. They were missing a host of rotation players, including two of their regular starters.

Yet, the Heat pulled out a 113-112 victory to stun the Opening Night crowd at Capital One Arena simply because they out-hustled the Wizards. They out-rebounded the Wizards 55-40, including a 22-7 margin in offensive boards. Those 22 offensive rebounds were tied for the most allowed by the Wizards since 2012.

"Rebounding the ball is really why we lost the game," Wizards guard John Wall said. "That's really where they killed us."

Miami's advantage on the glass allowed them to put up a whopping 16 more shots. That led to 27 second chance points compared to just 10 for Washington.

It was the central theme of the game, so naturally it played a role in how it was decided. After Wall forced a miss by Dwyane Wade on a fadeaway attempt in the closing seconds, Heat big man Kelly Olynyk was right there to catch the ball and scoop it in for two.

That score proved to be the go-ahead points as just 0.2 seconds remained on the clock. All night, the Wizards made plays on defense, only to have the Heat save themselves with second looks.

The Wizards had no better explanation postgame other than Miami simply tried harder.

"They out-hustled us," forward Jeff Green said.

"Rebounds come down to whoever wants it the most and tonight they wanted it more than we did," forward Otto Porter Jr. said.

It sounds simple, and perhaps it was indeed that easy to explain. But there were other factors at play, some in their control and some not.

For one, the Wizards were missing their best rebounder, Dwight Howard, who sat out with a strained piriformis muscle. Even at 32, Howard remains one of the best rebounders in basketball and would have made a significant difference. 

It would have been nice to have him, a 280-pound giant in the paint to match up with Hassan Whiteside, one of the most physically imposing centers in the league.

With Howard out of the mix, the Wizards turned to Ian Mahinmi and Jason Smith, but they each stumbled into early foul trouble. Head coach Scott Brooks had no other option than to go small with guys like Green and Markieff Morris at the five-spot.

Brooks wants to employ that strategy more often anyways, but not by necessity. And sure enough, it was Green and Morris on the floor when Olynyk broke loose for the final deciding play.

"The last rebound, we definitely need to put most of the ownership on me and Jeff because we were the biggest guys," Morris said. "I think that might have been the easiest layup of the game right there."

"I was surprised I was open," Olynyk admitted afterwards. "It kinda just popped open and I was kinda just standing right there."

Though many factors were at play, the Wizards' struggles rebounding the ball came down to the simple fundamentals of boxing out their opponent. As they learned last year, it's tough to be consistent when you can't take care of the little things that separate wins and losses. 



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3 biggest moments in the Wizards' 125-116 win over the Hornets

3 biggest moments in the Wizards' 125-116 win over the Hornets

In a 125-118 win over the Hornets Friday night, the Wizards secured back-to-back victories for the first time since March of last season. 

They were down by as many as 13 in the fourth quarter, but behind another 30-point night from Bradley Beal and strong performances from Davis Bertans and Ish Smith off the bench, Washington made an impressive comeback to improve to 5-8.

Here were the three biggest moments from the game:

Bertans gets hot from deep

In a familiar fashion during the second quarter, the Wizards offense was flowing smoothly and so was their opponents. The game was seemingly trudging along until Jordan McRae rose up to posterize Marvin Williams

Once that happened, the crowd started to get into it and Davis Bertans got hot from deep. For whatever reason, the Hornets were sagging off Bertans so he promptly drilled five threes in the first half.

He finished going 6-11 from beyond the arc.

Without Bertans going off in that short span, the Hornets might have had a bigger lead going into halftime. Instead, Washington remained in striking distance despite another bad half of basketball from the defensive end of the floor. 

Miles Bridges dagger three

Before the game, we outlined the importance of keeping Bridges out of rhythm. His offensive skill set isn't quite polished off to the point where he consistently puts up efficient 20-point performances, so keeping him uncomfortable was key for the Wizards to win this game. 

That didn't happen, and when the Wizards needed a stop in the fourth quarter, Bridges made them pay. 

A lazy pass that should have been turned over bounced his way over to the second-year wing, and with Beal sagged off of him to keep him away from the paint, Bridges rose up and knocked down a clutch three. 

Scott Brooks called a timeout, and all of a sudden the Hornets were up 13 with nine minutes to go in the game. 

Smith ices the game

Ish Smith was key in the Wizards' win over the Spurs Wednesday, and he was a major reason why the Wizards were able to make such a big fourth-quarter comeback. 

With under four minutes to go, Smith found Thomas Bryant on the roll for a big two-handed slam to bring the Wizards within one. Then McRae hit a big three one possession later to put them in the lead. 

In crunch time with his team up four, Smith took his man off the dribble and finished a crafty right-handed level to all but ice things for Washington. 

While the Wizards fell behind big in the fourth quarter thanks to their defense, their irresistible attack on offense kept them alive late. 

The Wizards will host the Kings on Sunday as they look to grab their third straight and move up the Eastern Conference playoff picture. 


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Top takeaways from the Wizards' clutch win against Charlotte

Top takeaways from the Wizards' clutch win against Charlotte

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards beat the Charlotte Hornets 125-118 on Friday night at Capital One Arena. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

1. Some nights, no matter how bad their defense is, the Wizards are going to score so many points that their opponent simply can't keep up. Friday night's win over the Hornets was one of those games.

The Wizards, for the most part, gave little resistance on the defensive end, allowing Charlotte to score 118 points and shoot 51.6 percent from the field. But the Wizards also found open looks from three and free lanes to the basket, as they scored 125 points and shot 14-for-34 (41.2%) from three.

The Hornets were forced to play Washington's style and they couldn't do it for fourth quarters. After scoring 96 points through three, they were held to 22 points in the fourth. 

The Wizards are now 5-8 on the season, having won two straight for the first time.

2. Every time Davis Bertans plays like he did on Friday night, it becomes more amazing that the Spurs gave him up in a trade and that they did so for a prospect who was likely to never play for the Wizards.

Bertans is an absolutely sensational outside shooter. He had 15 points in the first half on 5-for-7 from three-point range. Somehow, that was one off his career-high of five, which shows how underused he was in San Antonio.

Bertans ended up with 20 points and six threes (tying a career-high) as he continues to lead an improved offensive attack for the Wizards. But it's not just his shooting that stands out. Bertans is an all-around player who can get up and down the floor and has some tricky no-look passes in his arsenal.

3. This season has not started how Jordan McRae envisioned it would go, as early on he suffered a painful break of the bone on the end of his right ring finger. Though he is back and playing rotation minutes, he has to deal with a splint which requires an adjustment as it is on his shooting hand.

Against the Hornets, though, he had his best play of the season so far. McRae zipped through the lane to rise up and throw down a poster dunk on Marvin Williams. McRae ended up with a modest 13 points, but the dunk was a good sign he is getting used to the splint, as he had to use that hand to finish with power.


This play brings up an interesting question: is McRae the best dunker on the Wizards? As fun as they are to watch, they don't really have a high-flying dunker like the did last year with Kelly Oubre Jr. and Tomas Satoransky. For dunking entertainment, McRae might be the guy. 

4. Head coach Scott Brooks said something very interesting at Thursday's practice when asked a question about Troy Brown Jr.'s defense. Brooks threw a line in that was unprompted, how "he's been given a starting job and who knows if that stays the same."

That induced a strong reaction from Wizards fans, who clamored for Brooks to play Brown more last season. But it's Brooks' call and that indicated Brown's job in the starting lineup isn't entirely secure.

Friday's game may not have helped Brown's cause. He had an uneven performance that included some impressive moments, but also some head-scratching ones. In the first half, he had a really nice drive where he split the defense and finished through contact with a mid-air second effort. But he also had some turnovers, including one where the ball was deflected off his knee on a drive and another where he threw an ill-advised pass to Rui Hachimura that was easily intercepted.

It's hard to tell how much patience Brooks will show Brown, as he does have veteran C.J. Miles waiting in the wings. Perhaps to Brown's credit, however, it hasn't persuaded him from playing with confidence or from taking chances on the court.

Brown finished with four points and six rebounds in 20 minutes.

5. It is very hard to make All-NBA on a team that misses the playoffs and extremely difficult to do so on a team that wins fewer than 30 games. You basically have to win a scoring title like Tracy McGrady did for the Magic back in the 2003-04 season or have seasons like DeMarcus Cousins did in Sacramento where he was averaging around 25 points and 11 rebounds.

Bradley Beal, though, may be able to add his name to that list if he keeps it up because he is putting up some elite scoring numbers while also racking up more assists than he ever has before. Beal had 30 points and 12 assists on Friday night and is now averaging 30.3 and 7.1 in those categories for the year. Assuming the shooting percentages are solid, it could be tough for voters to keep Beal off their All-NBA ballots, even if the Wizards only win 25 or so games.