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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.

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5 things we've learned about the Wizards around the quarter-mark of the season

5 things we've learned about the Wizards around the quarter-mark of the season

In an 82-game NBA season, there is no natural quarter-mark. Technically, that would be at halftime of a team's 21st game.

But now that the Wizards have played 23 games this season, they have a nice three-day break, which provides an opportunity to step back and take stock of what we've seen so far. And for these Wizards, that evaluation process is extra interesting because they had so much roster turnover in the offseason.

Really, these past two months have been an introductory period where we got our first glimpse at a team almost entirely comprised of new players. According to Basketball Reference's continuity table, only the Warriors have seen fewer minutes played this season by players who were on their team last year.

With all that in mind, here are five things we have learned about the 2019-20 Wizards after basically a quarter of the season has passed...

Bertans was a steal

The highlight of the Wizards' season so far is definitely the emergence of Davis Bertans, whom the Wizards acquired over the summer in the NBA trade equivalent of a casino heist. Somehow, after only giving up the Euro-stashed Aaron White, they brought in what has so far been the best three-point shooter in the league this season. General manager Tommy Sheppard hadn't even had the interim tag taken away when he made the move in July, which should be a very good sign of things to come.

Bertans is their second-leading scorer with 15.7 points per game and is shooting an absurd 46.5 percent from three. He has doubled his attempts from last season with the Spurs, from 4.4 to 8.6 per game, and somehow his percentage has gone up. That's unheard of.

Bertans has been so good that it is inevitable the Wizards will field calls leading up to the Feb. trade deadline from contenders looking to add a shooter. But should they part ways with a guy who can shoot this well at 6-foot-10? Maybe if they were undergoing a long-term rebuild it would make sense, but team chairman Ted Leonsis doesn't want it to take long and neither does Bradley Beal. Bertans is the type of guy you keep if you plan to compete for the playoffs sooner than later.

Beal may have a shot at All-NBA

Though his shooting percentages have suffered from a recent slump, Beal is putting up monster numbers now in his first season as the face of the Wizards' franchise. He's averaging career-highs in points (27.4/g) and assists (7.0) while also adding 4.5 rebounds per game.

You know what those look like? All-NBA numbers. Consider the fact only three players in the last decade have averaged at least 27 and seven in a full season: James Harden, Russell Westbrook and LeBron James. All three guys did it multiple times during that span and only one of their seasons, 2015-16 for Harden, didn't end with an All-NBA nod. Somehow Harden was snubbed despite averaging 29 points and 7.5 assists that year.

So, it could happen where Beal keeps this up and still falls short. But helping his cause are injuries at the guard position with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson each out long-term.

It's really hard to make All-NBA on a team that wins fewer than 30 games, but it has happened before and Beal might be the next to do it. If he does, the Wizards signing him to a contract extension before the season will look even smarter because if he hadn't signed that deal, All-NBA would qualify him for a supermax.

Rui is already good, could be very good

It didn't take long for rookie Rui Hachimura to show he belongs at the NBA level. Most rookies take years before they can impact games the way he has, with averages of 14.4 points and six rebounds per game. That is especially impressive for a guy who was taken ninth overall.

We still don't have a great read on what Hachimura's ceiling is, whether he will ever develop into an All-Star. But he's already shown enough to say he will be a productive NBA player for many years to come. The Wizards have found another franchise building block.

They may have another one in Moe Wagner. He came over as a Lakers castoff in the summer and has done nothing but exceed expectations. He's averaging a solid line of 11.6 points and six rebounds per game while ranking seventh in the league in true shooting percentage (68.2).

Thomas is back, at least partly

Isaiah Thomas is currently sidelined with a left calf injury and there is an argument their best point guard is Ish Smith, but Thomas has already proven plenty of people wrong with the way he has played this season. There was so much mystery surrounding him entering the year because he only played 12 games for the Nuggets last year and hadn't shown he could be healthy in the past two seasons.

So far this year, though, he has been a solid offensive player with averages of 12.6 points and 5.1 assists while shooting 41 percent from three. He may never be the All-NBA player he once was, but Thomas clearly still has plenty of days left in his career.

They're probably going to get a high draft pick

Sure, most of us didn't think the Wizards would be very good this year. But given they have so many new players, they deserved some time to show us what they could do before we drew conclusions about their likely fate this season.

So far, they have actually been surprisingly good on offense. They are currently fourth in both points per game and offensive rating. Few would have predicted that coming in.

But their defense may be even worse than we thought. They are dead-last in points allowed and in defensive rating. And, because of that, they appear safely headed towards the draft lottery in the offseason.

Maybe they can turn things around and fight for a playoff spot, but at 7-16 on the year it looks like the Wizards will be picking high in the June 2020 draft. Though it would have been fun if they were a surprise team this year, that is probably for the best in the big picture. 

They can get another blue chip prospect and add him to a core that includes Beal, John Wall, Hachimura, Thomas Bryant and maybe Bertans, if they can find a way to keep him. Add someone like Cole Anthony, James Wiseman or Anthony Edwards to that mix and the 2020-21 Wizards could make some noise. For now, there are going to be a lot of high-scoring games with the Wizards coming out on the wrong end of them more often than not.

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Former NBA Commissioner David Stern has emergency brain surgery

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USA Today Sports Images

Former NBA Commissioner David Stern has emergency brain surgery

The NBA says former Commissioner David Stern suffered a sudden brain hemorrhage Thursday and had emergency surgery.

The league says in a statement its thoughts and prayers are with the 77-year-old Stern's family.

Stern served exactly 30 years as the NBA's longest-tenured commissioner before Adam Silver replaced him on Feb. 1, 2014. Stern has remained affiliated with the league with the title of commissioner emeritus and has remained active in his other interests, such as sports technology.

Zach Brook contributed to this report.

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