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Towns too much as Wizards lose to Wolves, have lost five of last seven

Towns too much as Wizards lose to Wolves, have lost five of last seven

The Washington Wizards lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves 116-111 on Tuesday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Another untimely loss: As they await the impending return of John Wall, the ground is slipping out from under the Wizards. They lost again on Tuesday night, this time to the Timberwolves. That makes five losses in the Wizards' last seven games with only 14 to go.

Of the Wizards' two wins in their last seven, one was against the Pelicans, who were missing Anthony Davis, their best player. As they navigate a tough schedule, the Wizards are showing cracks.

The Wizards had a good opportunity to beat Minnesota, as they led by 10 points in the fourth quarter, 95-85. But the Wolves then clamped down and went on a 20-3 run to take control. They didn't look back.

Wolves All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns was dominant. He had a season-high 37 points on just 17 shots and 10 rebounds. He made a clutch corner three and trapped Bradley Beal (19 points, five assists) into a turnover in the final 30 seconds to help seal the victory.

But still, the Wizards had the advantage before letting it slip away. The Wizards dropped to 38-30 on the season. They are 12-8 since Wall went down, but most of those wins came weeks ago.

PODCAST: KELLY OUBRE ON DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY

Must be the shoes: Wizards forward Markieff Morris made a wardrobe change before facing the Timberwolves. Long known to wear Nike Foamposites, a type of shoe that any sneaker head will tell you has little flexiblity, Morris instead suited up with Jordan 13s. They worked pretty well for him, albeit in a loss.

Morris lit a spark early with nine points in the first quarter and finished with a season-high 27. He shot 10-for-15 and did a good job combating a big and physical T-Wolves frontcourt.

Morris wasn't good the last time out. He had just four points and four rebounds in a loss to the Heat. This game was a completely different story.

Morris got his points in a variety of ways, including three threes. When his shot is falling from long range, the Wizards' entire offense opens up. Just don't call him a stretch-four.

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Paint points: The Wizards had another bad night defending the lane. After giving up 76 points in the paint to Miami, they allowed 64 to the Wolves. Towns led the way, but others got involved.

Nemanja Bjelica, who was starting in place of the injured Jimmy Butler, went off for 17 points and eight rebounds, including some crafty shots around the rim.  He hit a few shots from different release points that was reminiscent of Antawn Jamison's heyday in Washington.

Andrew Wiggins had 16 points on 7-for-14 shooting. Many of his makes were in the lane. Same with Jeff teague, who had 13 points and five assists.

The Wolves had 18 paint points in the first quarter alone and 16 in both the second and third. There was not much the Wizards could do to stop them. Their wings got into the lane at will and Towns and Bjelica consistently got good looks in the post. The Wizards need to figure this out.

Mahinmi bounced back: The last time the Wizards played, on Saturday night against the Miami Heat, Ian Mahinmi didn't see the floor at all. But in this one, he put in an impressive bounceback performance. 

It was clear heading into the game that Mahinmi could play a factor due to his success guarding Towns in the first meeting between the teams, a Wizards win back in November. Mahinmi again matched up with Towns, but Towns got the best of him.

Mahinmi, though, played solid defense for parts of the night, affecting shots and pushing his weight around. He had nine rebounds, two steals and a block.

Offense is where Mahinmi made his biggest impact. He had 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting, including eight points his first 12 minutes. Mahinmi's first half surge included a series of dunks, including this one set up by Mike Scott:

Mahinmi's scoring earned him a noticeable applause from the crowd when he checked out in the second quarter. The thought of Mahinmi getting a big ovation for his offense from Wizards fans would have been unthinkable just a year ago. But now he's healthy and showing why the Wizards wanted him so badly in free agency.

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Up next: The Wizards move on to Boston for the second game of a back-to-back. They play a banged-up Celtics team at 8 p.m. on ESPN. We will have pre- and postgame coverage on NBC Sports Washington beginning with Wizards HangTime at 6 p.m.

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: John Wall goes 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, celebrity softball and the Summer League

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards Tipoff podcast: John Wall goes 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, celebrity softball and the Summer League

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, John Wall went 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, the celebrity softball game and the Summer League.

Chase Hughes and Chris Miller broke down the parallels between Wall and Harper and why Wall has chosen to stay loyal to Washington in his own contract decisions. Plus, can the Wizards really tone down the talking this season?

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

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Kawhi Leonard going to the Raptors may actually be good news for the Wizards and the East

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USA Today Sports Images

Kawhi Leonard going to the Raptors may actually be good news for the Wizards and the East

Through nearly three weeks of NBA free agency and almost a month of trades, the Eastern Conference had remained eerily quiet. The Wizards had arguably been the most aggressive team in the East, as all the biggest moves had occurred in the West and, most notably, LeBron James changed coasts.

That all changed on Wednesday as the Toronto Raptors pulled off a trade with the San Antonio Spurs to land Kawhi Leonard, a two-time defensive player of the year. The full deal includes All-NBA guard DeMar DeRozan going to San Antonio along with big man Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first round pick. The Raptors also get guard Danny Green, according to ESPN.

Here are some takeaways from the trade...

This is good, potentially great news for the Wizards

The worst-case scenario for the Wizards and most of the East would have been if Leonard got dealt to either the Sixers or Celtics, as the potential would have been there for a dominant team. The Sixers, in particular, could have conceivably traded for Leonard without giving up much in the way of pieces that can help them now. They would have teamed Leonard with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid and would probably be the favorites to reach the NBA Finals. Instead, the Sixers struck out and now face the prospect of taking a pretty big L on this offseason, given all the guys they were tied to going into it.

Leonard and the Raptors will be good and they may even be better than they were last season. Though the Raptors won 59 games in the regular season, they disappointed in the playoffs. Leonard could change that, but he won't have the help to make them an unstoppable force. Kyle Lowry is good, but he's an aging player and they don't have a third star, at least not yet. They have a lot of recent first round picks that could, in theory, make the leap.

This deal is good for the Wizards and could become great if Leonard leaves in free agency next summer. If he does, the Raptors will be in deep trouble.

What will the Lakers do?

When James signed with the Lakers, most assumed they would then add at least one star to run with him. But now that Leonard is going to Toronto, it's very possible they don't add one at all. James might actually have to play with Lonzo Ball in addition to Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo and JaVale McGee. Sure, they can sign Leonard next summer or find another star then, but this is shaping up as of now to be a lost year for James.

As consistitued, they aren't winning anything of substance. It's just so surprising James would be cool with this level of talent around him considering what he could have done this season if he signed with Philly or some other team.

People are looking at the wrong contract

Much of the instant reaction to the Leonard trade was praise for the Raptors in ridding themselves of DeRozan's deal. That's a headscratcher. DeRozan is set to make over $27 million in the next three years, the third being a player option, but he's an All-NBA player who turns 29 next month. In the context of NBA contracts, that isn't too bad.

Lowry's contract, on the other hand, is borderline awful. He's 32 with his numbers heading in the wrong direction and he's due to make $31 million next season and $33.3 million the year after. It's not like the Raptors freed themselves of their worst deal.

Masai is making moves

This is a risk for the Raptors and you have to respect it. Their general manager, Masai Ujiri, had seen enough of the DeRozan-Lowry duo falling short in the playoffs. He fired head coach Dwane Casey and pulled off a trade for Leonard, who at his best is one of the premier players in the NBA.

There is considerable risk in this move with Leonard having missed 73 games last season with a quadriceps injury and given the fact he can opt to test free agency next summer. If he really does want to join the Lakers, he could leave the Raptors empty-handed.

But it's a risk that is probably worth taking. Everyone assumed the same future for Paul George and he ended up staying in Oklahoma City. It's not a guarantee Leonard leaves and now the Raptors have a year to convince him to stay. Ujiri should get praise for this deal because it's bold and he did one of the hardest things a GM can do in finding a top-5 talent for his team.

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