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Wizards blast Pacers behind Jeff Green's big night

Wizards blast Pacers behind Jeff Green's big night

The Washington Wizards beat the Indiana Pacers 107-89 on Wednesday night. Here are five observations from the game...

1. There is one obvious parallel between the Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers this season in that both teams lost an All-Star guard for the year due to injury. For the Wizards, that was John Wall. For the Pacers, that was Victor Oladipo.

The Wizards, though, began playing well once Wall went out back in late December. For the Pacers, it has been a much different story.

They have now lost three straight games since Oladipo’s shocking injury, including on Wednesday night to Washington. The Wizards beat the Pacers for the first time this season and did so in blowout fashion, winning by 18 points.

Washington rebounded from a pair of tough losses, one a smackdown against the Spurs and the other an inexcusable letdown against the dreadful Cavaliers. They earned a much-needed victory as they now await the Milwaukee Bucks, who come to town Saturday with the NBA’s best record.

The Wizards may be terrible on the road this season (6-20), but they have been excellent at home. They are now 16-9 at Capital One Arena, having won seven of nine there.

That includes a win over the Bucks earlier this month. But that was without Giannis Antetokounmpo, who should change things of course.

2. It’s Jeff Green’s world and we are all just living in it. The Wizards veteran tore up the Pacers for 23 points, six assists, five rebounds and two blocks in 29 minutes.

 Green had 16 points in the first half alone and was a big reason why the Wizards built a 19-point lead early on. He knocked down threes (3-for-7) and made the Pacers pay for trapping him with smart passes.

It has happened a few times this season where Green single-handedly changed a game for the Wizards and this one can be added to the list. Not bad for a guy making only $2.4 million in a one-year deal.  

3. Green did all of this off the bench, as he was removed from the starting lineup for Otto Porter Jr. after starting the last 23 games. With Porter in a shooting slump, head coach Scott Brooks bumped him off the bench, apparently to get him going.

The change worked better for Green than it did for Porter, who again struggled, posting only three points in 16 minutes on 1-for-5 from the field and 1-for-4 from the perimeter. He is now averaging 8.8 points in his last five games while shooting 30.3 percent overall and 24.1 percent from three.

4. Some of Porter’s recent issues may have been explained on Wednesday night as he departed with a sprained left toe early in the second half. He left for the locker room in the third quarter and never returned.

Porter, if you recall, battled a left toe contusion earlier this season, one that kept him sidelined on-and-off. It's not clear if he sustained the most recent injury during this game or if it has been lingering.

The Wizards happen to have two days off before their next game, so that should help his chances of not missing time.

5. There’s a reason why Brooks always bristles when reporters ask him about the subject of ‘garbage time.’ He doesn’t believe in the phrase, knowing himself what it is like to come off the bench for a few minutes at the end of a blowout. He insists that is important time for the players it is afforded and that they should never scoff at the opportunity, even during a meaningless part of a game.

That philosophy came to life on Wednesday, as Brooks rewarded Jordan McRae for what he did the night before in a loss to the Cavaliers. McRae helped the Wizards come back from down 25 points in Cleveland and cut it to three to set up a final possession with a chance to tie.

After seeing that, Brooks rewarded McRae with some more meaningful minutes. He came off the bench to start the second quarter and ended up with 12 points and three boards in 26 minutes of action.

It was a nice step for McRae, who has patiently waited for an opportunity spending much of this year with the G-League team.


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Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin: Pistons' stars that could hurt the Wizards, or not play at all

Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin: Pistons' stars that could hurt the Wizards, or not play at all

Washington has dropped seven of their last eight games and their schedule doesn't lighten up by any means in the near future. Detroit has won three of their last four games with their most recent victory coming in Houston as they defeated the Rockets without C Andre Drummond, and F Blake Griffin exiting the game early with a knee injury. 

In desperate need of a win here’s who Wizards' fans and players should keep their eyes on.

Blake Griffin, maybe?

Season stats: 16.4 pts, 4.6 reb, 3.3 ast

Griffin didn't play in Detroit's early November loss to the Wizards due to continued soreness in his knee and hamstring, and it's quite possible he doesn't play in this matchup either for the same reason. Griffin tallied 15 minutes in the first half of the Pistons 115-107 victory over the Houston Rockets Saturday, but only had 2 points on 0-for-7 shooting to show for it. After halftime, Griffin didn't return and was ruled out for the remainder of the game with knee soreness once again. In the month of December, he's averaging 19.7 points on 42.9% shooting and 5.1 rebounds. 

Washington's bigs have struggled mightily with injuries, which has subsequently hampered their paint defense -- One of the reasons why the Memphis Grizzlies scored 70 of their 128 total points down low last game vs the Wizards. Washington will most likely be without Moe Wagner once again who's struggling with an ankle injury and Thomas Bryant who's recovering from a stress reaction in his foot. 

Luke Kennard

Season stats: 16.2 pts, 3.4 reb, 4.1 ast

The Pistons leading scorer the last time these two teams faced off (24 points, 6-12 FG, 3-4 3P FG), Kennard has been a pleasant surprise for Detroit this season. He's averaging career-bests in nearly every category while maintaining his efficiency from deep. Last season Kennard averaged: 9.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists in 22.8 minutes per game, he may quietly have a case for most improved player and possibly sixth man of the year. 

Markieff Morris

Season stats: 10.6 points, 4.0  reb, 1.5 ast

If Blake Griffin can't go, Markieff Morris is the next man up. In the first meeting (which I inexplicably deemed the 'Keef revenge game' prior to tip-off) Morris had a lackluster 4 points on 2-for-4 shooting. However, in the last two games, he's averaging 15.5 points on 57.1% shooting from the field as well as 54.5% from 3-point range. He'll be looking for revenge for sure. 


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Which team is closer to contention: the Wizards or Grizzlies?

Which team is closer to contention: the Wizards or Grizzlies?

While watching the Wizards take on another rebuilding team, as they did on Saturday night in their loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, it's only natural to compare the stages of those respective rebuilds and wonder which team is closer. That may be an even more interesting question with a game like Saturday's that matched the Wizards against a team doing things a decidedly different way.

In a sense, the Wizards are where the Grizzlies were last season. Memphis had unexpectedly bottomed out the year before, enough to land Jaren Jackson Jr. in the draft. And, like the Wizards this year, they were holding onto their core veterans, in their case Mike Conley Jr. and Marc Gasol.

But the Grizzlies didn't bounce back into playoff contention like they had hoped and ended up trading both Gasol and Conley, and arguably too late. The Wizards wish to avoid that fate with Bradley Beal and John Wall.

Neither the Wizards (7-17) or Grizzlies (9-17) are a good team right now and both would like to be back in the playoff mix sooner than later, maybe even next year. So, who is closer?

The Grizzlies have the more impressive young core with Jackson and Ja Morant. Both are just 20 years old and they each look like future All-Stars, if not All-NBA talents.

Jackson is averaging 17.6 points and 1.2 blocks while shooting 40 percent from three on six attempts per game. He's a two-way unicorn who can make plays like a guard and has potential to become an elite rim protector.

Morant is the early favorite for rookie of the year, averaging 18.7 points and 6.4 assists while shooting 42.6 percent from long range. He has future star written all over him with a game reminiscent of a young Wall or Russell Westbrook.

The Grizzlies appear to have hit on their high draft picks, but have also nailed later ones, the type of moves that separate the best front offices. Brandon Clarke, the 21st pick this past June, looks like a steal. And Dillon Brooks, a second round pick in 2017, is a solid young player.

But the Wizards also have an emerging young core with Thomas Bryant, Rui Hachimura and Moe Wagner. None of them are as good as Jackson or Morant, but they are good players on the rise. And, most importantly, the Wizards have Beal.

While Jackson and Morant could someday be stars, Beal already is one and he's signed long-term. Potential is a commodity in the NBA, but nothing is guaranteed for young teams and young players. Just look at the Bulls and Hawks this season.

Now, the Grizzlies do have something the Wizards would absolutely love to have and that is real financial flexibility. They have close to $70 million in salary coming off the books this summer and have the second-lowest payroll committed for next season of any team in the NBA, second only to Atlanta.

The Wizards, meanwhile, are strapped with Wall's supermax contract which, depending on how he returns from a torn Achilles, could be an albatross for years to come. Though cap space doesn't mean the Grizzlies will be able to lure free agents, as Memphis has never been mistaken for a prime destination, but it's a preferable spot to be in. Wall's deal may prevent the Wizards from keeping players they would otherwise re-sign, when Memphis should have no such problem.

So, so far we have the Grizzlies with a better young nucleus and a much better salary cap situation. The Wizards, though, have the proven star and may have two if Wall returns to form.

But here's what may give the Wizards the edge, or at least secure a push. The Grizzlies have to give one of their next two first round picks to Boston by way of a 2015 trade. It is top-6 protected this year and unprotected in 2021 if it doesn't convey this June. That could be a major problem for a team trying to build through the draft.

Also, the Wizards are lucky to be in the Eastern Conference. Though the Grizzlies geographically should be in the East, they remain in the West which has been the superior conference basically since Michael Jordan retired from the Bulls.

There is, of course, no definitive answer to the root question of this analysis. The easiest way to settle it would be to say the Grizzlies have a higher ceiling at this point because of Morant and Jackson, but the Wizards probably have the more likely path to the playoffs next season, given they play in the East and have two guys with a track record of getting there.

But as we compare the teams, keep in mind what Memphis wanted to do and what they ended up doing in terms of trading their veteran stars. The Wizards don't want to take their rebuild that far, but sometimes things don't go according to plan. Just ask the Grizzlies.