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Wizards can make playoff push with weak 10-game schedule before All-Star break

Wizards can make playoff push with weak 10-game schedule before All-Star break

After the Wizards suffered a crushing loss to the Chicago Bulls last Wednesday, guard Bradley Beal expressed frustration with the team’s culture of losing. He intimated a desire to win more, even with a general expectation that the team would struggle this season.

"I don't like losing, I'm sorry," Beal said after the loss. "Especially winnable games."

His sentiments stand in direct contrast to those of many fans, and maybe some within the organization, who would prefer the team’s losing ways continue through the season and land Washington a top pick in this summer’s draft. But with 10 games remaining before the All-Star break, a realistic path still exists for Beal’s wishes to come to fruition and the Wizards to make a playoff push.

Washington kicked off a four-game road trip with Wednesday’s overtime loss to the Southeast Division rival Miami Heat. A win would’ve been huge in sparking a climb up the Eastern Conference standings, but with games at the Cleveland Cavaliers (12-32) tonight and Atlanta Hawks (11-34) on Sunday, the Wizards still have a chance to pull to 2-1 this trip before ending it Tuesday against the powerhouse Milwaukee Bucks.

The Wizards then come home for a six-game stretch at Capital One Arena that includes games against five teams with sub-.500 records; the Charlotte Hornets (15-30), Brooklyn Nets (18-24), Golden State Warriors (10-36), Memphis Grizzlies (20-24) and Bulls (17-29). Only the Dallas Mavericks, who they play after the Warriors, have a winning record over that stretch. Finally, the Wizards visit the Knicks (12-33) on Feb. 12 before getting an eight-day break in the schedule.

The Wizards are currently 12th in the Eastern Conference but just 4 ½ games out of the eighth and final playoff spot. This 10-game stretch includes just two opponents with winning records, and Washington’s lowly 14-29 record is better than half of the remaining eight teams. The games against the Nets, Bulls and Hornets, three of the four teams between Washington and the eighth seed, provide ample opportunity to make up ground.

The Wizards are in the position they’re in, of course, because like many of these upcoming opponents, they haven’t been a very good team. But while this stretch won’t be a walk in the park, it’s likely where the trajectory of this season will finally be determined. If the Wizards are able to go 6-4 or better, the conversation around how this season ends could change going into the break. If they finish under .500, their long-presumed fate as a lottery team will likely be sealed.

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Another 40-point game from Bradley Beal not enough as Wizards fall to Jazz

Another 40-point game from Bradley Beal not enough as Wizards fall to Jazz

The Washington Wizards lost to the Utah Jazz 129-119 on Friday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

1. Only one spot in the standings separates the Wizards from the playoff picture, but it sure doesn't seem like it at the moment.

With their loss to the Jazz on Friday night, the Wizards have dropped four of five coming out of the All-Star break. They have lost nine straight games to the Jazz going back to 2016.

If the Wizards are going to figure it out soon, they will have to do so on the road. Their loss to Utah kicked off a four-game West Coast road swing.

The Wizards are now 21-37 on the season. That puts them on pace for 30 wins.

2. Within the context of this week, 30 points on Wednesday against the Nets qualified as an off-night for Bradley Beal. On Friday, he was back to his early-week form with 42 points, including 23 in the first half alone.

Beal also added 10 assists, five rebounds and two steals. He shot 17-for-33 overall and 6-for-15 from long range.

This was Beal's 10th 40-point game of the year, which is two off the franchise record for a single season. The problem is the Wizards are 1-9 in those games.

This was Beal's 17th straight 25-point game, which is tied for the longest streak ever in Wizards/Bullets history. He tied Walt Bellamy, who set the record in the 1961-62 season.

3. Some day years from now, when Rui Hachimura is asked if he remembers his 'welcome to the NBA' moment, he's probably going to answer with what Donovan Mitchell did to him in the first half on Friday night.

Mitchell threw down one of the more vicious poster dunks you will see, and it all happened in the halfcourt. Mitchell is just a different type of dunker and he got Hachimura at the perfect time with a jump off two feet.

 

On one hand, good for Hachimura for meeting him at the rim. But, man, that was ugly.

4. That moment aside, Hachimura had a solid night in the box score. He poured in 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting and added seven rebounds and three steals.

Hachimura's consistency scoring the ball already as a rookie continues to impress. This was his 35th career game and his 26th with double-figure points and his 18th with 15 points or more.

But also consistent is Hachimura's trajectory as a scorer. It was another game where he started off hot, then cooled down to disappear late.

5. It appears that Troy Brown Jr.'s decrease in minutes on Wednesday was not a one-time thing. He again took a backseat to Jerome Robinson, who played 22 minutes compared to Brown's 18.

Head coach Scott Brooks explained the move on Wednesday by saying "minutes are going to be competitive" now that the team is healthy. Robinson has evidently been showing Brooks more in recent games.

The best guess is that it involves defense. Robinson has been more impressive on that end than he has been on offense. He is a physical perimeter defender and the Wizards can use more of that.

One play in the first half demonstrated that well. He checked Jordan Clarkson at the three-point line and trailed him off the dribble to the baseline where he stuffed him to force a jumpball. It was the type of contest we haven't seen enough of from the Wizards this season.

Brown, though, has a chance to respond and he was more aggressive attacking the rim against the Jazz. That is a good sign.

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Justin Bieber's new No. 1 album features production from ex-Wizard JaVale McGee

Justin Bieber's new No. 1 album features production from ex-Wizard JaVale McGee

Former Wizard Javale McGee has a well-known reputation in the NBA for his emphatic dunks, and his name is cemented in NBA history with two championships. Now McGee can add a No. 1 album to his list of accomplishments.

McGee, who currently is helping the Los Angeles Lakers maintain the best record in the Western Conference, was listed as a contributor on the song "Available" on Justin Bieber's new hit album “Changes.” 

McGee took advantage of constantly being on the road during his career and began networking with major players in the music industry, before meeting Jason "Poo Bear" Boyd, one of Bieber's producers in 2013.

"I was in the studio with Poo Bear around November of last year," McGee told the New York Times in an article published Friday. "I didn’t know who I was making music for. I was playing some songs and samples and he stopped on this one sample that I had made. He looped it, put it in the computer and we just started writing to it. We ended up writing the whole song, but there were no drums or anything." 

McGee said a few months later when he was speaking with Boyd, he was notified that he was on the album. 

"It was amazing," McGee said. "Justin Bieber is one of the, if not the, top artists out there. So to be able to keep working and produce something for an artist like that is amazing."

Another slam-dunk.

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