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Wizards hold on to beat Phoenix Suns, continue to play well without John Wall

Wizards hold on to beat Phoenix Suns, continue to play well without John Wall

The Washington Wizards beat the Phoenix Suns 109-99 on Thursday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Closer than it should have been: The Wizards had no excuse losing to the Suns without Devin Booker and lose they did not, but this one was way more interesting than it should have been. The Wizards were up just one point entering the fourth quarter and, though they won by 10 points, the Suns cut the game to 96-94 with 5:46 left in the fourth quarter. 

The Suns have proven a dangerous match for the Wizards this season. They came back from down 22 points to beat Washington back on Nov. 1 in Washington. In this one they erased a nine-point deficit to give the Wizards a scare. Phoenix actually jumped out to a 24-12 lead in the first quarter before the Wizards woke up and got serious.

It was a tougher road than it should have been, but a win is a win and the Wizards are now 5-4 on the season without John Wall and 4-3 since his latest injury. This was the first time they have won two straight without Wall this season.

It has been a crazy few weeks with wild ups and downs, but the overall result has been something they probably would have signed up for going in. They are now 14-11 overall on the season.

Encore, do you want more: The odds of Bradley Beal following up his amazing 51-point performance with another big game seemed good, as the Phoenix Suns rank dead-last in the NBA in both defensive rating and opponent points per game. They are the worst team in the NBA defensively and Beal was coming in hot.

Those predictions came true. Beal picked up right where he left off in Portland with a dominant showing against the Suns. He dropped 34 points on 13-for-22 shooting. Beal has scored 30 points or more in two straight games for the fifth time in his career.

Beal caught fire early with 11 points in the first quarter and another 11 points in the second. The Suns began the game with rookie and fourth overall pick Josh Jackson guarding him. They tried different looks, but nothing worked.

The Wizards needed Beal to step up because others did not. Otto Porter was held to four points and two rebounds on 2-for-9 shooting. Marcin Gortat had four points and eight rebounds, but lost minutes to Ian Mahinmi.

[RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS]

Phoenix Outlaw: Markieff Morris had combined for 19 points in his last two games and was averaging just 10.0 in his last six since John Wall had procedures on his left knee. Perhaps we should have known he would get things corrected on Thursday, given it was against his former team, a franchise he did not leave on good terms. 

Whether it was extra motivation or not, Morris balled out. He finished with 21 points, six rebounds, two steals and a block. It was his second-most points of the season.

Morris doesn't like how the Suns treated him and his twin brother Marcus, how they traded Marcus after the two took less money to continue playing together. Morris likes to get back at them any chance he gets and he was a big reason for the Wizards' win.

The question now becomes whether Morris can do it again in two straight games. He hasn't been able to find consistency at all this season after missing the first seven games due to sports hernia surgery and a suspension. Only three times has he scored double-figures in two straight games and not once has he done so in three straight. This could be a breakthrough game, but we've thought that before and been proven wrong.

Off the bench: It was another good night for the second unit, which has been a big storyline during Wall's absence. They combined for 39 points with Kelly Oubre, Jr. (12 points, seven rebounds), Ian Mahinmi (10 points, eight rebounds) and Mike Scott (eight points, 3-for-3 FG) as the standouts.

Oubre and Scott have arguably been their most consistent bench players this season. Oubre is playing much smarter on both ends of the floor and Scott is proving to be instant offense more often than not.

Up next: The Wizards are off Friday before facing the Clippers in L.A. on Saturday. That game tips off at 3:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

[PODCAST: PROJECTING JOHN WALL'S RETURN]

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NBA offseason grades: Wizards, Magic highlight Southeast Division

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USA TODAY Sports

NBA offseason grades: Wizards, Magic highlight Southeast Division

Here is a look at how the 2018 NBA offseason went for teams in the Southeast Division...

Washington Wizards, B+

2017-18 finish: 43-39, 1st round of playoffs
In: C Dwight Howard, G Austin Rivers, G Troy Brown, Jr., F Jeff Green, C Thomas Bryant
Out: C Marcin Gortat, F Mike Scott, G Ty Lawson, G Tim Frazier, G Ramon Sessions, F Chris McCullough

Given the circumstances of their salary cap situation, the Wizards did quite well for themselves this summer. They shook things up by trading Gortat and actually got something solid back for him in Rivers. They then filled Gortat's spot with an eight-time All-Star in Howard and did so at a bargain price, the taxpayer mid-level exception. They also added Green at a nice price and Brown, who acquitted himself nicely in the Summer League. Whether the Wizards made a major leap forward is debatable, but the potential is there for them to re-install themselves as contenders in the East. The possibility things go wrong is also there, but all in all, a strong summer for the Wizards.

Atlanta Hawks, B

2017-18 finish: 24-58, missed playoffs
In: G Jeremy Lin, C Alex Len, G Trae Young, G Vince Carter, G Kevin Huerter, F Justin Anderson, F Omari Spellman
Out: G Dennis Schroeder, C Mike Muscala, C Dewayne Dedmon, G Malcolm Delaney, G Isaiah Tayor

The Hawks did a nice job with the draft by picking up an extra first round pick just to move back two spots (from third to fifth) in their trade with the Mavericks. They added Young with the fifth pick and then got Huerter later on at No. 18. The Len signing at two years and $8.5 million looks like a bargain and they added a nice mix of veteran free agents and young players to develop. It will probably be a few years before the Hawks are back in the playoffs, but they seemed to take a step forward this summer.

Miami Heat, D

2017-18 finish: 44-38, 1st round of playoffs
In: F Duncan Robinson
Out: G Dwyane Wade, G Wayne Ellington, F Luke Babbitt

The Heat had one of the least impactful summers of any team in the NBA. The biggest addition they have so far, and this is true, is Robinson. They didn't make any draft picks and struck out in free agency. What they did do is let go of Wade, Ellington and others. The only way the Heat improve year-over-year is if their young guys like Bam Adebayo or Justise Winslow take a big step forward. 

Charlotte Hornets, C+

2017-18 finish: 36-46, missed playoffs
In: C Bismack Biyombo, F Miles Bridges, G Devonte' Graham
Out: C Dwight Howard, G Michael Carter-Williams, G Treveon Graham

New Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak quickly turned the franchise into a different direction this offseason by trading Howard to the Nets. They then added Biyombo in a deal with the Magic and acquired Bridges through the draft. There isn't a lot to love or hate about the Hornets' offseason, so they fall in the middle of the grading scale. The real question now is what they do with Kemba Walker, who has just one year left on his contract.

Orlando Magic, B+

2017-18 finish: 25-57, missed playoffs
In: C Mohamed Bamba, C Timofey Mozgov, F Justin Jackson, F Jarell Martin, G Jerian Grant
Out: G Mario Hezonja, C Marreese Speights, G Arron Aflalo

The Magic had a strong summer. The re-signed forward Aaron Gordon, a rising young player, and drafted Bamba, who has the tools to become an All-Star and a dominant defensive force. They had some questionable moves, like trading for Mozgov, but the future looks a lot brighter for the Magic than it did just a few months ago.

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Familiarity for coach and GM should allow Capital City Go-Go to hit ground running

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Associated Press

Familiarity for coach and GM should allow Capital City Go-Go to hit ground running

Despite being a brand new franchise with a new roster and new facilities, the Capital City Go-Go will carry into their inaugural season a level of continuity. Both their general manager and head coach are familiar with what they are getting into and the people they will be working with.

GM Pops Mensah-Bonsu is no stranger to the D.C. community and the Wizards franchise. He made a name for himself starring at George Washington University, spent time with the Wizards as a player in their 2013 training camp and remained a frequent visitor to Wizards games as a scout for the Spurs in recent years.

"To be back in the community and the first general manager of the G-League team is special," Mensah-Bonsu said. "This is D.C.’s team. I want them to embrace us."

Head coach Jarell Christian played college ball in Virginia and goes back several years with Wizards coach Scott Brooks. Christian joined the Oklahoma City's G-League staff when Brooks was in his final year as head coach of the Thunder.

Christian began his coaching journey with an eye trained on how Brooks goes about his job.

"My introduction to pro basketball was under Coach Brooks and his philosophies. A lot of that stuff, I believe in wholeheartedly. That’s my foundation," Christian said. "I got a chance to know him through training camp and throughout that season. He and I developed a bond and a relationship that stood the test of time. To this day, we still talk often. It’s just another chance for me to reconnect with him and to continue to grow our relationship."

The Go-Go intend to make what they do as similar to the Wizards as possible. When guys like Devin Robinson, one of their two-way players, is called up he can step right in without a learning curve of the playbook or how they practice.

Having Christian in place will help that process in particular.

"There won’t be any issue or any slippage with guys going up and down to know what’s in store for them," Christian said. "A lot of the stuff that the Wizards will do, we will implement with the Go-Go. Just some offensive and defensive concepts. Some of the playcalls and the terminology will be the same."

"Whatever you see the Wizards doing, you will probably see the Capital City Go-Go doing, too," Mensah-Bonsu said.

The symmetry between the G-League and the NBA teams will also be helped by the fact they will share the same practice facility. Their proximity will come with many advantages from the Go-Go perspective.

"I think it’s going to help motivate these guys. We’re going to be practicing in the same place that the Wizards do and the Mystics do," Mensah-Bonsu said. "I think if these guys can see Dwight Howard and John Wall and Bradley Beal walking around every day, it will help motivate them to get to that next level."

"The exposure our players get with the Wizards [front office], the Wizards personnel, being able to watch them practice daily, watching their practice habits and what their routines may be, is really big," Christian said.

That element will also apply beyond the players. Christian, who is just 32 years old, will get to watch how an NBA coaching staff operates on a daily basis.

Christian has yet to take a tour of the new building in Ward 8, but he has seen blueprints. Among the amenities the Go-Go will enjoy that other G-League teams do not usually have is a dedicated dining area.

Many G-League teams do not go to that length.

"A lot of organizations do not provide food for their players on a daily basis, but we will. That’s the No. 1 thing in my opinion that’s gonna set us apart from our competitors," he said.

The Go-Go won't take the floor for their first game until November, but it seems like a good foundation is starting to take place.

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