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Wizards lose to Pacers, drop a spot in Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards lose to Pacers, drop a spot in Eastern Conference playoff race

The Washington Wizards lost to the Indiana Pacers 98-95 on Sunday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Wizards drop a spot: Earlier in the week the Wizards did an impressive job holding off teams aiming to gain on them in the playoff race. They had no such luck on Sunday night against the Pacers.

Indiana beat them and in doing so took over sole possesion of fourth place in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards dropped to fifth and now sit a half-game ahead of the Sixers. The Pacers also tied up the season series with the final game between the teams set for March 17.

There is still plenty of basketball to go, but the Wizards have lost their footing in recent games, albeit against very good teams. Their loss to the Pacers gave them three straight defeats for the first time this season. They have lost four of their last six overall.

The Wizards remain firmly in playoff position and their 10-6 mark since John Wall went down with a left knee injury is still impressive. But they need to bounce back and soon because the stakes continue to be raised by the game.

RELATED: BROOKS NAMED EAST COACH OF THE MONTH

Oladipo is a problem: The first time the Wizards played the Pacers this season Indiana was without All-Star guard Victor Oladipo. They had him in this one and naturally he made a major difference.

Oladipo was the star of the game with 33 points, seven rebounds and three steals. He got to the rim at will and the referees rewarded him for it. Oladipo went a perfect 6-for-6 at the free throw line in the first half and finished 9-for-10 for the game.

Bradley Beal spent much of the game guarding Oladipo in a matchup of All-Stars, but he had little luck. Meanwhile, the Pacers were able to throw Beal off his game as he shot just 8-for-27 and had five turnovers. He is now 16-for-61 (26.2%) in his last three games.

Beal's shooting night deserves an asterisk because he had to log 43 minutes and follow Oladipo around. His workload has been heavy all year and this game was an extreme example.

As for Oladipo, his emergence has significantly transformed the Pacers' outlook and he's the biggest reason they are on course to make the playoffs. If the Wizards face the Pacers in the postseason, as they are currently slated to do, Oladipo will be the focus of their gameplans. 

RELATED: NBA MOCK DRAFT FEATURES CRAZY GOOD CLASS

Bojan gave them issues: Former Wizards player Bojan Bogdanovic is proving to be a thorn in Washington's side. He dropped 29 points in the first meeting between these teams back on Feb. 5 and had another big game against them on Sunday.

Bogdanovic came out swinging with eight points in his first nine minutes and finished with 20 points, four rebounds and two steals. He was the second-leading scorer on Indiana.

It is only two games and the Wizards found out firsthand last season when he was on their roster how he can go cold as a shooter. But his impact so far against the Wizards this season is something to keep in mind if these teams face off in the playoffs. When he's on, Bogdanovic can be a very dangerous outside shooter and that was the case in this game. He hit three threes.

Scott might be back: No one on the Wizards has been in a shooting slump lately quite like Mike Scott, who at times has been their most reliable bench scorer. He entered Sunday night shooting just 34.1 percent in his previous seven games. Head coach Scott Brooks has given him less minutes than usual at times, but that is a big change from what we're used to seeing from Scott, who is third on the team in field goal percentage (53.3).

Scott, though, showed some life against the Pacers. He hit two threes to snap a six-game drought from the perimeter and ended up with 10 points in 22 minutes on 4-for-8 from the field. The Wizards have had trouble scoring against some good defenses in recent games and could use his contributions.

Scott's play convinced Brooks to roll with him down the stretch in lieu of starter Markieff Morris (12 points, seven rebounds). Marcin Gortat (10 points, seven rebounds) also took a seat as Ian Mahinmi (eight points, nine rebounds) closed the game and so did Tomas Satoransky (seven points) who sat in favor of Jodie Meeks (seven points).

Meeks ended up logging 26 minutes, his most playing time since Dec. 12. Yet it was still not enough to give Beal some rest.

Oubre is hurt: The Wizards faced the Pacers without their best bench player, as Kelly Oubre, Jr. was a late scratch due to a sore left foot. Oubre has been dealing with left knee discomfort in recent days and has at times been playing with a band under his kneecap. Perhaps the two injuries are related.

It was the first game of the season that Oubre has missed. That leaves Beal and Gortat as the only two Wizards players who have appeared in every single game so far.

Up next: The Wizards are off Monday before continuing their homestand on Tuesday with the Miami Heat in town. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. Pregame coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Wizards HangTime.

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Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Aaron Holiday

Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Aaron Holiday

The Washington Wizards hold the 15th and 44th overall picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects projected to be picked around where the Wizards will select...

2018 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Aaron Holiday

School: UCLA
Position: Point guard
Age: 21 (turns 22 in Sept.)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 187
Wingspan: 6-8
Max vertical: 33

2017/18 stats: 20.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 5.8 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.2 bpg, 46.1 FG%, 42.9 3PT% (2.7 3PT/6.2 3PA), 82.8 FT%
Player comparison: Darren Collison
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 19th, NBADraft.net 24th, Bleacher Report 23rd, Sports Illustrated 23rd

5 things to know:

*Holiday played big minutes in all three seasons for the Bruins. As a junior, he broke out as an elite scorer, averaging 20.3 points while also dishing 5.8 assists per game. Holiday scored in a variety of ways, including at the free throw line where he averaged 5.8 attempts per game and knocked them down at 82.8 percent.

*He is a terrific three-point shooter, one of the best in this draft class based on his college numbers. He hit 42.9 percent of his shots and on 6.2 attempts per game. Holiday shot 42.2 percent from long range in his three-year college career and never shot below 41 percent in a season. He had some games where teams just couldn't stop him from long range. He made four threes or more in 13 college games. Twice he went 5-for-5 and he once made six threes against USC.

*Though he has the skillset to play off the ball as a shooting guard, his size will limit him at the NBA level. Holiday is just under 6-foot-1 in shoes and doesn't have the vertical leap to make up for it. He does, however, have a plus wingspan. At this point, Holiday seems to be solely a point guard, though as long as he's good at the position there is nothing wrong with that.

*Holiday worked out for the Wizards at Capital One Arena. He was part of their first week of predraft workouts and by all accounts had an impressive visit. He hit a lot of shots and fared well in the interview process.

*Holiday has two brothers currently in the NBA. Jrue is a former All-Star who starts at point guard for the New Orleans Pelicans. Justin is a shooting guard for the Chicago Bulls. His sister-in-law, Lauren, is a former member of the U.S. women's national soccer team.

Fit with Wizards: The Wizards already have a point guard in John Wall, so Holiday would have no long-term path to starting. That said, he would shore up a need the Wizards have been trying to address for years.

Backup point guard has been a real void for the Wizards for most of Wall's tenure. This past season they tried out all sorts of options between Tomas Satoransky, Tim Frazier, Ramon Sessions and Ty Lawson. Though Satoransky remains on the roster, the Wizards don't appear content with their depth at the position.

Holiday's ability to hit threes is very attractive to the Wizards who could conceivably play him off-the-ball alongside Wall, or even Satoransky. Given Wall (6-4) and Satoransky (6-7) are taller than most point guards, they could theoretically guard shooting guards on the other end.

Holiday would add smarts and shooting to the Wizards' bench in the short-term. In the long-term, he could help lengthen Wall's career by taking some of his workload away and also give the Wizards more options once Wall enters his 30s.

Best highlight video:

More draft prospect profiles:

Kevin Knox, PF, Kentucky

Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State

Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

Landry Shamet, PG/SG, Wichita State

Gary Trent, Jr., SG, Duke

Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, IMG Academy

Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton

Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise State

Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland

Mitchell Robinson, C, Western Kentucky

Troy Brown, SG/SF, Oregon

Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova

Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan

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Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Moritz Wagner

Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Moritz Wagner

The Washington Wizards hold the 15th and 44th overall picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects projected to be picked around where the Wizards will select...

2018 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Moritz Wagner

School: Michigan
Position: Power forward/center
Age: 21
Height: 7-0
Weight: 241
Wingspan: 7-0
Max vertical: 34

2017/18 stats: 14.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 0.8 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.5 bpg, 52.8 FG%, 39.4 3PT% (1.6 3PT/4.1 3PA), 69.4 FT%
Player comparison: Mehmet Okur
Projections: NBADraft.net 33rd, Bleacher Report 29th, Sports Illustrated 40th

5 things to know:

*Wagner is one of the best shooting big men in this class. He measured in at just about 7-feet at the NBA Combine, yet he shot nearly 40 percent from three this past year in college on 4.1 attempts per game. He projects to be a stretch-4 or stretch-5 at the next level and those guys are increasingly valuable in today's NBA.

*He had a decorated college career at Michigan as the best player on the 2017-18 team that reached the NCAA Tournament final game. They lost to Villanova, but Wagner was a driving force of one of the best years in school history. He averaged 15.0 points per game while shooting 38.5 percent from three in their six tournament games. That earned him All-Tournament honors.

*Wagner is a capable rebounder, though not a dominant force on the glass. He averaged 7.1 boards as a junior and 4.2 as a sophomore, his first year with extended minutes for the Wolverines. It doesn't seem like Wagner will be an elite rebounder at the next level, at least early on. He has the size and mobility to get boards, but will need to develop other skills to average double-digit rebounds.

*His weaknesses would include rim protection, free throw shooting and passing. Despite his size, Wagner only averaged a half-block per game this season. Though he can knock down threes, he only made 69.4 percent of his free throws. And despite being a big part of Michigan's offense, he averaged less than one assist per game. Assists aren't a major category for big men, but that is remarkably low. Marcin Gortat, for instance, averaged 1.8 assists per game in the 2017-18 season. Big men can make a significant impact with their passing if they commit to the craft and Wagner isn't exactly Nikola Jokic when it comes to setting up his teammates.

*Wagner is originally from Berlin, Germany and idolized Dirk Nowitzki growing up. It's easy to see in watching Wagner play how he has modeled parts of his game after the Mavs legend. They are of similar size and Wagner can stretch the floor with a smooth outside jumper.

Fit with Wizards: The Wizards like Wagner a lot. He impressed in his workout at Capital One Arena and would give the Wizards several things that they don't currently have.

Wagner is a mobile big man who can run the floor fairly well and has good footwork moving without the ball on the offensive end. Though he doesn't have a huge vertical leap, he can get up there and finish with power at the rim.

Most importantly, Wagner can stretch the floor and the Wizards do not have a player his size who can do that consistently. If he played center, the Wizards could roll out lineups of five players that can hit threes.

More specifically, Wagner could add a pick-and-pop element that the Wizards haven't really had in John Wall's tenure. He has had pick-and-roll partners, but no one has been able to set a screen and then reliably step out to knock down threes.

It would be a brand new dimension and it could make Wall even more dangerous, not to mention the shooters they have in Bradley Beal and Otto Porter who would then have more space to operate off the ball.

The only problem in terms of fit for Wagner and the Wizards is that he is likely to fall somewhere in between their two draft picks. They pick 15th and 44th and he is expected to go late first round or early second round.

Best highlight video:

More draft prospect profiles:

Kevin Knox, PF, Kentucky

Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State

Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

Landry Shamet, PG/SG, Wichita State

Gary Trent, Jr., SG, Duke

Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, IMG Academy

Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton

Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise State

Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland

Mitchell Robinson, C, Western Kentucky

Troy Brown, SG/SF, Oregon

Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!