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Wizards' road troubles reach new low with another loss to Cavaliers

Wizards' road troubles reach new low with another loss to Cavaliers

The Washington Wizards lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers 116-113 on Tuesday night. Here are five observations from the game...

1. The Wizards can’t win on the road this season and, yes, that also means in Cleveland.

The Cavs may have the worst record in the NBA, but they swept the Wizards this year at Quicken Loans Arena. Neither game was really that close. Though the Wizards stormed back on Tuesday night, they trailed by as many as 25 points and didn't show life until garbage time.

Given how poorly their regular rotation played, the loss represented a dose of reality for the Wizards, the type that raises questions about all that momentum they had recently built. It was the type of defeat that makes things slightly less certain with a week-plus left before the trade deadline. 

The Wizards are now 6-20 on the road this season. They lost 21 road games all of last year. If they don't sort this out, the playoffs will be tough to achieve.

The good news is that the Wizards have a game the very next night. It is against a tough Pacers team, still formidable without Victor Oladipo, but they have a chance to put this loss behind them quickly. Keep in mind they are 6-2 in the second game of back-to-backs.

2. The starters deserve little credit for this game being decided by three points. It was all the back end of their bench as the Cavs built a lead to 25 points midway through the fourth quarter. Head coach Scott Brooks then turned to a motley crew led by Jordan McRae and Gary Payton II.

The young guys brought hunger and energy to the floor and quickly chipped away at the deficit, bringing the game to within three for a final possession with 11 seconds remaining. The Wizards, though, failed to get a shot off as Troy Brown Jr. lost the ball in a trap.

Ideally, the ball would have made it into McRae's hands, but it didn't and the Wizards fell just short of what would have been an epic comeback.

3. Apparently the polar vortex has also affected Otto Porter Jr. This is now four straight games where his shot has not been falling.

He labored through a 5-for-12 night against Cleveland. He shot 1-for-5 from three and had only 11 points. 

Over his last four games, Porter is averaging 10.3 points while shooting 31.3 percent from the field (16-for-51) and 24 percent from three (6-for-25). It's hard for the Wizards to win with their injury-depleted roster if Porter plays like that.

4. Tristan Thompson didn’t even play due to injury, yet the Wizards still couldn’t compete on the glass. They were out-done 48-to-36 in the rebounding department. Ante Zizic had 12 boards and Larry Nance Jr. had 11.

The Wizards are 11-0 this season when they out-rebound their opponents. But now they are 10-29 in games in which they don’t.

The Wizards have struggled with rebounding all season, but not being able to take advantage of Thompson’s absence is a serious indictment.

5. Thomas Bryant didn’t have his best game in this one. He had five points and eight rebounds and shot 1-for-5.

Bryant, though, knocked down a three in the first half and is now 14-for-35 from long range on the season, good enough for 40 percent. That’s not a ton of attempts, but he has done an excellent job of being selective with his outside shots.

When the Wizards acquired Bryant, he appeared to have potential as an outside shooter based on his college and G-League numbers. So far, his shot has come along nicely.

Bryant continues to impress at just 21 years old. He is going to be a fascinating case this summer if he hits restricted free agency. Though he hasn't had a large sample size, someone will probably want to take a flier on him, given his age and athleticism.

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Despite place in standings, Wizards believe playoffs aren't a pipe dream

Despite place in standings, Wizards believe playoffs aren't a pipe dream

WASHINGTON -- This may be the most realistic and self-aware Wizards team we have seen in a while. It wasn't long ago they had a penchant for talking big about what they believed they could accomplish. Nowadays, knowing where they are in the standings, their expectations are much more measured.

They know they are 12th in the Eastern Conference, even after beating the Pistons on Monday. They know their 14-28 record, which is 14 games under .500 and has them on pace to win 27 total games, isn't good.

But the Wizards are allowed to dream and they say making the playoffs is still something they would like to do.

"That's the goal, that's every day for us. [It's] in the back of my mind," shooting guard Bradley Beal said.

"I watch the games, I watch the standings and everything. We're not talking about it," head coach Scott Brooks said. "If that comes into play [we'll see]. The seventh and eighth seeds, the records aren't great."

There is certainly a case for that. The two teams currently occupying the bottom two playoff spots in the East have sub-.500 records. The seventh-ranked Magic are 20-23 and the Brooklyn Nets are in eighth with an 18-24 mark.

Last season, the Charlotte Hornets held up the Eastern Conference playoff bracket with a losing record as the eighth seed. They went 39-43, not good but still a much better pace than the Wizards are currently on. To win 39 games, they would have to go 25-16 the rest of the way.

Though they have shown some positive signs, going 4-4 in their last eight games, that would require going to a completely different level in the second half of the season. Still, there is no harm in maintaining their goals.

Beal, for one, has envisioned a way it can happen.

"Especially once All-Star hits, that second half is just flying. We have to tighten up and try to get some wins here before the break because that's usually the time when teams like to ease off the pedal a little bit. We have to take advantage of [that], that advantage of our schedule, take care of our bodies, and rally together," he said.

If the Wizards really, really wanted to go for the playoffs, they could try to add some pieces before the Feb. 6 trade deadline. But that should not be expected. In fact, this year's deadline for the Wizards likely won't be affected much at all by the playoff picture.

It's hard to envision them being buyers and they may not be able to be true sellers, either, due to injuries and other factors. Also, there is a belief in the front office that keeping a close distance in the playoff race could be a nice incentive for their young players, that having something to work for later in the season could help their development.

If the Wizards did somehow make the playoffs or even get close, that would be quite the surprise and it would say a lot about the direction of the organization. But in the long-term, it would seem to be more beneficial if they continue on their current course and end up with a top draft pick.

The Wizards right now have the fifth-worst record in the league. That would net them a lot of ping-pong balls for the draft lottery.

It seems likely that's where this season will end. But it doesn't hurt to try.

"We just want to play. We just want to finish the second half of the season playing better," Brooks said.

The Wizards are only 4 1/2 games back in the playoff race. Stranger things have happened.

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Yu Darvish lauds Rui Hachimura for 'exceptional' accomplish playing in the NBA

Yu Darvish lauds Rui Hachimura for 'exceptional' accomplish playing in the NBA

Rui Hachimura has attracted the best athletes Japan has to offer in his rookie season in the NBA. 

From Shohei Ohtani to Naomi Osaka, Hachimura has impressed both on and off the floor, including Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish. He stopped by to see Hachimura's Wizards beat the Pistons Monday. 

"That's right," Darvish said to the Wizards' Japanese website. "We are going to dinner after the game so I stopped by."

Darvish and Hachimura are represented by the same agency and are two of the biggest Japanese stars in American sports. Darvish has had two down years with the Cubs in 2018 and 2019, but he's still considered one of the best pitchers to ever come out of Japan. 

Hachimura, while sidelined with a groin injury, flashed plenty of potential as a rookie for the Wizards. Before going down, he was averaging 13.9 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 48.2 percent. 

Darvish admitted he didn't know much about basketball, not even what stats are good to use. But he only cares that Hachimura is having fun. 

Selected with the ninth pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Hachimura became the first Japanese born player to be drafted in the top-10. Japan has produced a number of great baseball players but hasn't been able to produce as many hoopers. 

"You don't have to be tall or big to play baseball," Darvish said. "But when it comes to basketball, you have to be tall and athletic and contribute to the team on a nightly basis. I think what he's accomplishing is more exceptional."

Scott Brooks isn't sure if Hachimura will return before the beginning of February and the team has yet to provide a timetable beyond that. Hopefully, we'll see him back on the floor soon because an entire country outside of the US is watching and can't get enough. 

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