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Working to show his worth, Jabari Parker provides spark in Wizards win over the Kings

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Working to show his worth, Jabari Parker provides spark in Wizards win over the Kings

No matter how the rest of the Washington Wizards season plays out, the final 16-game stretch that began Monday night with a win over the Sacramento Kings is important for Jabari Parker.

The 23-year-old power forward, who was acquired from the Chicago Bulls during the trade deadline last month, is set up for a team option of $20 million for next year. While it isn’t a given, there is a chance that Washington declines the option and Parker becomes a free agent.

Therefore, the final few weeks of the season offer Parker a chance to demonstrate his worth to Washington and potentially other NBA suitors. So while the Wizards entered Monday slipping in the race for the playoffs, the role player knows there is plenty left to fight for.

“I know for myself, I never try to skip games,” Parker said following Monday’s win. “Every time I get on the court, I try to do my best.”

Against the Kings, Parker lived up to that mindset. Finishing with 18 points, he provided energy and momentum off the bench. 

Doing most of his damage in the first half, Parker led the team in scoring through two quarters with 14 points including three made three-pointers, his second consecutive game doing so. A majority of those baskets came in during the second quarter, when the Wizards were in need of someone to step up and score.

With Bradley Beal still struggling to find his shot and dealing with some foul trouble, Sacramento began to cut into the eight-point lead Washington had built following the first 12 minutes of action. Yet as the visiting team tried to mount a run, Parker was consistently there to keep the momentum from shifting too far over to the Kings.

Parker was a one-man scoring machine to close the half. With the Wizards leading 39-28 with 8:55 remaining in the quarter, Parker would score 11 of the team’s next 14 points, including eight straight.

When his scoring outburst had concluded, the Wizards clung to just a 53-48 lead. While Washington would go into the break trailing by one point, Parker’s spark in the second allowed the team to hang close and stay within striking distance, eventually regaining the lead early in the third.

The fourth-year veteran’s solid play on Monday is just the most recent positive performance he’s put in during his short time in D.C. In his last five games, Parker has scored at least 15 points in every contest. In the month of March, he's averaging 16.8 points per game.

Parker’s future after this season may not be clear yet, but he’s continuing to make the most of his opportunity as he works to create a lasting impression. And even in the time of uncertainty, he still has his sights set on one goal in particular.

“I wanna be there, I want to play in the postseason,” Parker said. “I don’t have any kids, don’t have any obligations but basketball right now.”

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Bradley Beal's dominant scoring run ends as Jazz finally prove he is 'not Superman'

Bradley Beal's dominant scoring run ends as Jazz finally prove he is 'not Superman'

WASHINGTON -- Bradley Beal probably said it best himself after the Wizards' 116-95 loss to the Utah Jazz on Monday night, the first time in three games he had not scored 40 points. 

"I’m not going to score 40 points every night," he said. "I’m not Superman.”

For a few days there, that was easy to forget. Beal had been the basketball equivalent of a superhero, with two 40-point games, and with seven threes or more in each of them, all in a span of about 26 hours.

On Monday, though, he met his match in the Jazz, who boast one of the elite defenses in the NBA. They are physical and cohesive and have the personnel to take away all three scoring levels.

Usually, if the perimeter is swarmed, Beal can attack in the midrange or at the rim. But the presence of Rudy Gobert, the 2017-18 defensive player of the year, limited his options. 

Gobert can block layups and dunks but also extend to close out on jumpers well beyond the lane. He has a 7-foot-9 wingspan and quick hands that allow him to alter many shots throughout the course of a game.

What the Jazz did to Beal is increasingly rare. After making threes in a career-high 47 straight games, he went 0-for-3 against Utah.

Beal hadn't gone without a three since Dec. 3. His 47 games were tied for the 29th-longest streak in NBA history.

Beal scoring only 15 points is also not something we see often. That is about half of what he had averaged in the previous 21 games (29.9), equal to a quarter of the season.

He entered the game averaging 26.2 on the year overall. Only four times in 71 games this season has he been held to 15 points or fewer. And this was the first time all season he has scored 15 or fewer points with zero threes. 

Gobert gave the Jazz security on the back-end, but much of the credit for stopping Beal goes to Joe Ingles, Donovan Mitchell, Royce O'Neale and Ricky Rubio.

Ingles, in particular, hassled him all over the court. Ingles is three inches taller and is no stranger to defensive dirty work. He never let Beal out of his sight and bumped him as they ran all over the floor. When Ingles was out of the game, O'Neale replicated his approach.

Rubio and Mitchell do not have the size advantage, but they have quick feet and were committed to getting low and close to Beal whenever he touched the ball. When he went up for shots, they reached out to block his sight.

Beal said that was done more times on Monday night than in any game he's played in many years.

"They face guarded me the whole game," Beal said. "Not since high school [had it been done that often]."

The Jazz also made a consistent effort to pick Beal up quickly at the start of Wizards possessions. Beal said he would have a defender immediately after the Jazz shot the ball. Whether it was a make or a miss, they wanted to know where Beal was at all times.

When Beal did get past his defender, the Jazz clamped him with double-teams. 

"You're not going to guard a player of his caliber with one guy, so I think we had a good awareness," Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said.

On their double-teams, the Jazz closed quickly enough to affect his passes. Beal finished with only two assists. 

Usually when teams double him, Beal can make them pay by setting up his teammates, but not in this game. Plus, no one stepped up to shoulder the scoring load. No Wizards players reached 20 points on the night and the team shot 29.6 percent from three.

With John Wall and Dwight Howard injured, and a roster full of players who haven't been here long, the Wizards need Beal to be at his best to win. Sometimes even when he is at his best, they still lose. On Friday, in the first of his 40-point games, the Wizards lost to the Hornets.

Many teams have tried to stop Beal, to cut off the head of the snake. Many have failed. The Jazz were one of the few teams to succeed.

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    Donovan Mitchell's Jazz roll past Wizards with 21-point thumping

    Donovan Mitchell's Jazz roll past Wizards with 21-point thumping

    The Washington Wizards lost to the Utah Jazz 116-95 on Monday night. Here are five observations from the game...

    1. The Washington Wizards, despite their injuries, have proven at least good enough to compete with most teams in recent weeks, and especially when playing at home. Against only a select few opponents have they been completely over-matched to the point of a blowout.

    Monday against the Utah Jazz was one of those games. The Jazz served a humbling reminder to Washington, who had won three of four entering the match-up, that they are an above average NBA team and the Wizards most certainly are not. 

    The Jazz held the Wizards to only 95 points. Washington shot 42 percent overall and 29.6 percent from three.

    The Wizards were held to under 30 points and outscored in all four quarters. It was a thorough beatdown. Now the Wizards head to Chicago to begin a back-to-back set with the Bulls on Wednesday. 

    2. Apparently the Jazz didn't want Bradley Beal to drop 40 on them.

    After he posted two straight games with 40 points and seven-plus threes apiece, the Jazz overloaded on Beal to prevent any of that from happening again. As one of the NBA's best defensive teams, they had the tools to hold him in check, at least to an extent.

    Beal was held to 15 points and to zero threes. That snapped a career-best streak of 47 straight games with at least one triple. 

    Utah made it tough on him with physical perimeter play headed by Joe Ingles, Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio. They harassed him and when he got a step, others closed in for double teams.

    Attacking the rim was basically not an option for Beal, either, with Rudy Gobert lurking in the lane. The reigning defensive player of the year had 14 rebounds and two blocks to go along with 14 points.

    The only good news about Beal's night is that he played 31 minutes. He could use the rest.

    3. No one would mistake the Wizards for being a good defense, but usually they at least know who they should try to stop. Most often, they will sell out to guard the players they should, just to no avail.

    But on Monday, they appeared to completely overlook Ingles and his ability to knock down threes. Ingles went off for 16 points with four assists in 24 minutes. He shot 4-for-8 from three, many of them wide open looks.

    The Wizards just didn't close out and he made them pay.

    4. It was another night of microwave buckets for Jabari Parker. He came off the bench and quickly got hot with 10 points and five rebounds in his first 11 minutes. He finished with 19 points and shot 8-for-13.

    Seeing Parker do this against the Jazz was interesting because they might be a good fit for him this offseason. Assuming the Wizards back out of his team option and he becomes a free agent, Utah is a team that needs another scorer and theoretically could use a guy like him. Parker also happens to be of Mormon faith, which is why others have made the connection between him and Utah in the past.

    The Wizards, of course, may want to keep Parker, depending on how the rest of this season goes and his asking price. But the Jazz would make a lot of sense for him.

    5. Though Parker was a standout, at least early, the rest of the bench was not. The Jazz had a 55-44 edge in bench scoring and showed why their depth is part of what makes them so good.

    Jae Crowder went off for 18 points and five boards. Kyle Korver added 10 points and shot 3-for-6 from three.

    Meanwhile, on the Wizards, Troy Brown Jr. had a rough night with two points (1-6 FG). And Thomas Bryant wasn't himself with five points and five rebounds.

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