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Takeaways from Wizards' blowout win over Brooklyn Nets

Takeaways from Wizards' blowout win over Brooklyn Nets

Entering the game, John Wall’s availability had been in doubt because of a migraine headache. Friday, he gave the Brooklyn Nets one as the Wizards swept the season series to move a step closer to officially clinching their third playoff berth in four seasons.

Wall (22 points, nine assists, four rebounds) exited with exactly two minutes left in the third quarter with them up 89-73 and didn’t return in a 129-108 victory. 

Bradley Beal (19 points),  Ian Mahinmi (16 points, seven rebounds), Brandon Jennings (18 points, nine assists) and Bojan Bogdanovic (17 points) also reached double figures in a game in which coach Scott Brooks was able to cut the minutes of all of his starters.

Jeremy Lin (14 points) got Brooklyn out to a fast start for a 13-4 lead after a jumper from Brook Lopez (six points) but that advantage was eroded quickly. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (19 points) led them in scoring.

The Wizards (44-28) last trailed 21-20 in the first quarter and then went on a 30-8 run as Brooklyn (15-57) shot just 16 of 42, or 38.1%, in the first half.

The Wizards led by as many as 28 points in the first half and emptied their bench by the start of the fourth quarter.

--Mahinmi’s defense vs. Lopez, who can spread the floor to the three-point arc, took the pressure off Marcin Gortat (eight points, nine rebounds). He’s more comfortable defending away from the rim and was able to force Lopez into turnovers by timing his sweepthrough move with the ball and not foul. Mahinmi had four steals through three quarters. He had a career-high seven recently vs. the Phoenix Suns.

--The defensive slippage showed itself again in the third for Washington. The Nets shot 16 of 22 from the field, or 72.7%, and scored 39 points led by Hollis-Jefferson’s 13 points. He made 6 of 7 shots and Isaiah Whitehead (10 points) was 3-for-3.  Fortunately for the Wizards, they scored 34 to reduce the impact and made 14 of 25 shots, or 56%.

--Wall and Beal each played just 24 minutes, the most of any starter. Otto Porter (five points) logged 21 minutes followed by Markieff Morris (five points) with 20 and Gortat’s 18 minutes. With a game Saturday at the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were in a tough battle with the Charlotte Hornets on Friday.

--This was Bogdanovic’s first game against his old team after he was sent to Washington at the trade deadline. But the Wizards also saw Andrew Nicholson (six points) for the first time. He was included in the deal and wasn’t in the rotation anymore and only played during garbage time for Brooklyn. He made his first two shots.

--Kelly Oubre (nine points) continued his rise and appears to be out of his late-season slump. He harassed Lin early and helped set a better defensive tone. He also had a highlight-reel dunk off a feed from Jennings late in the fourth to punctuate it. He’ll likely see some time on Kyrie Irving on Saturday.

--The Wizards have 29 home wins which is the most in the East. Their next five games, however, are on the road. 

[RELATED: Markieff Morris on his slump, looking ahead to first playoffs]

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Morning tip: What has changed for Otto Porter since All-Star break?

Morning tip: What has changed for Otto Porter since All-Star break?

All of Otto Porter's numbers post-All-Star break have taken a dip, especially his accuracy from three-point range for the Wizards.

The assumption -- and typical explanations -- made are to be expected at this time of year. Porter has played in 71 games and is averaging a career-high 33.6 minutes therefore he's tired.

He very well could be. Last season, he complained to John Wall about feeling worn down two months into an 82-game season. 

But to dumb down Porter's struggles to something that every starter in the NBA experiences ignores the more nuanced reasons for the dip in his play. He's a priority on the scouting reports, and he's not being left open for clean threes and he's being closed out and forced to put the ball on the floor to finish which isn't a strength of his game. 

To match apples with apples, this is a look at how the same team covered Porter early in the season vs. how they reacted to him later when he elevated himself as the most accurate three-point shooter in the league:

Porter had all kinds of open space back in November, when the Celtics relied on late closeouts on recovery to contest him on the three-point look (3 of 5). That didn't work out too well as Porter set a career-high with 34 points and grabbed 14 rebounds because he was able to swoop in unmarked to grab extra possessions.

Now compare that coverage to what he saw earlier this week from Jae Crowder. Before he catches the ball the defense shifts towards him. Crowder fights through a flare screen and takes away his three-point look. Teams want to make Porter put it on the floor and finish off the dribble. Even if he makes it, they take away the three and force a two-point attempt. Porter had just eight points and missed all three of his long balls.

When Porrter is off the ball, he doesn't always have the same real estate to roam, find a soft spot in the defense to catch and shoot. This is what a frame of how he was defended by Crowder even when not on the ball. The defender is staying home more often.

These shifts in coverage were happening before mid-February. It's just that the results are more pronounced now.

Porter  averaged 15.6 points on 53.4% field-goal shooting, including 46.6% from three, in 55 appearances before the break.

Since then, he's at 11.8 points on 46.5% shooting, including 35% from long range, in 16 games.  He has gone scoreless in a game and scored just two points in another.

[RELATED: Film study: Wizards' most frequent mistakes]

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Film study: Most common mistakes Wizards continue to make

Film study: Most common mistakes Wizards continue to make

The 104-100 win against Atlanta Hawks, who led the Wizards by as many as 14 points on Wednesday, was full of missed opportunities that were common in losses to the Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets and Dallas Mavericks.

In this one game alone, the Wizards made these mistakes multiple times and it's where they have to clean up if they want a winning record on a five-game road trip that begins Saturday at the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

Help rotations

They're completely busted more often than not, and in this one Otto Porter gets beaten as he recovers to the ball. Taurean Prince gets an unobstructed view at the rim and it's on Marcin Gortat to leave Dwight Howard to stop him. Instead he stays with Howard. The only chance the Wizards have at stopping this layup is for Gortat to help. If he blocks it, the ball either goes out of bounds and the Hawks have to reset and earn two points the harder way. Or maybe the ball stays inbounds and the Wizards collect it. Regardless of what happens, just allowing this straight-line drive can't be allowed. If Howard gets it and puts it back, so be it. At least that requires another effort by Atlanta to score. Howard can mishandle the rebound, miss the dunk or get fouled and be forced to make the foul shots. 

First-side shots

Too many possesions begin and end like this. The ball doesn't move and the ballhandler, in this case John Wall, takes the shot after dribbling out the shot clock. When the Wizards were playing their best going 18-3 into the All-Star break, these plays were non-existent. They're better when they run motion, rip screen and down screen for each other and go away from the pick-and-roll as the first option. This puts the defense on the move, into switches and recovery. Then the Wizards would hit them with the pick-and-roll while in scramble mode of the intial action didn't produce a good look. Going to it as option one, unless there's a major mismatch that can be exploited, isn't as productive. 

[RELATED: Wizards' Brooks has little sympathy in NBA rest debate]

Open-court execution

How many times have you seen the Wizards deny a possession, force a bad shot or get the steal like Bradley Beal here, get in the open court for a 3-on-1 and end up with this? The passing, spacing and finishing just aren't there. They ended up getting fouled but this should be an easy momentum-building play. 

Running crisp sets

John Wall attacks the basket but really doesn't have a seam. He ends up too far under the basket and has to loft up a prayer. His teammates didn't run this set with much zest. They don't make themselves available on spot-ups either so there are no other options. Wall is playing at one speed. They're all one speed slower.

Clumsy outlets/inbounding

Getting these stolen have become a bad habit. Defenders are trying to slow down the ball so they're staying at home on Wall to prevent him from getting a full sprint. Throwing quick outlet passes after a miss or trying to get a quick inbound to push the pace is what the Wizards are supposed to do. But the inbounder has to survey the floor before first and the guard receiving the ball has to communicate with him, too, if he spots a spy trying to jump the ball.

Late/confused switching

They have to be more aggressive by not allowing too much space when swapping players they must defend, particularly on handoffs. Switching is what must be done because handoffs are effectively screens if executed properly. To stop the ballhandler from going downhill at full speed, a switch has to occur. Any hesitation or delay creates a path to the rim or puts you in a position where you end up fouling. Markieff Morris, who has been limited by a sinus infection recently and mutliple bouts of early foul trouble, has gotten sent to the bench early because of it. 

[RELATED: Beal thinks Wizards got their swag back vs. Hawks]