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Takeaways from Wizards' win over Bulls to extend home streak

Takeaways from Wizards' win over Bulls to extend home streak

This looked like a repeat of what happened almost a year ago, when the Wizards were desperately trying to get over .500 and went to play the depleted Chicago Bulls only to lose. They overcame an 18-point deficit Tuesday to win 101-99 in a game that was much harder than it should’ve been and saved by consecutive jumpers from John Wall.

The Bulls (19-20) were without Jimmy Butler (illness), Dwyane Wade (scheduled rest), and Nikola Mirotic (illness). That didn’t prevent them from getting out to a blazing start fueled by 13 first-half turnovers from Washington (19-18).

Wall (26 points, 14 assists) posted his 23rd double-double, followed by Bradley Beal (19 points), Markieff Morris (19 points), Otto Porter (11 points) and Marcin Gortat (10 points, 12 rebounds). Wall's jump shot with 47.4 seconds tied the score at 99 and at 5.9 seconds set the final margin as the Wizards lead the season series 2-1 with one meeting left vs. Chicago.

For Chicago, Denzel Valentine (19 points) came off the bench to make 5 of 11 three-pointers to set his career-high, followed by Michael Carter-Williams (14 points), Bobby Portis (13 points, seven rebounds), Robin Lopez (14 points, six rebounds), Taj Gibson (10 points, 12 rebounds) and Rajon Rondo (12 points, six assists)

The Wizards gave up 36 first-quarter points and trailed 61-49 at halftime. They went on a 32-16 run in the third to get back on top but a pair of three-point shots from Portis and Valentine put the Bulls back up 92-85 with 7:35 left.

Before Morris fouled out with four minutes left for Washington, he'd made a pair of three-point shots and had a steal and putback in transition for a 95-92 lead to set the stage. Lopez's two foul shots gave the Bulls a 99-97 lead but the Wall took over from there to close out their third win in a row.

-- Rondo had been 1-for-16 shooting in the first two games vs. the Wizards. He’d been parked on the bench by coach Fred Hoiberg in the previous five games too, losing his starting job to Carter-Williams. Inexplicably, the Wizards were going over the screen on the picks, allowing Rondo to get into the paint and find teammates for easy looks. Instead, the Wizards need to go under, clog the paint to take away the lane and force him into shots he can’t make which is almost everything that isn’t going to the rim. Rondo had eight points and five assists in 13 first-half minutes.

-- With Lopez and Gibson, the Bulls go hard on the offensive glass to clean up misses. That allowed the Wizards to get out in transition for 26 fast-break points. They had 32 in the last meeting.

-- The worst three-point shooting team in the NBA at 31.6%, the Bulls shot 80% in the first half (8-for-10) as Valentine made 4 of 5 and Portis 2-for-2. But a better effort to close out those shooters led the Bulls going 0-for-9 from deep in the third quarter when the Wizards made a run to regain the lead 81-77. Jason Smith and Kelly Oubre, in particular, played a role in that.

--The reserves for the Wizards took a step back. Sheldon McClellan (0 points) was responsible for Rondo’s early flurry as he went over unnecessarily on the screens. Smith (seven points, six rebounds), however, was the best of the bunch. He had modest numbers, but his three points, four rebounds and block in the third quarter factored into the comeback.

--Foul trouble remains an issue for Morris who picked up his fourth foul at 6:32 of the third quarter trying to take a charge from Carter-Williams. He got his third at 9:05 of the second quarter because he got too close to a non-shooter in Rondo and fouled him on the blow by. When Morris fouled out, he cleared out Gibson with an elbow as he tried to sweep through to make an offensive move. He lasted just 22 minutes.

RELATED: McClellan earns trust of Wizards' coaching staff

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All signs point towards Boston Celtics being major players in NBA free agency, trade market

All signs point towards Boston Celtics being major players in NBA free agency, trade market

The Boston Celtics have what some might call an embarrassment of riches between a deep roster that made the Eastern Conference Finals, many draft picks - including this year's No. 1 - and money to spend in free agency. According to multiple reports, they plan to go big this offseason as they aim to reach the next level.

CSNNE's A. Sherrod Blakely reported on Friday that Boston wants to acquire another star in free agency or by trade. Here is what he wrote:

Multiple league sources have told CSNNE.com in recent weeks that the Celtics are focused on landing an All-Star caliber talent in the frontcourt.

That should add legs to the rumors they will pursue Gordon Hayward this summer. An All-Star small forward, Hayward will be one of the top free agents available and happened to play in college under Celtics coach Brad Stevens.

[RELATED: Lonzo Ball turned down Celtics, but will listen to... Sixers?]

Also set to hit the open market will be other frontcourt stars like Blake Griffin and Paul Millsap. But they could acquire one via trade with guys like Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Carmelo Anthony already having been linked to them in rumors over the past few months.

All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas, for one, seems to want his Celtics to go the free agency route and he is ready to make a recruiting pitch. This is what he told ESPN:

"We need the best possible player that's gonna help us win, and I'm with that," Thomas said. "Anything Danny [Ainge] and this organization need me to do to help bring even more talent to this city, I'm all for that. I want to win a championship and being so close to getting to the Finals, that makes you want it that much more."

The Celtics are in an enviable spot with many ways to get better this offseason. And running the show is one of the best GMs in the business in Ainge. 

Acquiring stars is easier said than done, but the Celtics look like the team to watch this summer as they appear ready to get very aggressive in trying to improve. The Wizards will certainly be paying attention as they do their own work to get better.

[RELATED: Durant says don't blame him for lopsided NBA Playoffs]

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Scott Brooks proved a great fit in his first year with the Wizards

Scott Brooks proved a great fit in his first year with the Wizards

If you had doubts about the 2016-17 Wizards once they flumped out to a 2-8 start back in November, you weren't the only one. Head coach Scott Brooks will even admit, that as confident as he and his team remained during that early season tumble, it wasn't easy.

"The thing that I look back at, is that the start was tough. Let's face it," he said. "We were 2-8 and I didn't really know what I was getting into."

What happened after those 10 games might be Brooks' greatest achievement in his first year in charge of the Wizards. Washington went 14-8 to get back to .500 and then never really looked back. From January 6 until the All-Star break, the Wizards won 18 of 21 games and firmly established themselves as one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.

Brooks recalls those trying times with an appreciation for how his team responded. John Wall was coming off two knee surgeries and limited by a minutes restriction. The Wizards had turned over most of their 15-man roster. And Brooks was installing a new system with the help of a new coaching and training staff.

Yet, they ultimately righted the ship and put in the best season for the Wizards/Bullets franchise since 1978-79.

"The thing that I really appreciated is that our guys really stuck together, kept believing in one another and kept believing in our system and wanted to keep working for each other," Brooks said. "And our fans stayed with us. That's not always easy to do, either."

[RELATED: Scott Brooks knows one area of Wizards' offense that can improve]

A lot can be leanred through difficult times and Wizards players didn't need long to find out what Brooks was about. Through that dreadful start, he remained steady and never panicked. That resolve did not go unnoticed.

"Just to never quit. Even when we were going through tough times, all of us - the coaching staff, video staff and players - we all came together," Wall said. "We all came in and kept working. Never point the finger at anybody. He always gave us courage and told us that we can compete through anything, through adversity.

The adversity didn't end once they recovered from the 2-8 start. There were other times where Brooks had to bring out what Bradley Beal once described as his "dark side." Often, it would come out at halftime and almost always because of his team's defensive effort.

Brooks is gracious and affable to the media and fans, and is easily to get along with for players as well. But he can set players straight when he needs to with intensity and a fire to win.

"He made us a better defensive team when we showed it and when we didn't, he let us know," Wall said.

The best coaches can find a balance between those sides, to have players generally like them but also dread making them angry. Beal summed up Brooks' approach well.

"I think as a team we respect him," Beal explained. "On the outside of coaching, he's a really down-to-earth guy. He has a relationship with everyone on the team. I think everybody loves that. He holds everybody accountable. Me, I loved him. He granted everybody confidence and freedom on both ends of the floor, especially offense. At the same time, he knows when to have fun and when to be serious... I think we did a good job responding to him whenever he got on us about things."

[RELATED: Will John Wall help recruit free agents to Wizards?]

Brooks, 51, signed a five-year contract worth $35 million to coach the Wizards last April. He replaced Randy Wittman, a coach who had led the Wizards twice to the second round of the playoffs, but missed the postseason entirely in his last year before getting fired. Brooks got the Wizards back to the second round, and by losing in Game 7, took them one game further than they had been in decades.

Over and over during his first season, Brooks was effusive in praising his players and the bright future ahead of them. He loves the opportunity to coach young and improving players like Wall, Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris and others.

He says working with the players is part of what he missed most in his one year off after the Oklahoma City Thunder fired him following the 2014-15 season.

"I love this game. I missed everything. When you sit out, you enjoy having time spent with your family and you get to do things that you don't normally get to do during an NBA season. I appreciated that year off and I appreciate being with them, but I missed the competition. I missed being around the players. The players, when you have a good group of guys, you love to come to work. You come to work excited and you have enthusiasm for the day. That's one thing that I missed. When you're not on the bus going to a game, that's not a good feeling. It's great when you have a group of guys that are committed to winning every game. That's fun and something that I don't want to be without," he said.

Brooks is back where he belongs coaching an NBA team. And through one year, so far so good.

[RELATED: 10 best games of the Wizards' 2016-17 season]