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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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Film study: Wizards put forth best 48 minutes of defense this season

Film study: Wizards put forth best 48 minutes of defense this season

You can have effort and hustle on defense, but without smarts and proper communication, it's all just wasted energy. The Portland Trail Blazers aren't a good team record-wise, but they have two elite scorers in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum who gave the Wizards fits in sweeping them last season. 

They'd recently beaten the Cleveland Cavaliers by 16 points, but the Wizards had their best defensive showing for 48 minutes of the season. 

The evidence:

The pick-and-roll action between Lillard and Mason Plumlee leaves much to be desired. Wall uses lock-and-trail technique to take away the three-point shot. Lillard gives it up to Plumlee being defended by Marcin Gortat. Markieff Morris digs in to help prevent a clean layup, forcing the ball out to Al-Farouq Aminu. Quickly, Morris jumps out to prevent the clean look by a solid three-point shooter and Gortat is behind him in support. Where Plumlee is standing during all of this, he's not a threat. As Aminu can't turn his shoulders square to the rim for a finish, he tries a pass out to Plumlee on a bad angle which makes Morris' steal an easy one.

Bradley Beal does the same on McCollum. He locks and trails around the screen from Plumlee. This technique allows the guard to recover provided he stays low, absorbs contact from screener and has support from the big to stop the ball until recovery. Unfortunately for the Blazers, Plumlee isn't a spread five. Him being this high allows Gortat double the ball and not have to vacate his spot. Beal can get the strip from behind.

Otto Porter is following Mo Harkless as he curls into the paint but doesn't allow him to turn into the rim. Lillard cuts baseline and it appears Porter is destined to collide with Wall, which creates an open look. They switch out and Lillard is forced to take a contested fade on a 6-8 small forward with long arms. This isn't a complicated play, but the kind of play earlier this season that the Wizards would defend well but not finish the possession because they'd relax thinking the play was over by stopping Harkless.

Kelly Oubre was on the ball with Lillard but gets screened off. Tomas Satoransky makes the switch, bodies up Lillard as he tries to turn the corner to the rim which slows him. Markieff Morris leaves Aminu in support to smother the ball. That's a 6-7 guard and a 6-10 big and the baseline serving as a third defender. When Lillard figures out he took it one step too deep before passing back out to Aminu, it's too late. It's a turnover. 

Meyers Leonard screens Oubre to get Lillard free vs. Gortat. Using the sideline, Gortat moves his feet and is aggressive in keeping him pinned until Oubre can recover underneath to the ball. Also see how Gortat is physical with Leonard, giving him a left stiff arm to take away any possibility that he can roll to the basket. By the time Lillard tries to shoot, the 6-7 Oubre, who has a 7-2 wingspan, is in his face to contest and it's a brick.  

Beal gets his hands out of the cookie jar, knowing Lillard likes to sweep through to force contact on his arms and draw a whistle (a smart, legal play). Anticipating he'd get that contact that never came, Lillard elevated and realized there'd be no whistle. He makes an emergency pass out to Allen Crabbe who swings it to Aminu. Also note, Oubre immediately shades Crabbe to his left hand. He doesn't dribble and finish well in that direction. Aminu goes at Morris who doesn't allow him to get to the rim or square for a decent shot. The Wizards gang rebound to get out in transition. Lillard puts up no resistance as Wall goes end to end. 

Wall stays connected to Lillard through the first screen from Jake Layman. He anticipates the pin down coming from Plumlee on the reversal and tries to go over the top, but Lillard breaks off his route and tries to cut across the lane to fill the opposite slot for a potential three. Porter switches with Wall as a result, but see what Gortat does to allow Porter to get into position. He won't allow Lillard to run freely into his spot for a catch-and-shoot. He doesn't hold him, which would be illegal, but interrupts his route. That throws off the timing and Crabbe has to send the ball back to Layman, now being covered by Wall who has to deal with a third screen set by Plumlee. He gets the strip from behind for a breakaway.

Wall hops into the ball to take away Plumlee's screen. This forces Lillard to make the read to drive away from the screen, but Gortat is there. What makes this easier – again – is Plumlee's positioning and that Lillard doesn't temper his speed. He's going too fast, rendering Plumlee a non-factor, rather than manipulating the spacing and putting pressure on the Gortat to make a decision to stop the dive or double-team the ball.  It's 1 vs. 2, a turnover and a runout for Beal.

MORE WIZARDS: AFTER BEST GAME OF CAREER, TOMAS SATORANSKY HAS HIS CONFIDENCE BACK

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After best game of career, Wizards' Satoransky has his confidence back

After best game of career, Wizards' Satoransky has his confidence back

Tomas Satoransky has had a tumultuous few weeks. After getting zero minutes in 13 of 18 games from Dec. 2 through Jan. 8, the Wizards rookie fell ill. An hour before their game on Jan. 10 against the Bulls, Satoransky packed his bag at the Verizon Center, wished his teammates good luck and went home. He remained there the next day as the Wizards traveled to Boston to play the Celtics.

Satoransky's nascent NBA career had hit a lowpoint. He was out of the rotation completely and now not even with the team, instead resting and watching on TV. That was not how he envisioned his first season going.

But once Satoransky started feeling better, he returned to practice revitalized. Head coach Scott Brooks saw a renewed focus.

"He came back from the flu and had a good practice four or five days ago, a couple of good shootarounds. He was active," Brooks said.

That led to Satoransky earning 21 minutes of action on Jan. 14, his first game back after being sick. That was his most minutes in nearly two months, and Satoransky made the most of them. He scored four points and grabbed four rebounds against the Sixers, showing enough to Brooks to receive another opportunity on Monday afternoon against the Blazers.

It was in that next game that Satoransky had a personal breakthrough. The Czech-native posted his first career double-double with 10 points and a career-high 10 rebounds.

"This number really surprised me because I'm not known for grabbing rebounds as a point guard. [Double-double], that surprised me a lot," Satoransky admitted.

[RELATED: 5 must-see moments from Wizards' win over Blazers]

Satoransky shot 4-for-7 from the field, made a three, dished out three assists and had one steal. It was his best game as an NBA player and with that came a pretty good feeling afterwards.

"I got my confidence back," Satoransky said. "I was kind of struggling with that. Obviously, once you are not in the rotation you lose your confidence. You don't want to. I'm glad the last two games have gone well for us. It helped me to feel good again."

Satoransky, 25, said his confidence was built early by making his first three shots and contributing to a few stops on the defensive end. He and the Wizards bench helped maintain a double-digit lead against the Blazers, something they haven't always been able to do this season, and Satoransky was making plays.

"I thought he made some good decisions in the open court. He gives us another live body that we can throw out there," Brooks said.

"I'm definitely well-aware, especially as a [former] backup point guard, that that's a tough position. You can have a lead and if things don't go well then it's always your fault. I've been in that position for over a decade. So my job is to continue to give him confidence. I trust when he's on the floor. He just doesn't get a lot of minutes. We have a really, really good point guard in front of him. But I like what he's doing. I like what he's going in practice."

Satoransky had a great day, but there was one error that stuck with him following the game. In the closing seconds, he reared back for a towering dunk, but got too much rim and saw the ball bounce out. He nearly put a Blazers defender on a poster, but walked away with merely a missed opportunity, one that he wished he had back.

"The guys always talk to me, saying I'm going to dunk in the warmup and at practice, but I'm not doing it in a game. So, I really wanted to make this one but unfortunately I couldn't. I was kind of preparing my steps for that," he said.

Still, a successful day for the Wizards rookie guard.

[RELATED: Oubre shows progress on both ends vs. Blazers]