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Wizards hope for better start against Celtics than they had vs. Bulls

Wizards hope for better start against Celtics than they had vs. Bulls

The Wizards' 101-99 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night extended their home winning streak to 10 games and pushed them past the .500 mark for the first time this season, yet in many ways it wasn't pretty. It was a win, but also a learning lesson moving forward.

They were playing a Bulls team that was missing its two best players in Jimmy Butler (illness) and Dwyane Wade (rest), as well as one of its best bench scorers in Nikola Mirotic (illness). Still, the Bulls were able to hold a double-digit lead at the end of the first quarter (36-26) and at halftime (61-49). The NBA's worst three-point shooting team, Chicago hit 8-of-10 from long range in the first half. Rookie Denzel Valentine set a career-high by halftime with 14 points.

It was not an ideal start by any stretch.

"We figured Jimmy [Butler] wasn’t playing, D-Wade wasn’t playing, the game was going to be easy," guard Bradley Beal said. "Those games are probably the hardest ones to play in. We just have to do a better job of locking in, but a win is a win at the end of the day."

"They're still NBA players. I think in the first half we disrespected them, and laid down," forward Markieff Morris said. "They had thirty-six in the first quarter, like I said without their two best players, and that's unacceptable." 

Morris went on to describe the first half as "horrible." Head coach Scott Brooks used the word "exhausting" in his assessment. The game ultimately resulted in a win, but what happened on Tuesday night has hurt them before.

On Sunday in Milwaukee, they barely beat the Bucks despite Giannis Antetokounmpo not playing. Seven times this year have they allowed at least 60 points in the first half, including to struggling teams like the Heat, Nets, Mavericks and Magic. They are 2-5 in those games. The Wizards, in fact, are 2-12 in games they allow 57 points or more in the first half.

In order to win a game after giving up so much in the first two quarters, much has to change in the second half, like on Tuesday when they held the Bulls to just 38 total points in the third and fourth quarters. Chicago shot just 2-of-17 from three in the second half, including 0-for-9 in the third quarter.

"They were just too comfortable. In the first half, we just allowed them to do whatever they wanted. They were freelancing, getting to the basket, knocking down threes, getting comfortable," Beal said. "In the second half we just wanted to pressure them [and] make them play our style of game, and force them to play our hand."

The Wizards now move on to Boston to face the Celtics on Wednesday night in the second game of a back-to-back set. The Wizards are 1-6 in those scenarios this season.

"Boston's a good team. If we play like this, it will be hard to win," Brooks said.

[RELATED: Wall to Bulls' Valentine: 'You woke a monster']

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Otto Porter not fazed by Wizards' interest in Paul George or John Wall's comments

Otto Porter not fazed by Wizards' interest in Paul George or John Wall's comments

John Wall's comments to ESPN's Marc Spears back in June brought all sorts of reactions, some honing in on his reference to Otto Porter and how his position at small forward could potentially be upgraded if the Wizards were to trade for Paul George, as at the time they were linked to the then-Pacers superstar. What Wall meant was that as good as Porter is, George is a superstar and therefore better. He even couched his comments by saying of Porter: "you can't take nothing away from what he did."

Many saw those quotes how Wall intended them and Porter can be included in that mix.

"We're talking about Paul George here. If we could get him on our squad? We could definitely contend for a championship," Porter said after the press conference to announce his new four-year contract worth $106.5 million on Wednesday.

[RELATED: Re-signing Otto Porter was never a doubt for Wizards]

George has since been traded to the Thunder and is not in the Wizards' picture, while Porter is here to stay. He will remain a key cog in the Wizards' operation alongside Wall, Bradley Beal, Markieff Morris and others.

No one has to tell Porter that he himself can improve. He highlighted his ballhandling skills, for example, during his press conference as something he would like to work on.

If Porter takes more steps in development, he could close the gap between him, George and the other All-Star small forwards.

"It's just motivation. I will continue to get back into the gym. I didn't take anything personal. I'm just going to continue to go out there and work and play my game," Porter said.

[RELATED: Wizards Tipoff podcast - New NBA jerseys, will LeBron leave?]

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Ted Leonsis predicts John Wall will sign extension with the Wizards

Ted Leonsis predicts John Wall will sign extension with the Wizards

On Wednesday, the Washington Wizards held a press conference officially announcing Otto Porter's four-year, $106.5 million contract extension with the franchise.

The announcement comes almost exactly a year after owner Ted Leonsis, team president Ernie Grunfeld and head coach Scott Brooks sat with Bradley Beal to announce a similar contract extension.

Beal and Porter are two-thirds of the Wizards' superstar core.

John Wall, the face of the franchise, is the third piece to the long-term puzzle and was recently offered a four-year, $170 million "supermax" contract. Wall still has two years and $37 million remaining on his current deal, but the team would love to be able to lock up all three of their core players for the foreseeable future.

RELATED: RE-SIGNING PORTER WAS NEVER IN DOUBT

Following the Wednesday press conference, Leonsis was asked about the offer to Wall. He predicts Wall will re-sign with the team.

“I told everybody that we would keep Bradley Beal, and already everyone is talking about the John Wall extension,” Leonsis said to a group of reporters following the press conference. “So my prediction is John Wall will sign his extension. He wants to be here and my goal is to have no drama.”

“I told everyone that when John was coming off his rookie contract, we would sign him and he would be our bedrock player." The Wizards did that in 2013, when they re-signed him to a five-year, $80 million deal. But with the Wizards one game shy of 50 regular-season wins and one win shy of the Eastern Conference Finals, the future is as bright as it has ever been for the Wizards. 

But when a potential Wall re-signing happens is still up for debate. The team is still moving it forward, but it's not urgent. "We're moving forward. We're still talking about that," Grunfeld said on Wednesday. "There's no urgency to it. Obviously, we would like to have John finish his career here."

Keeping Wall in D.C. long-term is the goal, and Leonsis is hopeful that it will get done.

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