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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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5 must-see moments from Wizards' win over Brooklyn Nets

5 must-see moments from Wizards' win over Brooklyn Nets

Here are five plays or moments from the Washington Wizards' 129-108 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night at the Verizon Center that are worth revisiting...

1. The Wizards' night ended much better than it began. Early in the afternoon John Wall was dealing with a migraine headache, as reported by CSN. His status for the game was considered questionable.

But then he showed up and was cleared to start. And very early he showed everyone that he was good to go.

Wall finished with 22 points and nine assists, two of those points coming on this vicious attack of the basket past a helpless Jeremy Lin:

2. This was Wall's best highlight of the night. He drove and scooped in a pretty layup off the glass:

3. As mentioned above, Wall had nine assists, none better than this dish to Marcin Gortat that followed some nifty dribble moves:

4. This was the best play of the night. Bradley Beal used a hesitation move to get to the rim and finish with a gorgeous layup on an and-1:

Beal ended up with 19 points, 15 of them in the third quarter alone. 

5. One of the biggest stories of the night was the bench, which combined to score 70 points. Two of those came on this alley-oop from Brandon Jennings to Kelly Oubre, Jr.:

Jennings had 18 points and nine assists and Oubre added nine points, his highest scoring output since Feb. 6. Add it all up and the Wizards are officially heading back to the playoffs for the first time in two years.

[RELATED: Wizards clinch playoff spot for third time in four years]

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Devin Booker scores 70 points, becoming just the sixth player to ever that milestone

Devin Booker scores 70 points, becoming just the sixth player to ever that milestone

BOSTON -- Devin Booker scored 70 points, becoming the sixth different player in NBA history to reach that total, but the Boston Celtics got 34 points from Isaiah Thomas and outlasted the Phoenix Suns 130-120 on Friday night.

Booker joined Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant, David Thompson, David Robinson and Elgin Baylor as the NBA's 70-point scorers. Baylor also held the previous record against the Celtics with 64 points in Minneapolis for the Lakers on Nov. 8, 1959.

Just 20 years old, Booker scored 51 after halftime.

The win was Boston's third straight, and avenged its buzzer-beater loss in Phoenix earlier this month.

The rematch was dominated early by the Celtics as they hit eight 3-pointers during a 37-point second quarter to grow their lead as high as 26 points.

Chamberlain had six 70-point games and his 62 points on Jan. 14, 1962, had been the most in Boston.

Phoenix has already been eliminated from playoff contention, and had only eight available players because of injuries. Younger than some lineups in the NCAA Tournament, the Suns have lost seven straight and nine of their last 10, and they were out of this one early before Booker's explosive performance made it interesting.

His previous career best was 39, which he reached three times before Friday. He had 19 points at halftime, then scored 23 in the third quarter to get the Suns back within range.

Boston took advantage of a disastrous shooting start by the Suns to build an early cushion.

The Suns missed their first 13 shots from the floor before Booker finally hit the first field goal for Phoenix on a layup with 4:40 left in the first quarter.