Scott Brooks’ lineup changes have provided a minor jolt for the Wizards

Change is hard. And oftentimes, most people are apprehensive to change unless things get really bad and reach the point where there’s no other option. Scott Brooks and the Washington Wizards are no different.

After Washington stumbled out of the gate to a 5-11 start to the season and on the heels of yet another embarrassing loss to Portland at home, there were no imminent signs that Scott Brooks planned on shaking up his starting lineup. That is, until the very next day when it was reported that just days prior, the Wizards had a very heated practice which included multiple verbal altercations with some of them directed at the coaching staff and front office.

Brooks was backed into a corner. There was no way he could trot out the same inefficient starting five once it became not-so-surprising public information that there was chaos swirling through the organization. So he did. Rather than plugging Ian Mahinmi in for a banged up Dwight Howard(because we know how that experiment went), starting on the November 20th contest against the Los Angeles Clippers, he opted to start second-year player Thomas Bryant in his place and also promoted Kelly Oubre Jr. to the starting lineup, sending Markieff Morris to the bench.

Save for a lifeless performance against the Pelicans, and their loss to the 76ers where they were missing Otto Porter, the lineup change injected a jolt into this team as they’ve gone 3-3 since the change and they’ve seen better production from the starters and the bench.

This change looks to have affected Markieff Morris. Night after night, time and time again, there have been too many instances this season where Morris looks like he doesn’t want to be out on the court. Whether it’s standing still as his man drives by him or being a spectator while his man either out-jumps or out-hustles him for a rebound – the fanbase and Brooks were sick of it.

Since being relegated to the bench, Morris has scored in double figures in five of the six games and has eclipsed the 15-point mark in four the of those six contests — something he did just three times over the first 16 games of the season. Not only is his shooting up over this stretch, but it’s also lit a fire under him on the glass. Morris has ripped down 7.7 rebounds per game over this five-game stretch, up from his season average of 5.2 per contest.

The irony in all of this is that Morris is getting essentially the same minutes that he was prior to the demotion, the only difference is, he’s coming off the pine. The bench can either be a major motivator or can break a guy, and in what has been somewhat of a pleasant surprise (save for Friday’s debacle against Philadelphia), it’s been the former for Morris.

Rather than going with the vanilla option and re-inserting Mahinmi back into the starting lineup, Brooks pulled somewhat of a surprising move in giving second-year player Thomas Bryant the nod. It looked like Bryant might not get much playing time this season but he has played well in his limited time with the starters and he’s likely going to get more minutes now that Dwight Howard is going to be sidelined for 2-3 months.

His 5.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per contest aren’t going to turn any heads but he does all of the intangibles that don’t show up in the box score. He has a relentless motor, is unafraid of banging down low and boxing out his guy, and most importantly; he runs the floor, hard.

The Wizards have talent on their roster, it’s just that everyone knows that the effort is going to be inconsistent at best from its main cast of players. That’s not the case for Bryant and is a much-welcomed sign. Bryant has just played between 12 and 19 minutes since being inserted into the starting lineup and if he continues keeps his energy up and engine revving, I’d be surprised if his minutes didn’t increase.

And what to make of Kelly Oubre? Rather than trying to lead the reserve unit, we’re instead getting the starting version of the Kelly Oubre experience. He’s still had the head-scratching performances but we’re also treated to his occasional one-game explosions like we saw in New Orleans the other night which continues to have fans thinking ‘what if?’ However, until proven otherwise, Oubre is a consistently inconsistent player. It’s just now, he’s getting more time with the starters.

Make no mistake about it, this lineup change and overall roster changes are long overdue. In the meantime, this seems to be an ok option to band-aid this problem before inevitable trades are made and new guys arrive. However, the bigger question still hovers over this team like a stormy cloud — will the franchise need to hit rock bottom again or have internal information become public knowledge before yet another change is made?

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Wizards at Pelicans Final Score: Washington falls to New Orleans 125-104 in latest blowout loss

Unlike Monday night, Washington can’t dig themselves out of a 20-point hole against New Orleans and they fall to the Pelicans, 125-104. The Wizards were led by Kelly Oubre and Markieff Morris who each scored 22 points tonight but it wouldn’t be nearly enough to overcome Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, and Julius Randle who would combine for 80 this evening.

As we’ve become accustomed to at this point, the Wizards came out sluggish in this one and the Pelicans, mainly Jrue Holiday, capitalized on Washington’s lethargy for 11 points just minutes into the game resulting in a quick 18-10 lead for New Orleans. The Wizards snapped out of it (well, sort of) towards the end of the quarter as the reserves closed the period on a 9-2 run trimming the Pelicans’ lead to 7, 31-24 after one quarter.

The Wizards did that thing again where they’d go on a run and lure you back into this one as they’d cut the lead to 5, 41-36. But New Orleans countered with a 9-0 run of their own and would blow this one open, 67-47 as we’d be heading into the intermission.

Once again, the Wizards made their inevitable second-half run and clawed within seven in the third period, but New Orleans would counter with a run of their own putting all hope of a comeback to rest.

Washington falls 125-104 in their latest blowout loss.

Oubre shines in his homecoming

Kelly Oubre, a New Orleans native came out as one would expect in this one – in full on attack mode.

It was clear that Oubre wanted to put on a show for his friends and family in the crowd and he was a big reason why the Wizards were within striking distance early on as he scored 12 of Washington’s first 24 points.

Oubre, as we’ve become all too familiar with; put his head down and attacked the hole but this time, his contested shots were falling. Oubre also turned in one of his best three-point shooting nights as he was 4-8 from distance with three of those makes coming in the first half.

Oubre ended the night with 22 points on 9-18 shooting to go along with six rebounds, two steals and not a single turnover. If only the Wizards could get this Kelly Oubre on a nightly basis.

Revenge game for Tim Frazier

We all know about the #wizardskiller fraternity and after Wednesday night, we might have to start thinking of forming a #formerwizardskiller group. Tim Frazier of the Pelicans was outstanding against his former squad as he notched 12 points, 12 assists, and grabbed six rebounds (did he do this in his entire tenure in Washington?).

Frazier got the start tonight and benefitted from Washington’s Swiss cheese defense as he was able to get to the hole for some easy baskets with no resistance. In the second period, Frazier then hit two timely three-pointers to answer when Washington went on a run to trim the lead to five.

Frazier was outstanding tonight and his performance is just one game but also a huge reflection on another Wizards mishap. If you remember, Frazier was supposed to be a backup to John Wall but was forced into the starting lineup with Wall’s injury last year. Later in the season, Washington picked up Ramon Sessions and Frazier found himself completely out of the rotation. So, Frazier never really had an opportunity to do what he was brought in to do, backup John Wall.

That’s all moot as this point as now, Frazier is putting up double-doubles against his former squad.

Rockets at Wizards Final Score: Wizards overcome 54 points from Harden, beat Rockets 135-131 in overtime thriller

John Wall and Bradley Beal combined for 68 points tonight in a vintage House of Guards game as Washington was able to overcome 54 points from James Harden and beat Houston in an overtime thriller, 135-131.

Washington’s bench combined for 45 points led by Markieff Morris with 22 points and 10 rebounds as Washington wins their second straight game over a Western Conference foe.

Houston, and more specifically, Eric Gordon came out smoking hot to start this one. The Rockets started the game 10-14 from the field including knocking down all six three-point attempts as Houston raced out to an early 27-10 lead forcing Scott Brooks to burn two early timeouts. For the third time this season, Washington surrendered 40+ points in the first quarter and it felt like this one had the makings of a blowout.

Things changed for Washington in the second quarter when they inserted their reserve unit and started pushing the ball. Some tic-tac-toe passing from Wall to Beal to Morris ended up in a dunk late in the second quarter as the Wizards used a 12-2 run to regain the lead 67-65 into the break.

James Harden put on a shooting clinic in the third quarter. First, it was step back three-pointers, then knocking down threes even while getting fouled; and if the Wizards crowded him? He’d drive right by for the layup. Harden scored 21 points in the period as the Rockets regained the lead 98-94 entering the fourth quarter.

Late in the fourth quarter, James Harden did his dance, stepped back for three and knocked down yet another three-pointer and got fouled giving him 50 points on the night as Houston took a 121-117 lead looking to bury the Wizards. But Washington wouldn’t go away. Big three-pointers from Morris and Beal allowed the Wizards to retake the lead and Porter could have put the nail in the coffin as he had a wide-open three with the Wizards up one but it rimmed out.

John Wall would get stripped on the final play of regulation and after five ties and five lead changes in the quarter alone, we’d be going to overtime.

Washington locked down defensively in the overtime period as Houston didn’t score their first basket until the 1:35 mark of the period. After a few tough shots from John Wall, Otto Porter picked off James Harden and threw a touchdown pass to Beal for the dunk icing the game.

Washington overcomes Harden’s 54 points to beat Houston, 135-131 in overtime.

The Wizards can get stops when they want to

It feels very weird to write this as Washington surrendered 131 points tonight but there were stretches where the Wizards played some very sound defense, specifically, towards the end of the fourth quarter and in the overtime periods.

Bradley Beal did a terrific job limiting Harden’s damage, as everyone in the arena knew that he’d try to take over late. Beal crowded Harden forcing him to take some very tough shots (some he made but you just have to tip your cap in that instance).

In the overtime period, Washington was able to hold Houston to just one point until the 1:35 mark with many key stops and forcing some opportune turnovers.

This is what makes the Wizards so frustrating. They were able to play outstanding defense for 3-4 minute stretches tonight and really forced Houston to work for their shots. But then, there were plenty of moments where it was clear that defense was the last thing on their minds. If Washington could lock in defensively for the entire 48 minutes, as they’ve shown glimpses that they are capable of doing, they’d be a very good basketball team. Instead, they find themselves surrendering 120+ points per night and with an 8-12 record.

The bench has proven to be a huge motivator for Markieff Morris

Just four games ago, Markieff Morris was relegated to the bench for his subpar play. Since the lineup shakeup from Brooks, the Wizards have gone 3-1 and it seems to have lit a fire under Morris as he’s playing his best basketball over the season culminating tonight with a 22-point and 10 rebound performance on 8-12 shooting including going 3-4 from three-point range.

Even though Morris came off the bench tonight, he outplayed Kelly Oubre, the guy who replaced him in the starting lineup by 21 minutes. Morris was on the floor in crunch time including the end of regulation and the entire overtime period, when it mattered most.

The reason Morris has been so frustrating for Wizards fans is that he’s capable of nights like this but far too often turns in clunkers of a performance. The irony here is if he continues to play this well off the bench, will Brooks reinsert him back into the starting lineup or keep things put?

Wizards at Blazers Final Score: Big nights from Oubre and Morris propel Washington to their first win of the season, 125-124

Third times a charm, right?

Washington wins their first game of the season 125-124 in an overtime thriller against Portland on Monday evening. Markieff Morris, who likely turned in his best game in a Wizard uniform led the team with 28 points with a career-high six three-pointers with four of them coming down the stretch in the fourth quarter and in the overtime period. Kelly Oubre, who also turned in one of his best games in a Wizard uniform scored 22 points on 9-13 as the Wizards get in the win column with an impressive road victory.

Bradley Beal, who scored 51 points the last time he stepped foot in the Moda Center had a bounce to him from the get-go. He started the game 3-3 from three-point range and was getting to the basket at ease en route to 19 first-half points.

Both teams shot the ball well in what turned into somewhat of a track meet and we’d be all tied up at 62 at halftime.

Things came to a screeching halt in the third quarter as the teams only combined for 31 points in the period but the Wizards led, 78-77 entering the fourth quarter.

And that’s when things started to heat up. Whenever one team threw a punch, the other team had a counter. A late three from Al-Farouq Aminu in the corner put the Blazers up 102-97 and looked to be the dagger for the Wizards. However, Washington would counter with a Kelly Oubre layup and the foul to go along with a three-pointer from the wing from Morris to give the Wizards a fighting chance.

With Washington trailing by 3 with 15 seconds to play, John Wall found himself with the ball in his hands but passed up an open three to find Beal who drilled the three to tie the game at 111 and we’d be heading to overtime.

Markieff Morris came up big with another three-pointer from the same exact spot in the overtime as the Wizards were trying to pull away.

But with seconds remaining, the bank was open late in Portland as John Wall pulled up from the corner and drilled a shot off the glass giving Washington the 123-119 lead.

Wall would have a chance to tack onto that lead but missed two crucial free throws with just six seconds to play. Regardless, Washington hangs on for the victory.

Kelly Oubre Jr. has his best game as a Wizard

After two head-scratching performances through the first two games, Oubre had turned in his best effort of the season and probably his career. The four-year player was instant energy off the bench with 22 points and six rebounds on 9-13 shooting while knocking down all three of his three-point attempts.

Oubre was outstanding tonight evidenced as Brooks trusted him enough to play him nearly 40 minutes. The Wizards played a ton of small ball tonight and it was Oubre who was on the court not for his offense, but for his activity on defense and commitment to defensive rebounding.

The box score doesn’t tell the whole story as you’ll only see one block and one steal, however, Oubre was on-time with his defensive rotations, had multiple deflections, and was committed to defensive rebounding.

If the Wizards can get this Kelly Oubre off the bench consistently, they’ll be a scary team.

Markieff Morris has his best game as a Wizard 

Markieff Morris was also outstanding tonight with 28 points on 9-15 shooting to go along with a career-high six made three-pointers. Down the stretch, whenever the Wizards needed a big basket, Morris provided it. Morris knocked down four of his six three-pointers in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter and the overtime period to give Washington a fighting chance in this one.

Not only was Morris knocking down his three-point attempts, but they also went to him on the block on multiple occasions and he came through with a bucket. Morris, who was forced to play center for most of the evening came up big on the defensive end and like Oubre, he was committed to defensive rebounding and crashing the glass.

If the Wizards can get this Markieff Morris on a consistent basis, they’ll be a scary team.

Small ball comes up big

The Wizards had no choice but to play small ball for most of the game on Monday. Ian Mahinmi and Jason Smith were ineffective in the first quarter and Mahinmi left the game with back spasms giving coach Brooks no other option but to go small.

It paid off on the offensive end as the spacing was on point resulting in guys getting more open looks than usual. Even more importantly, everyone was committed on the defensive end, specifically, crashing the glass which really allowed the small ball lineups to flourish.

With the injury to Mahinmi, it looks like we’ll be seeing a whole lot more of this going forward.

Wizards at Raptors Game 1: Toronto’s depth is too much for Washington to handle in 114-106 victory

John Wall scored 23 points to go along with 15 assists but it wouldn’t be enough as the Wizards drop Game 1 of the postseason to the Toronto Raptors, 114-106. Markieff Morris scored 22 to go along with 11 rebounds and six assists and Mike Scott added 14 off the bench but the Toronto Raptors win Game 1 of a series for the first time in 10 tries.

Toronto ran out to an early 22-13 run but the Wizards were able to withstand the first punch of the game from the Raptors. Washington found their groove in the second quarter behind the ultra-aggressive play from John Wall who scored 13 points and dished out 10 assists before halftime. With both Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi in foul trouble, Mike Scott saw some extended time and took advantage. Washington used an 11-0 run late in the second quarter to take the lead into halftime, 59-55.

The game seesawed back-and-forth for the third quarter and the Raptors held the slimmest of leads, 86-85 entering the fourth quarter. The tide turned for Washington two minutes into the fourth quarter when Mike Scott committed a flagrant foul on Kyle Lowry. Lowry knocked down both free-throws and Toronto also scored on the possesion regaining the lead, 92-91. The Raptors then used an 11-0 run since that flagrant foul to pull away in this one.

Washington played Toronto tough for 3.5 quarters but it’s clear, that won’t be enough to beat this team.

A difference in bench units

Toronto’s bench was one of their biggest strengths coming into the series. The question for Washington was, would their bench be able to keep pace with them? Outside of Mike Scott who scored 14 points, that would be a resounding no as the rest of the Washington reserves combined for just seven.

Delon Wright, playing more minutes than usual due to Fred Vanvleet’s injury scored 17 points for a bench unit that combined for 42 points tonight. In the first half, it was OG Anunoby stepping up for the Raptors as he knocked down two three-pointers early on. Washington lost CJ Miles in transition one too many times and he made them pay, knocking down 4-7 three-point attempts for 12 points off the Raptors’ bench.

Toronto went 11-deep tonight so Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan were able to stay fresh as they logged 37 and 35 minutes respectively. On the flip side, the Wall and Beal logged 39 and 41 minutes respectively and didn’t look as spry down the stretch. Having the confidence to play up to 11 players in the playoffs is a wonderful advantage that most teams don’t have. Toronto was able to play guys like Delon Wright, Pascal Siakam and Lucas Nogueira (played all nine of his minutes in the fourth quarter) down the stretch in the fourth quarter and help build out the Toronto lead against the Washington starters.

It’s pretty clear that the Wizards will need better games from Kelly Oubre and Tomas Satoransky if this series is going to be competitive.

An ultra intense Wall nearly carries the Wizards to victory

Many wondered if Wall would be able to play heavy minutes while also be effective after only playing four games in his final tune-up prior to the postseason. It’s very clear, Wall is A-OK.

Wall was super aggressive tonight looking to push the ball in transition and didn’t really settle for any long twos tonight. Toronto dared Wall to take three-pointers early on and he won that battle knocking down 2-3 from range in the first quarter.

With the pace of the game slowing down and favoring the Raptors, Wall looked to push the ball and get out in transition. Those resulted in some baskets from close in and wide open shots in transition for the Wizards. It also opened up the floor for the Wall and Gortat pick-and-roll to flourish as he was able to spoon feed the big man for shots around the rim.

Wall wasn’t super effective tonight as he shot just 6-21 from the field but he wasn’t settling. He was super aggressive in attacking the hole but unfortunately for the point guard, he couldn’t convert from close in nor was he getting calls.

Tip Ins:

  • Otto Porter clearly didn’t look 100 percent and was the only Wizards starter who didn’t score in double figures
  • The Wizards went small for a majority of the game and it looks like they’ll have to continue to do that if they want to stay competitive in the series

It didn’t end in victory, but John Wall was the main reason the Wizards were able to stay competitive in this one.

Up Next: Game 2 of the series is Tuesday night in Toronto.

Wizards vs. Celtics final score: Washington ends losing streak with 113-101 win over Boston

John Wall went 4-of-5 from deep and scored a game-high 29 points as the Wizards snapped their four-game losing streak with an emphatic 113-101 victory over the Celtics on Tuesday night. Bradley Beal added 19 points and Markieff Morris scored 13 in the Wizards’ last home game of the regular season.

Jaylen Brown came out scorching hot for the Celtics to start the game. The second-year player made six of his first nine shots, including a 5-for-7 start on 3-point attempts. He racked up 21 points in the first quarter alone as he tried to become the first ever #WizardsKiller to have his jersey retired after one quarter.

Washington locked in defensively in the second quarter which changed the dynamic of the game. After giving up six threes in the first quarter, the Wizards held Boston to just seven the rest of the game. Outside of a minor stretch in the third quarter in which Boston got several second chance-opportunities, the Wizards controlled the glass out-rebounding the Celtics 51-44.

The Wizards slowly took control in this game in the second half but really blew things open in the fourth quarter. Washington went on a 13-5 run to start the period that put the game out of reach and allowed the Wizards to win comfortably.

Washington’s victory ensures they stay within striking distance of the Bucks and Heat in the East standings. They’re still currently in eighth place but can move up as high as sixth depending on how things play out on the final night of the season on Wednesday.

Takeaways

John Wall is still too quick

Other parts of John Wall’s game clearly aren’t fully back but speed isn’t one of them.

With just 3.6 seconds remaining in the first quarter, John Wall scooped up an inbounds pass right in front of the Wizards bench and sprinted from end to end drawing a foul with 0.4 seconds left on the clock.

No one thought Wall would be 100 percent, but the fact that he’s already got his best asset ramped up, his speed, is a very good sign for the Wizards; enough so that he was chasing down blocks and jumping into the crowd for loose balls.

Wall had his bounce tonight and looked to push the ball all evening. His midrange jumper wasn’t falling but that didn’t prevent him from attacking the hole. He was able to earn seven free throws in the first half and finished with nine for the game. His run outs also resulted in some wide-open jumpers in transition and a few showtime opportunities.

He had a few too many turnovers tonight (7), but Washington would surely welcome this John Wall in the playoffs.

Game Notes

Next up: The Wizards finish the regular season in Orlando on Wednesday night as they take on the Magic at 8 p.m.

Wizards vs. Spurs final score: Washington snaps losing streak with 116-106 win over San Antonio

Seven Wizards players score in double figures, led Markieff Morris with 15 on a perfect 7-of-7 shooting as the Wizards snapped a three-game losing skid and beat the Spurs 116-106 on Wednesday night.

The Washington reserves were outstanding tonight combining for 61 points led by Jodie Meeks with 13 points while Kelly Oubre and Mike Scott chipped in with 12 and 11 points respectively.

Unlike in games past, the Wizards had a pretty good start to this one but still trailed 24-21 after one quarter. They flipped the switch in the second quarter going on a 19-3 run to take a double-digit lead.

LaMarcus Aldridge kept the Spurs in the game with 13 points in the first half, but banged knees with a Wizard late in the second quarter and did not return. Once he was out of the game, the Wizards were able to pull away. They took a 25 point lead early in the fourth quarter and were able to rest Morris, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter the entire quarter as they cruised to an easy win.

Takeaways

An outstanding second quarter propels the Wizards

Washington trailed 31-23 early in the second quarter and it looked like they were in for yet another methodical loss to the Spurs, but back-to-back three-pointers from Mike Scott and Jodie Meeks sparked a 19-3 run that changed the game.

The Wizards started the second quarter 7-of-10 from the field and outscored the Spurs 38-21 in the period. On top of that, the all-bench unit played outstanding defense holding the Spurs without a field goal over a four-minute stretch in the quarter.

Kelly Oubre didn’t knock down his shots from deep but crashed the glass for putbacks and encouraged others to get in on the fun as well:

After missing all three three-pointers in the first quarter, the Wizards knocked down six in the second to turn what was a three-point deficit into a 14-point lead at halftime.

A near perfect night for Porter and Morris

Otto Porter and Markieff Morris nearly pitched perfect games tonight. Both guys knocked down their first five shots of the game and had an identical stat line of 5-5 from the field for 11 points at halftime.

Porter, got going early on on the defensive end which got his offense going. He picked off a lazy Patty Mills pass which led to an easy dunk. Just moments later, he picked off another cross-court pass for a floater in the lane to jump-start a Wizards squad that’s been the victim of slow starts as of late.

Markieff Morris started the game bullying his way for a couple of easy baskets. Then he knocked down a three-pointer in the midst of the Wizards’ second quarter run as they continued to grow their lead. Morris only took two shots after halftime as he enjoyed most of the second half from the bench. He finished a perfect 7-of-7 from the field for 15 points and knocked down his only three-point attempt. Otto Porter wasn’t too shabby either with 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting and knocked down his only two three-point attempts.

Kelly Oubre’s shot from deep wasn’t falling but still remains a factor

Kelly Oubre, who’s struggled with his three-point shot since the All-Star break continued to struggle from deep tonight. However, that didn’t prevent him from being a factor in tonight’s game. After missing some early threes, Oubre stopped settling for threes and attacked the hole either pulling up in the paint or taking it all the way to the hole.

Oubre finished the game 4-9 from the field but was 4-5 on his attempts inside the three-point arc.

Game Notes

  • The bench outscored the starters, 61-55
  • The Human Victory Cigar that is Jason Smith saw some action tonight and scored 4 points in 6 minutes. He’s now scored at least one basket in each of the last five games.
  • Washington combined for 33 assists on 46 made field goals

Next up: The Wizards are heading to Detroit to face the Pistons on Thursday at 7 p.m.