On Tuesday, we saw what we thought we would see out of the USA Basketball Men’s National Team.
Behind Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal’s 17 points apiece, Team USA defeated Argentina 108-80 at Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
After losing their first two exhibition games to Nigeria and Australia, Team USA was limping into this game against Argentina. However, they got off to a quick start and led by 14 after one quarter and 16 points at halftime. They would cruise the rest of the way.
Zach LaVine had 15, Damian Lillard added 13, and Bam Adebayo finished with 12 points. Argentina was led by 41-year-old Luis Scola’s 16 points and five rebounds.
Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich was happy with his team’s efforts from start to finish.
“I thought we sustained it pretty well in our game against Australia, and we competed well, rebounded, played defense, ran the floor, and had good pace for one half, but then it dissipated through the second half,” Popovich said. “Tonight, I thought we maintained (effort) pretty much throughout the game, so hopefully, that’s a sign that we are in a little better condition.”
The international game is different than the NBA. It’s less time(40 minutes), and it’s more physical, which Beal discussed after the game.
“The biggest thing we have to realize is that it’s not the NBA, and coach Pop keeps reemphasizing that to us every single day,” Beal said. “It’s more physical. These guys have been playing together for five, 10-plus years, so they have this experience and chemistry. We’re trying to develop that in a short period of time.”
The game’s highlight came in the fourth when LaVine threw down a poster dunk and was fouled by Juan Pablo Vaulet. It was a great moment for Team USA, and it cemented the victory.
Team USA will have a few days off before getting back at it on Friday in a rematch against Australia.
Team USA was without Jayson Tatum, who missed Tuesday’s game due to a sore knee.
Photo: Team USA
The Washington Wizards kept their season alive on Monday night when they defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 4 of their first-round series 122-114 at Capital One Arena.
Game 5 will be Wednesday night in Philadelphia as the 76ers lead the series 3-1.
The Wizards caught a little break on Monday night when 76ers star center Joel Embiid left the game after the first quarter due to knee soreness, which happened when Embiid lost his balance after getting his shot blocked by Robin Lopez. Embiid stayed in the game and completed the first quarter before leaving and heading back to the locker room. Embiid is scheduled to get an MRI on Tuesday.
No Embiid opened many things up for the Wizards, especially in the third quarter, where Washington outscored Philadelphia 32-19. Washington led by as many as 14 near the end of the frame and took a 92-80 lead into the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Philadelphia would get back into the game, and took a lead with under three minutes to go. Washington would use the hack-a-Ben Simmons strategy down the stretch, which Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said was a possibility in pregame. The strategy worked. Simmons was 4-8 from the free-throw line in the fourth, and with Washington leading 115-112, Rui Hachimura hit a dagger three to put the game away with 45.2 seconds left.
“We played with more spunk, a little bit more attitude, and then some excitement,” Bradley Beal said after the game. “It just felt like we enjoyed being out there on the floor, we enjoyed playing defense, we enjoyed getting out and running in transition. These are [the things] that make us really good; this is what gave us success at the end of the year.”
Washington got its usual production from Beal, who led all scorers with 27 points, and of course, Westbrook had a triple-double with 19 points, 21 rebounds, and 14 assists, which was his second straight triple-double.
However, the role players stepped up for the Wizards, including Hachimura, who recorded his first career playoff double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds, Lopez had 16 points off the bench, and Davis Bertans added 15.
The Wizards had seven players in double figures.
At this point, this series could come down to the health of Embiid. Philadelphia is clearly a different team without the MVP finalist. However, Philly still has the advantage and still has enough talent without Embiid to get by the Wizards, but anything is possible.
-Westbrook’s 21 rebounds marked a career postseason high and were the most by a Washington player since Elvin Hayes had 22 on 5/13/79 against San Antonio. Westbrook became just the fourth player since 2000 to record a triple-double with at least 20 rebounds in the playoffs (Tim Duncan-twice, Kevin Garnett, Nikola Jokic).
-Daniel Gafford, who started on Monday night for the first time in this series, finished with 12 points, four rebounds, and five blocks, becoming the fifth player in franchise history to have 5+ blocks in a game and the first to do so since Marcin Gortat on 4/19/17 vs. Atlanta.
–According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Bertans, who left the game in the third quarter and did not return due to a calf injury, had an MRI on Tuesday, which revealed a grade 2 calf strain. He will need 4-6 weeks for recovery, according to Wojnarowski.
-Tobias Harris led Philadelphia with 24 points(8/24 from field). Philadelphia had six players in double figures on Monday night.
The Washington Wizards had no answer for Joel Embiid in Game 3 of their first-round series on Saturday night; the MVP finalist shot 14/18 from the field, including 3/4 from three-point range to score a playoff career-high 36 points in 28 minutes of action as the 76ers defeated Washington 132-103 on Saturday night at Capital One Arena.
With the victory, Philadelphia takes a commanding 3-0 lead with a chance to sweep the series on Monday night. Every player in Philly’s starting lineup scored in double figures. Tobias Harris had 20 points and 13 rebounds, and Danny Green added 15 points, including five threes.
Philadelphia shot 58% from the field on Saturday night and shot 51% from three-point range(17/33).
Washington cannot do anything to slow Embiid down. The four-time All-star is averaging 29.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 2.7 assists in this series. There was a big crowd at Capital One Arena for the first time this season, and at times, you could hear “MVP’ chants for Embiid in D.C.
“I can’t imagine anybody playing better than him,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said about Embiid. “That was MVP-level tonight. Tried different things on him tonight. Good player. He’s definitely a handful.”
Bradley Beal, who had 25 points in Game 3, talked about the greatness of Embiid.
“He’s a special talent,” Beal said. “You gotta respect him and tip your cap to him. Our whole game plan is basically centered around him. He’s a three-level scorer. He can score from outside on the three. He’s not like most bigs in the league; he can put the ball on the floor, shoot 3s, plays like a guard. It’s kind of crazy.”
Russell Westbrook(ankle) was a game-time decision, and to no one’s surprise, the former MVP played in Game 3 and had a triple-double with 26 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists.
“I kind of knew after last game he was going to play,” Beal said. “Even if it was for two minutes, he was going to play.”
Now, the Wizards try to avoid the sweep on Monday night, which won’t be easy. Washington has many questions but little to no answers for what Philly is throwing at them. They tried to insert Davis Bertans in the lineup to get more size and shooting, but that did not work as the team shot 8/35 from three-point range.
Philly is just a bad matchup for Washington. Including the regular season, the 76ers are 6-0 against the Wizards. Even a 60-point outburst from Beal in the regular season was not enough to beat Philadelphia, so it’s going to take an extraordinary performance from a few different players for Washington to get a game in this series.
On Wednesday night, in Game 2 of the Wizards, 76ers first-round series, the versatility of Ben Simmons was on full display. Simmons scored 22 points, grabbed nine rebounds, dished out eight assists, and had two steals as the 76ers routed the Wizard 120-95 at Wells Fargo Center.
Philly now leads this best of seven series 2-0. Game 3 is on Saturday night in D.C. Joel Embiid added 22 points, and Tobias Harris chipped in with 19 points for Philadelphia.
For Washington, Bradley Beal had a game-high 33 points.
Simmons set the tone for Philadelphia early. He scored 12 points in the first quarter, and the 76ers led 35-24 after one. The 76ers pushed their lead to 71-57 at halftime. Philadelphia led by as many as 20 points in the third quarter and by as many as 27 points in the game.
During the regular season, Washington was third in points per game(116.6), but they were held to 95 points and shot 40% from the field in Game 2, including 2-22 from the three-point range.
There was more bad news for the Wizards as they lost Russell Westbrook, who had 10 points and 11 assists on Wednesday night, to an ankle injury in the fourth quarter. Westbrook did not return.
On his way to the locker room, a fan threw popcorn on the nine-time All-Star. Westbrook had to be held back by security. Ultimately, the fan was ejected.
“I wouldn’t come up to me on the street and throw popcorn on my head because you know what happens,” Westbrook said after the game about the incident. “In these arenas, you gotta start protecting the players. We’ll see what the NBA does.”
Unfortunate situation, and something we see far too often at NBA arenas. Fortunately for Westbrook, security was able to hold him back.
Washington will have to figure out what they can do to get back into this series. Clearly, Philadelphia is the better team, but maybe the Wizards can make some adjustments to steal a game or two. The Wizards have won 13 of their last 16 home games since March 18, so possibly, there is a little hope.
With Joel Embiid in foul trouble in the first half, the eighth-seeded Washington Wizards had a golden opportunity to steal Game 1 of their first-round series against the number one seed in the East, the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday.
However, they could not stop Tobias Harris in that first half. Harris scored 28 of his game and career-playoff high 37 points in the first half, Embiid added 21 of his 30 points in the second half, and Ben Simmons had six points, 15 rebounds, and 15 assists as the 76ers defeated the Wizards 125-118 at Wells Fargo Center.
Game 2 will be in Philadelphia on Wednesday night.
Washington had six players in double figures led by Bradley Beal’s 33 points.
“I’m surprised we didn’t win,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said after the game. “We went to the game thinking about winning… We were solid but not good enough.”
Despite Harris; heroics in the first half, Washington led 62-61 at halftime. However, Philadelphia started to gain control in the third behind Embiid’s 13 points in the quarter, and Philly would take a 99-93 lead into the fourth. Washington would get the lead to as low as five points with just under one minute left. With a chance to slice the lead to three, Russell Westbrook stepped out of bounds, and Philly would hold on for the victory.
According to Beal, who scored 17 points in the third quarter, Washington did not play their best basketball on Sunday.
“I don’t think I played great,” Beal said. “I don’t think I had a good game. I think we still got a couple levels we can tap into.”
Beal is correct. The Wizards can play better. While Westbrook had 16 points, 14 assists, and five rebounds on Sunday, he did have six turnovers and shot 7/17 from the field, so they can get more from him.
Harris will probably not score 28 points in a half again in this series, but if Embiid stays out of foul trouble, he probably scores more than 30. The Wizards will have to limit everybody else not named Embiid because they have no answer for the All-Star center.
Philly was a little rusty in this contest after a week off, so this was the perfect game for the Wizards steal. However, this is the playoffs, so both teams will make adjustments, but it’s clear after Game 1 that the Wizards, who shot 55 percent from the field, can hang with the 76ers.
Now, in terms of winning this series, Washington will have to play better than they did in Game 1 to get that done.
-Harris and Embiid became the first Philadelphia teammates with at least 30 points in the same playoff game since 1990.
The battle for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference came down to the final day of the season, and what happened between the Wizards(34-38) and the Hornets(33-39) on Sunday, epitomized what Washington has been about all season long.
Washington trailed by 14 points after one quarter and trailed 90-79 entering the fourth quarter. However, just like they’ve done all year long, they fought back. Bradley Beal, who returned after missing three games due to a hamstring injury, scored 13 of his game-high 25 points in the fourth, and Russell Westbrook added eight of his 23 points in the final quarter as the Wizards defeated the Hornets 115-110 at Capital One Arena.
Westbrook also had his 184th career triple-double on Sunday as he added 15 rebounds and 10 assists. For Charlotte, Terry Rozier scored 22 points, and LaMelo Ball added 19.
With the victory, Washington will be the eighth seed and will take on the seventh-seeded Celtics in Boston on Tuesday night in the Play-In Tournament. If Washington wins, they will be the seventh seed. If they lose, the Wizards will play the winner of the 10th-seeded Hornets and the ninth seeded Pacers for the eighth seed.
This win completed a big turnaround for the Wizards. Heading into their April 7 game against the Magic, Washington was 17-32 and 13th in the Eastern Conference. Washington rallied with the second-best winning percentage in the league from April 7 to finish 17-6 in the final 23 games of the season.
Back to Beal, he was clearly not himself to begin the game, but he started to warm up as the game went along, and despite the injury, Beal got it done, which impressed Wizards head coach Scott Brooks and Westbrook.
“I cannot say enough about Brad’s toughness,” Brooks said. “He is so skilled and athletic, but the four years I’ve been here, there’s not a lot of guys that have his mental toughness, and his focus, and his determination.”
Westbrook added on Beal: “You appreciate guys like him and don’t take his talent, his mental, his anything for granted,” Westbrook said. “He wants to win, and he wants to win bad.”
For the Wizards to get to the playoffs, they need Beal to be healthy, and hamstring injuries are tricky, so it will be interesting to see what he will look like in the Play-In Tournament.
This win over the Hornets and this season is a credit to the veteran leadership on this team, led by Westbrook and Beal. Washington could have quit when they were 17-32, but they didn’t, and now they are one win away from making the playoffs.
Robin Lopez had 18 points and six rebound, and Ish Smith scored 14 points. Both players combined for 32 points off the Wizards’ bench on Sunday.
Beal finished the season averaging 31.3 points per game, the second highest in the league and the second highest in team history.
Listen to Westbrook, Lopez, and Smith as they discuss the Wizards’ win over the Hornets:
For the Washington Wizards, last season’s struggles came down to the team’s inability to defend. Washington allowed 119.1 points per game, which was 29th in the NBA. In addition, the team was 29th in opponents’ field goal percentage(48.8).
It isn’t easy to win in the NBA if you’re not defending, and Washington has to improve on that end of the court if they want to have success this season.
Conversely, on the offensive side of the court, Washington was one of the top-scoring teams in the league. In the 2019-20 season, the Wizards averaged 114.7 points a contest, which was 7th in the NBA.
Now, Washington will have more firepower with the addition of nine-time All-Star and former league MVP Russell Westbrook. You add that to what you got out of Bradley Beal last season, who was second in the NBA in points per game(30.5). Plus, they have arguably their best shooter back in Davis Bertans, who signed a five-year, $80 million contract this offseason, and was the team’s second-leading scorer last season(15.4 ppg).
With Westbrook and Beal, Bertans expects to get easier looks, and he expects the team to be tough to stop this season.
“I think it’s just going to be easier for everybody in a sense,” Bertans said on Wednesday. “There’s a lot of defensive attention toward Brad(Beal), and now having Russ(Westbrook), too. We got, I think, more shooters. Everybody improved in the summer. You can see that Rui(Hachimura) is making threes. Deni(Avidja) is a pretty good shooter, so I think, in that case, it’s going to be a lot easier for Brad and Russ to attack the rim, and the defense has to pay more attention to them, and everybody else going to be open around the perimeter. So, I think the team is built, offensively, pretty great.”
However, according to Bertans, Washington has to play better defense if they want to have a productive season.
“It’s going to be more on what we going to do on the defensive end,” Bertans said. “How we’re going to talk on defense. How hard we’re going to play on defense. That’s going to be the main differential on whether we’re going to win games or lose games.”
Defense wins championships, and Washington has to be committed to defending this season if they want to make the playoffs and contend in the Eastern Conference, which means the back end of the defense has to be better, especially C Thomas Bryant, who will be called on to anchor the defense. Adding a defensive center in Robin Lopez should help, but time will tell if it will be enough for Washington to improve on the defensive end next season.
Nine-time All-Star and former league MVP Russell Westbrook is officially a member of the Washington Wizards. This week, the Wizards acquired the 32-year-old Westbrook from the Rockets in exchange for John Wall and a first-round draft pick.
In Washington, Westbrook will join two-time All-Star Bradley Beal. Last season, the 27-year-old Beal averaged career-highs in points(30.5) and assists(6.1), and was an All-Star snub in 2019-20.
On Saturday, Westbrook met the D.C. media, and he discussed doing his part to make things easier for Beal.
“Brad(Beal) is a superstar talent,” Westbrook said. “He proved that and showed that last year with what he had, and he’s only going to get better. My job is to come in and continue to uplift him, try to push him to be better. That’s all I’m here for, man. I’m happy to be his counterpart and try to make the game easier for him.”
On paper, Westbrook and Beal are one of the best backcourts in basketball. The key is these two being able to complement each other on the floor. Beal had the ball in his hands a lot last season, and Westbrook is another player that flourishes with the ball in his hands, so it will be something that both players have to figure out.
Making the playoffs won’t be easy in the Eastern Conference for Washington. Out of the eight teams(Bucks, Raptors, Celtics, Pacers, Heat, 76ers, Nets, and Magic) that made the playoffs last season, there’s probably one team you could see possibly not making the playoffs, which is Orlando. Other than that, those other seven teams either have gotten better or pretty much stayed the same. However, every year in the NBA, some teams become surprisingly good and others become surprisingly bad.
Therefore, Westbrook and Beal must have big seasons and stay healthy. Also, Davis Bertans, an elite shooter, must live up to his big contract(five years, $80 million). In addition, the younger guys like Rui Hachimura, Thomas Bryant, and Troy Brown Jr. must take that next step as players. No matter what happens, having Westbrook in D.C. will bring new energy to the team and fanbase, which should be fun to see this season.
With the ninth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Washington Wizards selected Israel’s Deni Avdija, the first Israeli born player to be drafted in the lottery. The 19-year-old forward has been a professional in Israel since the age of 16, so while he young, he does have some experience.
While in Israel, the 6-9 Avdija played small forward, but he has shown the ability to handle the ball, and some believe he could be a point forward at the NBA level. And when it’s all said, Avdija hopes to work hard and maximize his talents.
When asked what his goals are in the NBA, Avdija said the following.
“First of all, to bring my work ethic from back here. Just keep improving every day, be a better player every day, help the team as much as I can. At the end of my career to look at it and say I was the best Deni Avdija I could be, and I don’t regret anything. It’s a great journey ahead of me, and I’m super excited.”
Avdija’s father, Zufer, played professionally in Serbia and Israel in the 1980s, and according to Avdija, he has learned a lot from his father.
“It was great. It was great to have another competitive spirit in the house,” Avdija said. “He was a great player himself, so he had a lot of good things to teach me and teach me how to act on the court, some small tricks maybe in my game that I use that he used, and just how to be a professional, how to work hard, how to have good work ethic, and just always be competitive and just play to win. That was big for me.”
Next season, the Wizards are expected to have their dynamic backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal back together, which will help immensely. According to Avdija, the Wizards have a talented team.
“I think it’s very talented,” Avdija said. “I’m ready to meet everybody and get straight to work. Hopefully, we can grind and have a good season. I’m just going to bring the best for the team, and hopefully, we can win as many games as we can.”
Don’t expect Avdija to come into the NBA and contribute right away. He’s a young player, so it will take time for him to develop. In the end, this pick was not about today; it’s about tomorrow.