Shorthanded Cavs get routed by Wizards

The Cavaliers began life without backup point guard Ricky Rubio against the Wizards Thursday night. Rubio will miss the rest of the season after tearing his left ACL Tuesday against the Pelicans.

Cleveland was still without Darius Garland and Cedi Osman due to health and safety protocols, and they were without Jarrett Allen(Return To Competition Reconditioning). However, they did get Lamar Stevens and Dylan Windler back after being away from the team because of health and safety protocols.

Washington had some health and safety protocols issues themselves, including starting point guard Spencer Dinwiddie.

The Cavaliers trailed 31-30 after the first quarter, but things fell apart at the end of the second quarter and the third as Washington routed Cleveland 110-93 at Capital One Arena.

Cleveland(20-15) has lost two straight, while Washington(18-17) snapped their two-game losing streak.

Here is the Great, Not So Great, and the Bottom Line of the Cavs’ loss to Washington:

The Great for the Cavaliers:

-Rookie Evan Mobley scored 14(highest scoring first quarter of his career) of his 21 points in the first quarter to go along with five rebounds, three assists, and two blocks. Mobley had his second straight 20-plus point game. 

-Kevin Love returned to the starting lineup and had his third straight 20-plus point game. He had 11 of his season-high tying 24 points in the first quarter, including three threes(finished 4/10 3PT FG). Love also added 11 rebounds to record his fifth double-double of the season. Love and Mobley scored 25 of Cleveland’s 30 first-quarter points.

The Not So Great for the Cavaliers:

Three-point Shooting: Cleveland was 4/9 from downtown in the first quarter, but they were 4/19 the rest of the way from three-point range Thursday night. In the last two games, both losses, the Cavaliers shot a combined 9/48(19%) from three after the first quarter.

Defense:  The Cavaliers struggled on the defensive end. Washington shot 50% from the floor, including 68 points in the paint.

End of the Second Quarter: With just under four minutes left in the first half, the game was tied at 46, but Washington finished the half on a 12-5 run to take a 58-51 lead at the break, and the Wizards took that momentum into the third.

Third Quarter: Washington dominated the third as they shot (14/22)64% from the floor. The Wizards led by as many as 2o points in the quarter, and Cleveland never threatened from there as the Wizards outscored the Cavaliers 33-21 in the third.

-Kevin Pangos got his first NBA start Thursday, and he wasn’t very good. Pangos had two points as he shot 1/8 from the field, including 0/3 from downtown. He did have six assists, but he struggled against the Wizards.

Bottom Line:

Without Garland and Rubio, Cleveland did not get much from the point guard position and did not get much out of any player not named Love or Mobley, but help could be on the way for the Cavs. According to reports, Cleveland is close to acquiring two-time NBA champion and four-time All-Star Rajon Rondo from the Lakers. While Rondo is not Rubio at this point, the 35-year-old is better than what they have at the backup point guard spot. 

What’s Next:

Cleveland begins a three-game homestand Friday night against the Atlanta Hawks.

Best of the Rest:

-After missing three games due to health and safety protocols, Bradley Beal returned and led the Wizards with a game-high 29 points, 10 assists, and six rebounds; Kyle Kuzma had 25 points and 10 rebounds.

-Lauri Markkanen had 11 points, eight rebounds, and four assists; Isaac Okoro added 11 points for the Cavs.

Cavs stumble late against Wizards, but to their credit, they fought hard

It appeared on Wednesday night that the Cleveland Cavaliers(7-5) were going to get their fifth straight win as they had a 10-point lead with just under 11 minutes left against the visiting Washington Wizards(8-5).

Cleveland would take a nine-point lead with just over six minutes to go. However, Washington would close the game on a 19-7 run and took the lead for good when Kyle Kuzma hit a corner three with 11.4 seconds. Washington would hold on to defeat the Cavs 97-94 to snap Cleveland’s four-game winning streak.

Here is the Great, Not so Great, and the Bottom Line of Cleveland’s loss to Washington:

The Great for the Cavaliers:

-Ricky Rubio led the way for Cleveland with 20 points, five assists, five rebounds, and two steals in 28 minutes off the bench. This is the second straight game where Rubio, who was getting serenaded with MVP chants, led the team in points and assists.

-Evan Mobley continues to pile up the numbers. He had 19 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and a block. After 12 games, Mobley is second among rookies in points(15.3), rebounds(7.9), and first in blocks(1.3) per contest.

-Darius Garland had 19 points and four assists. He also made a team-high three three-point shots on Wednesday night.

Not so Great for the Cavaliers:

Fourth Quarter: Cleveland had a six-point lead entering the fourth, but Washington would outscore the Cavs 29-20 in the final period. Cleveland shot 1/10 three-point range in the quarter. In addition, Washington shot 57% from the field, including 5/11 from three-point range.

Leaving Kuzma open for three: Kuzma, who scored 12 of his 22 points in the fourth, was hot as he was 4/5 from three-point range in the quarter, and with the Cavs leading 93-89 with 30.4 seconds, Kuzma hit a three to cut it to one.

Rubio would make one of two free throws to give Cleveland a 94-92 lead. With the Wizards trailing by two, Kuzma would get open and knocked down a three in the corner. Cleveland, who had a foul to give, tried to foul Bradley Beal, but the officials did not call it, and Kuzma was able to get free. 

“We had a foul to give, and we fouled Bradley Beal, and they missed the call,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said postgame. “We have to learn in this situation; the three is what kills you.”

Darius Garland’s final shot: Cleveland had one last chance to win, and with the Cavs trailing by one, Garland launched a 25-foot three with 04.3 seconds. It was not a bad shot, but the third-year guard should have worked to get a better shot.

 “When it left my hands, I thought it was good,” Garland said. “All my shots were like that. But that one felt really good, just didn’t go in.” 

Bottom Line:

This was a game the Cavaliers should have won, but the Wizards were able to execute better down the stretch. Washington is the more experienced team, and it showed in this one. Cleveland is without many of their key pieces(Sexton, Love, and Markkanen), but they continue to battle to their credit.

What’s Next:

Cleveland continues their four-game homestand on Friday against the Pistons.

Best of the Rest:

-Montrezl Harrell led Washington with 24 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. Cleveland did a decent job on Wizards star Bradley Beal, who had only 13 points on 4/19 shooting from the field.

-Cavs Jarrett Allen had his fifth consecutive double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Beal out of Olympics due to health and safety protocols

Wizards G Bradley Beal, who was placed under USA Basketball’s health and safety protocols Wednesday, will remain in health and safety protocols and will be unable to participate in the July 23-August 8 Tokyo Olympic Games, USA Basketball announced on Thursday.

According to USA Basketball, a roster replacement will be named at a later time.

Also, on Thursday, it was announced that Detroit’s Jerami Grant had been placed under USA Basketball’s health and safety protocols. According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Grant has not tested positive for coronavirus.

Team USA, who is 1-2 in exhibition play, will continue their exhibition games on Friday when they battle Australia.

Beal was named to the U.S. Olympic Men’ Basketball Team on June 28 and participated in the USA Basketball National Team’s training camp and exhibition games in Las Vegas. Starting in the USA’s first three USA exhibition games, Beal averaged 10.3 points and 4.3 rebounds while playing 29.0 minutes a game.

Team USA’s Beal: ‘The biggest thing we have to realize is that it’s not the NBA’

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.

Notes:

Team USA was without Jayson Tatum, who missed Tuesday’s game due to a sore knee.

Photo: Team USA

Wizards’ Beal on Game 4 win over 76ers: ‘We played with more spunk, a little bit more attitude, and then some excitement’

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.

Notes:

-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.

Wizards’ Beal on Embiid: ‘He’s a special talent’

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.

 

76ers rout Wizards to take 2-0 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. 

Wizards’ Brook on Game 1 loss against 76ers: ‘I’m surprised we didn’t win’

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.

Notes:

-Harris and Embiid became the first Philadelphia teammates with at least 30 points in the same playoff game since 1990.

Wizards’ Westbrook on Beal: “He wants to win, and he wants to win bad’

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.

Notes:

  • 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:

Wizards’ Bertans believes the team will be defined by how well they defend this season

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.