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Wizards finish game, and road trip, ice-cold with 15th straight loss

Wizards finish game, and road trip, ice-cold with 15th straight loss

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 0

SALT LAKE CITY — Deni Avdija missed a dunk, and Jordan Poole missed a jumper. Kyle Kuzma missed from the corner, while Bilal Coulibaly missed from under the basket.

No, that’s not a page from a Dr. Seuss book. That’s how the Washington Wizards ended their 127-115 loss to the Utah Jazz on Monday night to extend their losing streak to 15 games, one defeat from matching the franchise record. They didn’t hit a field goal in the final 5:21, and the Jazz closed on a 22-5 run. It was much more nightmare than fairy tale.

If there’s an overarching connection among the three losses Washington (9-52) suffered on its week-long trip through the Western Conference, here’s one: While the Wizards have made significant strides in fighting until the end of games since interim coach Brian Keefe took over in late January, they still can’t finish them.

On Monday, Washington had a five-point lead with 7:21 to play and was tied with the Jazz (28-34) with less than five minutes to play before the team lost. On Thursday, the Wizards took the Lakers to overtime, and to their credit, Los Angeles needed 40 points and 15 rebounds out of Anthony Davis to pull out the win. But the result was the same.

Jordan Poole, moving into a new role, is starting to get comfortable

“Similar down the stretch, on the road, loud atmosphere …” Poole said. “[Closing a game] comes with a level of maturity as well as just learning, just knowing what to do in those moments. It’s really honestly just experience.”

Too much of a bummer? Understandable. Here’s another lesson learned from the road: This Poole turn might be real.

Let’s handle the fun stuff first. Poole started a perfect 8 for 8 from the field Monday and finished with 32 points on 11-for-18 shooting, including 6 for 10 from the three-point line. He was smooth and unhurried against Utah’s relatively lax defense, but still, he got to his spots and made the Jazz pay (his defense remains a liability).

The 24-year-old has started wearing shades around the locker room before tip-off, so there are signs he’s feeling a bit more like himself since the Wizards moved him to the bench seven games ago.

In those games, he’s averaging 23.4 points compared with his 16.6 points per game on the season as a whole. He’s had three of his highest-scoring games this season.

“Just playing my game, honestly,” Poole said. “Being aggressive, when I get open looks, just take them … got going early tonight.”

But things screeched to a halt even for Poole midway through the fourth quarter Monday. Keefe said the game grew stagnant, and without their transition game, the Wizards couldn’t get into the paint and relied too much on desperation looks at the end of the shot clock.

Utah’s Jordan Clarkson torched their set defense for 12 points in the fourth quarter and finished with 38 points and 10 rebounds overall.

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“We just didn’t get enough stops. … Their backcourt really affected us all night,” said Kuzma, who had 23 points and five rebounds. Kuzma scored his 8,000th career point on a free throw with 9:04 to play, but there was no room for celebration in Washington’s locker room afterward.

Poole, at least, made space to learn a lesson. He said he didn’t consider it a bad thing that the Wizards slowed down in the fourth quarter — “I know we want to play fast and play in transition, but later in a game you don’t want to play out of control” — but it was poor planning down the stretch that doomed his team.

Learning how to close tight games late is a process.

“We’re a young team, so we’re still figuring out when to pick and choose our spots … to feel the flow of the game and then when to slow it down, when to get into a set and try to figure out what shot we want,” Poole said. “Tough loss, but I think it’s really good for our team to experience this early. Guys like Bilal in at the end of the game, Deni [Avdija] is in at the end of the game, Tyus [Jones], Kuz and myself have been there before. So just trying to kind of teach the way to play down the stretch.”

Here’s what else to know about the Wizards:

The Wizards made more roster moves over the weekend after signing forward Eugene Omoruyi to a standard contract Friday.

Justin Champagnie is sticking around after his 10-day contract expired and will fill the two-way spot Omoruyi vacated. The Wizards are also signing R.J. Hampton to a 10-day contract. The 24th pick in the 2020 draft was already in-house after the Capital City Go-Go acquired him in a Feb. 14 trade.

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Champagnie, a 6-foot-6, 200-pound forward, saw scant minutes in three games with the Wizards but the front office appreciated how he worked behind the scenes. He really got to show off in his lone appearance with the Go-Go, a Feb. 26 win over Mexico City in which he scored 29 points on seven three-pointers and grabbed eight rebounds.

Hampton, a 6-4, 175-pound guard, is averaging 13.3 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists in seven games with the Go-Go.

Coulibaly returned to the court Monday after missing three games with a pelvis contusion. The rookie had no minutes restriction and said he ran, jumped and moved laterally without pain and finished with seven points and four rebounds in 33 minutes.

Center Marvin Bagley III left the game in the fourth quarter with lower back spasms, finishing with six points on 2-for-7 shooting and nine rebounds in 23 minutes. Keefe did not have an update on his status after the game.

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