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Pulse of the NBA

11:35 AM, Jan 23, 2013   |    comments
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New York, NY (Sports Network) - What's going on in Washington? The Wizards have actually won more games than they've lost recently and are on a bit of a roll.

Following a five-game losing streak that put the Wizards' record at 4-28, they've gone on to win five of their next seven games, including Monday's road win in Portland on Jordan Crawford's buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

The Wizards initially snapped their losing streak with a 101-99 home win over the Oklahoma City Thunder and then finally welcomed back John Wall to the team after he missed the first 33 games of the season with a right knee injury.

The return of the former top overall pick of the 2010 draft really seems to have energized this Wizards team and they're playing at a much higher level than we're used to seeing.

Without Wall in the lineup, the Wizards ranked last in scoring (89.2 ppg), field goal percentage (40.8) and 3-point shooting percentage (32.3), barely ever got to the free throw line and had the league's worst point differential.

But with Wall back, even in a reserve role playing 25 minutes per game, the Wizards are averaging 100.6 points (which would rank them ninth with the Warriors), shooting 47.7 percent from the field (which would rank fourth), a phenomenal 43.5 percent from 3-point range (which would rank first) and are outscoring opponents by 6.3 points (which would rank fourth).

Wall's presence has made life easier for rookie Bradley Beal, but the first- year two-guard finally started to find his shooting range before Wall's return and he's certainly another reason why the Wizards have looked so much better lately.

And Beal knew it was important to establish himself before he actually played with his expected backcourt mate of the future.

"I think it was kind of big, because I didn't want it to seem like I was coming here to rely on John," Beal said. "Like he's the only guy who could come in and help me or vice versa. I just wanted to be able to come in within my own, so to speak. I just tried to establish myself and my teammates did a good job of helping me out and setting me up in great situations to be able to put the ball in the basket."

The new year has been very good to Beal and he looks like a completely different player from the one who struggled so badly over the first two months of the season.

In eleven games this month, he's averaging 17.1 points, while shooting 46 percent from the field and an incredible 58 percent (29-of-50) from beyond the arc.

Beal, who was the third overall pick of the 2012 draft, came up big in the Wizards' two most impressive wins this month. He nailed the game-winner against the Oklahoma City Thunder with just 0.3 seconds left, topping off a 22-point night in which he hit 5-of-7 from 3-point range. And in last Friday's road win against the Denver Nuggets, he scored 23 points, hitting 8-of-13 from the field, including 4-of-7 from downtown.

"I think he's just falling into a comfort of where his spots are now, where his attack zones are, what plays he can be aggressive, the speed of the game. I think it's all coming around to now to playing in that environment, you get used to it," said coach Randy Wittman. "He's fallen into a good rhythm here."

While the Wizards are experiencing a rare taste of success, one of the NBA's most storied franchises, the Boston Celtics, are seeing their disappointing season even getting worse lately.

And coach Doc Rivers was very vocal and direct in addressing the team's problems after the Celtics were routed in Detroit on Sunday.

"I gotta either find the right combination or the right guys, or we're going to get some guys out of here," Rivers said. "That's the bottom line. This group right now, they're not playing right. It's in them to play right. But right now they haven't been either because I'm not getting to them, or they're not getting to each other."

To which Kevin Garnett said, "I'm pretty sure Doc's upset and frustrated like everybody else here right now. He's mad as me, he thinks in those terms. I'm a player and I have to say, 'What can I do better?' That's where I'm at."

"I'm clearly not doing my job with this team," Rivers said. "I ain't trying to take a bullet for the team. I told them that we gotta find something every night, all 12 guys play the same way.

"I don't think guys are honest with each other," Rivers added. "I just don't think we have committed to being a good basketball team. I think this team wants everything easy; they want the easy way out. They just want to win easy. And I told them, 'The only way you're going to win easy is you're going to have to play hard. The harder you play, the easier the game becomes.'"

Rivers' harsh words weren't enough to prevent the Celtics from seeing their losing streak extended to four games Tuesday night in Cleveland, as Kyrie Irving exploded for 40 points in the Cavaliers' 95-90 win.

"I thought we played in stretches, in spurts," Rivers said following the loss. "I thought the first quarter, offensively, we were terrific and defensively we were bad. We gave up 31 points in the first quarter. I thought the third quarter probably set the game of basketball back 30 years by both teams. And then the fourth quarter, we didn't get much better offensively, and Kyrie Irving happened. I think he had 15 points in the fourth. ... And he made some tough shots. But we couldn't convert. We just, offensively, we had those flat periods, and when we are good when we have those flat periods, we get stops.

And right now we're not when we have droughts."

Despite Rivers' recent comments about possible roster changes, general manager Danny Ainge made it pretty clear Tuesday he doesn't foresee that happening.

"Realistically, I don't see major changes coming," Ainge said. "Of course we're trying to get better, and any deal that was available that could help us, you obviously do that. But we're not just trying to make any deal. We're not selling the team off or anything like that. We're trying to win with what we have right now. That's got to be our first objective."

At least if misery does indeed like company, the Celtics faithful can revel in the fact the hated Los Angeles Lakers have been even worse this season.

The Sports Network

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