- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 11, 2017

This was not a pristine evening, more so a doubling-down on the the brutish slog that took place in Brooklyn on Wednesday night. However, it was another win. This time against a hot, playoff-bound team, not the woeful Nets.

Washington’s 112-107 win against the Indiana Pacers on Friday night attracted 19,503 patrons. It pushed the Wizards to 32-21, 2 games behind second-place Boston and 4.5 games behind first-place Cleveland, which were both idle. It also gave it a temporary tiebreaker advantage against the Pacers, who the Wizards play again Feb. 16 in Indiana. That’s their final game before the All-Star Break.

Three points from Friday:

Morris takes it to the max. Wizards coach Scott Brooks called a 20-second timeout in the second quarter when things were going awry. Markieff Morris clapped during that pause, then scored a basket and was fouled immediately after. He was on his way to 26 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, plus a late-game hustle grab of a 50-50 ball and the game-sealing 3-pointer. It was a full evening. “We just needed some energy,” Morris said. “They had gone on an 8-0 run. It’s almost the All-Star Break, man. Guys are a little tired. We need a couple more days off. Just needed some energy. I had about three days off, so I had the energy tonight.” It’s been almost a year since the Wizards traded a protected first-round pick and two expiring contracts — Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair — for Morris, who was less than pleased with his situation in Phoenix after the Suns traded his twin, Marcus, among other organizational bad decisions during Morris’ time there. Let’s say he’s happy not to be there anymore and the Wizards are equally satisfied to have such a viable fourth option. Though, he has run into one issue: Marcin Gortat has tried to bestow the nickname “Phoenix Outlaws” onto himself and Morris. “He said it about three times, but I ain’t rolling with it,” Morris said. “I don’t want to give Phoenix no credit, man.”

Oubre again a no-show. Monday against Cleveland, Kelly Oubre was engaged. He had to guard LeBron James at times, he was involved in a high-stakes game and looked like he belonged, he fit his role well. He started Wednesday in Brooklyn for Morris, who sat out with a sore calf (which stems from him injuring his ankle earlier in the season). He was not good. Oubre went 0-for-5 from the field, 0-for-3 from behind the 3-point line and committed four fouls. Friday, he was little better. Oubre was just 0-for-2 from the field and appeared to be playing as if he was trying not to screw up as opposed to make things happen. “I talked to him during the game [Wednesday],” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said before Friday’s game. “He was having a rough game, a rough start. A few of his shots went in and out. A couple of his defensive assignments were not on the level he’s been playing at. But, you’re going to have games like that. You have to be able to learn from it, put it behind you and move on to the next game. I’ve always been a firm believer in that. You can’t just forget about it. You’ve got to learn from it. He didn’t play well. He wants to come back and play better.” Against Indiana, he did not. Of course, whenever discussing Oubre, all the caveats of age and experience apply. But he’s had two bumpy nights this week and that inconsistency makes you wonder how Washington views his prospective reliability in the postseason.

Mahinmi making his way. Ian Mahinmi played 13 minutes Friday night. He’ll rarely be measured properly by his stat line since the nuances of his game are where the quality of it resides. On one possession Friday, he pressured Al Jefferson far from the basket, causing a turnover that turned into a fastbreak layup for the Wizards. That didn’t hit Mahinmi’s meager statline of zero points, three rebounds and a block in 13:03 on the floor. But, it’s at least progress. Getting him back into the rotation is going to be slow going. Here’s why: Washington is in a spot where its starters are playing heavy minutes. That means Brooks is constantly using days in between games as rest days. Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers is legendary for, among other things, cancelling practices and shootarounds. Brooks is catching up. Since Washington has been winning so often, and the starters have been playing so much, Brooks has really let up on practice time in favor of rest. The issue there is that Mahinmi rarely gets a chance to practice. When he does, he’s only able to work with one or two of the possible lineups he may be playing in. Friday, when he was part of an ineffective five-man bench crew, Mahinmi played next to Jason Smith and along with Trey Burke, Oubre and Tomas Satoransky. Asked after the game how often that lineup had practiced together, Brooks cupped his hand into a zero. Also interesting is when Mahinmi was asked after the game which knee concerned him more going forward, he said his right. That’s not the knee he had surgery on in October when he had a partial tear of his medial meniscus in his left knee.

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