- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 9, 2017

This was the up again, the counter to Tuesday night’s mess and one of the better nights of the early season.

The Wizards put out signs that they are who they say are — one of the challengers in the Eastern Conference — by handling a young Los Angeles Lakers team with more force and effectiveness than they did during an overtime loss Oct. 25 in Los Angeles, putting together a 111-95 win. The Lakers never led by more than three points. Washington built a 21-point lead, at one point. Otto Porter (20 points, 11 rebounds in 39 minutes),  John Wall (23, eight rebounds, five assists) and Bradley Beal (22 points, five rebounds, five assists) carried the water, per usual.

Three points from the evening:

Hints of defense. The Lakers scored just 39 points in the second half. They shot just 36 percent for the night. Those things were dramatic changes from what the Wizards had displayed Tuesday night and several times in the season. Washington’s defense was better, though it still did not last a full game. “We stopped giving [up] layup,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said of improved defense after allowing a 34-point first quarter. “It was just like they were… every missed shot they were running out and they were running the wings, running the lanes down the middle, and [Lonzo] Ball was finding kick-ahead passes and then we kind of got a hold of that in the second quarter, I think we only gave up four layups. And then the second half we played much better. It’s a start. It’s not solved, our defense, but it’s a start.”

Plenty of reasons to like Lonzo. If you can move past the patriarchal bluster and noise, there is an enjoyable basketball game being orchestrated underneath by Lonzo Ball. His cross-faced jumper has betrayed him thus far in the NBA, but the other things he does show a player whose teammates will be along with him through struggles. That’s because Ball does two things and does not do one when he is on the court. First, he keeps the ball moving with snap outlets or in the halfcourt. Even on a bad shooting night — which Thursday (3-for-12) was for him yet again — Ball picked up eight assists. The second thing he has done well 12 games into his rookie life is rebound. Ball came into the game averaging 6.3 rebounds. He pulled in eight more Thursday. The thing he does not do is sulk. The one emotional crack he showed in the night was when he badly missed a free throw and quickly threw his hands up in frustration. But, there were several examples during the night of times when Ball missed a shot and decided to run back instead of letting his poor shooting interfere with other duties. He is also going to take the lumps of a constant spotlight — though he has not asked for it — away from his young teammates, which will make their life easier, too. The pressure, the eyes, the whole thing is on him. Hopefully, folks recognize someone who is trying to play the right way despite their status.

Morris working back. Markieff Morris left the floor Thursday night in the first quarter because his left knee tightened up on him. He came back in to have his most productive night since returning from sports hernia surgery four games ago. Morris finished with 16 points on 6-for-7 from the floor. He still doesn’t feel right — “Definitely don’t feel myself yet,” Morris said — and added an interesting tidbit: “My ankle is still a little sore from Boston.” That’s a reference to the severe ankle sprain Morris dealt with in the Eastern Conference semifinals in May against the Celtics. To hear him reference it the following November, after a full summer off, is interesting. Morris jokingly said they performed five MRIs, 20 X-rays and 17 CAT scans on his ankle. Considering that amount of coverage, and no surgery performed, the situation just appears odd in early November. It’s something to keep an eye on going forward.

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