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Wizards Score Signature Wins, Slowly Make Climb in Standings

Washington looks like a completely different team in the latter portion of the NBA regular season as the Wizards have gone on a tear, winning seven of the last nine contests during a stretch beginning on Valentine’s Day.

During a five-game winning streak, the Wizards took down the reigning NBA Champions (Los Angeles Lakers) 127-124 in an impressive and gutsy performance highlighted by strong play from Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook.

Beal poured in a game-high 33 points while Westbrook nearly scored a triple-double with 32 points, 14 rebounds, and nine assists. Washington dominated in the painted area, scoring 66 points down low and cleaned the glass with 49 rebounds due to aggressive play.

“I think it was big,” Washington Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said about the win. “When we were down, I think 17, it felt like 40, and I was just saying ‘We gotta just chip away guys, keep it at a respectable number at halftime. We gotta just play,’ and I thought we did.”

It was the first time since 2018 that Washington went on a five-game win streak until they fell to the Los Angeles Clippers, 135-116, in the next match.

Despite that setback, Washington continued its resilient run rattling off two consecutive victories against the Denver Nuggets with a tight two-point decision and welcomed home the dismal Minnesota Timberwolves, blowing them out by 16 points.

Washington enjoyed a pure team effort win against the Nuggets on Feb. 17, where five players scored in double-figures. Beal led the Wizards in scoring (33 points), Westbrook notched a triple-double (16 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) and even second-year forward Rui Hachimura got in on the action scoring 20 points.

Denver scored 23 fast break points and was on fire, but Washington retook the lead late in the fourth quarter, going on a 4-0 run, and held on to a two-point lead for more than a minute to close out the game defensively.

The Wizards employed a different starting five against Minnesota, consisting of Garrison Matthews and Mortiz Wagner filling the No. 4 and 5 spots. They performed admirably in the starting lineup, respectively, both scoring in double-figures with Wagner (18 points) one rebound shy of a double-double.

“It’s coming together as a team with the leaders that we have,” Matthews said about the team’s recent success. “I know my job out there is to play as hard as I can on defense in space for Brad and Russ and knock down shots when they come to me. My job didn’t change when I entered the starting lineup … now we’re starting to mesh pretty well together.”

Beal scored 46 points against the Celtics on Feb. 28, but it wasn’t enough for the Wizards to seal the deal late as Washington lost by one point, 111-110.

It has been quite the improvement for Washington since the start of the year, which currently sits in the No. 12 spot in the Eastern Conference.

The good news for the Wizards is that other than facing the Memphis Grizzlies on the road March 10, Washington will play at home seven out of eight upcoming games looking to gain more ground in the standings.

“We still haven’t done a damn thing,” Beal said about the state of the team. “We won a few games, but we still have bad habits to correct, and we still got a whole season ahead of us with a lot of games and a lot of room to make up. We still have this humble approach and mentality that we have to put on our hard hats on and still get back to work.”

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