Oubre makes ma­jor im­pact on both ends in easy win

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY CANDACE BUCK­NER

At his best, Kelly Oubre Jr. is spread­ing his arms and nag­ging ball­han­dlers. He’s clap­ping in­ces­santly af­ter de­fen­sive stops or do­ing push-ups af­ter tak­ing of­fen­sive fouls a few feet away from the op­po­nent’s bench.

Although one player on the Wash­ing­ton Wizards’ ros­ter should not carry the bur­den of the team’s re­cent de­fen­sive is­sues, Oubre’s ac­tiv­ity serves as a bell­wether of sorts. If he is prac­tic­ing fun­da­men­tal con­cepts while still un­leash­ing pri­mal en­ergy af­ter big stops, then his play tends to mir­ror that of his team­mates who have set the de­fen­sive tone. On Satur­day night, the best of Oubre showed in the Wizards’ 113-94 rout of the At­lanta Hawks.

Wash­ing­ton (7-5) held its sec­ond straight op­po­nent un­der 100 points, a pos­i­tive trend for a de­fense that has strug­gled early in the sea­son. Although the Hawks shot freely from the three­p­oint arc (14 for 33), Wash­ing­ton blocked 10 shots.

Oubre did not com­pile glam­orous de­fen­sive sta­tis­tics — he had just one steal — but played wisely in lim­it­ing the Hawks’ perime­ter attack. At­lanta point guard Dennis Schroder, who lit up Wash­ing­ton for 24.6 points per game dur­ing an East­ern Con­fer­ence first-round se­ries last sea­son, scored just seven points on 2-for16 shoot­ing. As a team, At­lanta (2-11) made just 41 per­cent from the floor, and a big rea­son was wing de­fend­ers con­test­ing shots.

“This whole week has been a reeval­u­a­tion of my­self,” said Oubre, who scored 18 points and se­cured seven re­bounds. “I kind of lost sight that de­fense is my strong suit. My strong­est suit. I’m just back to that.”

Coach Scott Brooks said it’s no co­in­ci­dence that Oubre has strong of­fen­sive games on nights he flour­ishes de­fen­sively.

“I’ve been with him for a year,” Brooks said. “When he’s solid de­fen­sively, he al­ways has great games of­fen­sively, and the game re­wards him that way. Tonight was one of his best de­fen­sive games. He didn’t gam­ble. He didn’t get beat on back doors. He just played solid bas­ket­ball, and he was ter­rific on of­fense.”

As a young player who of­ten bets on the big play, Oubre some­times has dif­fi­culty stay­ing within the team frame­work. On Satur­day night, Oubre found mo­ments to play smart and still hit the home run: Af­ter tak­ing a push to the back on a flare screen and forc­ing At­lanta into an­other turnover, Oubre did four pushups be­fore rising to his feet.

“I’m a risky player, so I’m in pass­ing lanes a lot. I like to hack. I like to reach, do anything that I can do to pretty much get the up­per edge, and some­times it works to my detri­ment,” Oubre said. “So just be­ing solid means just stay solid, don’t reach and don’t go for steals.”

In­side the Wizards’ locker room, Oubre matched well with for­ward Mike Scott as part of their agree­ment to wear hockey jer­seys to the game. Since com­ing to the Wizards, Scott has shown a fash­ion sense, sport­ing a cus­tom­ized NHL jersey to al­most ev­ery game. So while Oubre chose a black-and-white sweater with his name on the back, Scott chose a Carolina Hur­ri­canes jersey with “MARSUPIALS” stitched across the name plate.

On the court, the two fash­ion­able for­wards pro­vided a needed spark off the bench.

The Wizards opened a 25-point lead in the fi­nal quar­ter as the starters did not have to leave the side­line. Scott scored eight of his 10 points in the fourth.

With the bench fully func­tional, ev­ery Wizards starter played un­der 28 min­utes. Bradley Beal led the team with 19 points, fall­ing short of the 20-point mark for the first time in six games. Marki­eff Mor­ris made 8 of 10 shots for 18 points, and John Wall, who felt “very sick” Satur­day, fin­ished with 13 points, five re­bounds and five as­sists.

“Came in with a ski mask on to­day,” Wall said. “One of my mi­graines came back, and I had a cold on top of it. I didn’t get to warm up be­fore the game. I had to get two IVs so I could have some type of en­ergy.”

At times, both teams’ of­fense ex­e­cu­tion could have used med­i­cal at­ten­tion.

In a game dot­ted with turnovers — the teams com­bined for 47, nearly one a minute — the tempo re­mained static. It was a ragged game, sput­ter­ing in backand-forth dis­or­der. Early in the first quar­ter, Hawks for­ward Tau­rean Prince stole a pass from Beal. Sec­onds later, Beal col­lected a bad de­liv­ery from Schroder.

An of­fi­ci­at­ing crew that fre­quently stopped the ac­tion while show­ing lit­tle tol­er­ance for mov­ing picks didn’t help ei­ther team find a rhythm — and es­pe­cially lim­ited the Wizards’ best screener, cen­ter Marcin Gor­tat. Through the half, Gor­tat col­lected three per­sonal fouls, two on the of­fen­sive end while try­ing to help team­mates get open, and played nearly 17 min­utes of score­less bas­ket­ball.

Even af­ter clos­ing the first half on a 19-5 run, the Wizards failed to build upon that mo­men­tum. In the third quar­ter, Wash­ing­ton matched its turnover to­tal from the first half with nine give­aways, and those low­lights in­cluded Mor­ris flub­bing a be­hind-the­back pass to Gor­tat and Wall pick­ing up his third foul of the quar­ter with a charge.

How­ever, the Wizards fi­nally found their pace at the start of the fourth quar­ter. The five-man bench ro­ta­tion of Oubre, Scott, Tim Fra­zier, Jodie Meeks and Ian Mahinmi clicked as the team scored 12 straight points. Cap­i­tal­iz­ing on At­lanta’s mis­takes, the Wizards poured in layups and dunks. With 7:38 re­main­ing in the game, Scott, who played his first five sea­sons in At­lanta, con­nected with Fra­zier on an al­ley­oop fin­ish and opened a 94-69 lead, the Wizards’ largest of the night.

GE­OFF BURKE/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Bradley Beal fin­ished with 19 points, four re­bounds, four as­sists and three steals in the Wizards’ win.

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