Bench con­cerns:

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY TYLER BLINT-WELSH tyler.blint­welsh@wash­post.com

Oubre, re­serves still look­ing for con­sis­tency.

The Wash­ing­ton Wizards seemed in good spir­its ahead of Fri­day night’s game against the Ok­la­homa City Thun­der, de­spite a slow start that has them at the bot­tom of the NBA’s East­ern Con­fer­ence.

At Thursday’s prac­tice, the team and Coach Scott Brooks spoke with ex­cite­ment about the sea­son de­but of Dwight Howard. Howard re­it­er­ated the team’s pre­sea­son goal of reach­ing the East­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nals, mak­ing it clear that he be­lieved it was too early to count out the Wizards.

Fri­day’s re­sult, a list­less 134-111 loss, made it ob­vi­ous how far the Wizards are from sniff­ing the play­offs, let alone win­ning a post­sea­son se­ries.

Much of the early-sea­son frus­tra­tion has cen­tered on the highly paid trio of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. But the Wizards’ per­for­mance in the sec­ond quar­ter Fri­day — when they were outscored 44-20 and went into in­ter­mis­sion down by 29 — also high­lighted the in­con­sis­tent play of Kelly Oubre Jr., a key part of Wash­ing­ton’s sec­ond unit.

Oubre’s de­vel­op­ment and the ad­di­tions of Austin Rivers and Jeff Green were big rea­sons the Wizards ex­pected their bench to take a step for­ward. But Rivers and Green haven’t played par­tic­u­larly well, and while Oubre has been one of the team’s few bright spots in a rough start to the sea­son, his in­con­sis­tency con­tin­ues to plague the team.

In the first five games of the sea­son, Oubre av­er­aged 15.6 points and shot 50 per­cent from be­yond the arc while post­ing a blis­ter­ing ef­fec­tive field goal per­cent­age of 61.2 per­cent. Brooks called it the best stretch the fourthyear for­ward has put to­gether in his time with the Wizards and cred­ited Oubre’s shot se­lec­tion, de­ci­sive­ness and sus­tained ef­fort on both of­fense and de­fense.

“He had two or three games where he was re­ally play­ing solid bas­ket­ball on both ends,” Brooks said, “and he just has to keep do­ing that”

In the de­ci­sive sec­ond quar­ter against the Thun­der, Oubre had his coach again shak­ing his head in frus­tra­tion. As the Wizards’ re­serves man­aged just two field goals in the first four-plus min­utes of the quar­ter, Oubre flashed some of the mad­den­ing in­con­sis­ten­cies that are hold­ing him back.

A sloppy turnover as he brought the ball up the court fol­low­ing a re­bound led to a quick three on the other end. On the next pos­ses­sion, Oubre turned it over again on a trav­el­ing vi­o­la­tion. A five-point deficit to start the sec­ond quar­ter bal­looned. Oubre played 32 min­utes off the bench but missed all six of his three-point at­tempts, shot 6 for 17 from the field and fin­ished with a stag­ger­ing plus/mi­nus of mi­nus30.

On the de­fen­sive end, Oubre lamented his and his team­mates’ in­abil­ity to grab de­fen­sive re­bounds and get back in tran­si­tion.

“A lot of teams run out [in tran­si­tion] on us. That’s kind of the word around town: We don’t get back,” he said. “We’re let­ting teams stay com­fort­able. We have to dis­rupt. It’s what we do . . . . We’re not this bad. I don’t be­lieve that in my heart.”

Oubre, who is the only re­serve player av­er­ag­ing dou­ble fig­ures in scor­ing and is set to be­come a re­stricted free agent af­ter the sea­son, likely will have to con­tinue to be the go-to guy for a bench that is one of the worst in the league. The unit is 29th among NBA benches in field goal per­cent­age and in the bot­tom 10 in three-point per­cent­age, de­spite be­ing in the top 10 in scor­ing, a statis­tic that is more a re­sult of the ex­tended min­utes the Wizards’ re­serves have been get­ting in blowout losses. More games from Oubre like his pre­vi­ous three, in which he shot 30.8 per­cent from the field and 11.1 per­cent from three, won’t be enough to help his 1-7 team to achieve its lofty goals.

As with many of his team­mates, he be­lieves it’s just a mat­ter of time.

“I look for­ward to all the pieces be­ing put to­gether in the puz­zle,” he said.

WILL NEW­TON/GETTY IM­AGES

Fourth-year for­ward Kelly Oubre Jr. has been the Wizards’ best scorer off the bench, but he must de­liver with more con­sis­tency.

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