December 5, 2021

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Fit And Go Forward

5 takeaways from Wizards-Clippers, including Isaac Bonga’s big game

The Washington Wizards lost to the Los Angeles Clippers 105-100 on Saturday night in Orlando, FL. Here are five takeaways from the game…

Rui played well 

The Kawhi Leonard comparisons may be entirely unfair to Rui Hachimura, but there is something about playing against Leonard and the Clippers that brings out the best of the Wizards rookie. He scored a career-high 30 points against L.A. back in December and on Saturday night popped off for 15 points in 28 minutes in Disney World.

The Wizards were already without John Wall, Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans and then shortly before tip-off it was revealed Troy Brown Jr. wouldn’t play. That put a major emphasis on Hachimura, who became not only the centerpiece of the Wizards’ offense but the primary focus of the Clippers’ vaunted defense.

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Hachimura passed the test well, all things considered. The main blemish would be the fact he shot just 6-for-17 (35.3%) from the field. But what stood out most was the confidence Hachimura carried with him. He was relentless in attacking off the dribble and had no problem going right at Leonard, Paul George or any defender the Clippers threw at him.

The Wizards would like Hachimura to come out of Orlando prepared to play an important role on a team with much higher expectations next season. So far, he has looked the part through two games.

Leonard, meanhwile, was dreadful. He had six points and shot just 3-for-16. He also had some blown assignments on defense, which you rarely see from him. Hey, it is the preseason, technically. Get the kinks out now.

Bonga stood out 

Just as he did against Denver on Wednesday, Isaac Bonga had another strong game and this time it didn’t just show in his +/- rating. He was +15, but also had 15 points and 12 rebounds. He ate the Clippers up with putbacks and tough plays in traffic around the rim.

The more Bonga does this, the more he is starting to remind me of former Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. Granted, he doesn’t have the outside shot Porter had, but he also doesn’t have the injury issues, so there’s that. Like Porter, he is lanky and versatile. And like Porter, he is a non-flashy glue guy type of player.

The best comparison for Bonga, in my opinion, is another former Wizards player: Jared Jeffries. Jeffries agrees with the similarities, too. But the Porter parallel is arguably there, if you look for it.

Robinson made some plays

Saturday night offered Jerome Robinson his first crack at the Clippers, who drafted him in 2018 but then traded him to the Wizards in February. Call it a revenge game if you want, but he played well.

Robinson had 13 points on 4-for-10 shooting and, perhaps most importantly, looked assertive on offense. That is something the Wizards want to drill into him, that he shouldn’t hesitate before he attacks or shoots. Robinson looked determined in this game, just like he did on Wednesday against the Nuggets.

Robinson is one of the most interesting Wizards player to watch in Orlando. We know Hachimura, Brown and others like Thomas Bryant and Moe Wagner are going to be important pieces next season. But Robinson doesn’t have anything guaranteed, especially as the back-up at Beal’s position.

Robinson was the 13th overall pick just two years ago. He has the talent to be a really good player. He just hasn’t really been given a great opportunity to show it and when he has played, his shooting percentages have hovered too low to justify more minutes.

The Wizards’ time in Orlando is really the first time in his career he hasn’t backed up a much better player. If he can prove worthy of being the second-string two-guard behind Beal next year, the Wizards’ offseason picture could get a little more clear.

Three-point deficit

One key area to watch with Beal and Bertans missing is three-point shooting and it was another tough night for the Wizards on the perimeter. After going 9-for-34 (26.5%) against the Nuggets, they shot just 8-for-31 (25.8%) against Los Angeles.

That is not a great sign, especially considering the era we are in where three-point shooting is one of the better indicators of team success. But with the players they are missing, the Wizards are left with no easy answers.

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They have a collection of guys who can spread the floor, perhaps most notably Shabazz Napier, Bryant and Wagner. Bryant, to his credit, went 3-for-7 from three in this game.

But they don’t really have anyone who can consistently hit from long range with both efficiency and volume. Don’t be surprised if that costs them some games in Orlando.

No Troy Brown

Brown had to sit this one out due to a sprained right thumb. According to head coach Scott Brooks, he sustained the injury in the closing minutes of practice on Friday. It was just an exhibition game, so not a major deal he missed it. And Brooks said he is now day-to-day, that it isn’t serious.

Still, Brown is among the players the Wizards have in Orlando with the most to gain from the experience. A recent first round pick, this is crucial time for him to learn how to be a focal point of the offense with Beal and Bertans out. They are only guaranteed 11 total games and now he can only play a maximum of 10.

The best-case scenario for the Wizards at Disney World does not involve making the playoffs, it is if they can get out of there healthy with Hachimura, Brown and others taking more confidence into next season. They will now need to hope Brown can indeed come back soon to continue his development.

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5 takeaways from Wizards-Clippers, including Isaac Bonga’s big game originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

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