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Wizards hope a rare practice, and prideful drill, ends defensive slippage

Bradley Beal, left, and John Wall know the Wizards need to improve their defensive play. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

In their first practice in nearly two weeks, the Washington Wizards returned to a defensive elixir that has worked in the past.

“Straight one-on-one. Old school,” Bradley Beal proclaimed after Thursday’s practice. “Get down and guard your guy. Keep him out of the lane and defend.”

During earlier times of defensive peril, the Wizards have matched a good video session — the time in which Coach Scott Brooks describes as players gathering around “the truth box” — with a simple yet effective on-court drill. One player stopping his guy from scoring. Just like in the prideful days on the playground.

The spotlight shines on only the two players, as teammates watch and wait for their turn to either protect their ego or get exposed. Over the previous six games, however, the Wizards (41-26) have looked sheepish in stopping their opponents. During this stretch, teams have shot a league-high 50.8 percent against Washington and scored 119.5 points per game, the second highest mark. On Wednesday, the Wizards lost a lead by allowing the Dallas Mavericks to have a 39-point fourth quarter, and eventually fell, 112-107.

Wizards’ defensive struggles follow them home in 112-107 loss to Mavericks

“It’s helped us in the past,” Brooks said of the one-on-one defensive drills, “and hopefully it can get us back to playing the way we know we can play defensively.”

In the drill, an offensive player can take only two dribbles before getting off a shot. If a defender gets scored on, he remains on the floor until he gets a stop. At times, Brooks will call a player to the court and challenge him with a certain matchup. With so much pride at stake, these one-on-one battles have produced highly physical and heated moments — and that partially explains why the Wizards haven’t used the drill often.

However since the team has not practiced since March 4 and the team’s defensive failings — indecisiveness, poor communication — all seem rooted in the problem of players not stopping their man, Brooks needed to reboot the drill. As much as the on-court work should help, Brooks believes just as much in team-wide game review.

“A lot of times, the film is a lot louder than the voice,” Brooks said. “We know what we have to do and we know we have to get better. We can’t afford to give up 39-point quarters and expect to win.”

Wall sits out practice

Although John Wall wore flip-flops on the practice court, signifying he was not a participant in the team’s physical one-on-one session, Brooks reported that he is feeling “good” a day following his left foot sprain. No further tests are scheduled, but Brooks indicated that Wall will continue to receive treatment and be evaluated again ahead of the Friday night matchup against the Chicago Bulls before determining his playing status.

Wall sprains left foot vs. Mavericks but plays on

“It’s always day-to-day,” Brooks said. “He’s going to be sore but the one thing you can count on John, he’s as tough as they come. He loves the game. He loves to compete and it takes a lot to keep him out of games.”

Beal echoed similar thoughts.

“I honestly forgot he even twisted his ankle yesterday because he played,” Beal said. “It is great to be able to see him back walking without a boot or anything on his … foot.

“He’s a warrior. He’s hardheaded too so he’s going to play,” Beal continued. “As long as it’s not broke, he’s going to play so he’ll be all right.”

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