With Cavaliers’ stars held out, Wizards give their starters a light afternoon of work

Monday, 09 October 2017, 09:12:35 AM. Coach Scott Brooks gave the bench a deeper look — before yet another disastrous injury struck.

Ahead of the Washington Wizards’ Sunday preseason tilt against a shell of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Coach Scott Brooks predicted he would play his star players roughly 18 to 20 minutes.

Brooks intended to treat this exhibition game, a 102-94 win for the Wizards, as an important moment by testing a new starting lineup and attempting to achieve some rhythm ahead of the Oct. 18 season opener. Then he saw the Cavaliers’ active roster.

Cleveland’s stars never disrobed from their warmups. LeBron James missed his third straight preseason game with an ankle injury, resting along with the most recognizable Cavaliers (Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade and Jae Crowder).

Brooks elected to shorten his starters’ minutes, only needing one rotation of play from John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr. and Marcin Gortat. Instead he gave the bench a deeper look — before yet another disastrous injury struck.

In the second quarter, the Wizards watched second-year swingman Sheldon Mac grimace in pain with a lower left leg injury that is feared to be a torn Achilles’ tendon, according to a league source.

with-cavaliers-stars-held-out-wizards-give-their-starters-a-light-afternoon-of-work photo 1 Sheldon Mac left the game with an injury that the team fears could be a torn Achilles’ tendon, according to a source. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

“I did see it live and it’s sad. It’s devastating,” Beal said. “Mac is a great guy. He’s a great teammate and even better player too. You never want to see anybody go down, especially with an injury in which, you know, it could be something serious potentially.”

During this preseason, teams have been affected by an unpredictable rash of serious injuries. Charlotte Hornets starter Nic Batum (elbow) will miss eight to 12 weeks, while the Utah Jazz may have lost Dante Exum for the season because of a separated shoulder. Mac left the floor — carried off by team trainers without putting pressure on his feet — and the starters remained seated.

“I’m going to play,” Beal said, responding to a question on if he’d prefer to be safe and sit in the remaining preseason games. “Injuries happen. Nobody wants to see anybody get injured, but at the same time they’re uncontrollable. They can happen in the regular season just as well as they can happen in the preseason. You never go into a situation thinking injury first. When you have that mindset, you’re going to do something that’s going to hurt you. For me, it’s all about rhythm.”

Wall played less than eight minutes, finishing with six points and two assists. Beal, who led the Wizards’ starters with 11 points, finished his night after 9:20 of work.

Here are some additional observations from Sunday’s win:

•Through less than six minutes of the first quarter, the Wizards experimented with a smaller starting lineup. Kelly Oubre Jr. moved to the unit to play small forward while Porter played the four spot vacated by the recovering Markieff Morris (sports hernia surgery).

The test was brief as Oubre picked up three fouls in only 5:39, but in theory, the small lineup can switch defensively and score effortlessly.

“It’s definitely a tough lineup to stop,” Brooks said. “It’s a lot of offensive force. It’s a lot of players who can move the scoreboard.”

Before Oubre checked out, the Wizards were tied with the Cavaliers at 15. At that rate, the Wizards would have produced a strong offensive quarter. Even after Brooks started making substitutions, Washington still finished with 38 points.

•While most wings would delight in mismatches with slow-footed centers for an easy chance to drive and score at a defenseless rim, Beal has enjoyed these moments to work on his outside shot.

With 3:40 remaining in the first quarter, Beal noticed lumbering Cavaliers center Kendrick Perkins, who did not play in the league at all last season, trying to defend him from beyond the left corner. Though Beal could’ve lost the 6-foot-10 big man with one move, he dribbled and forced Perkins to drop into a defensive stance. With Perkins left guessing, Beal elevated for the jump shot and absorbed contact to manufacture a four-point play.

During the Wizards’ Friday night preseason game against the New York Knicks, Beal had a similar mismatch with center Enes Kanter on the perimeter. Again, Beal elected to shoot instead of drive — he made that shot, as well.

•The Wizards’ starters value health, but Carrick Felix needs games like Sunday to continue his fight for a roster spot.

Felix, who was invited to training camp, played the entire second half for an efficient line: 4 of 6 overall and 4 of 4 from the free throw line for 13 points. Depending on Mac’s injury, Felix could become a bench wing option.

•Jodie Meeks remains on fire from beyond the three-point arc.

Meeks entered the game having made 6 of 9 threes, the best percentage on the team among players with more than two attempts. Against the Cavaliers, Meeks made 3 of 4 and scored 13 points.

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