Digest (Jan. 15): Otto Porter Jr. draws criticism after Wizards' home loss to Bucks

The Washington Post

John Wall, peering over the heads of reporters, checked to see whether his teammate Otto Porter Jr. was across the locker room.

While answering a question about Porter's recent offensive travails after the Washington Wizards' 104-95 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday, Wall had a ready explanation. Wall and Bradley Beal had accounted for over half of the team's shot attempts while their running mate, Porter, found just eight — fewer than even backup wing Kelly Oubre Jr.

And Wall knew why.

"You try to do a good job just getting him as many shots as we can, but it's kind of hard because he's out there and then he's coming out very early, then he's playing with the second unit a lot. We just got to do a better job of getting Otto the ball," Wall said, before he quickly shifted his eyes over the crowd of microphones and added in an even tone: "But he also has to do a better job of just being aggressive himself when he get it."

The closed-door challenges have now become postgame confessions as Washington coach Scott Brooks and Wall shared harsh truths about Porter's waning aggressiveness inside Capital One Arena.

Porter has surpassed double-digit scoring totals in just two of his six games in January. Last week, as Washington (25-19) began this extended homestand, Porter missed the first game against the Bucks while dealing with back and hip soreness. The Wizards didn't simply rest him that night — he couldn't play, Brooks said.

Porter returned to play in the team's next four contests but hasn't regained his game — consistently dashing on the break, firing spot-up looks and, as Porter says, executing "his niche."

When asked about the 39 shot attempts combined by Wall and Beal, Brooks turned the question into an assessment of Porter's recent play.

"Kelly nine, Otto had eight," Brooks said, ticking off shot attempts from other players. "We'd like to get Otto more, but Otto has to help himself get more. That's the bottom line is Otto needs to get himself open and be ready to catch and shoot and get more shots."

As Wall blistered through the first quarter and scored 16 points on 10 shot attempts, his teammates all played the role of his supporting cast. Wall held authority over the offense, so, naturally, Porter attempted only three shots in the first half. Porter would match that shot total in the third quarter while Beal played as the Wizards' offensive heavy (seven attempts).

After the game, Porter shared a reasonable explanation for his eight points in nearly 31 minutes of action.

"Just trying to get back into a rhythm," Porter said. "The more I play, the more you get into a rhythm, so just trying to get back into my niche with John and Brad and Keef [Morris] and March [Gortat].

"I know I've been out a couple of games," Porter continued, "but just trying to slowly mentally, physically get back to where I was."

For the fourth time in five games, the Wizards' starting guards each logged more than 40 minutes. The limited rest showed down the stretch.

Wall played two separate stints in the final quarter as Washington and Milwaukee seesawed through four ties and two lead changes. Wall's leaping lob pass to Tomas Satoransky early in the fourth pulled the Wizards ahead by two, but when he checked back into the game with 6:50 remaining he lost a turnover then missed a pull-up jumper and a look at the rim — believing he was fouled — as Milwaukee took the lead and started to pull away.

Wall finished with 27 points on 7-for-22 shooting and nine assists. He was outdueled by Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who finished with 27 points and 20 rebounds and heard a smattering of "M-V-P" chants on the road.

Beal split up his responsibilities in leading the second unit and then closed the game with the Wizards' starters on the floor. He produced mixed results, committing five turnovers during a sloppy second quarter then missing all four of his shots in the fourth to finish 8 of 17 for 19 points.

The Wizards led by two with less than six minutes to play, but Milwaukee (23-20) stormed ahead as the more energetic bunch with an 11-0 run and stayed ahead for good. During that stretch, the Wizards' top three players couldn't stop the surge.

"Just try to be available," Porter said, rehearsing the challenge from his coach. "I did OK [Monday], still was limited a little bit."

NFL

3 Ravens named to writers' All-AFC team

The Ravens didn't have any players selected to the All-NFL team in voting conducted by the Pro Football Writers of America. However, they did land three players on the PFWA's All-AFC squad. Safety Eric Weddle, kicker Justin Tucker and punt returner Michael Campanaro (River Hill) were voted to the All-AFC team. The Ravens trailed only the Pittsburgh Steelers (six), the New England Patriots (four) and the Jacksonville Jaguars (four) for most players on the All-AFC team. Weddle finished second in the AFC with six interceptions, behind the Tennessee Titans' Kevin Byard, who had eight and was named to the All-NFL team by the PFWA. Tucker, who also made the team last season, finished 34-for-37 on field-goal attempts and 39-for-39 on extra-point tries. The Los Angeles Rams' Greg Zuerlein, who made 38 out of 40 field-goal attempts and missed two of his 46 extra-point tries, was selected as the All-NFL kicker. Campanaro led the AFC with an average of 10.8 yards per punt return. He also had a 77-yard punt return touchdown against the Chicago Bears. The Detroit Lions' Jamal Agnew, who averaged 15.4 yards per punt return, was named the All-NFL punt returner.

— Jeff Zrebiec

Women's college lacrosse

Colorado senior Sarcona killed in auto accident

A player on the University of Colorado women's lacrosse team died in auto accident over the weekend. The school said Monday that 21-year-old senior Julia Sarcona was driving a vehicle that crashed into a tree on a highway south of Boulder, Colo. Coach Ann Elliott described Sarcona as someone with an "incredible heart" who was "always funny and caring" and "could always make you laugh and smile." The coach added: "She was an integral part of this program and has impacted each of our lives in so many ways." Sarcona was born in Northport, N.Y., on Long Island. She was a three-year letter winner in lacrosse and was to graduate this spring with a degree in public relations.

Et cetera

Ghoul's Night Out breaks her maiden at Laurel Park

Ghoul's Night Out, a chestnut daughter of Hall of Famer Ghostzapper, broke her maiden in her 4-year-old debut with an impressive 21/4-length triumph on Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday program at Laurel Park. It was the fifth career start and third since joining trainer Hamilton Smith last fall for Ghoul's Night Out ($6.60), the 2-1 second choice of seven fillies in the $40,000 maiden special weight for 4-year-olds and up. Purchased for $150,000 as a 2-year-old in training in April 2016, Ghoul's Night Out was fourth in her lone juvenile start that December. After finishing off the board in her second start, she went unraced from January to November 2017 when she was third first time out for Smith. In her previous start, she finished second in a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight Dec. 22 at Laurel. "The filly is improving every week for us, getting better all the time. Hopefully that will continue," Smith said. "We had to work on her a little bit when we first got her but she's doing fine right now. We sent her down to South Carolina to regroup a little bit and brought her back. Most probably we'll just take the next step with her and not rush her into anything." Jockey Elvis Trujillo settled Ghoul's Night Out behind fractions of 23.57 and 47.40 seconds, forged a short lead at the head of the stretch and powered down the stretch to win in 1 minute, 11.64 seconds over a fast main track. Sister Patricia was second, a half-length ahead of My Chesa Charm. The win was the second straight on the card for Mens Grille Racing, which also took the third race with Crookit ($11.20). ... There will be a 20-cent Rainbow 6 jackpot carryover of $5,980.03 when live racing returns to Laurel on Friday. Multiple tickets with all six winners Monday returned $914.84. ... Jockey Jorge Vargas Jr. and trainer Kieron Magee teamed up for a pair of winners Monday with Crystal Pier ($7) in the second race and Keep Your Distance ($6.40) in the eighth. Apprentice Carlos Carrasco won aboard Crookit ($11.20) in the third and Ask Me I Might ($8.80) in the fifth. Trainer Horacio DePaz sent out two winners for Sagamore Farm, Proportionality ($4.40) in the sixth and Annapolis Class ($16.80) in the ninth.

Baseball: The Washington Nationals continued the systematic reconstruction of their bench Monday, re-signing do-it-all man Howie Kendrick to a two-year deal worth $7 million, according to a person familiar with the situation. Kendrick joined the Nationals on a deadline deal last July and slid comfortably into their veteran clubhouse while hitting .293 with an .837 OPS in 52 games. The signing, first reported by USA Today, continues the purposeful reconstruction of the Nationals' bench, which lost veterans Stephen Drew, Adam Lind, and (at first) Kendrick to free agency.

— Chelsea Janes, The Washington Post

Men's college basketball: Loyola Maryland senior guard Andre Walker was named Patriot League Player of the Week. ... Mount St. Mary's senior guard Junior Robinson was named the Northeast Conference Co-Player of the Week, and Mount freshman guard Donald Carey was named Rookie of the Week. ... Salisbury junior guard Blair Davis (City) was named Capital Athletic Conference Player of the Week.

From Sun staff and news services

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