Capitals

1 seed Bulls one loss away from elimination

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1 seed Bulls one loss away from elimination

From Comcast SportsNet
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- His coach called Jrue Holiday's slump "0 for the world." Even as the misses piled up, Holiday never felt the weight of it on his 21-year-old shoulders. All he could do in a thorny Game 4 was laugh about his struggles with teammate Evan Turner. "You've got to be happy when you play," Holiday said. "It really helps." Boy, did it help Philadelphia in the final minutes against Chicago. Holiday busted out of a game-long slump with consecutive 3-pointers that stretched a one-point lead into seven and helped the 76ers beat the Chicago Bulls 89-82 on Sunday and take a 3-1 lead in their Eastern Conference playoff series. "Don't fear the consequences," 76ers coach Doug Collins said. It's the top-seeded Bulls who suddenly fear elimination. Spencer Hawes scored 22 points and Holiday had 20 to put the Sixers one win away from joining the short list of eighth-seeded teams that have won a series against a No. 1 seed. Andre Iguodala had 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Sixers, who have won the last three games after losing Game 1. Game 5 is Tuesday in Chicago. The short-handed Bulls played without Derrick Rose (torn ACL) and Joakim Noah (sprained ankle). Rose is out for the season and Noah is day to day for the rest of the series. In NBA postseason history, the eighth seed has won a first-round series against the No. 1 seed four times, including last season when Memphis eliminated San Antonio. Golden State (2007), New York (1999) and Denver (1994) also pulled off the rare feat. "I'm not worried about it," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I'm just worried about the next game. We do have more than enough to win with." The Sixers won three straight playoff games for the first time since Allen Iverson fueled their run to the 2001 NBA finals. Holiday was sensational down the stretch after a rocky first 3 quarters. He missed his first five 3-point attempts until he nailed one to make it 77-73. He hit another the next time down for a seven-point lead to the delight of a roaring sellout crowd. They were easily his biggest shots on a 7-of-23 night. He expects to hear the same noise in the next round. "We have to play like it's Game 7," Holiday said. "We want to win in Chicago." The undermanned Bulls kept at it and refused to use playing without their two biggest impact players as an excuse. C.J. Watson, who scored 17 points, hit a step-back jumper to make it a two-point game. In a whistle-happy game, Holiday went to the line with 51 seconds left and made both for an 84-80 lead. Suddenly -- and shockingly -- the Sixers are a win away from taking a playoff series for the first time since 2003. Carlos Boozer had 23 points and 11 rebounds for the Bulls. Taj Gibson chipped in 14 points and 12 rebounds. Without a full roster, the Bulls barked at the refs, talked trash on the court and used every self-motivational tactic they knew to gain an edge on the Sixers. Noah, injured in Game 3, took charge on the bench as head cheerleader. Wearing a protective walking boot, he clapped, cheered and offered instruction in the timeout huddle. Noah was needed more on the court than as a de facto assistant coach. Boozer actively did his best to keep the Bulls in the game. He played through foul trouble to score 18 points through three quarters (matching his combined total for the first two games) and he fought for some of the tough rebounds Noah would grab. It wasn't enough. The Sixers made 22 of 31 free throws to Chicago's 11-for-14 effort. The Sixers only averaged 18.2 free-throw attempts this season. "Bottom line, we've got to play better defense without fouling," Boozer said. "You can't cry about the referees. It's the playoffs. If we could hold them to 17, 18 points in the fourth quarter, maybe we win that game." Iguodala played through right Achilles' tendinitis to make so many impact plays for the Sixers. He halted a Bulls run in the third with a 3 for a 57-56 lead. Bad leg and all, he still soared for a thunderous dunk on the break in the first half for an eight-point lead. One of the worst fourth-quarter foul shooters in the NBA, Iguodala even made both with 26.6 seconds left. "I think the adrenaline carried me through the game," Iguodala said. "It's hard to get on your toes, that's the hardest thing." Game 4 lacked the electric atmosphere early that accompanies a postseason game because the Broad Street Run was routed in front of the sports complex. The Wells Fargo Center was barely half full by tip and the announced crowd of 20,142 needed time to warm up. By the time Holiday hit his 3s, the arena was going wild. His sharp shooting in clutch time came at the right time after a slow start. Holiday and Turner continue to befuddle Collins with their inconsistency. The under-25 starting backcourt followed a solid Game 3 with a combined 3 for 22 for eight points in the first half. Lou Williams, perhaps the league's top reserve, failed to bail them out with a 2-for-10 effort in the game. Their struggles were a key reason the depleted Bulls kept the score tight even without their two stars. The Sixers crashed the boards early without Noah in the lineup and had 15 second-chance points in the half to grab a 10-point lead. Hawes hit the go-ahead 20-footer late in the fourth for the Game 3 winner and he continued his hot hand into Sunday. He had made seven of his first eight shots, including a 3-pointer right before the second quarter buzzer to send the Sixers into halftime with 44-42 lead. Notes: Boxer Bernard Hopkins, former NBA great Dolph Schayes, former Sixers great Julius Erving and actor Bill Murray attended the game. ... Philadelphia last won a playoff series when it beat New Orleans in 2003. ... The Sixers hold a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven series for the first time since the 1984 East semifinals. ... 76ers CEO Adam Aron said there was nothing the team could do about the start time.

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Fixing their 'Swiss cheese' defense now a top priority for the Caps

Fixing their 'Swiss cheese' defense now a top priority for the Caps

Heading into the 2017-18 season, defense was a question mark for the Capitals. That question mark grew even bigger with Matt Niskanen on LTIR. Now, in the wake of an 8-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers and with Niskanen out until at least early November, Barry Trotz knows the team needs to fix the blue line and they need to do it fast.

“We've got to be better,” Trotz told reporters after Tuesday’s morning skate. “But there’s areas of our game that we can be better. We can be better in our own zone. We can take care of business defensively. That’s got to be our security blanket. We had too many holes in our d-zone. It was like Swiss cheese.”

RELATED: TROTZ HAS SHUFFLED THE DEFENSIVE PAIRS. WHAT DO THEY LOOK LIKE NOW?

The team’s first response to Niskanen’s injury was to recall Madison Bowey, a player who impressed in training camp and who likely would have started the season on the team if not for a salary cap crunch and his waiver exempt status.

Bowey’s first game did not go well with the lasting memory being a highlight reel deke Jakub Voracek delivered to turn Bowey around before setting up another Philadelphia goal.

Trotz took ownership of Saturday’s game saying the team did not “insulate” Bowey very well in his NHL debut.

The problem is that it will difficult to insulate him or anyone on the Caps’ defense given how thin the blue line currently is. Washington’s defense currently features two rookies in Bowey and Christian Djoos and Bowey is only one of three right-handed shots. Plus, both Bowey and Djoos are likely better options than either Taylor Chorney or Aaron Ness so it will be tough to take either rookie out of the lineup.

MORE CAPITALS: HOW TO WATCH CAPS-LEAFS

Given Washington’s salary cap constraints as they are right back up against the cap when Niskanen returns from injury and his salary is back on the books, it will be difficult for the Caps to make any sort of trade to bring in outside help. Many may point to goalie Philipp Grubauer as a trade chip, but his salary cap hit is only $1.5 million and you can subtract $650,000 from that as the team would have to recall Pheonix Copley to serve as backup. What kind of help can you really get with less than $1 million to play with?

If the team is going to turn things around and shore up its defense, it will mean improving from within.

Said Trotz, “We're in this for the long haul with our defense.”

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Wizards vs. Sixers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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Wizards vs. Sixers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

John Wall, Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards battle Joel Embiid, Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch…

WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 7:00 p.m.
TV: ESPN (coverage begins at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington)
Live stream: WatchESPN.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Three things to watch...

It all begins

The long, crazy, unprecedented NBA offseason is officially over. It's time to watch some Wizards basketball. This year Washington enters the season with the highest expectations they have had in a while. Coming off their best season since the 1970s, a year in which they won 49 games, their division and reached the second round of the playoffs, the goal is to go further. They want to win more than 50 games and reach the Eastern Conference Finals or beyond.

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Markieff Morris are all coming off the best seasons of their careers and will hope to take another step. Marcin Gortat will look to continue being a double-double machine. Ian Mahinmi will hope for better health. Kelly Oubre, Jr. will seek a breakout season. And their new-look bench will try to improve on last year's group. The Wizards have the tools to be one of the best teams in the NBA, but they have to stay healthy and prove it now that the rest of the NBA knows what they are capable of.

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A different Wall?

Wall made All-NBA for the first time last season, but there are many reasons to believe the best is yet to come. Wall earned that honor despite sitting out much of last offseason following two knee surgeries. This summer he was healthy and benefitted because of it. He was able to focus on his conditioning like never before and reported in fantastic shape. Now he has his sights on the MVP award and first team All-Defense. We get to see the new version of him on Wednesday night.

Wall, of course, is still finding motivation in the littlest of things. He took issue this summer with ESPN not ranking him in the top 10 among NBA players. And on Tuesday he tweeted what seemed to be a gripe with ESPN not including him in their tweet welcoming back the NBA. Wall, again, appears to be on a mission and the rest of the league should watch out, perhaps especially if you're a rookie point guard getting a lot of hype. While we're on the subject...

[RELATED: HOW MAHINMI LOST WEIGHT, WHY HE LOVES D.C.]

High profile NBA debuts

The Sixers will have two, not one, but two No. 1 overall picks making their NBA debuts on Wednesday night. It's not often you see that and it's a big reason why this one is slated for a national TV audience, that and because big things are expected of Joel Embiid. Markelle Fultz was the top selection in 2017 and will be playing his first game in his own backyard. He grew up in nearby Upper Marlboro, Md. and went to DeMatha Catholic. He won't start, but this is a huge night for him. He is playing his first game on ESPN at home and against Wall, one of the game's best point guards. No pressure, kid.

The other No. 1 pick is Ben Simmons, whom the Sixers took in the 2016 draft. He missed all of last year with a foot injury but is back and ready to remind us of why he went first overall. Simmons had a tremendous preseason and showed off his rare talents as a 6-foot-10 guy who can run the floor with anyone and pass like a point guard. He is going to make an impact in this league, but we don't know exactly what type of player he will be. Watching his debut should be fascinating.

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