Wizards

Barlow not losing focus after giving Butler win

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Barlow not losing focus after giving Butler win

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Butler guard Alex Barlow expected Monday morning's practice to be routine.

On the court, it was. Off the court, it was nowhere close.

Three players, including Barlow, were doing phone interviews. A couple of others were being pulled aside to talk to the reporters. Coach Brad Stevens sat patiently in the stands answering questions, all of this indicating that America's NCAA tournament darlings were back on the map.

``To me, it's kind of weird watching yourself on TV,'' said Barlow, the 5-foot-11 walk-on who hit the winning shot in Saturday's 88-86 overtime win over No. 1 Indiana. ``It's kind of crazy to hear how people have misspoken some of our names or call me a former college baseball player.''

There's no mistaking how Barlow and the Bulldogs got back here. The little school from Indianapolis is again beating college basketball's big boys in ways nobody thought possible.

On Saturday, it was Barlow who emerged as the unlikeliest star.

The sophomore from football powerhouse Cincinnati Moeller came to Butler to get a firsthand lesson in Basketball Coaching 101 from Stevens. He turned down multiple scholarship offers to play baseball, what many including his father thought was his best sport, and had scored just 12 points in nine games this season and 18 in his college career.

But with 6 seconds left in overtime, the wispy-looking guard slowly walked toward the lane, backed down Hoosiers guard Jordan Hulls toward the basket, then suddenly spun around and let loose a 6-foot jumper that hit the back of the rim and finally rattled in for the lead with less than 3 seconds to play. Barlow finished with six points, all in overtime. A career high.

What nearly got lost in the celebration, though, was that Barlow also came up with one of the key defensive plays of the game - a steal that led to Chase Stigall's 3-pointer, giving Butler an 86-84 lead that allowed the Bulldogs to dictate the rest of the game.

Those who know Barlow weren't nearly as surprised as the Hoosiers (9-1) or the national television audience.

``He's pretty measured in his words and he won't take any grief. He's a tough guy,'' Stevens said. ``His high school coach (Carl Kremer) said he was similar to another Moeller kid we had, Mike Monserez, in competitiveness and will, and I think he (Monserez) was one of the all-time greats we've had here. So I told Carl if he (Barlow) wants to be here, it's automatic that he can walk on.'''

Barlow did consider two other schools, Clemson and Arizona State, but knew Butler was the right place for him after just one visit.

Now he will go down as the latest little-known Butler star to emerge on the national stage.

The group includes Joel Cornette, who traded shoes with another player after chasing a loose ball and running into a water cooler during Butler's 2003 NCAA tournament run to the regional semifinals; Darnell Archey, the 3-point specialist who set the NCAA record for most consecutive free throws and is on Stevens' staff; A.J. Graves, the MVP of the 2006 NIT Season Tip-Off, who had never been to New York City before that tournament; Gordon Hayward, who led Butler to the 2010 title game and just missed making a buzzer-beating half-court heave that would have beaten Duke for the title; and Matt Howard, the strong inside presence who was the key to Butler's back-to-back runs to the title game.

Now there's Barlow.

``We went out to Applebee's after the game and he was on the phone the whole time. We started calling him big shot,'' shooting guard Rotnei Clarke said, laughing. ``It was fun messing with him because he gets a little sensitive about it.''

The Bulldogs (8-2) should be getting used to this after the two tourney runs in 2010 and 2011 and now they're back at it, winning the Butler Way.

At last month's Maui Invitational, Clarke hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to knock off Marquette. The next night, Butler steamrolled North Carolina. On Dec. 8, they won at Northwestern, and then the Bulldogs pulled the biggest upset of the early season by taking down their fourth BCS-conference school of the season, Indiana, for the first win over a No. 1 team in school history.

``I was praying it would go in because looked like it was coming out to the right,'' said Clarke, who played in some big games at Arkansas but never beat a top-ranked team until transferring to Butler.

The voters have taken notice, too.

Just hours after the Bulldogs wrapped up their morning practice, Butler debuted at No. 19 in this week's Top 25. The only losses this season have to No. 10 Illinois in Maui and at Xavier.

Stevens is not as impressed as some of the outsiders, especially with what he saw against Indiana.

``My biggest thing is that we didn't play perfect,'' he said. ``So we put together a what-if video, a video of about 15 plays that if they had gone the other way, we wouldn't be as happy today.''

Or as busy dealing with all those outside influences that have become more commonplace when the Bulldogs beat the big boys.

Not that Barlow or his teammates mind, since they know it's time to get back to reality.

``It's been crazy, I've gotten a lot of texts and phone messages and social media stuff, but I don't get too caught up in that stuff,'' Barlow said. ``The coaches do tell us all the time that we can beat anyone on any given day, but they also tell us we can get beaten on any given night. I'm not going to say we expected to win (against Indiana), but it was not a surprise to us.''

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The Wizards dominated Game 3 because everybody ate ... literally

The Wizards dominated Game 3 because everybody ate ... literally

The Wizards returned to Washington, D.C. on Friday down 0-2 to the Raptors in their best-of-seven 2018 NBA Playoffs first-round series

The team lost a close one in Game 1 and was run out of the building in Game 2. Game 3 was must-win, and the Wizards knew what needed to happen in order for them to secure the victory.

"Everybody eats." 

That's the phrase that has defined the Wizards throughout much of the season They are at their best when John Wall is making players and feeding his teammates.

On Friday night, the Wizards beat the Raptors 122-103 to force at least a Game 5. Wall finished with 28 points and 14 assists.

Bradley Beal finally broke out of his slump for 28 points and  Marcin Gortat, Mike Scott and Kelly Oubre all chipped in with at least 10 points.

But the stat sheet wasn't the only place where everybody eats.

Here's Marcin Gortat from Game 3. 

But if pantomiming isn't your thing, here is Bradley Beal actually eating popcorn during Game 3.

So what did we learn in Game 3? Well, for starters: "Everybody Eats" is not just a motto, it is a way of life.

MORE FROM WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

GORTAT DITCHES MOHAWK, TEAMMATES APPROVE

MUST-SEE MOMENTS FROM WILD GAME 3

BEAL GOT AN APOLOGY FROM SCOTT BROOKS

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With Playoff Beal back, the Wizards are revitalized in playoff series vs. Raptors

With Playoff Beal back, the Wizards are revitalized in playoff series vs. Raptors

The Toronto Raptors were only going to hold Bradley Beal down for so long. After two so-so games to begin the Wizards-Raptors playoff series, the All-Star shooting guard was bound to find his way offensively and that arrival came in a Game 3 win on Friday night.

Beal was brilliant and much more in line with what he's shown in the postseason throughout his career. Game 2 was his worst playoff game as an NBA player, he scored only nine points. Game 3 was one of his best on the postseason stage, or at least one of his most timely and important.

The Wizards needed more from Beal to give themsevles a chance in this series. An 0-3 deficit would have been a death sentence. His production is so key to their success that head coach Scott Brooks and point guard John Wall met with Beal in between Games 2 and 3 to figure out how to get him going.

Whether that was the catalyst or not, the results followed. Beal poured in 28 points in 10-for-19 shooting with four rebounds, four assists and three steals. He hit four threes, more than he had in the first two games combined.

Beal wasted no time to make an impact scoring the ball. His first points came on a quick burst to the basket where he stopped on a dime, turned around and banked it in. By the end of the first quarter, he had 12 points in 11 minutes.

“I just wanted to be aggressive, get shots that I wanted which is what they were going to force me to take," Beal said.

After Game 2, Brooks and Beal described how physical the Raptors were defending him. They were holding on to him and staying close, even when he wasn't moving off the ball.

Brooks saw a difference in how Beal responded to that in Game 3.

"Brad came out and was looking to go towards the basket and not just letting them hold him and going along with it. He didn’t want to dance with his opponent, he wanted to get away from them. That was a critical part of his success," Brooks said.

Beal's 28 points were as much as he scored in Games 1 and 2 together and just about what he averaged through four games against the Raptors during the regular season (28.8). By halftime of Game 3, Beal had 21 points on 8-for-11 from the field.

Beal hit two threes in the first quarter and another two in the second quarter. Several of those threes were set up by Wall, who used the meeting with Brooks and Beal to ask how he can set him up better as the point guard.

In Game 3, they were on the same page.

"I do think this man [John Wall] next to me, he creates and facilitates for the whole team and gets everybody easy shots," Beal said. "I talk to you guys all the time and I can’t tell you the last time I actually got a regular catch and shoot three just in a regular half court set. When he came back, I got like three or four off the bat."

What Beal did in Game 3 is what the Wizards are used to seeing from him this time of the year. Despite being only 24 years old, he has a strong track record in the playoffs.

Through 37 career postseason games, Beal is averaging 22.3 points, more than his career average of 18.7 in the regular season. In each of his previous three postseason runs, he has averaged more points during the playoffs than he did in the regular seasons leading up.

That production has earned him the nickname 'Playoff Beal' and when he goes off like he did in Game 3, good things usually happen. The Wizards are 10-6 in the playoffs during his career when he scores 25 points or more.

Wall also boasts impressive career numbers in the playoffs. When the Wizards have both of their stars playing at their best, they are hard to beat. With peak Beal on board, this series looks a lot different than it did not that long ago.

MORE FROM WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

GORTAT DITCHES MOHAWK, TEAMMATES APPROVE

MUST-SEE MOMENTS FROM WILD GAME 3

BEAL GOT AN APOLOGY FROM SCOTT BROOKS

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