Wizards

Djokovic is a man bearing titles, and chocolates

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Djokovic is a man bearing titles, and chocolates

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Novak Djokovic wrapped up his victory at the Australian Open on a sweet note.

A master at playing to his audience, Djokovic came with several boxes of chocolates to his post-match news conference and then played host as he distributed them to a room packed with journalists.

``Please, take two,'' Djokovic said, offering his box of treats to one reporter at a time.

``I see nobody's on a sugar-free diet,'' he joked as the chocolates began to disappear.

The No. 1-ranked player became the first man in the Open era to win three consecutive Australian titles when he beat Andy Murray 6-7 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-2 in Sunday's final.

Djokovic has won four of his six major titles at Melbourne Park, and likes to give a little something back to the crowds who cheer him.

An entertainer on court and off, Djokovic is known for celebrating hard-fought victories at Rod Laver Arena by ripping off his shirt. He kept his clothes on for this final, but did bare his chest after winning a five-hour thriller over Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round.

``It's definitely my favorite Grand Slam,'' Djokovic said during his victory speech on center court. ``It's an incredible feeling winning this trophy once more. I love this court.''

To mark the national holiday on Saturday, Djokovic pinned a fuzzy koala to his sweat shirt and walked into his pre-final news conference saying, ``Happy Australia Day!''

He was asked on Sunday if his good humor was a conscious effort, which made Djokovic turn philosophical.

``I try to enjoy what I do, and every moment of the life that I have is a blessing,'' he said. ``What else can you do but to be happy and try to bring that joy to the other people around - especially in the tournaments.''

``Everybody has bad days,'' he added. ``I'm not always funny or laughing.''

He then apologized to reporters for canceling the winner's traditional day-after news conference scheduled for Monday. He said he wanted to get back to Europe to begin practicing for the Davis Cup, which starts next weekend.

That's when he brought out the chocolates, as a consolation prize.

``Let's keep it sweet,'' he said.

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TRIBUTE TO ANDRE: Andre Agassi made his return to Rod Laver Arena in a suit and tie.

Now 42, Agassi was invited back to the site of some of his greatest tennis triumphs to present this year's trophies.

``It was obviously a big pleasure and honor for me to receive the trophy from him,'' Djokovic said.

By winning his fourth Australian Open, Djokovic matched a record set by Agassi who won the tournament in 1995, 2000, `01 and `03.

``He's a legend of the sport,'' Djokovic said. ``He won everything.''

An eight-time Grand Slam winner, Agassi won at each of the four Grand Slams and owns an Olympic gold medal from the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Agassi watched the final from the stands and then presided over the trophy ceremony. It was his first trip Down Under in nearly 10 years.

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MIXED DOUBLES: It started with a long-distance text message.

Australia's Matthew Ebden picked up his phone and sent a message to Jarmila Gajdosova to see if she would play mixed doubles with him at the Australian Open.

``I got hold of her number from a secret person, and she was over in America,'' Ebden said. ``And I just texted her hoping that she would she would be available to play or wanted to play.''

She said yes and they won a wild-card entry to the mixed-doubles draw.

On Sunday, the Australian duo combined to win the mixed-doubles title with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Czech pair Lucie Hradecka and Frantisek Cermak.

They ousted second-seeded Elena Vesnina and Leander Paes in the second round and fifth-seeded Nadia Petrova and Mahesh Bhupathi in the quarterfinals.

Gajdosova praised her partner's strong serve and ``his Ninja skills on the net.''

Asked if they plan to play together in the future, Gajdosova said: ``Hopefully, he doesn't ditch me for somebody else.''

``No,'' Ebden said. ``I've already signed her up for next year.''

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Bradley Beal's phantom foul and the Wizards' most important rally of the season

Bradley Beal's phantom foul and the Wizards' most important rally of the season

After calling an inconsistent game throughout the night, the referees made a decision with five minutes to go in Game 4 that nearly altered the entire series between the Wizards and Raptors.

DeMar DeRozan was chasing a rebound on the baseline and ran into Bradley Beal. Beal, who had a team-high 31 points, was levied a sixth and final foul with the score tied. 

Beal had unloaded for 20 points in 12 minutes in the second half, but now the Wizards would have to close it out without their All-Star shooting guard. Somehow, they were able to seal the win and tie the series.

Beal heard the whistle as he laid on the ground. He immediately hopped up and unleashed a tantrum that nobody could blame him for.

He jumped up and down, screaming at the referees, who had just called by all accounts a questionable foul and in a key moment of a playoff game.

Both Beal and head coach Scott Brooks were incensed and with good reason.

“I was beyond emotional, beyond mad, frustrated," Beal said. "I honestly thought they were going to kick me out of the game I was so mad, but I was happy they didn’t do that."

Beal is probably lucky the referees didn't take offense to his reaction because it continued when he was on the bench. He walked past his teammates and leaned over with his hands on his knees, still furious. Then he returned to the sideline to yell at the refs. Center Ian Mahinmi helped convince him to step back and cool off.

Beal has made a major difference in this series. He averaged 14.0 points in the first two games, both losses. He has averaged 29.5 points in Games 3 and 4, two Wizards wins.

Getting him out of the game was a major break for the Raptors, but they couldn't take advantage. The Wizards closed the final five minutes on a 14-6 tear. John Wall stepped up to lead the charge with eight of those points.

The Wizards still had one star on the court and he played like one.

“Just go in attack mode," Wall said. "When Brad went out, I knew I had to do whatever it took... I just wanted to do whatever, so that we could advance to Game 5, tied 2-2.”

Once Beal composed himself, his confidence grew in his teammates. He and Wall feel comfortable playing without each other because they have done so often throughout their careers.

This year, Wall missed 41 games due to a left knee injury. Two years ago, Beal missed 27 games. Early on in his career, he had trouble staying healthy. Now he is an iron man who played in all 82 games during the 2017-18 regular season.

Beal has grown accustomed to being on the floor a lot, but he realized he can still affect the game from the sidelines.

"I just gathered my emotions, gathered my thoughts and told my team we were going to win, regardless. I knew if we still had John [Wall] in the game I loved our chances," Beal said. "Face the adversity that I had to overcome, just gather myself and be a leader, being vocal and keeping everyone encouraged in the game.”

Wall and others did the heavy lifting in the end. The Wizards used Kelly Oubre, Jr. as the shooting guard with Beal out and he made key plays down the stretch, including a steal on Kyle Lowry in the closing seconds.

The Wizards were thrown a significant curveball and they overcame it to put themselves in good position now having won two straight.

“You have to have resolve to win in this league," Brooks said. "You win playoff games and you win playoff series with having that. We have that, and we have to continue to have that because we have to win two more games and one of them has to be on the road."

When it comes to the officiating, the Wizards deserve credit for their resilience and restraint early in Game 4. The Raptors had 16 free throws in the first quarter compared to the Wizards' four. Washington perservered and ended up with more free throws (31) than the Raptors (30) did for the game.

In Game 1, the Wizards appeared to be affected by a lack of foul calls. That came was called loosely by the referees, while this one was officiated tightly. Though Beal went off, the Wizards for the most part stayed the course and were rewarded for it.

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The Wizards supplied all the highlights and fireworks; 5 must-see moments from Game 4

The Wizards supplied all the highlights and fireworks; 5 must-see moments from Game 4

WASHINGTON -- As the home team in a dire situation you have to take advantage, and that is exactly what the Washington Wizards did in their 106-98 win over the Toronto Raptors.

Highlight reel play after highlight reel play, the Wizards ignited the crowd with some of their best plays from the entire season to make it 2-2 in the series. Here are just a few of them:

1. John Wall collects posters in the first half

The first one was perhaps the best. Everything was going wrong for the Wizards, poor turnovers, bad shots, a three from Toronto. Then John Wall had enough. Not only did he fly past his defender Kyle Lowry, but he went up and slammed one home past the 7-foot Jonas Valanciunas. Up until that point, the Wizards were shooting 1-for-7.

Rinse and repeat, except this time Jakob Poeltl was Wall’s victim.

2. Wall to Beal alley-oop in transition

With the Wizards’ offense faltering, the Raptors remained on the verge of blowing the game open throughout the second quarter. But with a steal from Otto Porter Jr., Wall hung up the ball for Bradley Beal to slam home. The alley-oop kept the Wizards within single digits in the second with an uninspiring offensive effort.

3. Otto Porter breaks out of the half

A subdued offensive start to the game was due in part to the production from Porter. In the first half he went 0-for-4 with one point in nearly 17 minutes of action.

Throw that away in the second half. He broke out of halftime with back-to-back threes and 10 of the Wizards’ 26 in a monster 26-14 run to take the lead back in the third.

He finished the quarter with 10 points, an assist, and two blocks.

4. The Polish Hammer throwing it home

Are you convinced yet that Marcin Gortat’s new haircut is doing him some good? Gortat squeezed through two Raptors’ defenders, threw it down, gave a Goliath-type roar to the crowd before officially bringing the hammer down. 

5. Beal being called for his sixth foul of the game

Agree with the call or not, there is no denying that Beal’s removal from the game lit a fire underneath the Wizards. From that point Washington went on a 14-6 scoring run to end the game, closing out for the win.

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