Wizards

Team flag waves as 49ers arrive for Super Bowl

201301271333487819131-p2.jpeg

Team flag waves as 49ers arrive for Super Bowl

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Jim Harbaugh stepped to the podium, smirked a bit, and greeted his first news conference as a Super Bowl coach.

``We're super happy to be here,'' he said Sunday night as his NFC champion San Francisco 49ers arrived in the Big Easy for the big game.

``I think this team has the best focus on unity and winning I've ever been a part of.''

Considering that Harbaugh was an NFL quarterback for 14 seasons and a successful college coach before joining the 49ers, he knows something about winning.

Under Harbaugh, San Francisco has been to two NFC title games and, now, to its first Super Bowl in 18 years. The Niners (13-4-1) will play Baltimore (13-6), coached by Harbaugh's older brother, John, in next Sunday's Super Bowl.

He is certain his team is ready for the task as the 49ers seek their sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy; they are 5-0 in Super Bowls.

``These are uncharted waters for a rookie Super Bowl coach,'' Harbaugh said. ``But that's exciting. It's a great thrill, and we have a desire to be in uncharted waters. We always strive for that kind of challenge.''

Earlier in the evening, with a team flag waving from an open window of their chartered plane, the 49ers arrived in a businesslike manner. The players calmly walked off the airplane - no video recorders or cameras, no waves to onlookers.

Most of the team's veteran players disembarked first, including center Jonathan Goodwin, who won a Super Bowl three years ago with the Saints.

``You get to go to the Super Bowl with your childhood team, so that's something special to me,'' he said. ``So hopefully I can find a way to win the Super Bowl with my childhood team.''

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, wearing a red wool cap sporting ``49ers'' on it, mouthed the words to a song on his headphones as he walked on the tarmac.

He seemed just as relaxed 90 minutes later as he met the media.

``Pressure comes from a lack of preparation,'' said Kaepernick, who took over as the starter when Alex Smith got a concussion in November and has been sensational in keeping the job. ``This is not a pressure situation. It's a matter of going out and performing.''

Harbaugh said the 49ers came to New Orleans on Sunday to simulate a normal week. He likened their trip to his strategy the last two seasons when the 49ers spent a week in Youngstown, Ohio, between Eastern games rather than return to the Bay Area.

He liked the way the players and coaches bonded during that experience.

``Same approach,'' Harbaugh said. ``Enjoy the moment and the preparation. I think our team enjoys that the most: the meetings, the preparation and then, especially, the competition.''

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

How the Wizards have taken Raptors big man Serge Ibaka out of the series on offense

How the Wizards have taken Raptors big man Serge Ibaka out of the series on offense

The Wizards-Raptors first round playoff series has evolved to feature the emergence of several players who started off slowly including Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat and Kelly Oubre, Jr. The opposite has happened for Toronto big man Serge Ibaka.

After Ibaka lit up the Wizards for 23 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks in Game 1, there has been a disappearance. His scoring has gone missing and it's a big reason why the Wizards have won two straight games and earned a 2-2 series split.

Head coach Scott Brooks knows Ibaka well from their days in Oklahoma City. He helped develop Ibaka and has since watched from afar as his game has changed to include a consistent outside game.

Brooks has on several occasions referred to Ibaka as one of the best three-point shooting big men in the league. The numbers back that up. Last season, he shot 39.1 percent from three on 4.0 attempts per game, excellent for a 6-foot-10 power forward.

This season that number dipped to 36 percent, but he hit 41 percent of his threes in his final 16 games of the regular season. That carried over into the playoffs when he went 3-for-4 in Game 1 as part of an 8-for-11 shooting night overall.

The Wizards made a point to take away those outside shots following their series-opening defeat. The way they are doing that is by crowding him when he gets the ball, even if it means him getting past the initial defender.

"You want to make sure you meet him on the catch. You want to take away his shot," Brooks said. "When he gets open shots, they are money. He's going to knock them down... We did a good job of meeting him on his catch and making him put the ball on the floor with his left hand. You can live with the results."

After his 23-point outburst in Game 1, Ibaka has scored just 20 points total in the last three games. He has gone 2-for-6 from three.

The Wizards are taking away his shot attempts in general. He took 11 shots in each of the first two games of this series, but just four in Game 3 and five in Game 4. In Game 3 he had three points and three turnovers and on Sunday he had seven points and four turnovers.

Here are two examples of the Wizards' defense on Ibaka. On this first play, Markieff Morris meets Ibaka as soon as he catches the ball and the result is a turnover:

On this next play, Morris follows Ibaka all the way to the rim and even though he goes up on a pump fake, Morris recovers to alter Ibaka's shot and force a miss:

The Wizards, however, did get away with one against Ibaka. He was left wide open for a three in the final minute, but the shot rimmed out:

As the first two plays demonstrate, Morris deserves a lot of credit for the Wizards' success against Ibaka. He has the size and mobility to keep up with him and is willing to use contact to his advantage.

"Just playing the tendencies," Morris said. "We're making them do things they are uncomfortable with and are getting better results."

Ibaka was fourth on the Raptors this season in points per game and third in shot attempts. He is their third option behind All-Star guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. If the Wizards can continue to lock up Ibaka, it will be difficult for the Raptors to beat them.

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE FROM WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

OUBRE IS HELPING THE WIZARDS WIN IN MANY WAYS

WALL WAS DUNKING ALL OVER RAPTORS BIG MEN

MUST-SEE MOMENTS FROM GAME 4 WIN

Quick Links

Wizards Tipoff podcast: Death Row D.C. and the Wizards are back

usatsi_10801687.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Wizards Tipoff podcast: Death Row D.C. and the Wizards are back

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes and Chris Miller were joined by Julie Donaldson to break down the Wizards' wins in Games 3 and 4.

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat are back and the Wizards are a different team because of it. Plus, how regaining their Death Row D.C. mentality has changed this series.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!