Wizards

US has 2-0 lead over Brazil

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US has 2-0 lead over Brazil

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) John Isner and Sam Querrey each won their matches on Friday to give the United States a 2-0 lead over Brazil in the first round of the Davis Cup.

Isner earned a straight-set win over Brazil's Thiago Alves 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-3.

Isner's win came two hours after Querrey earned a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Thomaz Bellucci.

The United States is one win away from advancing. Bob and Mike Bryan, the world's No. 1 ranked doubles team, will take on Brazil's Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares on Saturday, followed by Sunday's reverse singles.

Taking 2-0 leads in other first-round series were: Serbia (over Belgium), France (over Israel), Kazakhstan (over Austria) and Argentina (over Germany). Tied 1-1 were Switzerland-Czech Republic and Croatia-Italy. The other series is Canada vs. Spain.

Novak Djokovic swept past Oliver Rochus 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in Serbia's second victory in Charleroi, Belgium. Djokovic was coming off his third straight Australian Open title. Despite the switch from hard courts to slow, indoor clay, the world's No. 1 player dismissed the 127th-ranked Rochus. Djokovic had complained about the court being wet and dangerous.

Isner had to overcome a four-week layoff from competitive tennis in winning his match, his seventh Davis Cup competition but the first on American courts. It was Isner's big serve that carried him past the quicker Alves.

Isner finished with 32 aces and had 29 other serves that Alves could not return.

``I always rely on my serve. I wouldn't have such a pretty good ranking if it wasn't for my serve,'' Isner said. ``Going in every match I have to rely on my serve heavily. I wasn't as sharp in other facets of my game. I knew I was going to have to rely on my serve a lot and I did.

``Maybe it wasn't the prettiest, but I'm happy to get through. I littered up the stat sheet for sure. I know I had a lot of aces, but I had a lot of souvenirs into the crowd as well on my forehand.''

Isner had a bone bruise on his right knee a month ago at the Hopman Cup in Australia and hadn't played a competitive match since pulling out of his first-round match at the APIA International Sydney in early January.

The lengthy layoff caused some erratic shots, but Isner said the knee was not a concern during the match.

``The knee felt fine. It didn't bother me today,'' Isner said. ``I wasn't thinking about it. That's really crucial. It could be sore tomorrow morning possibly. I don't expect it to be. I'm ready to play on Sunday whether or not it's live.''

His best stretch of tennis came near the end of the second set. He trailed Alves 5-4 and had to fight off a pair of set points. Both times he responded with aces before eventually pulling even at 5-5.

In the tiebreaker, Alves jumped out to a 3-1 lead, but Isner won the next four points before closing out the set with successive aces.

He broke Alves in the fourth game of the third set to take a 4-2 lead and held on his final two service games, closing out the match by winning four consecutive points in the ninth game.

Querrey was impressive in his straight-set win over Brazil's top-rated player. He didn't finish with as many aces as Isner, but dominated all 15 of the games he served. He won 45 of the 47 first-serve points that went in and never faced a service break on his serve, winning all but 12 points on his serve in the three sets.

Querrey said he couldn't recall the last time he served as well.

``There's probably been a few, but not many,'' he said. ``The court really helps my serve. When it hits, it really skids away. I mean I couldn't have served much better out there.''

Querrey broke Bellucci in the eighth game of the first set and after holding his serve to close out the set, jumped to an early lead in the second set with a break in the first game. Both players then held serve the rest of the set, resulting in a 6-4 win for Querrey.

Querrey matched that feat in the final set, breaking Bellucci in the first game and then holding his serve the rest of the match. He clinched the victory when Bellucci hit a weak backhand into the net at match point.

The wins left team captain Jim Courier happy with his team's position in the best-of-five matchup.

``We're certainly pleased to be in this position,'' Courier said. ``We have a lot of confidence in Bob and Mike. They're going to go out and lay it on the line. It will take a really special effort to beat them.''

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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.

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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

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

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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!