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All the Wolves need is Love

All the Wolves need is Love

This should be theseasonthat the rebuildingMinnesotaTimberwolves finally turn that corner and get back to the playoffs, something they haven't done since 2004 when they reached the Western Conference Finals with future Hall-of Famer Kevin Garnett leading the way. Now with All-Star and Olympic gold medalist Kevin Love as the team's leader,Minnesotais almost expected to make the post-season.
Love is coming off his best season as a pro as he averaged a staggering 26 points and 13 rebounds a game. Love showed that not only could he bang down low but could step outside and hit the three-ball, making 103 shots from beyond the arc which is pretty amazing for a6'-10" power forward. Love lost 25 pounds during the lockout and was in the best shape of his life and hiscommitmentto fitness showed as he put up those incredible stats.

Loveobviouslycan't do it on his own and will need some help from the likes of second year players Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams in the upcoming 2012-13 campaign.
The Timberwolves were contending for a playoff spot last season with a 21-20 record before Rubio went down in March with a torn ACL and the team struggled from that moment on finishing 26-40. Rubio averaged 10 points and 8 assists at point guard before he got injured. Rubio's flair and uncannyabilityto find the open man made the Wolves a tough team to defend. Without him, they struggled mightily so the Wolves need him back healthy to contend this season.
Out of the NBA last season because of a bad knee, the Wolves signed former All-Star guard Brandon Roy almost as an insurance policy in case Rubio is not ready to go. Roy retired prior to the 11-12 season citing his injury but underwent an alternative kneeprocedureand claims he is good to go. Roy was the Rookie of the Year in 2007 and was an All-Star from 08-10 and has career averages of 19 points and 5 assists. Roy can play both guard positions and if he can stay healthy he could really be a key contributor for the already guard heavy Wolves.
Luke Ridnour and Jose Juan Barea return in the back court for the Wolves and it will be interesting to see how coach Rick Adelman divvies up the minutes between these two players off the bench.
Up front the Wolves will need Williams -- the former 2 overall pick in the draft -- to step up his play for Minnesota to be a factor in the western conference. Williams averaged 9 points and 5 rebounds in his rookie season. That's good but not great for a top 5 pickandthere's no doubt that Williams will have to improve. He likely will start the season coming off the bench behind free agent pickup Andrei Kirilenko.
The 6'-9" Kirilenko signed a to a two-year 20 million deal this summer. Kirilenko played overseas last year but hasaveraged12 points and 5 rebounds in his 10 year NBA career. Kirilenko will also provide defense down low with his ability to block shots and can also guard players on the wing.
Forward Nikola Pekovic is back after emerging as a legitimate NBA player, scoring 13 points and 7 rebounds a game last season.Minnesota also traded the 18th pick in the NBA Draft to get veteran Chase Budinger. The high-flying small forward averaged 10 points and 4 rebounds off the bench for the Rockets last season.
Michael Beasley, Wayne Ellington and Darko Milicic are notable players gone from last year's team but Love is still there and that's the key ingredient.
Love will lead the way but he's going to need some serious help if the Wolves will get back to the playoffs.

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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 plays 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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