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Are playoffs still a realistic goal for Wizards?

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Are playoffs still a realistic goal for Wizards?

Remember that hilariously famous clip of Jim Mora’s post-game press conference back in 2001? The one in which the outspoken former head coach was asked if his 4-6 Indianapolis Colts had a chance of making the NFL playoffs?

Playoffs?” Mora shrieked. Don’t talk about — playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game!”

No one has been bold enough to bring up the word playoffs to Wizards coach Randy Wittman lately. Not with his team holding the NBA’s worst record [0-8] heading into tonight’s home game against the Indiana Pacers.

But it was less than a month ago that Wittman and general manager Ernie Grunfeld were fielding questions about whether this year’s Wizards were capable of getting into the post-season.

Now they’re facing an uphill climb that seems like Mount Everest.

“It’s tough,” said point guard A.J. Price. “But this is the NBA. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy by any stretch. We just need to keep on fighting, keep on playing. Never say die attitude. Never quit, never give in.”

At 0-8 the Wizards are already four games behind the eighth-place Charlotte Bobcats for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Last season the Philadelphia 76ers were the last team in the East to get into the post-season with a record of 35-31, four games over .500.

To finish with a record four games over .500 the Wizards would need to play 12 games over .500 the remainder of the season. That means they’d have to go 43-31 in their final 74 games.

Is that possible? The Wizards believe it is, especially if they get John Wall and Nene back from injuries within the next few weeks.

“We’re still playing for something,” Shaun Livingston said. “In the East, especially, we’re not totally out of it. We just gotta get a win on the board so we can relax and play basketball.”

The Wizards have been competitive in each of their eight losses, but have been outscored 179-153 in fourth quarters and 12-6 in overtime. In their last five losses the disparity has been even greater, with opponents outscoring the Wizards 119-82 in the fourth quarter. That’s an average margin of 7.4 points.

“I think we could have won more than half our games,” rookie guard Bradley Beal said. “That’s just my opinion. Our intensity is there, our competitiveness is there. Everything we need to do is there all the way up to the fourth quarter. The fourth quarter is what really kills us.”

Point guard A.J. Price said the Wizards can no longer afford moral victories. They need to get in the win column to start building confidence.

“It’s too long of a season to feel like that,” he said when asked about taking positives from losses. “If we ever get to that point it’s really over. We’re 0-8 now. We can’t have that type of attitude. We need to continue to try to get better, try to stick with it and have confidence and belief that next game will be the game we win.”

Jordan Crawford, who leads the team with 12.4 points a game, agreed.

“We can’t be down on ourselves,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of games to go. Teams aren’t going to come here and make it easy for 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 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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