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Avery Bradley says Kyrie Irving is toughest to guard in NBA, not Stephen Curry, John Wall or Russell Westbrook

Avery Bradley says Kyrie Irving is toughest to guard in NBA, not Stephen Curry, John Wall or Russell Westbrook

In a golden age of scoring point guards in the NBA, few can attest to the difficulties of playing defense on the perimeter these days than Avery Bradley, who was recently traded from the Boston Celtics to the Detroit Pistons. Though technically a shooting guard, he was often tasked with checking the opposing team's point guard. He is a much better defensive player than his former backcourt partner Isaiah Thomas and therefore would be given the toughest assignment.

On any given night that could mean Stephen Curry, John Wall, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul or James Harden. But if you ask Bradley, none of those guys top his list of the toughest players to guard. His choice, as he revelaed in a Twitter Q&A through the Pistons' official account, was "not even close."

[RELATED: What we learned from Wizards' Summer League]

Irving, to be fair, should be close to the top of anyone's list. But is he really that much tougher to guard than Curry or Westbrook? As good as Irving is at ballhandling and shooting, isn't Curry even better at his own game? And for guys like Westbrook, Wall and Harden, the pure athleticism would seem to be extremely difficult to deal with. Westbrook, for instance, is bigger, stronger and faster than everyone who guards him and his energy is unmatched.

Irving, 25, has certainly emerged as one of the NBA's best scorers. He's lightning quick and can hit shots from the most absurd of angles. Also, he is on one of the best teams in basketball, a Cavs team that can trot out lineups entirely composed with three-point shooters. That means space for him to go to work and he is very good with space.

[RELATED: 5 things to know about new Wizards forward Devin Robinson]

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: How they can keep it rolling in Game 5

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards Tipoff podcast: How they can keep it rolling in Game 5

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes, Travis Thomas and Julie Donaldson reset the series and looked ahead to Game 5.

They were joined by TSN Sports anchor Kayla Grey to find out the Toronto perspective. The Wizards have all the momentum in this series, now they just have to keep it going.

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!

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Even after injury-riddled year, Wizards are seeing peak John Wall in playoffs

Even after injury-riddled year, Wizards are seeing peak John Wall in playoffs

You would not have known it by John Wall's towering poster-dunks over Jonas Valanciunas and Jakob Poeltl in Game 4, or his fourth quarter takeover after Bradley Beal fouled out, but Wall is still technically working his way into midseason form from the left knee surgery that kept him out more than two months down the stretch of the regular season. Add into the equation that he sprained his right ankle in Game 3, then resprained it in Game 4 right after Beal went out, and it's quite clear that what he is doing is simply not normal. 

Throughout Wall's recovery, his head coach Scott Brooks remarked how Wall can regain his form unusually quick following an injury absence. Game 4 was just his eighth game back, yet through four playoff games he is averaging an absurd 26.8 points, 13.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 1.0 blocks.

If that's what he's doing eight games removed from recovery, and against the top team in the Eastern Conference, what does peak playoff form look like? 

"I told y'all, I told all the media that I only need like three or four games. I really didn't need too many games," he said. "All the hard work that I did in those two months was to prepare myself to be ready for the playoffs."

Wall said he started feeling like himself in his final regular season game, his fourth outing following the injury rehab. It was against the Celtics and he scored 29 points to go along with 12 assists, seven rebounds, three blocks and three steals.

"I just started to see shots fall down that I was falling short with a couple games before that," Wall said of that night.

Brooks saw a change in Wall against the Cavaliers on April 5, in just his third game back. That game Wall put up 28 points, 14 assists, four rebounds and three steals. Most importantly, he logged 38 minutes.

"I knew I was going to challenge his body with extra minutes," Brooks said. "The way he responded to that, I knew he was back."

Whenever the turning point happened, there is no looking back. Wall has found his groove to not only impact, but at times dominate playoff games against one of the best defensive teams in basketball.

In Game 4 once Beal went down, Wall looked like the best player on the court. He scored eight of the Wizards' final 14 points to seal the victory and did so on a bum ankle. He outshined both DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, two All-Star guards.

Wall even played sound defense on DeRozan in big moments. DeRozan shot 10-for-29 in the game.

"I think I did a good job of contesting him," Wall said. "Just do whatever it takes to help this team win."

What Brooks predicted would happen has indeed played out. He has been with Wall for about two years now and knows what the star point guard is made of.

"I've been with him two years, he loves to play," Brooks said, noting there have been some tough conversations to convince him to come out of games.

Consider this: Wall has scored 20 points or more in six straight games, his longest streak of the 2017-18 season. He has actually reached 23 points or more in those six games, which is tied for the longest such streak of his entire career.

Through eight games overall and four games in the playoffs, Wall has reminded everyone of what the Wizards missed. Yes, they went 10-3 when he first went down with the injury in late January, but that was not sustainable.

They need Wall to reach their full potential as a team and especially in the postseason. Late-game situations like in Game 4, when Beal exited and it was tied with 4:58 to play, are when the superstars separate themselves.

Wall did that and now the Wizards are in good shape with the series at 2-2 and having won two straight.

"Blame everything on him," Brooks joked of the Wizards' up-and-down regular season. "If he wasn't hurt, we'd be better, right?"

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