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Doors open for Wizards if Cavs' Irving misses significant time

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Doors open for Wizards if Cavs' Irving misses significant time

Last year's Eastern Conference champion could be without a key piece months into the 2015-16 season. That might not be such bad news for the Wizards. 

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported Thursday that the Cavaliers are rehabilitating point guard Kyrie Irving slowly and deliberately after he suffered a fractured patella in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. His recovery timeline was slated for three to four months after surgery in early June, and even though he has not suffered any setbacks, it's possible he won't return to the court until January. 

The Cavs' prudence may be warranted given his extensive injury history. A healthy Irving is much more valuable down the stretch and into the playoffs than in the first few months of the season. 

Cleveland also brought in Mo Williams this offseason as an insurance policy. The veteran's ball handling and scoring abilities should help offset any extended absence by Irving, but there's no replacing such a dazzling playmaker. 

If Irving does indeed miss the first two-plus months of the season, other Eastern Conference hopefuls have a better chance of keeping pace with the Cavaliers out of the gate. Cleveland would face the Bulls, Hawks, Raptors, Wizards and Heat (twice) without their starting point guard. 

An extended absence also changes the calculus for the February 14th All-Star Game in Toronto.

Irving would have a little more than a month back before the All-Star break -- not enough time to secure a spot on the East team. That would eliminate the biggest competition for point guards like John Wall, Derrick Rose and Jeff Teague. Because the rosters don't distinguish between guard positions, Irving's absence also could open the door for an additional shooting guard, presenting a huge opportunity for Bradley Beal to earn the first All-Star invite of his career. 

John Wall's emergence as a repeat All-Star has sparked debate about whether he could be the second-best player in the East (behind LeBron James) or even play his way into the MVP conversation

Both of those answers edge closer to 'yes' the more time Irving misses. 

Of course, the Cavaliers' Finals performance proves that they're always competitive with James in the game. As long as the King is healthy, Cleveland definitely makes the playoffs.

But if Irving and Kevin Love are both 100 percent in the postseason? Simply put, no team in the NBA is safe. 

MORE WIZARDS: Wizards simplify 2015 preseason schedule

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Bradley Beal on his struggles, getting an apology from Scott Brooks

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Bradley Beal on his struggles, getting an apology from Scott Brooks

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks remarked after Game 2 and following practice on Thursday that he was partly to blame for Bradley Beal's modest scoring output through two games in the team's playoff series against the Raptors. They weren't just throwaway lines, a coach trying to make his star player feel better for struggling in the playoffs.

No, Brooks truly meant what he said and followed up those comments with an apology face-to-face. Brooks met with Beal and John Wall in between Games 2 and 3 to see how they can get Beal going and reiterated that some of it all was on the coach.

"He apologized to me, which was weird because he's somebody who always holds me accountable for stuff," Beal said after Friday's shootaround. "I guess he figured I wasn't shooting the ball enough and he thought it was his fault. I don't know."

Beal, who is averaging 14.0 points in two games and scored only nine in Game 2, came away from the meeting with a good understanding of what he needs to do to get back on track. After apologizing, Brooks laid out a strategy in hopes that he, Wall and Beal can all be on the same page moving forward.

They need to get their All-Star shooting guard back to form on the offensive end.

"He just basically challenged me. He challenged me to be more aggressive on the offensive and defensive end," Beal said.

What has made Beal's scoring troubles through two games particularly surprising is how well he played against the Raptors during the regular season. He averaged 28.8 points in four games against Toronto and all were without Wall.

Beal shot 50 percent against the Raptors both from the field and from three. So far this series he's shooting just 39.3 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from long range.

Asked whether there is anything he can draw from the regular season to apply to the playoffs, Beal said it's not as easy as it may seem.

"Those games are different. The matchups are different to an extent. It's totally different in the playoffs because you have more time to prep and prepare and gameplan for us," he said. 

"I think the biggest thing is them being physical. They are real physical with me. Whenever I'm standing around on offense or moving around, they are grabbing me. I just need to be physical back with them. Keep moving off the ball and especially if Kyle [Lowry] is guarding me. Tire him out as much as possible. Continue to be aggressive."

Coaches use all sorts of leadership tactics to motivate players. Perhaps an apology will do the trick.

MORE ON THE WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

HISTORIC ODDS FOR TEAMS THAT GO DOWN 0-2

BROOKS MAY CHANGE STARTING LINEUP FOR GAME 3

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2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 3: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 3: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and the Washington Wizards battle Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Serge Ibaka and the Toronto Raptors on Friday night in Game 3 of the 2018 NBA Playoffs.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

GAME 3: TORONTO RAPTORS AT WASHINGTON WIZARDS

Series: Raptors lead 2-0
Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (pregame coverage begins at 7 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Do or die

If the Wizards lose on Friday night, the series will technically not be over. They will be down 0-3 with a home game up next and an opportunity to extend their season and send it all back to Toronto. That said, the odds would not be good. In fact, they would be pretty much as bad as they can be.

No team in NBA history has ever come back from down 0-3 in a series. So, unless the Wizards feel like they can make history, like UMBC over Virginia history, then they better win Game 3. 

Now, some teams have come close to making it happen. Three times before a team has gone down 0-3 and forced seven games. The last time was the 2003 Blazers, who fell in Game 7 to the Mavs. 

Recovering from an 0-3 deficit to win a seven-game series has happened in both baseball and hockey, most famously in 2004 when the Red Sox beat the Yankees to reach the World Series. At some point it will happen in basketball, but the chances are essentially next-to-none. The Wizards will be much better off by winning Game 3, just like they did last year when they went down 0-2 against the Celtics in the second round and forced a Game 7.

Beal and Otto

The Wizards are hoping to see more from both Bradley Beal and Otto Porter. It was a big topic of discussion at Thursday's practice how both guys need to be more aggressive in looking for their own shot. Beal was held to just nine points in Game 2 and Porter, the NBA's third-best three-point shooter, didn't even attempt one three.

Brooks held a meeting with Beal and John Wall to discuss how they can get Beal more opportunities, but ultimately it's up to him and Porter to force the issue for themselves. It would seem likely at least one of them breaks out in Game 3. They both were great against the Raptors during the regular season and both proved throughout the year that they can score against anybody.

Too many threes

The biggest reason the Wizards are down 0-2 in this series is the three-point shot. The Raptors have hit a ton of them and even though the Wizards have been intent on stopping them, they have had no such luck.

The Raptors hit 16 threes in the first game to set a playoff franchise record. They shot 51.7 percent from long range. In Game 2, they hit 13 and 11 were in the first half. They made seven of them in the first quarter alone to the tune of 44 points, the worst defensive quarter in the playoffs in Wizards franchise history since 1965.

This is how much the three-point shot matters: the Raptors' 11 first-half threes in Game 2 helped them outscore the Wizards by 18 points by halftime, but in the second half when they hit only two threes, the Wizards edged them by seven points. Washington has to stop the three-pointer, it's that simple.

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For more on the Wizards-Raptors series, check out or latest Wizards Tipoff podcast: