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Film study: How Wizards diffused Celtics sparkplug Isaiah Thomas

Film study: How Wizards diffused Celtics sparkplug Isaiah Thomas

The 20-point fourth quarter for Isaiah Thomas never came on Tuesday, unlike the Jan. 11 comeback win for the Boston Celtics over the Wizards. Then, they showed Thomas the same coverages. 

This time, they gave Thomas different looks and were successful in exploiting the 5-foot-9 point guard's weaknesses at both ends.

Thomas had 25 points and 13 assists, which looks great if he's on your fantasy team, but those terms were dictated by Washington. All stat lines aren't created equal. Thomas' impact paled in comparison to Bradley Beal's 31 points and five assists, or John Wall's 27 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in Wednesday's 123-108 domination.

The Wizards (25-20) stuck to coach Scott Brooks' gameplan to near perfection. 

[RELATED: Morris raises level to meet Scott Brooks' demands]

On the defensive end:

Ball pressure. Kelly Oubre wouldn't let Thomas breathe as he splits screens and gets help from Otto Porter to stop the momentum. When Thomas gets the ball back after an awkward pass out to relieve the pressure, Oubre tries to deny the return and harrasses Thomas every step of the way until he settles for deep jumper that wasn't in rhythm. 

Find Thomas in half-court at all times. If it's between closing out him or Marcus Smart on the perimeter, that's an easy decision. Let Smart shoot.

Make Thomas finish over size. Sometimes he'll succeed but many times he won't.

Another example of the same concept. Marcin Gortat has to switch with Oubre, who takes Al Horford. The Wizards pack the paint successfully to prevent dribble penetration and Gortat keeps his 6-11 frame in front and contests the jumper which falls short. 

Find Thomas in transition and either run him off the three-point line or contest at all cost (he shot 1-for-6 from the arc).

Be physical with him on screen, dribble-handoff and dribble-pitch action. Gortat steps out to slow him from turning the corner and Oubre's 7-2 wingspan prevents Thomas from exploding to the rim. Instead, he gets too deep with no where to go among the trees, stumbles and turns it over. 

On the offensive end:

Isolate and make his defense a liability. The moment the second half began, the Wizards went at Thomas with Beal, who at 6-5 is too big, too strong and too athletic. Over a guy his own size, this is a difficult shot for Beal. He has an unobstructed view on this one. He takes the handoff and Gortat twists the screen. Although Horford's containment initally works and Gortat gets the pass back, the spacing is created to allow Beal to isolate. Beal holds his ground for the return pass and Gortat cuts to the weakside of the floor, which forces Horford to either double-team immediately tor follow the big into the paint. Horford leaves. Beal goes to work.

Run him through multiple screens. Thomas isn't physical and is easy to knock off balance with contact. He has to fight through this pindown from Wall then a screen from Gortat and has no chance to recover to Beal. Horford is playing so soft in coverage, he's giving him a mid-range practice shot.

Don't let him hide. Oubre isn't the offensive threat at the level of Beal, but the Wizards made Thomas defend him, too. Oubre is 6-7 and comes off this curl cut for a runner in the lane that misses. But it was a quality look that broke down Boston's defense which allowed Trey Burke to slip in for the putback. 

This looked similar to what the Wizards did in 2015, when they were supremely confident they'd figured out how to deal with troublesome matchups with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Korver in the playoffs. This is just one regular-season game, and certainly Boston will make adjustments when they meet for a final time March 20 at TD Garden to determine the season series.These concepts regarding Thomas, however, still should apply.

[RELATED: Wizards walk the walk vs. Celtics: Is it a rivalry now?]

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Wizards vs. Pacers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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Wizards vs. Pacers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner, Bojan Bogdanovic and the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night.

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


Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 7 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (pregame coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Season series on the line

The Wizards and Pacers square off for the third and final time this season on Saturday night and the game will represent the tiebreaker for the season series. The Wizards beat the Pacers in their first meeting on Feb. 5 and Indiana then got even on March 4. The first game did not feature Victor Oladipo. John Wall didn't play in either of them.

Whichever team wins on Saturday night will own the playoff tiebreaker, meaning that team will get the better seed in the even they finish with the same regular season record. Right now only one game separates the teams, so that could definitely come into play. With a win over the Pacers, the Wizards could also move into third place in the East. They would tie the Pacers by record and own the head-to-head series. The one variable there is the Cavs play the Bulls on Saturday. If they win and the Pacers lose, the Cavs will be in third.


Wizards have been struggling

The Wizards won their last game on the road against the Celtics, but have lost five of their last eight overall. They remain in good shape in the big picture, but could use some positive momentum. A win over the Pacers would certainly give them that with three off days awaiting on the other end before they head out to San Antonio to face the Spurs.

Defense has been the problem. During this eight-game stretch, they have allowed the second-most points in the paint per game (53.8), the ninth-most points per game (111.0) overall and the fourth-highest opponents shooting percentage (49.3). 


Pacers are tough

The Pacers may be missing two of their best big men on Saturday as Domantas Sabonis has been ruled out and Myles Turner is questionable. Both are nursing sprained left ankles. That bodes well for the Wizards' defense in the paint, but Indiana still has plenty of firepower.

Oladipo is having a terrific season with averages of 23.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game. There's also Bojan Bogdanovic, a former Wizards player who is averaging 14.0 points and shooting 46.9 percent from the field and 39.4 percent from three this year. Bogdanovic has scored 20 points or more in each of his games against the Wizards this season. The Pacers as a team have won six of their last eight.


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Ramon Sessions signs with Wizards for rest of season, giving them long-term insurance for John Wall

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Ramon Sessions signs with Wizards for rest of season, giving them long-term insurance for John Wall

The Wizards have signed point guard Ramon Sessions for the rest of the 2017-18 season following the expiration of his second 10-day contract, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed.

Sessions, 31, has played in five games for the Wizards this season with averages of 7.2 points and 3.4 assists. He spent 13 games with the Knicks previously this season before first signing with the Wizards on Feb. 23. He signed his second 10-day contract on March 5.

The Wizards were only permitted to sign Sessions to two consecutive 10-day contracts per league rules. They had to decided at the end of the second deal whether to sign him for the rest of the season or release him to free agency.

"His reputation is amazing and rightfully so. He showed me and the staff that he comes and does his job every day," head coach Scott Brooks said. "He was more than deserving of the opportunity to stay here all year."


Sessions is eligible for their playoff roster if they do indeed make the postseason, as he was let go by New York before March 1. That was always going to be a consideration in their plans at the end of his second 10-day contract. If they were to go out and get someone else, the March 1 deadline would come back into play.

Sessions gives the Wizards depth at the point guard position along with Tomas Satoransky and Tim Frazier, who have collectively held down the fort with John Wall out recovering from left knee surgery. By keeping Sessions, the Wizards have another backup plan in place.

Brooks said on Friday that Wall will be placed back into the starting lineup immediately when he's ready to return. That was expected and it will have a domino effect on Sessions and the other guards once he is back. The minutes may dry up completely for Sessions, a 10-year NBA journeyman.

"You're gonna have guys that are going to have to be good teammates," Brooks said, suggesting the playing time would go away. "Sacrificing is a big part of this league."


Satoransky will be the primary backup to Wall and Sessions may be out of minutes alongside Frazier. Brooks did, however, note that Satoransky could spend time at shooting guard and small forward. That could theoretically open the door for Sessions or Frazier to get playing time.

Whether Sessions plays or not, he's happy to be in the fold. Though he often said the uncertainty of the 10-day deal didn't weight on him, he admitted on Friday that it wasn't easy to navigate.

"This was my first time doing a 10-day and those were probably the longest 20 days I've been a part of in the NBA," he said. "I'm just excited to be back here. D.C. is my home." 

The news was first reported by the Washington Post.

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