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Hammon's success could only happen in the NBA

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Hammon's success could only happen in the NBA

Becky Hammon became the first female head coach in the NBA Summer League, then led her young Spurs team to a championship win in Las Vegas. 

Now, the basketball Internet's collective attention has turned toward her future. Is she ready to be the NBA's first female head coach? And if so, how long will it take her to get there? Is she being treated fairly?

These issues are all worthy of careful, nuanced discussion. But let's not overlook where this conversation is happening. 

Of America's four major professional sports, the NBA is the only league where hiring a female head coach is even on the table. Several possible reasons for that:

1. The WNBA. Regardless of sport, many head coaches are former players. But the NFL, MLB and NHL don't have established professional counterparts for women. In other sports (with the possible exception of soccer), women simply don't have the same opportunity for professional success as a player. It's easier for women to compete with men for coaching jobs when their résumés show comparable experience playing at the highest level.

2. The Internet. The modern NBA has integrated itself with the Internet and social media. This makes the league and its players more responsive, and in some ways beholden, to the way social attitudes evolve online. For example, the NBA engages with the basketball blogosphere by allowing liberal use of game highlights and making player-tracking data available to the public. Remember that time commissioner Adam Silver personally responded to a lottery reform suggestion by FiveThirtyEight? And because the NBA has comparatively fewer players with longer careers, even non-stars get enough exposure to grow an Internet following, especially through social media.

The more the NBA interacts with an online audience, the more influence that audience exerts. Don't think of it as Twitter mobs forcing the league to accept women, but rather players and executives and writers and fans informing each other's opinions about social issues like gender equality. 

3. Gender sensitive PR. It's no coincidence that Silver announced a review of the league's domestic violence policy in the wake of the NFL controversy last season. He acted decisively and transparently in suspending Hornets forward Jeff Taylor for 24 games for domestic violence, avoiding much of the criticism leveled at the NFL.

The NBA also partnered with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg for the #LeanInTogether campaign. It included commercials with NBA and WNBA stars talking about how men can 'Lean In' to help women level the playing field. “The NBA is committed to creating a work environment that expects -- and benefits from -- gender equality,” Silver said in a statement about the initiative. “#LeanInTogether provides men with the tools to share responsibilities equally in the office with our colleagues and at home with our families.”

To be clear, embracing a female coach isn't a public relations ploy. It's the league walking its talk, or more aptly, putting its money where its mouth is. 

And that hasn't happened anywhere but the NBA. 

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The Wizards supplied all the highlights and fireworks; 5 must-see moments from Game 4

The Wizards supplied all the highlights and fireworks; 5 must-see moments from Game 4

WASHINGTON -- As the home team in a dire situation you have to take advantage, and that is exactly what the Washington Wizards did in their 106-98 win over the Toronto Raptors.

Highlight reel play after highlight reel play, the Wizards ignited the crowd with some of their best plays from the entire season to make it 2-2 in the series. Here are just a few of them:

1. John Wall collects posters in the first half

The first one was perhaps the best. Everything was going wrong for the Wizards, poor turnovers, bad shots, a three from Toronto. Then John Wall had enough. Not only did he fly past his defender Kyle Lowry, but he went up and slammed one home past the 7-foot Jonas Valanciunas. Up until that point, the Wizards were shooting 1-for-7.

Rinse and repeat, except this time Jakob Poeltl was Wall’s victim.

2. Wall to Beal alley-oop in transition

With the Wizards’ offense faltering, the Raptors remained on the verge of blowing the game open throughout the second quarter. But with a steal from Otto Porter Jr., Wall hung up the ball for Bradley Beal to slam home. The alley-oop kept the Wizards within single digits in the second with an uninspiring offensive effort.

3. Otto Porter breaks out of the half

A subdued offensive start to the game was due in part to the production from Porter. In the first half he went 0-for-4 with one point in nearly 17 minutes of action.

Throw that away in the second half. He broke out of halftime with back-to-back threes and 10 of the Wizards’ 26 in a monster 26-14 run to take the lead back in the third.

He finished the quarter with 10 points, an assist, and two blocks.

4. The Polish Hammer throwing it home

Are you convinced yet that Marcin Gortat’s new haircut is doing him some good? Gortat squeezed through two Raptors’ defenders, threw it down, gave a Goliath-type roar to the crowd before officially bringing the hammer down. 

5. Beal being called for his sixth foul of the game

Agree with the call or not, there is no denying that Beal’s removal from the game lit a fire underneath the Wizards. From that point Washington went on a 14-6 scoring run to end the game, closing out for the win.

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Second-half eruption leads Wizards to pivotal Game 4 win over Raptors

Second-half eruption leads Wizards to pivotal Game 4 win over Raptors

The Washington Wizards beat the Toronto Raptors 106-98 in Game 4 of their first round playoff series on Sunday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Brand new series: After going down 0-2, most may have written the Wizards off knowing the near-insurmountable odds of coming back not only from that deficit but as an eight-seed going up against the best team in the Eastern Conference. It would have been understandable to doubt these Wizards who have for so much of this season allowed teams to bully them to an uncharacteristic degree.

With another win in Game 4, however, the Wizards have recalibrated this series.. Not only did the Wizards even things up, they ensured at least one more home game where they have now won eight straight in the postseason.

Beal fouled out: The Wizards were dealt a tough blow with 4:58 left as Bradley Beal picked up his sixth foul and was bounced from the game. 

Not only was Beal dominating with a team-high 31 points, but the sixth foul was very questionable. He made contact with DeMar DeRozan inadvertently and it is tough to see how he could have avoided it.

Here is the play:

That should simply not be called in that moment. It was a crucial development and both Beal and head coach Scott Brooks were understandably furious. If the Wizards had lost, that would have been a major reason why. There is no excuse for referees to impact a game like that.

Sluggish start: Outside of John Wall (27 points, 14 assists, six rebounds) and Beal, who had 12 points and 11 points in the first half, the rest of the Wizards' team was slow-moving early on. The team shot just 34 percent in the first half, 16-for-47, and 1-for-7 from three. They even missed their free throws, going 7-for-13 in the first two quarters.

The Raptors did a good job putting pressure on the, but only Wall and Beal were able to break through. Otto Porter, who finished with 12 points and six rebounds, had one point in the first half. Markieff Morris (six points, five rebounds) had four points at the break.

Even Mike Scott, who has had a huge series, went scoreless in the first half. That was partly due to him getting in early foul trouble.

The Raptors were particularly good at stopping the Wizards in transition. Despite committing 11 turnovers in the first half, they won the fastbreak point advantage 17-4. That was a big point of emphasis coming out of Game 3 according to head coach Dwane Casey and his players followed the lead.

Big third quarter: The Wizards' offense was not held down for long as they came out of the gate on fire in the second half. Beal and Porter led the charge.

Porter erupted for 10 points in the frame. Beal got hot from three and scored 12. The only thing that stopped Beal was foul trouble, as he picked up his fourth personal with just under five minutes left in the quarter and later left with six.

The third quarter shooting numbers overall were impressive. The Wizards shot 15-for-23 (65.2%) from the field and 5-for-6 (83.3%) from three. That'll do.

The Wizards outscored the Raptors 40-29 in the third. It was their biggest postseason quarter since last year's Game 4 against the Celtics. That was when they went on an absured 26-0 run.

Hella free throws: Many people blamed the refs for the Wizards' loss in Game 1, though the numbers didn't back up that claim. If Wizards fans wanted to gripe about Game 4, they had a better case for a while in this one.

It was kind of ridiculous, especially early on. The Raptors shot 30 free throws in the game compared to 31 for the Wizards, so it evened out.  But Toronto shot 16 free throws in the first quarter alone and 12 of them were attempted by DeRozan. He is one of the best in the business at drawing fouls, but that a bit extreme.

DeRozan, in fact, finished the first quarter with nine points and all of them were at the free throw line. He was 0-for-5 from field goal range. 

When DeRozan is getting to the line, he can control games and early on that was the case in this one. He set a new playoff career high with 18 attempts and made 14 of them.

The refs called the game much tighter than they did previously in this series. Perhaps that was a response to the chippiness in Game 3.

Three-point defense: Stopping the Raptors from hitting threes has been a major key all series. In Game 4, the Wizards did their best job yet.

Washington held the Raptors to seven threes, their fewest three-pointers since Feb. 4. The Raptors had made 12 threes or more in each of the first three games this series.

After going 5-for-10 from long range in the first half, the Raptors went 2-for-8 in the second. If the Wizards can play defense like that, it will be tough for Toronto to win this series.

Up next: The series moves on to Toronto for Game 5 on Wednesday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington with pregame coverage beginning with Wizards HangTime at 6 p.m.

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