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Is it too early for a must-win game?


Is it too early for a must-win game?

When Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld went out and added veterans Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza, A.J. Price and Martell Webster to a roster that included a core of young talent, coach Randy Wittman said his team could no longer use the excuse of being young and inexperienced.

That was before John Wall and Nene were stripped from the lineup with injuries, forcing guys like Okafor, Ariza and Price from secondary roles to primary ones.

“That’s why the front office made the changes they made,” Webster said. “They feel very comfortable and confident in the group of guys they have in the locker room right now, as do I.

“We already proved we can come back and play with one of the top teams in the league,” Webster said, referring to Saturday night’s come-from-behind 89-86 loss to the Celtics.

Perhaps that’s why Wittman is not ready to do too much roster shuffling tonight in Boston [7:30, CSN] after starting the season with a pair of losses.

“We’ve played two games,” he said. “I’m not pushing the panic button here on anything You’ve got to give certain things time.”

Like getting to know each other on the basketball court.

“We have a lot of new faces and we’re doing a lot of new things, even with the guys who were here last year,” Wittman explained. “I’ve got a belief in them and they’ve got to believe in themselves. We can’t be tentative.”

In two straight games the Wizards have been victims of their own poor starts, but Webster said falling behind 17-2 to the Celtics in their home opener was the product of missing open shots, not poor execution.

“If we knock down 50 percent of those it’s a different score,” he said. “It might be 16-10 [instead of 17-2]. That being said we have to set the tempo and establish the game play in the first five minutes.”

The Celtics’ win on Saturday was their first after season-opening losses to the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks. The Wizards are trying to avoid the same early-season skid that ruined last season and got Flip Saunders fired.

Last year, the Wizards opened the season with eight straight losses, including back-to-back setbacks against the Celtics.

“It’s a must-win for us, as any game,” Webster said. “When you can get a win against one of the top teams in the league you can ride that confidence. We’re not saying we’re going up there and blowing these guys out. But we have to go in with the mindset that we must win this game and we must be aggressive.

“Our best offense is our defense. We’re a young, transition, running  team, but we’ve also got to hit our open jump shots.”

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2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 4: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 4: 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 Sunday night in Game 4 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:


Series: Raptors lead 2-1
Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 6 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (pregame coverage begins at 5 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Time to get even

After a momentous Game 3 win, the Wizards have breathed some life back into their season. On Sunday, they can make this a brand new series.

With a win in Game 4 for the Wizards, they would tie the series and send it back to Toronto ensuring another home game in Washington. A loss would put them down 3-1, a deficit that has historically been hard to overcome.

Only 11 teams have accomplished the feat, most notably the Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors did the same that year in the conference finals. It has only been done three times since 2006. 

How will Raptors respond?

Game 3 took on a much different tone and style than the previous two and it played into the Wizards' hands. It was much more physical and Washington did a good job of instigating contact and using it to their advanage. After the game, several players highlighted Markieff Morris shoving OG Anunoby and Serge Ibaka as a turning point.

Just because it worked in Game 3 doesn't mean it will carry over successfully in Game 4. Not only could the Raptors respond with their own dose of brutality, but the referees may try to nip anything of the sort in the bud early on.

It would not be surprising if Game 4 was officiated very tightly and if a message was sent in the first quarter to the players. After seeing how well it worked in Game 3, the Wizards will likely try to test the limits.

Playoff Beal

The Raptors will also try to adjust their defense following Bradley Beal's 28-point outburst in Game 3. He wasn't much of a factor in the first two games of the series, but broke out in Game 3 to lead the Wizards to a win.

The Wizards did a good job of getting Beal involved early. He was found for open looks from three in the first half and had two three-pointers in each of the first two quarters. Beal also took it upon himself to attack the rim and force the issue.

The Raptors held Beal back in the first two games by being rough with him and in Game 2 they got him in foul trouble. Surely he will be a big emphasis of their gameplan on Sunday.

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

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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.