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J.J. Hickson: 'I get a chance to make the playoffs'

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J.J. Hickson: 'I get a chance to make the playoffs'

PHILADELPHIA -- The motivation of J.J. Hickson, who joined the Wizards for the first time at Friday's shootaround at Wells Fargo Center, is obvious. He hasn't been to the postseason in a long time.

The problem is there's no guarantee he'll end that drought by signing with Washington as a free agent.

"I get a chance to make the playoffs. I haven't made the playoffs since my second year in the league. This is year eight for me," said Hickson, referring to 2010 when LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat. "It's very important that I'm here now, that I get a fresh start. It's time to get to the playoffs and make this push."

The Wizards (26-30) are on the outside looking in and coming off a terrible loss at the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday. Tonight, they have the NBA's worst team in the Philadelphia 76ers (8-46). 

Hickson went from Cleveland to the Sacramento Kings, spent a few seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers and the last three with the Denver Nuggets before he reached a buyout agreement. The Wizards signed him earlier this week at the pro-rated vet minimum to fill the 15th roster spot. 

The Wizards, who have been negligent when it comes to their hustle and toughness around the rim, can use a 27-year-old who is 6-9, about 240 pounds and doesn't require the ball to be effective.

As it is for every player who is joining a new team late in the season, adjusting to a new system will present its challenges.

"In this league everybody runs the same stuff with a little wrinkle, with a little twist," Hickson said. "It's just a matter of learning the terminology and getting that cohesiveness with my teammates."

Hickson flourished playing off of James. With John Wall pushing the pace, he should be able to get easy baskets.

"That's something I've done my whole career, run the floor, be active," he said. "I'm a piece of the puzzle."

Where Hickson slots in the rotation will be the question. Jared Dudley has been the starting power forward but he's more of a stretch option. Markieff Morris is the eventual starter there but pending matchups Hickson could work, too. Dudley could end up logging time at small forward as well though the way Alan Anderson played in his first game back makes him an option.

Coach Randy Wittman has the pieces.

"I wouldn't say we're tense. Just a sense of urgency. We're right there," Hickson said of the mood of the team following that 109-104 loss in Chicago. "As long as we stay focused and do what we've got to do, we'll be alright."

MORE WIZARDS: Wizards-76ers preview: We're not last

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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 players 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.

MORE FROM WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

GORTAT DITCHES MOHAWK, TEAMMATES APPROVE

MUST-SEE MOMENTS FROM WILD GAME 3

BEAL GOT AN APOLOGY FROM SCOTT BROOKS

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With Playoff Beal back, the Wizards are revitalized in playoff series vs. Raptors

With Playoff Beal back, the Wizards are revitalized in playoff series vs. Raptors

The Toronto Raptors were only going to hold Bradley Beal down for so long. After two so-so games to begin the Wizards-Raptors playoff series, the All-Star shooting guard was bound to find his way offensively and that arrival came in a Game 3 win on Friday night.

Beal was brilliant and much more in line with what he's shown in the postseason throughout his career. Game 2 was his worst playoff game as an NBA player, he scored only nine points. Game 3 was one of his best on the postseason stage, or at least one of his most timely and important.

The Wizards needed more from Beal to give themsevles a chance in this series. An 0-3 deficit would have been a death sentence. His production is so key to their success that head coach Scott Brooks and point guard John Wall met with Beal in between Games 2 and 3 to figure out how to get him going.

Whether that was the catalyst or not, the results followed. Beal poured in 28 points in 10-for-19 shooting with four rebounds, four assists and three steals. He hit four threes, more than he had in the first two games combined.

Beal wasted no time to make an impact scoring the ball. His first points came on a quick burst to the basket where he stopped on a dime, turned around and banked it in. By the end of the first quarter, he had 12 points in 11 minutes.

“I just wanted to be aggressive, get shots that I wanted which is what they were going to force me to take," Beal said.

After Game 2, Brooks and Beal described how physical the Raptors were defending him. They were holding on to him and staying close, even when he wasn't moving off the ball.

Brooks saw a difference in how Beal responded to that in Game 3.

"Brad came out and was looking to go towards the basket and not just letting them hold him and going along with it. He didn’t want to dance with his opponent, he wanted to get away from them. That was a critical part of his success," Brooks said.

Beal's 28 points were as much as he scored in Games 1 and 2 together and just about what he averaged through four games against the Raptors during the regular season (28.8). By halftime of Game 3, Beal had 21 points on 8-for-11 from the field.

Beal hit two threes in the first quarter and another two in the second quarter. Several of those threes were set up by Wall, who used the meeting with Brooks and Beal to ask how he can set him up better as the point guard.

In Game 3, they were on the same page.

"I do think this man [John Wall] next to me, he creates and facilitates for the whole team and gets everybody easy shots," Beal said. "I talk to you guys all the time and I can’t tell you the last time I actually got a regular catch and shoot three just in a regular half court set. When he came back, I got like three or four off the bat."

What Beal did in Game 3 is what the Wizards are used to seeing from him this time of the year. Despite being only 24 years old, he has a strong track record in the playoffs.

Through 37 career postseason games, Beal is averaging 22.3 points, more than his career average of 18.7 in the regular season. In each of his previous three postseason runs, he has averaged more points during the playoffs than he did in the regular seasons leading up.

That production has earned him the nickname 'Playoff Beal' and when he goes off like he did in Game 3, good things usually happen. The Wizards are 10-6 in the playoffs during his career when he scores 25 points or more.

Wall also boasts impressive career numbers in the playoffs. When the Wizards have both of their stars playing at their best, they are hard to beat. With peak Beal on board, this series looks a lot different than it did not that long ago.

MORE FROM WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

GORTAT DITCHES MOHAWK, TEAMMATES APPROVE

MUST-SEE MOMENTS FROM WILD GAME 3

BEAL GOT AN APOLOGY FROM SCOTT BROOKS

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