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John Wall can't solve puzzle of Isaiah Thomas


John Wall can't solve puzzle of Isaiah Thomas

The competitive relationship between John Wall and Isaiah Thomas goes back to their days playing in AAU. But in the NBA, it has been a mismatch as the Boston Celtics guard has won 10 of 11 of their meetings.

Thomas had 23 points, nine assists and four rebounds in just 28 minutes Monday as the Celtics (25-21) swept the season series with the Wizards 4-0. Wall had just eight points and 10 assists in 33 minutes as they blew a 41-34 lead in the second quarter, allowed Thomas to score the final five points to give Boston a 53-49 halftime advantage and nine points in the decisive third.

"I just started winning against Derrick (Rose) when he played. I didn't win against him. I didn't win against CP," said Wall of the Bulls' point guard and Chris Paul of the L.A. Clippers. "Teams play hard. They play well. We just played like (expletive) and I played like (expletive).

The Wizards did well with Nene, who made his second start at power forward of the season next to Marcin Gortat. He covered Thomas on the pick-and-rolls, challenged shots that fell short over his 7-foot frame, playing good position defense. Marcus Smart didn't have much success, either.

But when Nene, who is playing on a minutes restriction because of a left calf strain that has bothered him all season, left the game the tone changed. 

"He was the best at it," coach Randy Wittman said about contesting Boston's guards on the pick-and-roll actions with his help defense. "He was our best big at doing that. Our other bigs didn't challenge at all."


That's an unspoken dig at Gortat, of course.

Thomas stared at the Wizards' bench after he drained shots. He has friendly back and forths with Wall, but even when he was with the Phoenix Suns he won these matchups.

"Me and him we have no problem at all," Wall said. "When I was trying to become one of the best players in the country he was already known. ... When we're on the court it's all competitive trash talk between us. It's nothing serious. I have no problem with him. It's fun. He's always been a tough competitor, a tough matchup to play against because he's so small and quick. He has a lot of heart for somebody his size."

At 5-9, Thomas kept his dribble alive and used every ounce of his body weight to shield Wall from blocking him from behind. Half of Thomas' field goals (8 of 14) came at the rim as his shotchart from the game shows. Wall couldn't keep him in front of him.

"The biggest thing is Isaiah has just learned how to survive and thrive at his size. He's figured it out no matter who he's playing against. He's never playing against somebody his size," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "He's always had to play against bigger guys. There's not necessarily anything to that particular matchup that I would say that I can see. ... I just think Isaiah tries to figure it out. He uses his body well. He's got the ball on a string and he can shoot it well enough that you have to honor that and closeout to him."

On the flip side, Stevens changed his coverages on Wall. In their last meeting, won 119-117 by Boston, Wall torched them for a season-high 36 points as they went under on pick-and-rolls and gave him the mid-range shot. Not Monday. Wall shot 3-for-11.

"They did a great job adjusting their defensive coverages," Wall said. "I really didn't get a lot of looks that I had last game. They wanted (other) guys to make plays."

Bradley Beal went out in the second quarter with a likely concussion and broken nose and didn't return. Garrett Temple, who has started for him since returning on his minutes restriction, had his worst game in a while (0-for-7).

There weren't many other perimeter options for the Wizards, but yet another head-to-head battle goes to Thomas. Like Wall did last season when he had trouble getting the best of the Celtics and the Toronto Raptors, who they travel to play Tuesday, he has to forget about it and move on. 

"That's my first two years (in the league). I thought about it," Wall said of his inability to win certain matchups. "When I play bad and the other person plays well, yes I'm really pissed. I'd be more happy if I play bad and we win. You play bad and you lose? You're really pissed."

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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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