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Morning tip: 7-point plan for how Wizards can get split in Game 2 vs. Celtics

Morning tip: 7-point plan for how Wizards can get split in Game 2 vs. Celtics

BOSTON — A playoff series truly turns when the home team loses on its own floor, so even if the Boston Celtics win tonight and the Wizards hold serve at home in Games 3 and 4 nothing has really changed.

But a 2-0 lead would put the pressure on the No. 4 seed to be flawless to get back level in the East semifinals. 

So how do the Wizards do it? 

It's simple in theory.

The Celtics aren't anywhere near the most talented team in the league, or even in their own conference despite their No. 1 seed. They play disciplined basketball, however, with an IQ that has to be matched. This is what the Wizards did wrong, and what they'll have to do better.


If they get the split, blowing the 17-point lead in Game 1 Sunday doesn't matter quite as much:

7. Exploit Isaiah Thomas' inability to defend.

If the Celtics continue to try to hide the 5-9 point guard on the 6-8 Otto Porter, run him off curls or run pick-and-roll with him to force the switch onto John Wall and Bradley Beal. The reason is twofold: the Celtics switch everything and getting him on a three-point shooter like Beal is an easier look for him than vs. Avery Bradley who is bigger, stronger, and an All-NBA caliber defender. If Porter runs off curls, Thomas will usually have trouble getting over the screens of bigs and trail the play making him not much of a threat to recover and contest. If the big steps up to help, that opens a path for Porter who is an adept passer to leave it for a layup to his big diving to the basket. That'll force the Celtics to change their coverages or pull Thomas off the floor. Chances are they'll stick with him but regardless of how much he scores he has to be made a liability on every possession possible and he might get himself into foul trouble.

6. Ball pressure at the high and pinch posts.

That's where Al Horford does his best work. He executes dribble handoffs and pitches to the wings and screens to get them in the paint. He sets flare screens for three-point shooters. When they go to high/low action -- see his entry passes to Kelly Olynyk when defended by a smaller defender en route to 10 assists for Horford -- it's an easy feed at the rim. Being more aggressive with Horford doesn't allow him the comfort of surveying his options. 

5. Blow up screens.

Rather than allowing the screens to come and then trying to respond, which often means the guards getting pinned underneath, the Wizards have to not only anticipate, but fight over the top. It not only throws off the timing of the offense but forces the ball farther out of their preferred operational zone. There were opportunites to shoot the gaps on the handoffs but that didn't happen enough.

4. Don't overhelp off three-point shooters.

Even below average long-ballers such as Marcus Smart can't find their mark if you give them room and time to line up a look. Jae Crowder is a good three-point shooter at 40% for the season. But he's not going to shoot 6-for-8 unless he can get the space he was allowed in Game 1. Give up a mid-range two-point shot before an open three-point shot. Even if they make them all, that's 19 fewer points for Boston which would've translated into 104 total points Sunday instead of 123. Lose some small battles to win the war.


3. Don't wait. Dictate.

When the Celtics run double high screens for Thomas, for instance, don't allow him to choose which side he wants to go to with the ball. He's almost always going to choose left, which is his strong hand, drive back the big (while Thomas' man is likely pinned underneath) and pull up for the 5-foot floater. If the big comes up to stop him, he has to be high enough to contest the the pull up. Thomas had too much space. The defense has to force him to go where it wants him to go and make him take the shots they want him to take, not vice versa. Horford can't be allowed to dribble under the three-point line because by the time he hands off, the guard or wing player is in the paint and the defense is officially compromised.

2. Get back to set off misses and don't gamble.

Thomas' first two made three-pointers came off misses in close by Marcin Gortat and Bradley Beal. The first one was easy because Wall went for a steal in the passing lane, missed and Thomas was wide open. When Kelly Oubre stayed in front and used his 7-2 wingspan to contest Thomas, he missed. Thomas might still get his points but make him take more shots to get them. 

1. Turnovers.

The Wizards only had 13 which isn't that bad, but eight came in the third quarter when the game turned. Five of those came from Wall as he drove into three defenders. Putting Boston in transition and matching up with shooters becomes difficult because ultimately there's a mismatch as defenders are forced to take the closest man. The ball movement almost always finds the right person.  Ten of their third-quarter points came off the giveaways. The Celtics went 6-for-13 on threes in that period alone. 

Even with their roster not at full-strength, the Wizards' best talent is better than Boston's, but the Celtics stayed discipline which allowed them to get back into the game and win. 


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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Should Bradley Beal be an All-NBA selection?


Wizards Tipoff podcast: Should Bradley Beal be an All-NBA selection?

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, host Chase Hughes was joined by guest co-host Travis Thomas to break down Bradley Beal's All-NBA chances and John Wall's injury rehab.

They also discussed the crazy Eastern Conference playoff race, Trae Young's draft stock and essentials for a good snow day.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

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What are Bradley Beal's chances of earning All-NBA?

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What are Bradley Beal's chances of earning All-NBA?

Bradley Beal has been indispensable for the Wizards this season with John Wall having missed 33 of their 70 games, or nearly half of their schedule so far. Beal's numbers are up in several categories from last season and he earned his first All-Star selection as a result.

Becoming an NBA All-Star is very difficult. Usually, about six guards per conference are picked each year. Being All-NBA is even more exclusive, as only six guards are selected from the entire league.

Wall has done it before and Beal may be in position to accomplish the feat himself this season. As of now, Beal could be considered on the bubble for third-team All-NBA.


It is an extremely competitive race and there are several locks to earn the honors. At this point, guys like James Harden and Russell Westbrook should get in easily. But after that, the next four spots are hard to sort out.

Based on his numbers, Damian Lillard of the Blazers should be a shoe-in. He is the best player on the third-place team in the Western Conference and is second among all NBA guards in points per game (26.6). He is also averaging 6.5 assists and 4.4 rebounds. He has already been All-NBA twice in his career and should get his third nod after this season.

DeMar DeRozan of the Raptors is probably the next-most likely to get in. He has led the top team in the Eastern Conference, was an All-Star starter in February and got his first All-NBA selection last year.

After those is where it gets interesting. The reason why is injuries. Stephen Curry in any other year would be a guarantee for All-NBA, but as of now he has played just 50 games. Consider that the NBA requires a player to appear in 58 games or more, or 70 percent of his team's games, to qualify for statistical leaderboards. 


Curry has returned to practice, but due to health and possibly rest down the stretch of the season, there is a chance he doesn't hit the 58-game threshold. That may present an interesting question for the voters.

Kyrie Irving of the Celtics is also hurt. He has played in 60 games with 11 left on Boston's schedule. The same goes for Jimmy Butler of the Timberwolves. He is rehabbing a torn meniscus and currently has only played 56 games. 

Chris Paul of the Rockets has appeared in 53 games due to injuries. Though his numbers could put him in the All-NBA conversation, Devin Booker of the Suns has played in just 54 games.

If injuries do preclude Curry in particular from getting in, then the door could be open the door for Beal. He would then have to beat out guys like Victor Oladipo of the Pacers, Irving, Butler and others.

Setting aside the most likely three to get All-NBA - Harden, Westbrook and Lillard - and Curry, let's take a look at how Beal stacks up statistically to the rest of the pack. 

Bradley Beal - 23.3 ppg, 4.7 apg, 4.5 rpg, 1.2 spg, 46.3 FG%, 37.4 3PT%

DeMar DeRozan - 23.7 ppg, 5.1 apg, 4.0 rpg, 1.1 spg, 46.1 FG%, 32.4 3PT%

Victor Oladipo - 23.3 ppg, 4.2 apg, 5.2 rpg, 2.3 spg, 47.1 FG%, 36.6 3PT%

Kyrie Irving - 24.4 ppg, 5.1 apg, 3.8 rpg, 1.8 spg, 49.1 FG%, 40.8 3PT%

Jimmy Butler - 22.2 ppg, 5.0 apg, 5.4 rpg, 1.9 spg, 47.3 FG%, 35.6 3PT%

Devin Booker - 24.9 ppg, 4.7 apg, 4.5 rpg, 0.9 spg, 43.2 FG%, 38.3 3PT%

Chris Paul - 18.8 ppg, 7.9 apg, 5.6 rpg, 1.7 spg, 45.9 FG%, 38.5 3PT%


As you see, not a whole lot is separating those guys. It may come down to team performance and other factors.

Working in Beal's favor is that he's been the most durable of the bunch. He has played in every one of the Wizards' games this season.

Beal has also helped keep his team in contention despite Wall's absence. The Wizards are on pace for 47 wins, not far off their 49 victories last year, and Beal has been the biggest reason.

But Irving's case is helped similarly by all the injuries in Boston, including to Gordan Hayward. He has been the best player on the second-best team in the Eastern Conference.

Oladipo has led the Pacers to an impressive season despite not having another All-Star in the lineup. DeRozan, Beal, Irving and Butler have better supporting casts.


Say injuries do work against Curry, Paul, Irving and Booker. And assume DeRozan is safely in as the fourth guy behind Harden, Westbrook and Lillard. That could mean Beal gets in alongside Oladipo.

If Curry, Paul or Irving get in despite missing double-digit games, that would probably bump Beal out of the mix. Oladipo has slightly better numbers and has drawn lots of acclaim for being the best player on a surprise Pacers team and he's no guarantee himself.

Beal has 12 games left to prove his case and clearly a lot of factors are in play, but the idea of him making All-NBA for the first time is not out of the question.

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