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Morning tip: Celtics lost on how to deal with matchup problem Markieff Morris

Morning tip: Celtics lost on how to deal with matchup problem Markieff Morris

First, it was Gerald Green who lasted just seven minutes as the starting power forward. Then came Amir Johnson and he lasted just five. Neither yielded a single bucket for the Boston Celtics but they led the Wizards in the East semifinals 2-0 anyway. 

After losing Game 3 with Green, who is more of the stretch option, the Celtics went with Johnson in Game 4 and it was equally disastrous. Meanwhile, the Wizards hit them with a steady dose of Markieff Morris time and again and got results.

"We're the better team and we feel like we've been the better team," said Morris, who has dominated the matchup and had 16 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals in Sunday's 121-102 victory for Washington. "If we go out there and play like that, we can get the win.

"Either way, they're in a lose-lose switching that guy."

Johnson has the size but lacks the skill or finesse to combat Morris, who is 6-10 but can face up from long range and break him down off the dribble. Green is an undersized scorer who is a liability in the low post trying to defend Morris. Neither can rebound with him, either, which is where the Wizards have been plus-12 and plus-14 in the last two games. If  Celtics coach Brad Stevens attempts a three-guard lineup and Marcus Smart finds himself on Morris, that's an even easier assignment for him.

[RELATED: Markieff Morris has quote of the year after blowout win over Celtics]

Boston cross-matched because of Morris, having Al Horford defend him while Johnson shifted to Marcin Gortat who is even bigger in Game 4. The Wizards took advantage of that by using more screen action with Gortat to put Johnson, who is a weak defender vs. guards, in space on John Wall. 

It seems like a game of musical chairs, and regardless of Morris' statistics shows it or not game to game, his presence leads to issues because the Celltics must assume the risk to compensate for him. Both teams switch on defense at that position, but Morris is OK vs. no matter who his assignment becomes after the switch because there's no mismatch gained by the opposition, The Celtics don't have that luxury.

Jae Crowder took some of the burden on Morris on Sunday but ended up with five fouls before the third quarter ended. While he has the physical strength to battle down low, he's still underized defensively and is mostly a catch-and-shoot player offensively which doesn't present problems for Morris.

Morris scored the Wizards' first two points of the second half but grabbing an offensive rebound and getting foul shots on Crowder.  Morris switched onto Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley and kept them in front of him. Johnson, Green, Crowder and Smart can't do the same consistently vs. Wall and Bradley Beal. 

If the Wizards are able to win this series, look back at this inability to match up on Boston's part and the trickle-down effect as a signficant reason.

"Keef, he's a special player," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "I love coaching him. I like his toughness. I like his passion. He's a matchup problem. We don't care if they go small or big. We know if we have Keef he can guard smalls or he can guard bigs."

The left ankle spain that caused Morris to leave Game 1 is a distant memory. He hasn't had any issues with it since Horford stuck his foot underneath him on a jump shot and he has played with an extra edge ever since then.

The Wizards still have to win a game at TD Garden where they're 0-4 this season to upset the No. 1 seed in the East. Morris isn't concerned about that part. It's the attitude they need to carry with them for Wednesday's pivotal Game 5.

"For sure it's going to be hard. They're still a good team. It's Boston," Morris said. "I feel as though, we all feel as though we're the better team even to start the series. This is what we wanted during the regular season when it was chippy and we (were) going at it. We wanted Boston in the playoffs. We got to go out there and act like that and I think we did the last couple of games."

[RELATED: Wizards feel in control as series shifts to Boston]

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Phil Chenier becomes fifth Bullets player to ever have his jersey retired


Phil Chenier becomes fifth Bullets player to ever have his jersey retired

On the newest banner that hangs from the rafters at Capital One Arena, a small microphone - embroidered with a white 33 - is subtly stitched into the bottom left corner. 

You'd barely notice it was there; Phil Chenier certainly didn't.

Chenier, who had his #45 jersey retired tonight during halftime of tonight's Wizards-Nuggets game, didn't even notice the mic, added to signify his three decades as a broadcaster with the team.

"I had no idea there was even a mic on it," Chenier said, laughing. "I'll have to go back out and look at it some more."

Despite the Wizards' 108-100 loss, the night was first and foremost a celebration of Chenier - the 5th player in franchise history to have his number rasied in the rafters. He joins Earl Monroe, Elvin Hayes, Gus Johnson, and Wes Unseld as the only players to achieve the honor so far.

"To be up there with the other 4 names means a lot – people I had the fortune of playing with," he added. "I remember my first day of practice and I had just watched this team play in the finals and now I’m plopped down with Wes Unfeld and Earl Monroe and Gus Johnson. It seemed like they accepted me from the get go."

Many from that 1978 Championship team were in attendance on Friday night, watching as one of their teammates cemented his professional legacy. For Chenier, that acceptance as an All-Time Bullets great is at the core of why he played the game.

"You know, when you play this game, you play for acceptance," he said. "You want to be the best, you want to be accepted. Having players and childhood friends – and of course, your family – here, you’re surrounded by so many people that meant a lot to you both before and now. It’s a really humbling feeling.”

It was hard to find someone in DC without something good to say about Chenier on Friday night. Even in the basement of Capital One Center, after the Wizards' fifth loss in seven games, head coach Scott Brooks took a moment out of his press conference to praise Chenier. 

"[Chenier] is a great ambassador and we all love him," Brooks said. "It's well deserved. It's going to be pretty cool seeing his jersey every time we step into this building."

Fans left the arena with a commemorative Phil Chenier cut out. Phil Chenier left the arena with his number retired. The experience was, according to the man himself, everything he thought it'd be. 

"You don’t know what the emotions are going to be..." he told media members after the ceremony."...Obviously it’s something I thought about, but it really was exciting to see the 45 up there and my name."

Then Chenier cracked a smile.

"I’m glad it’s over with."

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

The Washington Wizards lost to the Denver Nuggets 108-100 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Another loss: It is becoming more and more clear that the Wizards need a shot in the arm, something to change the direction of where they are currently heading.

Whether that will come in the form of All-Star point guard John Wall returning from his months-long absence, an adjustment to their lineup or strategy, or something else entirely, the losses are piling up and at a tough time in the season.

With another loss on Friday night, their seventh in their last 11 games, the Wizards are now 40-32. They have plenty of room to still clinch a playoff berth, as their magic number stands at two, but they only have 10 games left to secure their all-important playoff seed.

Both the Pacers and Cavaliers, two teams just ahead of them in the playoff race, won on Friday.

The Wizards lost their second straight game and again offense was their problem. They scored 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers.

Big third quarter: The Denver Nuggets have emerged as a team on the rise, a young squad with burgeoning stars that could someday soon make some noise in the Western Conference. The reason is because they are very good on offense. Defense is a much different story.

That was not the case on Friday night, as the Wizards had all sorts of trouble scoring in three of their four quarters. They managed just 43 points by halftime, the fewest the Nuggets have allowed in a first half since Jan. 27.

The Wizards, though, did get cooking in the third quarter. They erupted for 33 points in the frame while shooting 63.2 percent from the field and 58.3 percent from three. Markieff Morris, who finished with 17, had 11 points in the third quarter and Bradley Beal (24 points) hit three threes.

The Wizards also found a solution for Jamal Murray, one of the Nuggets' brightest young stars. He had 20 points at halftime, but went scoreless in nine minutes in the third quarter. Kelly Oubre, Jr. (15 points) was among those who gave him trouble. Murry finished with 25.

The big third quarter reflected well on the Wizards' ability to make adjustments, but their 24-point fourth quarter flipped the script again.


Didn't force mistakes: The first time these teams squared off back in October, the Wizards forced the Nuggets into 23 turnovers. This game was a very different story. 

The Nuggets didn't commit their first turnover until midway through the second quarter and had only three by halftime. They had just 10 turnovers for the game.

Denver deserves some credit for limiting their mistakes, but all of it did not reflect well on the Wizards' defense. They didn't put enough pressure on the ball and failed to disrupt passing lanes like they usually do. It was uncharacteristic, as the Wizards entered the game 10th in average turnovers forced.

Not creating mistakes allowed the Nuggets to get way to many field goal attempts. Though they shot just 43.5 percent, Denver managed 108 points. And not getting turnovers offered the Wizards few opportunities for easy transition buckets.

Turnovers were one issue with the Wizards' defense. So was defending the perimeter, as the Nuggets shot 17-for-34 (50%) from long range. It is worth noting the Nuggets were without their leading scorer Gary Harris, a guy who is dangerous from long range.


Special night: Halftime offered a memorable moment in franchise history as legendary player and broadcast Phil Chenier had his No. 45 jersey retired by the team. His longtime broadcaster and friend Steve Buckhantz hosted the ceremony with about 20 friends and family members of Chenier's seated behind him. Buckhantz had opening comments, then majority owner Ted Leonsis spoke as everyone in the crowd stood and cheered.

Then, it was Chenier's time to talk. He thanked his former teammates, members of the organization and those close to him. He kept his composure until the very end when he brought up his mother, Peggy, who could not make the event. Chenier choked up and wiped away tears as he described what she has meant to him in his life.

It was a powerful moment and a great ceremony to honor a guy who has impacted the lives of many in the D.C. area. Now, his No. 45 will hang up in the rafters forever. That banner, by the way, features a picture of a microphone and the phrase '33 years,' signifying how long he was the color analyst for Bullets and Wizards games.


Up next: The Wizards do not have a game Saturday, though they are going to practice and Wall is expected to take a big step forward in his rehab. Their next game is Sunday at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington when they host the Knicks. That will also be a special game, as the Wizards are set to honor the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship.

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