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Morning tip: Elite scorers exploit Wizards with isolations

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Morning tip: Elite scorers exploit Wizards with isolations

Now that the Wizards are switching on pick-and-rolls between the point guard, shooting guard and small forward, opponents are using it against them more than ever. The Toronto Raptors ran plays for DeMar DeRozan, like the Cleveland Cavaliers did before them with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, to get favorable matchups.

The result was James getting 35 points and a season-high for Irving, who had 32 in just his eighth game of the season in a 121-115 win Wednesday. DeRozan dropped in a season-high 35 in Friday's 97-88 win.

"We wanted to switch pick-and-rolls, one through three. They started to run a lot of plays for him to switch and get in the post," said Wizards shooting guard Garrett Temple, who at 6-6 is their best one-on-one defender. "He was getting to the line again at will."

DeRozan, who at 6-7 was getting the smaller John Wall on him in the mid-post on switches, made 12 of 13 foul shots. In the previous game with Washington, he went 15 of 15.  

"We're getting these trends where these wing players have big games and we can't really shut them out," Wizards forward Jared Dudley said. "We have to be able to switch it up."

Meaning, trap the ball and get it out of DeRozan's hands before he makes his move. The Raptors only had 11 assists on 35 field goals so their offense, like Cleveland's, was coming off isolation plays -- something that most NBA teams have gotten away from because isolations tend to bog down offenses -- when they were able to create those mismatches. 

"He made some tough shots," Temple said of DeRozan. "We were switching on him a lot of times and getting the matchups that they wanted. We played decent defense at times."

James combined with Irving to shoot 16 of 25 in the second half for Cleveland as they used mostly isolation sets.

"There’s a fine line, when you play isolation ball and it’s inefficient, then you need to figure out something else," James said. "We’re very efficient iso guys, and we’re able to keep everyone in tune at the same time we’re able to get our own."

Fortunately for the Wizards, when they play at the Orlando Magic on Saturday night, they won't be facing a team with players who flourish in isolations. Eventually, however, coach Randy Wittman will have to adjust pending the opponent.

The Wizards attributed a brief turnaround in their play to simplifying their defensive coverages when they were struggling with communication. Now with teams focusing more on getting their best offensive players in one-on-one mismatches on the perimeter, the Wizards have no answers.

 

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How the Wizards have taken Raptors big man Serge Ibaka out of the series on offense

How the Wizards have taken Raptors big man Serge Ibaka out of the series on offense

The Wizards-Raptors first round playoff series has evolved to feature the emergence of several players who started off slowly including Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat and Kelly Oubre, Jr. The opposite has happened for Toronto big man Serge Ibaka.

After Ibaka lit up the Wizards for 23 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks in Game 1, there has been a disappearance. His scoring has gone missing and it's a big reason why the Wizards have won two straight games and earned a 2-2 series split.

Head coach Scott Brooks knows Ibaka well from their days in Oklahoma City. He helped develop Ibaka and has since watched from afar as his game has changed to include a consistent outside game.

Brooks has on several occasions referred to Ibaka as one of the best three-point shooting big men in the league. The numbers back that up. Last season, he shot 39.1 percent from three on 4.0 attempts per game, excellent for a 6-foot-10 power forward.

This season that number dipped to 36 percent, but he hit 41 percent of his threes in his final 16 games of the regular season. That carried over into the playoffs when he went 3-for-4 in Game 1 as part of an 8-for-11 shooting night overall.

The Wizards made a point to take away those outside shots following their series-opening defeat. The way they are doing that is by crowding him when he gets the ball, even if it means him getting past the initial defender.

"You want to make sure you meet him on the catch. You want to take away his shot," Brooks said. "When he gets open shots, they are money. He's going to knock them down... We did a good job of meeting him on his catch and making him put the ball on the floor with his left hand. You can live with the results."

After his 23-point outburst in Game 1, Ibaka has scored just 20 points total in the last three games. He has gone 2-for-6 from three.

The Wizards are taking away his shot attempts in general. He took 11 shots in each of the first two games of this series, but just four in Game 3 and five in Game 4. In Game 3 he had three points and three turnovers and on Sunday he had seven points and four turnovers.

Here are two examples of the Wizards' defense on Ibaka. On this first play, Markieff Morris meets Ibaka as soon as he catches the ball and the result is a turnover:

On this next play, Morris follows Ibaka all the way to the rim and even though he goes up on a pump fake, Morris recovers to alter Ibaka's shot and force a miss:

The Wizards, however, did get away with one against Ibaka. He was left wide open for a three in the final minute, but the shot rimmed out:

As the first two plays demonstrate, Morris deserves a lot of credit for the Wizards' success against Ibaka. He has the size and mobility to keep up with him and is willing to use contact to his advantage.

"Just playing the tendencies," Morris said. "We're making them do things they are uncomfortable with and are getting better results."

Ibaka was fourth on the Raptors this season in points per game and third in shot attempts. He is their third option behind All-Star guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. If the Wizards can continue to lock up Ibaka, it will be difficult for the Raptors to beat them.

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MORE FROM WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

OUBRE IS HELPING THE WIZARDS WIN IN MANY WAYS

WALL WAS DUNKING ALL OVER RAPTORS BIG MEN

MUST-SEE MOMENTS FROM GAME 4 WIN

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Death Row D.C. and the Wizards are back

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Death Row D.C. and the Wizards are back

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes and Chris Miller were joined by Julie Donaldson to break down the Wizards' wins in Games 3 and 4.

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat are back and the Wizards are a different team because of it. Plus, how regaining their Death Row D.C. mentality has changed this series.

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!