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Morning tip: Gary Neal's know-how vital for new offense

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Morning tip: Gary Neal's know-how vital for new offense

TOWSON, Md. -- The surroundings are familiar for Gary Neal, who ended his career at Towson University by averaging 26 points. But he never played here at SECU Arena, which was built six years after he departed in 2007 for a successful professional career that has led him to the Wizards. 

"I didn't get to play in this. If I got to play in this I probably would've averaged 32 instead of 26," Neal said. "It seems like there's a whole lot more space on the floor."

With the way the Wizards are going to play mostly this season, with one traditional big and four perimeter players, there'll be even more room for Neal to find his range. He's a three-point marksman shot 42% in his first two NBA seasons with the San Antonio Spurs. 

"The way the NBA is changing and evolving right now, how everybody is going to the four out, one in, the ball movement, not holding the ball, getting away from the isolation play, coach Witt is trying to teach that," Neal said. "That offense is kind of new to him also. He went to a little bit of that against the Hawks in the playoffs and by playing Paul (Pierce) at the four he kind of liked that. So he was thinking about that throughout the whole summer. He's teaching it to us. It's new to us. Everybody's learning. We should be alright."

When the Wizards aren't playing well offensively, Wittman often laments about lack of ball movement. Sometimes it's his point guard John Wall who tries to do it all himself. Sometimes it's his shooting guard Bradley Beal who isn't moving without the ball to give the bigs better passing angles for kick-outs from the low post. 

The Spurs have been a model franchise because of their ability to run a pressure offense system where they break down defenses with ball movement, where the leading scorer can be a different player every time and reserves share in the success. The result is being a perennial NBA championship contender, winning 50 games or more for 16 consecutive seasons including one being shortened by 16 games because of owners locking out players in a labor dispute.

"It's not totally San Antonio's offense. One thing, when you go from team to team, you have to pick up on is the terminology," said Neal, who played for the Charlotte Hornets and Minnesota Timberwolves last season before signing here as a free agent. "It might be the same scheme or the same play but it's called a different thing. That's one thing your mind has to get familiar with. ... It'll take about a week, week and a half and everybody will be good."

Wall might be the Wizards' best player and two-time All-Star, but the responsibility in this type of offense, based on Neal's experience, is shared equally. That's the point.

"You can't put the burden totally on the point guard. Last year he averaged 10 assists. Everybody knows is game. Everybody knows he's a willing creator and passer. When you play a system like this, the ball movement has to come from everybody," Neal said. "It can't be just John being a willing passer. It has to come from everybody, one through five. That's how you get ball movement, that's how you take advantage of mismatches, that's how you get the defense in bad rotations. That's what we're trying to build here, keeping the ball moving and playing at a quicker pace to take advantage of some defensive lapses."

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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 plays 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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