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Morning tip: Injuries force Wittman to abandon 'old school'


Morning tip: Injuries force Wittman to abandon 'old school'

Think the game earlier in the week against the Cleveland Cavaliers looked unusual for the Wizards, with 6-7 Jared Dudley playing center to take advantage of Kevin Love? It grew more strange Friday when Otto Porter played there in the second half, Garrett Temple logged time as a power forward while John Wall shifted to small forward.

Both games produced victories, with the Wizards (8-9) even more depleted by injuries to frontline players Nene (calf), Drew Gooden (calf),  Kris Humphries (ankle) and Marcin Gortat not available (personal leave).

"I told them at a 6-foot-5 and under league we’d be pretty good," coach Randy Wittman said after the Wizards erased a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to edge the Suns 109-106. "Even with that, that’s the most points we’ve had in the paint all year. Fifty."

A frequent, and fair, criticism of Wittman is that he can be stubborn. That's probably true of anyone who played for the legendary Bobby Knight.

"Witt’s old school. He rarely ever changes anything. He’s more of a two big offense guy, go in then post, having points in the paint, that’s what he’s all about, and shooting threes," said Bradley Beal, who exploded in the second half of 24 of his 34 points. "This is the total opposite but that’s just the way the game’s transforming and that’s the makeup of our team, too. It just shows how disciplined we can be, how versatile we can be as well."

Dudley started at power forward but when the third quarter tipped he was on the bench while Temple took his spot. Wittman felt like Dudley was overextended playing 17 minutes in the first half and wanted him fresh for the fourth.

"I pride myself in my versatility. Jared Dudley made a comment after shootaround, ‘Temp, man , get ready to play some four tonight,'" said Temple, who rattled Eric Bledsoe on the perimeter in the first half and clashed with Markieff Morris on the low block in the fourth. "We were laughing about it but it actually came to fruition. The small lineup worked out for us. We did a good job of playing hard and talking, boxing out. We outrebounded (them) even though we had such a small lineup on there."

Wall gave way to Ramon Sessions as the primary ball-handler. 

"I wouldn’t have believed I’d be playing the three position," Wall said. "It’s an opportunity to get in there and rebound more. When you get the opportunity to rebound you just push it. Certain teams want to have certain players matched up against a certain person. When they’re missing shots and you pushing the pace its hard to find (him)."

What makes these lineups so successful? In Cleveland, the Wizards stretched a three-point lead in the second quarter to 10 in 2:34. They played a seven-minute stretch of the fourth of that game with the same lineup, with Dudley in the middle, to compensate for Gortat being saddle with foul trouble. They make up for their lack of size with quickness and recovering to help. It puts pressure on the offense to make the right reads. They front the post and bring help from the weakside. It becomes a matter of who blinks first.

"When we had that five out there that’s a great group of defensive guys that knows how to communicate and talk," Wall said of Sessions, Beal, Temple and Porter. "It’s kind of easy when you know you’re talking early. We’re switching this. We already talked about it so you know when the pick-and-roll coming you don’t have to worry about a certain call being called or you getting beat off the dribble. You already know what we want to do."

When injuries aren't an issue and Wittman's team is struggling, will he remember these times and junk up his rotation? 

"I loved it. Sometimes I think we get caught up into adjusting to other teams," Beal said. "We need to make them adjust to us. I think we did that."

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It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

The Wizards crossed off an important goal on Saturday night by beating the Indiana Pacers and therefore securing the season series. If the teams tie with the same regular season record, the Wizards will get the higher playoff seed. As of today, that would mean home court advantage in the first round.

Though the Wizards have beaten the Pacers in two of their three matchups this season, we only know so much about how they would match up in the playoffs. The first game between them didn't feature Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo and John Wall didn't play in any of the three games. The Pacers were without both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis on Saturday night.

Given the Pacers underwent so much change over the summer, there is no real data to go off of from before this season. They are a completely different team with Oladipo leading the way and Paul George now in Oklahoma City.


There are reasons to believe, however, that the Wizards would fare well against the Pacers over the course of a seven-game series. For one, they figured out how to slow Oladipo and his teammate Bojan Bogdanovic on Saturday night. Both had killed the Wizards in previous matchups.

Oladipo was held to 18 points, over five points below his season average of 23.5. He had four turnovers, shot 7-for-16 (43.7%) and finished a -18 in a game the Pacers lost by seven.

The Wizards had some success with Tomas Satoransky guarding Oladipo. Satoransky is 6-foot-7 with long arms. He was able to recover on several occasions to alter Oladipo's shots.

Satoransky and Bradley Beal also did a good job keeping pace with Oladipo on the fastbreak. The Pacers had only four fastbreak points in the game. Oladipo is especially dangerous in the open court.

“We just made sure that we were aggressive with him and made sure he saw a lot of bodies in the paint," Beal said. "The last game, he got a lot of easy ones in transition. We just made sure that we got back on the shot, loaded to the ball and forced the other guys to attack.”

For Bogdanovic, it was about limiting open shots from the perimeter. Bogdanovic had 11 points, three below his season average and had four turnovers. Beal and Otto Porter stripped Bogdanovic for steals and Marcin Gortat took a charge on one play in the third quarter.


But it was all about taking away the outside shot. Bogdanovic only hit one shot in the first half and it was a three. The only reason he got it off is because Kelly Oubre, Jr. lost his balance backing up. That gave Bogdanovic the window he needed. Otherwise, Oubre helped frustrate the former Wizards small forward. So did Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, who did a good job covering their teammates off screens.

The Pacers are an average offensive team, ranking 16th in points per game and 14th in offensive rating. They are better defensively, ranking ninth-best in opponents points per game and 12th in defensive efficiency.

If the Wizards can limit Oladipo and Bogdanovic, the Pacers' two leading scorers, they should have a good shot at beating the Pacers in the playoffs. Beyond them, the Pacers are thin in the scoring department. Turner only averages 13.6 points and no one else beyond him can consistently make an opposing defense pay for mistakes. Conversely, several Wizards players have given the Pacers major trouble through three games this season.

Gortat, who had 18 points and eight rebounds on Saturday, has averaged 13 points and eight rebounds on 57.7 percent shooting against Indiana. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who had 16 points in 18 minutes, has averaged 15.5 points and is shooting 50 percent from the field.


In addition to those guys, Markieff Morris, Porter, Mike Scott, Mahinmi and Satoransky are all shooting over 50 percent against the Pacers. Satoransky is shooting 71.4 percent through three games.

The Wizards have the pieces to counter what the Pacers do best. Indiana is seventh in three-point percentage, but the Wizards are the best team in basketball in opponents three-point percentage. The Pacers are built around an All-Star guard, but the Wizards have two All-Star guards. The Pacers have a collection of talented wing players, but so do the Wizards.

"Hypothetically, I do like Indiana," Beal said. "I like how we match up with Indiana and I feel like there is a lot of stuff that we can take advantage of. In a lot of categories, I think we can win them."

Add it all up and the Wizards have every reason to feel confident if they see the Pacers in the posteason. Keep that in mind because they very well could meet up in the spring.

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

Here are five plays or moments from the Wizards' 109-102 win over the Pacers on Saturday night that are worth revisiting... 

1. The Wizards took care of business against the Pacers on Saturday night and in doing so earned an important advantage in the playoff race. They won the season series and therefore own a tiebreaker for playoff seeding and currently that would mean home court advantage in the first round if the playoffs began today.

The Wizards took control early and part of that effort were five first-half assists by Bradley Beal. He ended up with 19 points, but some of his best plays were passes.

On this one, he executed a perfect pick-and-roll with Marcin Gortat:


2. This was another pretty pass to Gortat. Tomas Satoransky, who had 12 points and eight assists, fed Gortat with a nice reach-around pass on a play that featured some impressive ball movement overall:

3. This was a great moment. The Wizards had a member of the military surprise his niece on the court. She literally did not see it coming:


4. These last two plays are dunks by Kelly Oubre, Jr., who finished with 16 points. On this play, he cut through the and threw down with authority:

5. This dunk was set up by a beautiful pass from Ramon Sessions. It traveled about three-quarters of the court and Oubre did the rest:

The Wizards now have three days off before their next game as they sit fourth in the Eastern Conference. Things are trending positive for the Wizards as the playoff race heats up.

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