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Morning tip: Keys to look for in Wizards-Celtics semifinal series

Morning tip: Keys to look for in Wizards-Celtics semifinal series

ATLANTA -- The long-awaited series between the Wizards and Boston Celtics is here, and it begins Sunday at TD Garden. They don't like each other in the regular season and that animosity is likely to reach new heights in the semifinals.

For the Wizards to upset the No. 1 seed, this is what has to happen:

-- Isaiah Thomas makes them go. During the regular season coach Scott Brooks deployed Kelly Oubre on him and it worked. He's more athletic than the 5-9 guard and has a 7-2 wingspan. The film study for reference.

-- Al Horford isn't a true center. He's a power forward who is undersized against true centers like Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi. It's unclear when Mahinmi will be available after a left calf strain but Brooks told CSNmidatlantic.om early Friday if there was a Game 7 vs. the Hawks, which would've been Sunday, he wouldn't be able to play. Game 1 vs. Boston is Sunday.

-- Avery Bradley is one of the NBA's best defending backcourt players. He's fast, physical and strong on the ball. Bradley Beal will have his work cut out for him just to catch the ball cleanly. Bradley will try to deny him and will be aggressive over screens which means the seams for Beal will be backdoor and selling his moves to the arc and getting into the paint to breakdown the defense. The Celtics don't have true rim protection.

-- The second unit for the Celtics doesn't blow anyone away but Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier can get hot. They share the ball and allowing them to freely move the ball to step into open looks will make decent players look better than they actually are. 

[RELATED: Wall and Beal can't stop grinning talk about 73-point game]

-- It's hard to imagine that the Celtics will go with Amir Johnson vs. Markieff Morris for any prolonged period of time -- he lasted four minutes before coach Brad Stevens yanked him from one game -- but if that happens that's a major mismatch that has to be manipulated at every turn. 

-- The Celtics can't hide Thomas defensively. John Wall and Beal can and have posted him for easy buckets or force help that opens other teammates for clean looks. If they try to hide him vs. Porter who is 6-8 that's a near 50% three-point shooter. Thomas has to be forced to defend every possession on the court, unlike when the Chicago Bulls let him off the hook in Game 4. They allowed Thomas to be protected by defending the 6-foor-8 Paul Zipser who wasn't involved in any of the action. 

-- Morris did a great job keeping his hands to himself in Game 6 vs. Atlanta. He has to repeat it for the playoffs. Getting cheap reach-ins is the biggest weakness in his game and he has to realize he doesn't have to get a block or steal every possession. Sometimes he has to have restraint and make sure he's available for the fourth quarter. 

-- The Wizards had 17 turnovers, seven by Wall, on Friday. The Celtics' transtion game which features a lot of trail threes is fueled by such givewaways. 

-- Gortat will get the post touches vs. Horford that he didn't get vs. Dwight Howard. The Wizards will go to him to start quarters to get him involved since Horford can't keep him off the low block. Can Gortat hit the shots? If he can, that alone changes the tone of the series because Horford can't bang with him down low for an entire game.

-- Defending the high post action. Horford initates most of it with dribble pitches and handoffs as the Celtics do a lot of split action to confuse the defense with their movement. Horford averaged 5.0 assists in the regular season which led post players. Not allowing him the room or space to do what he wants with the ball is a significant factor. Gortat hasn't always been consistent with ball pressure this far from the rim. That has to change. And the wings have to do their best to blow up the handoffs.

-- Because of their size problem, the Celtics will have issues rebounding. This is where Mahinmi gives the Wizards that second big to give them headaches on the boards but until he returns Gortat, Morris and Jason Smith should be enough. Thomas has no business getting tip-ins like he did in their last regular-season game won by Boston. If that happens, bad sign. 

[RELATED: Things get emotional after Chenier's last game in the booth]

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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.


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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Wizards host students from Stoneman Douglas High School ahead of 'March For Our Lives'

Wizards host students from Stoneman Douglas High School ahead of 'March For Our Lives'

With a march on Washington planned for this weekend following the mass shooting in Parkland, FL, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were invited by the Wizards to attend their Friday morning practice at Capital One Arena.

About 20 of the kids showed up to watch the Wizards practice, took pictures with players, got a tour of the facilities and walked away with Wizards hats and gear. It was a small break away from what has been a tumultous time ever since the massacre at their school on Feb. 14.

Wizards majority owner Ted Leonsis was on hand to speak with the students, who are set to lead the 'March For Our Lives' through downtown Washington on Saturday.


Wizards guard Bradley Beal met with the media after taking photos with the students.

"For us to be able to take their mind off of it for just a few minutes is always a great feeling," Beal said. "At the end of the day, we're all human beings regardless of our careers are and what our jobs are. A lot of us have families, kids, brothers and sisters. The last thing that you want to happen is what happened to several of those families. You can never imagine."

Beal went to college in Florida and has participated in his own forms of activism. He has found inspiration in the efforts by Stoneman Douglas students. They have taken what happened to their school as a catalyst for what they hope produces change in the ability to protect similar attacks from happening again.


Beal, 24, finds that admirable.

"It's amazing sometimes to learn from the youth on how to do things," Beal said. "It's a testament to where our world needs to lead to, to where we need to get to and to come together as a society. It starts with us as the younger generation. We've gotta come together with love and do things like this. I think what they're doing is awesome. It's spreading positive vibes and it's true humanitarian work that they're doing."

The Stoneman Douglas students are expected to attend Friday night's Wizards-Nuggets game as well.

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