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Morning tip: Now Wizards have answer for Paul Millsap


Morning tip: Now Wizards have answer for Paul Millsap

Beyond what took place in the last game for Markieff Morris, neutralizing Carmelo Anthony in the Wizards' comeback victory, it opens the door to what's ahead when it comes to three pivotal meetings with the Atlanta Hawks.

The first is tonight at Phillips Arena (CSN, CSNmidatlantic.com and NBC Sports Live Extra, 7:30 p.m. ET).

The Hawks (41-29) lead the season series 1-0 so that's still on the table for the Wizards (34-35), who can get back to .500 after dipping five games below recently. But now with Morris, who was acquired at the trade deadline, they actually have someone who can matchup with Paul Millsap. 

He's the one matchup problem they've never solved, losing 3 of 4 regular-season meetings against Atlanta last season and falling in six games of the East semifinals as well.

"It's going to be a good match up, him going against Millsap," said Wall, after the Wizards beat the New York Knicks 99-89 on Saturday. "In the past we'd have to double-team certain people. Now we got somebody that can guard them guys one-on-one without help and be able to go back and those guys at the other end."

The Wizards were in a bind previously. Nene is their best perimeter defending big, but in a more traditional sense. He's more than equipped to defend a face-up, mid range shooter. Millsap, however, is a classic "tweener" which is a plus in today's game, in that he can shoot from the three-point arc and is a threat to put the ball on the floor to get to the rim.

Before he was traded (and now in Atlanta), Kris Humphries nor Drew Gooden could handle the assignment to chase Millsap around the arc. Jared Dudley is more capable in some ways defensively in a team concept but not one-on-one. He's undersized and Millsap could simply post him up for buckets. 

Enter Morris, who is 6-10. The Wizards have options. Switch on the pick-and-rolls with Morris and Wall and leave a small player on him, the Hawks are at a disadvantage. That's something the Wizards weren't able to do with Dudley or even when they had Humphries who had no back-to-the-basket game. 

"When teams switch on us he can post up. He's able to shoot over people," Wall said. "He can put the ball on the floor, he can create off the dribble and pass and find people. He has all the tools offensively and the way he stood up and played defensively really helped us out."

Of course, Morris has to take advantage of that situation. In an overtime loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, who switched Damian Lillard onto him, Morris couldn't though he was fouled twice on catches that wasn't called. More often than not, the Wizards should be able to exploit such a switch.

"I think that will help us out a lot," Bradley Beal said of Morris. "Somebody who can move and who's pretty much the same size who can guard multiple positions."

Otto Porter wasn't physically able to keep Anthony from getting to his spots in the mid-post. He'd averaged 35 points in the two games the Knicks had played vs. the Wizards before then. But that was before Morris, who has had a penchant for foul trouble, came to Washington.

Morris battled Anthony for real estate, kept a hand in his face and then responded on the other end with a pair of highlight-reel dunks to showcase his athleticism. When Morris was switched onto him, Anthony was held to six points on 2 of 9 shooting in the second half.

He should be able to handle Millsap's physical play, too. Alan Anderson, who returned to action Saturday, also figures to log some time in relief if he's healthy enough.

The Wizards have to keep in mind that the that Atlanta's best shooters, Millsap and Kyle Korver, tend to set a lot of screens to create switches. If the defense isn't on its toes, they'll pop to the arc.

Beal and Porter figured out with Korver that he slides laterally and rarely goes in straight lines to the basket and were successful taking him away during the playoffs. 

Millsap, who is only shooting 31% from three this season, is so versatile that they've had to do a lot of helping and mixing up coverages to keep him in contained which opens up space for others. Maybe they'll no longer have to do as much of that. 

MORE WIZARDSOtto Porter comes around when Wizards need him most

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Markieff Morris set tone for Wizards, who finally got back to 'Death Row mentality'

Markieff Morris set tone for Wizards, who finally got back to 'Death Row mentality'

Perhaps Toronto and their fans would disagree, but through two games the first round playoff series between the Wizards and Raptors had been relatively uneventful, maybe even boring to the casual observer. For those who have watched the Wizards in recent years, something just seemed off with them.

Not only were Bradley Beal and Otto Porter struggling to score, but the energy and grit we're used to from the Wizards in the postseason just wasn't there. Three minutes into Game 3 on Friday night, that all changed.

Wizards forward Markieff Morris got tangled with Raptors rookie OG Anunoby and fell to the ground. He rose up, shoved Anunoby and gave Serge Ibaka a push for good measure. It cost Morris a technical, but he wasn't ejected. From there, the tone was set.

This was to be a physical game and the Wizards were going to make sure of it. That's how they prefer to play and that nastiness had been missing thus far in this series.

"I think OG [Anunoby] did not know the scouting report because he did not know that Keef is one of the people you do not mess with in this world," forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. said. "He will learn.”

The fireworks didn't end there. Beal and Jonas Valanciunas got into it and so did John Wall and Anunoby, and then Wall and Ibaka.

The Wizards made a name for themselves in the 2016-17 season when they won 49 games and were one win away from the conference finals as a team that would instigate contact and talk trash. They prided themselves on being old school in that regard and were praised for it by former NBA tough guys like Paul Pierce and Stephen Jackson.

This season, they just haven't been able to do it as often.

"We have been there at spurts throughout the year, we just have not been there consistently," Oubre said. "Now it is do or die. We just need to bring that Death Row mentality.”

Oubre also joked that rapper Drake started it all by sitting courtside in Toronto and talking trash. Truthfully, their backs were against the wall and they had no choice but to punch back.

The Wizards entered Friday's game down 0-2 to the Raptors with Game 2 a dispirited blowout. If they went down 0-3, they would essentially have been dead in the water. No team has come back from that deficit in NBA history.

This time, they weren't going to go down without a fight.

"It sounds crazy, but sometimes we need that. The crazy part is that it's always [Morris]," center Marcin Gortat said. "If you see your teammate fighting, I'm going to fight with him. That's the bottom-line."

"We came out tonight with an edge about ourselves," Beal said. "Keef is a bully... we are physical team." 

As for Morris, the enforcer himself, he let his actions speak for themselves. He didn't take the bait on most questions, but did wear a 'Death Row D.C.' shirt during his media availability. Morris came up with that nickname last season to convey the toughness he wants the Wizards to play with.

"We need some physicality," Morris said. "I feel like when we were in Toronto, they were doing everything too freely. This kind of set the tone for the whole series... we need to keep our same mean mentality. If they wanna fight, we will fight."

The Wizards fought the Hawks and Celtics last year tooth-and-nail and often used physical play to their advantage. It worked in Game 3 against the Raptors. Now the Wizards will have to counter however Toronto chooses to respond.




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Physicality, the spark from Oubre; 5 must-see moments from Wizards Game 3 win

Physicality, the spark from Oubre; 5 must-see moments from Wizards Game 3 win

The Washington Wizards wasted no time in their playoff return to Capital One Arena to jump back into this series. Now behind 2-1 to the Toronto Raptors, Washington is back in the series. Here are the top moments from the 122-103 win:

1. It got physical early.

Is it bad luck to bring back #DeathrowDC? It only took the Wizards and Markieff Morris three minutes to get into a shoving match with OG Anunoby and the Raptors. Double technicals were both issued after this scuffle but it set the tone for the remainder of the game. From here the Wizards exerted their physicality.

2. Kelly Oubre providing the spark off the bench

Early on it was creeping toward another outstanding Raptors offensive performance, like we saw in Game 1 and Game 2. They were up 27-18 with two minutes left in the first quarter. Once the bench got their first opportunity to get into the game, Kelly Oubre Jr. provided that spark to get back the Wizards into it. In the midst of a 14-2 run from the first going into the second quarter, Oubre had four of his 13 points, including a monstrous dunk off of a loose ball.

3. Beal to Wall, back to Beal

For those that do not believe that John Wall and Bradley Beal are two of the best passers in the league, look no further than this play. Not only does Beal thread the needle, but Wall has the wherewithal to get the ball back to Beal for the lay-in.

4. A fire was lit under John Wall

It wasn’t just the double-double (28 points, 14 assists), playoff John Wall is officially back. He made that evident with countless hustle plays especially on defense to turn this game around. Moments later, the Wizards pushed the lead up to 20 for the first time and had Capital One Arena rocking.

5. Ty Lawson’s buzzer-beater

When playing the Raptors, you can never rule out a comeback. Throughout the third quarter Toronto kept nipping at the Wizards’ lead, but newly acquired Ty Lawson shut down any threat of that heading into the fourth.