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Morning tip: Wizards accept moving on without John Wall


Morning tip: Wizards accept moving on without John Wall

When a team circles its wagons after it loses a key cog like John Wall, lip service is to be expected as players always will say the right things. Going out and proving it the way the Wizards did in winning Game 3 over the No. 1 seed Atlanta Hawks, however, is another matter.

"I was tired of getting all the text messages, "Awww, what are you guys going to do?'" said Drew Gooden. "What are we supposed to do? We still have confidence in guys ... We got to get it out of our heads if we're going to have him, if we're not going to have him because we got to find a way and nobody feels sorry for us."

Truer words couldn't have been spoken after the Wizards held on for a 103-101 victory Saturday and a 2-1 series lead. Game 4 is tonight at Verizon Center, where the Wizards are unbeaten in three games this postseason. Wall broke his left wrist and hand in Game 1 and isn't expected to be available in this series, if at all in the event they advance. They're 11-40 without Wall in his fifth season.

Ramon Sessions will get his third start, and Will Bynum and Garrett Temple will assume control in relief. The trio combined to shoot just 4-for-17 but they scored 20 points by getting to the foul line 15 times in Game 3.

"We have no other choice," said Bradley Beal, Wall's backcourt mate, when asked about moving on. "We can sit here and make excuses or go out and win and prove people wrong. We have so much depth on this team. We have so many guys who stepped up tonight it was terrific. We just need that moving forward each and every game. 


"We would love to have John but he's not with us. We got to do whatever it takes to win."

What team isn't banged up this late in the season? The Hawks were fortunate to not have any problems during the regular season but that has changed (Thabo Sefolosha, Paul Millsap). And just look around at the teams still alive in the playoffs.

"Other teams go through this as well. Memphis went through it with Michael Conley, Cleveland is going through it with Kevin Love, losing J.R. Smith to a two-game suspension," Gooden said. "Other teams are going through this. Pau (Gasol) is hurt now with a hamstring. He's doubtful so nobody is going to feel sorry for you in this situation. We know that."

Still, to keep the home-court advantage they took from Atlanta by winning Game 1 at Phillips Arena, the Wizards have to hold serve in Game 4. In their first game without Wall in this series, the Wizards were even late in the fourth quarter of Game 2 but fell apart late. They've had an answer to every wrinkle that they've had thrown at them. 

"We haven't accomplished anything. Two wins doesn't get us anything," coach Randy Wittman said of his team being underdogs. "I want them to still think that way. They believe it. I think we saw that in Game 2 on short notice. It was basically 50 minutes before tip-off that they found out John wasn't going to play. They quickly went out there and did their darnedest to put themselves in position to win in Game 2. Think that carried right over into Game 3. Yes, these guys believe."


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Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

Washington Wizards

Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

This weekend was already going to be special for Washington Wizards fans. Now they will get souvenirs to remember it.

As part of their celebration of Phil Chenier's legendary career and the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship, the Wizards are handing out emoji signs on Friday night and commemorative t-shirts on Sunday. All fans in attendance will receive a giveaway.


The emoji sign has Chenier's face on it and will be handed out for the March 23 game against the Nuggets. Chenier will have his jersey retired at halftime during the game. 

The emoji sign is presented by NBC Sports Washington. You're welcome, Authentic Fans.


The shirts will be given out on Sunday when the Wizards host the New York Knicks. 

Here's the front...

And the back...

Let's take a closer look at that back...

As a reporter who has received many giveaways over the years at pro sports stadiums, these are uniquely awesome. Should be a great weekend for Wizards fans. See you at the arena.


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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 


The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall reamins out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.

The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.


The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.

By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine, if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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