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Morning tip: Wizards can look ahead to Hawks, John Wall's preferred playoff opponent

Morning tip: Wizards can look ahead to Hawks, John Wall's preferred playoff opponent

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Never to look ahead on the schedule is the position of every coach and player in every sport, but it’s difficult for the Wizards not to going into their final regular-season game and think about the Atlanta Hawks. It's the opponent John Wall wants for the first-round series.

"Totally," Wall said about his No. 4 seed team playing the current No. 5 seed with two days left in the regular season. "I’m still mad about the time I injured my hand. That’s still in the back of my mind even though they might have a different team.”

The Hawks (42-38) were their last opponent when they last made the playoffs in 2015 and were eliminated in the conference semifinals in six games. Wall, who broke his left hand and wrist in a Game 1 upset, remains salty about the outcome. The Wizards were in a good position to topple the then-No. 1 seed in the East if not for his injury when he was shoved to the floor by Jeff Teague on a drive.

Teague is no longer with Atlanta, but Dennis Schroder is the starting point guard. He taunted Wall with threats to strike his injured hand on purpose.

Both teams have gone in different directions since then. While the Hawks qualified for the 10th consecutive postseason, they're not as potent without Kyle Korver and Al Horford. Paul Millsap remains, but other than the season-opening win over the Wizards at Phillips Arena, they've fallen three consecutive times. 

Not that regular-season series should matter much. The Wizards couldn't figure out them in the 2014-15 season, losing 3 of 4, before flipping the postseason script. They got there after going 1-3 vs. the Toronto Raptors in the regular season and then sweeping them in the first round. 

In Monday’s win at the Pistons and in Wednesday’s game at the Miami Heat, the Wizards' focus is more about fine-tuning themselves. There hasn’t been a lot of practice time in the last month of the season.

“I think we’re going to use it as not necessarily to experiment but just work on things that we’ve done in the past but we haven’t worked on lately,” coach Scott Brooks said of the last two games that won't impact their seeding. “Some of our pick-and-roll coverage, we can probably get into some different coverages.... To get some game reps because there's a different level of intensity in game reps than in practice. That is definitely what I’m going to consider throughout the next couple of games.”

[RELATED: Tougher matchup for Wizards: Cavs or Celtics?]

He held out Wall (left thigh contusion) and Otto Porter (back spasms) in Detroit. Ian Mahinmi has what is being called a left calf strain on preliminary diagnosis when he came up limp late in the fourth quarter. It seems unlikely that he'll be allowed to play in Miami. 

The Milwaukee Bucks (42-39) were in the fifth spot until recently. Now Atlanta has won three games in a row, including twice vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers, to grab a firm hold. 

"It’s definitely weighted right now," Brooks said. "Atlanta is probably the frontrunner of who we play."

The Wizards (49-32) are just one game away from a 50-win season which has long been their goal. But the ninth-place Heat are going down to the wire for the eighth and final playoff spot with the Chicago Bulls. Both are 40-41 and have one game left.

"We might not play a lot of guys," Brooks said. "Maybe have a pseudo-practice or a shootaround for the guys who are not going to play."

With their third postseason berth in the last four seasons, Wall and Bradley Beal are the veterans on a team with the likes of Markieff Morris, Kelly Oubre and Tomas Satoransky who have never been to the playoffs. Jason Smith hasn't been since 2011. Bojan Bogdanovic has gone just once. 

"We still have our focus to get 50 wins but trying definitely to stay healthy going into the playoffs without getting crazy or little petty injuries going into the playoffs. You look at and see who you’re going to play but playoffs are totally different than what the regular season is. We’ve been through that," Wall said. "We got swept before by a team (in the regular season) and gone into the playoffs and did something totally different.  You game plan different. You got to see this team seven times. We’re going to be focused. We have a lot of guys who haven’t been to the playoffs. But that’s my job as the leader and Brad’s job. Get these guys focused. Every shootaround, every practice, every game day is very important."

[RELATED: Wizards complete biggest turnaround in NBA history]

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John Wall has MRI on left knee as early-season injury saga continues

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John Wall has MRI on left knee as early-season injury saga continues

Point guard John Wall was a notable absence at Friday afternoon's Wizards practice, as he sat out after having an MRI done on his left knee earlier in the day. 

Despite playing well against the Hornets in the team's last game, Wall is still feeling discomfort and now the Wizards wait to hear the test results. Wall may not play against the Blazers on Saturday night.

"John is definitely going to be questionable tomorrow," head coach Scott Brooks said. "We'll see how he feels [Saturday morning] and then make a decision from there."

Wall's knee issues date back to two weekends ago. He was administered two IVs by the Wizards training staff in order to play in a game against the Hawks. Those IVs were given to him due to him being sick and dealing with migraine headaches. But the fluids did not settle correctly and collected in his knee.

[RELATED: MORRIS HAS GROWN VERY CLOSE TO WALL AND BEAL]

Wall has since had his knee drained, but the problems have persisted. Wall says his mobility is affected most.

Wall, 27, has missed two games for the Wizards this season, one due to a sprained left shoulder and another because of his knee. He is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.

Wall had one of his best games against the season in Charlotte on Wednesday. Despite playing through pain, he managed 31 points and 11 assists. He played 41 minutes because the game went to overtime.

If Wall can't go against the Blazers, the Wizards will rely heavily on backup point guard Tim Frazier. Either way, they have a tough assignment at that position with Damian Lillard of Portland.

[RELATED: MORRIS IS A BIG FAN OF MIKE SCOTT]

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Markieff Morris sees a lot of himself in Wizards teammate Mike Scott

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Markieff Morris sees a lot of himself in Wizards teammate Mike Scott

The early returns on backup forward Mike Scott have been quite good for the Wizards. Signed to a one-year deal in free agency, Scott is off to a strong start.

He's averaging 8.6 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 53.4 percent from the field and 44.8 percent from three. His 59.7 effective field goal percentage is second on the team behind Otto Porter.

At his best, Scott has proven to be instant offense and an efficient scorer. He's reached double figures in seven out of his last 12 appearances while shooting 59 percent.

Scott is the backup to Markieff Morris and Morris likes what he sees so far.

"He fits perfect. We should have been gotten him," Morris said on the Wizards Tipoff podcast. "I feel like me and him are going to have a couple great years together, if you ask me."

[RELATED: MORRIS STANDS UP FOR RAPPER MEEK MILL]

There are some similarities in the games of Morris and Scott. They are close in size and can score both inside and out. They offer a respectable three-point shot with a strong midrange and post game to complement.

Others have pointed it out and Morris sees it, too.

"I think he's trying to steal my game," he joked. "We kind of resemble each other a lot more than what I thought before he got here."

Morris of course has a twin in real life, Marcus who plays for the Celtics. But Scott is like his twin on the Wizards' bench, figuratively speaking.

"It's kind of hard to distinguish between the two sometimes when they're making shots because they play the same way," guard Bradley Beal said. "They can knock down threes, they can give you the post up game, they can handle the ball. They are definitely one in the same, in a sense."

"There's a lot of similarities. They have a lot of the same mannerisms," head coach Scott Brooks said. "They have this real, tough, calming influence on the group. I like guys that have that edge to them."

Morris also discussed his relationship with John Wall and Bradley Beal, how his season has gone so far and who Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons remind him of on the podcast.

Listen to the full interview right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!