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Morning tip: For Wizards to end skid, Wall shifts focus to himself

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Morning tip: For Wizards to end skid, Wall shifts focus to himself

Despite the potential for the hurt feelings and bad blood that come with losing, this isn't the same Wizards team, according to John Wall, that required a players-only meeting to get themselves right as they go into tonight's game at the Cleveland Cavaliers (CSN, CSNmidatlantic.com and NBC Sports Live Extra, 6:30 p.m. ET). 

“That situation we didn’t know where the team wanted to go," said Wall of 2013, when the lost seven of their first nine games, floundered around .500 all season before qualifying for the postseason for the first time in his career. "We got people here that know what this team can be capable of. That was just the beginning. We were trying to start.”

That meant a veteran like Trevor Ariza, who now is with the Houston Rockets, putting Wall on the spot about his leadership. The Wizards won 44 games that season, 46 last season and are expected to at least reach that point this season. To realistically have a shot at a top four seed to guarantee home-court advantage, 50 is the magic number.

“We all know what our role is, what we need to do to help this team win. The main focus is me," said Wall, No. 2 in the NBA in assists a year about but who has only reached double-digit assists four times. "Until I start playing better, we’re not going to do well. That’s simple as that. Me and Brad (Beal) are the top scorers on this team. If we’re not clicking, he’s going to play well and I haven’t so we’re not going to have a chance to win games. That’s something I have to figure out, a slump I have to get out of. I work everyday to get better and to improve. There have been times in my career I didn’t play well. There are times I will play well. I’ll be alright.”

Wall is down in every category. His shooting has dipped to 39%. He less than 30% from three-point range. In his sixth year in Washington, 16.1 points is his lowest career average. To make matters worse, Beal has fallen off the cliff, too, as the chemistry between the duo has waned. He only had nine shot attempts in Saturday's 84-82 loss to the Toronto Raptors, though he scored 20 points. 

No summit meeting between the two has been required, though they have had sitdowns in the past to work out the kinks. The pace-and-space offense has grind to a halt because of the two players needed to make it go are on different wavelengths.

“When we’re on, other teams have to double-team us more and it gives our other teammates easier looks and open looks to make them more comfortable," Wall said. "When we’re not on, they’re in a situation to take tough shots like we are. When we’re aggressive and find our teammates and making shots, it’s hard to beat us.

“We really haven’t had too much space as we’re supposed to. This system is for more spacing but ... it’s not as much spacing as we thought it was. Early on we had a lot more spacing and that’s when things were clicking. Lately it has not been that way. It’s me playing better and making open shots and also my teammates making open shots. When they’re not making open shots and I’m not making shots, people just pack the paint. When we’re on and making shots, you see our offense is a lot more flowing and there’s more spacing.”

While the Raptors, like most teams, blitzed Beal with multiple defenders to slow him down, he has succeeded before. He doesn't accept his predicament and instead keeps his dribble alive and movement off the ball until the defense has a breakdown. Coach Randy Wittman wants to see more of that streak in his shooting guard.

"Let me tell you you’re doing too much rather than you’re doing too little. And so, it’s a situation sometimes we get going too fast that we don’t even know we’re passing up opportunities," Wittman said. "It’s got to be a situation that guys in his position, guys like Bradley Beal in this league, read the situation and when opportunities are there they don’t pass to many of them up. That’s got to be a thing he continues to do.”

The 25 shots Wall took vs. Toronto were a season-high. He only made six. For him, it's the classic case of trying to work his way out of this fog.

"Sometimes you’re going to be super-aggressive, sometimes you’re not. At times I think when I’m not making shots  I shouldn’t be aggressive," he said. "There are times (Beal) was hot he should’ve been looking for more and I should’ve been trying to find him. (And) vice versa.”

But Wall won't go as far as Marcin Gortat did after the loss when he said it's not fun anymore. He's certain times will change for the better.

"Every time I step in this building, being around my teammates and this coaching staff, get to practicing and play something I love to do it’s always fun. It’s just frustrating and no fun for me the way I’ve been playing," he said. "That’s the only key is I have to play better for my team to have a chance to win games. To win games I have to be an All-Star. I have to play at an All-Star type level. I haven’t (played) like I did after the first week of the season. Since we’ve been 3-1 it’s been a downfall for my team. That starts with my play and my leadership.”

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2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 4: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 4: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and the Washington Wizards battle Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Serge Ibaka and the Toronto Raptors on Sunday night in Game 4 of the 2018 NBA Playoffs.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

GAME 4: TORONTO RAPTORS AT WASHINGTON WIZARDS

Series: Raptors lead 2-1
Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 6 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (pregame coverage begins at 5 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Time to get even

After a momentous Game 3 win, the Wizards have breathed some life back into their season. On Sunday, they can make this a brand new series.

With a win in Game 4 for the Wizards, they would tie the series and send it back to Toronto ensuring another home game in Washington. A loss would put them down 3-1, a deficit that has historically been hard to overcome.

Only 11 teams have accomplished the feat, most notably the Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors did the same that year in the conference finals. It has only been done three times since 2006. 

How will Raptors respond?

Game 3 took on a much different tone and style than the previous two and it played into the Wizards' hands. It was much more physical and Washington did a good job of instigating contact and using it to their advanage. After the game, several players highlighted Markieff Morris shoving OG Anunoby and Serge Ibaka as a turning point.

Just because it worked in Game 3 doesn't mean it will carry over successfully in Game 4. Not only could the Raptors respond with their own dose of brutality, but the referees may try to nip anything of the sort in the bud early on.

It would not be surprising if Game 4 was officiated very tightly and if a message was sent in the first quarter to the players. After seeing how well it worked in Game 3, the Wizards will likely try to test the limits.

Playoff Beal

The Raptors will also try to adjust their defense following Bradley Beal's 28-point outburst in Game 3. He wasn't much of a factor in the first two games of the series, but broke out in Game 3 to lead the Wizards to a win.

The Wizards did a good job of getting Beal involved early. He was found for open looks from three in the first half and had two three-pointers in each of the first two quarters. Beal also took it upon himself to attack the rim and force the issue.

The Raptors held Beal back in the first two games by being rough with him and in Game 2 they got him in foul trouble. Surely he will be a big emphasis of their gameplan on Sunday.

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For more on the Wizards-Raptors series, check out or latest Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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The Wizards dominated Game 3 because everybody ate ... literally

The Wizards dominated Game 3 because everybody ate ... literally

The Wizards returned to Washington, D.C. on Friday down 0-2 to the Raptors in their best-of-seven 2018 NBA Playoffs first-round series

The team lost a close one in Game 1 and was run out of the building in Game 2. Game 3 was must-win, and the Wizards knew what needed to happen in order for them to secure the victory.

"Everybody eats." 

That's the phrase that has defined the Wizards throughout much of the season They are at their best when John Wall is making plays and feeding his teammates.

On Friday night, the Wizards beat the Raptors 122-103 to force at least a Game 5. Wall finished with 28 points and 14 assists.

Bradley Beal finally broke out of his slump for 28 points and  Marcin Gortat, Mike Scott and Kelly Oubre all chipped in with at least 10 points.

But the stat sheet wasn't the only place where everybody eats.

Here's Marcin Gortat from Game 3. 

But if pantomiming isn't your thing, here is Bradley Beal actually eating popcorn during Game 3.

So what did we learn in Game 3? Well, for starters: "Everybody Eats" is not just a motto, it is a way of life.

MORE FROM WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

GORTAT DITCHES MOHAWK, TEAMMATES APPROVE

MUST-SEE MOMENTS FROM WILD GAME 3

BEAL GOT AN APOLOGY FROM SCOTT BROOKS