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Morning tip: Wizards' most frequent mistakes to put them at 1-5

Morning tip: Wizards' most frequent mistakes to put them at 1-5

The Boston Celtics won't have Al Horford or Jae Crowder for tonight's game with the Wizards, but that's hardly a reason to think this game will be a layup given this team's recent history in games they should win. 

The Wizards (1-5) probably should be no worse than 4-2 but have a habit of finding unique ways to give games away. Coach Scott Brooks keeps saying the right things and they sometimes can sound cliche, but he's correct in not assessing all or most of the blame to the second unit. He puts the blame on the starters, too.

"We're going to turn it around. I'm very confident in our group," said Brooks, in his first season. "We have to not have five or six minutes where we have trouble getting stops. We have trouble scoring."

Monday's 114-106 loss to the Houston Rockets was bad enough and featured various mistakes, though it's hardly the only game that's representative of the following:

  • First-side shots. That elbow jump shot will be there for John Wall all the time. When he's stepping into it and gets good lift, it's a high-percentage shot. But there are times when, without passing or having others touch the ball in the offense, that becomes Option 1. Wall, however, isn't the one repeatedly taking that look. It's Marcus Thornton off the bench. The second unit isn't the most athletic bunch. They're not going to beat defenders at will off the dribble. But the ball moves faster than anyone on the floor, if you actually move the ball.
  • Bradley Beal indecisive with attacking inferior defenders. Sometimes the shot isn't there because the defense is loading up to the ball with it in his hands. In those situations, quick reversals are usually the answer so he can get it back and hit the opponent in a more vulnerable spot or with some of that pressure relieved. But when Beal has Sam Dekker in front of him 18-20 feet from the basket he has to go fast and get to the rim. The same goes for James Harden-types who pose like they're about to defend but turn into matadors. 
  • Recongize personnel. This goes on both ends. Ryan Anderson should never be left wide open at the arc under any circumstance and his feet should be attacked whenever he's in an iso situation. And screen-and-rolls with Jason Smith won't compromise the defense. 
  • Figure out the pick-and-roll coverage once and for all. Are the Wizards going to zone up with the big on the pick-and-roll defense and try to force the mid-range shot, or will they resort to the contact show to slow it down? They were supposed to use the latter with James Harden and the confusion on what to do in those situations led to him getting 32 points and 15 assists.
  • Ball reversal. Have the best shooter screening more is ideal. Who ran the pick-and-roll most with Harden? Anderson. The forward was 5-for-8 from three. Wall isn't the long-ball threat that Harden is when on the ball, which is why everyone being involved in the offense and touching the ball and being involved in the play is imperative. When the best options are shut down, reverse the action and attack the defense in the seams, make the defense rotate, adjust and make decisions. That's where the better shots are for the second unit. 

MORE WIZARDS: State of the Wizards: Oubre's short-term goals

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Wizards hope meeting between superstar backcourt can jumpstart Bradley Beal's playoff production

Wizards hope meeting between superstar backcourt can jumpstart Bradley Beal's playoff production

With an 0-2 deficit in their first-round playoff series against the Raptors, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks called for a meeting with his two All-Star guards once his team returned to Washington. Brooks met with John Wall and Bradley Beal, hoping to solve an issue that plagued them particularly in Game 2, a blowout loss.

Brooks is intent on getting more out of Beal offensively and since Wall is the quarterback of their offense, it made sense to have him present. After Beal scored nine points and shot just 3-for-11 from the field and 1-for-5 from three, it is clear to Brooks that the Wizards need more to climb back in this series.

"We need to have Brad play well. It's no secret that you need your best players to step up and play well," Brooks said.

Both Brooks and Wall, who each spoke after Thursday's practice, said Beal needs to be more assertive in the offense. Beal averaged 28.8 points against the Raptors through four regular season games and Wall did not play in any of them. In theory, things should be easier for him now with another star player drawing attention.

That has not been the case, however. Beal is averaging 14.0 points through two games while shooting just 39.3 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from three. 

Even if his shot isn't falling, the Wizards want Beal to force the issue.

"I feel like I tell him at times that he needs to be more aggressive. Be more aggressive and look for your shot," Wall said. "He even says it that he has to be more aggressive himself. Even if he's missing or making shots. That's how he's been all season. We need that same type of player, to be aggressive and get at least 20 shots or more per game. That's when our team is probably at our best."

Beal has been limited to 14 shots per game by the Raptors when he averaged 18.1 during the regular season. Wall said he and Beal often talk within games about how Beal would like to be set up and the meeting with Brooks involved some of that dialogue.

While Beal's struggles stand out, the same could be said for Otto Porter, the Wizards' third-leading scorer. Porter was held to 12 points in Game 2 and did not attempt a single three-pointer. For a guy who finished third in the NBA in three-point percentage (44.1), that is difficult to justify.

Like Beal, the Wizards need Porter to impose his will a bit more and according to Brooks, the right lower leg strain he suffered late in the regular season is not to blame.

"He's 100 percent healthy," Brooks said. "It's always been a little bit of a problem. We want Otto to be more aggressive. We gotta run some more plays for him and the defense has done a good job on him. We need him to play well."

Like Beal, Porter had success against Toronto in the regular season. He averaged 18.5 points on 59.2 percent shooting, including a 24-point game on March 2. 

The Wizards need Beal and Porter to step up, knowing the series could hinge on if they do.





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Ty Lawson is playing a bigger role than anyone could have predicted for Wizards vs. Raptors

Ty Lawson is playing a bigger role than anyone could have predicted for Wizards vs. Raptors

The biggest surprise of the Wizards-Raptors series through two games, at least from Washington's perspective, has to be the fact Ty Lawson has very quickly earned a prominent role in Scott Brooks' playoff rotation.

Lawson, 30, was signed the day after the regular season and after he played much of 2017-18 in China with the Shandong Golden Stars. He did not appear in one game with the Wizards or any other NBA team during the regular season, yet he was the first point guard off the bench in Game 2.

When John Wall picked up two quick fouls, it was Lawson who got the nod, not Tomas Satoransky. Lawson ended up playing 31 minutes, more than Satoransky and fellow backup point guard Tim Frazier have earned combined through two games.

Though the Wizards had three point guards on their bench behind Wall before Lawson even signed, he has apparently surpassed them all on the depth chart. Satoransky is the most surprising, given he played quite well during the regular season.

Satoransky averaged 7.2 points, 3.9 assists and shot a team-best 46.5 percent from three. He had the highest offensive rating (124) on the team.

Lawson, though, played quite well in Game 2. He put up 14 points, eight assists and three rebounds while shooting 4-for-5 from three.

Lawson outscored four of the Wizards' five starters. Not bad for his first game.

"He did everything I knew he was capable of doing," Brooks said. "I’ve seen him do it for many, many years. He’s tough, he’s a competitor. He competes and pushes the pace. He plays defense. I liked the spirit."

Lawson provided a noticeable spark. He is still quick and aggressive with the ball, not afraid to look for his own shot, and played physical defense against the Raptors. Lawson ended the night plus-8 in the box score in a game the Wizards lost by 11.

"It’s good to see him get into a game and be able to produce for us," guard Bradley Beal said.

Given the Wizards lost Game 2 and face an 0-2 deficit in their series, it is likely that Brooks continues to alter his rotation in the coming games. He could go back to Satoransky more often, knowing he had some solid games against Toronto in the regular season, including on March 2 when he had 10 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Satoransky could see more time at shooting guard or small forward and could play alongside Lawson. That might be Satoransky's best bet because Lawson did nothing in Game 2 to squander the opportunity.

For a team whose effort has been questioned by their head coach, Lawson's energy and urgency was noteworthy. He brought the edge of a guy playing for his NBA career, knowing a good playoff series could earn him a contract next season. 

Clearly, the way Lawson played was refreshing for Brooks given how long he kept him out on the floor. He may have come out of nowhere, but it looks like Lawson is here to stay.




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