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Morning tip: Wizards see evidence of Paul Pierce in John Wall

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Morning tip: Wizards see evidence of Paul Pierce in John Wall

The black hole left by the departure of Paul Pierce took about 14 games to fill. John Wall, the Wizards' all-everything point guard who has long been their best player, has filled it. Tonight, he'll see his one-year mentor in a game vs. the L.A. Clippers (CSN, CSNmidatlantic.com and NBC Sports Live Extra, 6:30 p.m. ET).

“A great one," coach Randy Wittman said of Pierce's impact in which he came a three-point shot away from forcing a Game 7 in the East semifinals with the Wizards before leaving as a free agent. "I think it’s just another part of our development as individual players what they’ve learned from him in just a year’s time. I can see it in some of our guys.

"I think John learned a lot from him, a guy like Paul, character-wise and leadership-wise, playing-wise. What he was able to do on the floor as well. It was nothing but positive, obviously, with Paul. One that I’ll cherish having the opportunity though it was for just a year to coach him. It was great. You don’t always get superstars like that. I’ve been kind of lucky having a guy like (Kevin) Garnett and him. It’s pretty special.”

The Wizards (14-14) are on a four-game winning streak led by Wall's furor on both ends. He vowed to come through for them on Dec. 1, when he scored a season-high 35 points, 10 assists and five steals to hand the Cleveland Cavaliers their first home loss.

Eleven of Wall's East-leading 15 double-doubles have come in December, now that he feels better following a right knee ligament strain that occurred in the fourth game of the season. He also had a right knee bruise, a high right ankle sprain and discomfort from a bone spur in his foot. He has acknowledged all of those ailments but the latter. 

In 14 games this month, Wall is averaging 22.8 points on 47.2% shooting and 11. 8 assists 

Last season, when Wall became an All-Star starter for the first time, he proved himself in his first head-to-head meeting with Chris Paul. That game with the Clippers came 12 months ago, too, and it was one of his better performances.

Wall only had 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting and 11 assists but it was a perfect example of a boxscore not telling the story. He dominated Paul, who was forced into six turnovers in a 104-96 loss to the Wizards. Wall's ball pressure disrupted the Clippers' offense and prevented DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin from getting easy baskets on lobs from Paul on their backdoor cuts.

"He's just been a tough person to compete against," Wall said of his matchup with Paul. "A very tough competitor that always gets the best of us. We never had a chance to really beat them since I'd been in the league. It was a great opportunity to play well against him and get a win at home."

A win here would put the Wizards above .500 for the first time since they were 6-5 on Nov. 24. 

Wall has taken control to get his team on this season-long winning streak, with the Wizards still missing Nene (calf), Drew Gooden (calf), Alan Anderson (ankle), Bradley Beal (leg) and Gary Neal (back).

“He’s got a good feel of what buttons to push, when to score, when to pass, just from the leadership in the locker room, on the floor, he’s playing at a good clip," Wittman said, echoing comments he made after Saturday's 111-96 win vs. the Brooklyn Nets. 

The competitive drive that Wittman sees in Wall, something he used to have to stoke because of his point guard's inconsistent play on defense, has been omnipresent. In his sixth season, Wall doesn't require the same motivation. 

“He’s grown in that aspect of it," Wittman said of Wall's desire to go against Paul. "These guys all love to play against the best. As a player that’s what you want. I don’t think I need to tell him who he’s playing against (Monday). He’s kind of taken that on his own. The importance of him out front is vital for us. When our guys behind us see him up there with the intensity and pressure it bleeds down to those guys. I think he understands that.”

This is where Pierce probably helped most. It's one thing to hear constructive criticisms from a coach. When a future Hall of Famer emphasizes the same principles, the message is easier to digest and it passes on.

[RELATED: Do Wizards stick with Kelly Oubre over Otto Porter?]

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Death Row D.C. and the Wizards are back

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Death Row D.C. and the Wizards are back

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes and Chris Miller were joined by Julie Donaldson to break down the Wizards' wins in Games 3 and 4.

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat are back and the Wizards are a different team because of it. Plus, how regaining their Death Row D.C. mentality has changed this series.

You can listen to the episode 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!

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Another 40-point third quarter evens another playoff series for the Wizards

Another 40-point third quarter evens another playoff series for the Wizards

Last night's Washington Wizards comeback would not have happened had it not been for the team's blowout third quarter. 

Of course, you can say that literally about any quarter, but if you take away the third, the Toronto Raptors outscored Washington easily, 78-66.

The Wizards won by eight and this wasn’t the first time we’ve seen a performance of this magnitude from this bunch.

In that frame alone in Game 4, the Wizards broke out to 40 points, the same amount they had in the first two quarters combined. As a team, they shot 65 percent and 83 percent from deep (5-for-6).

By far that was their best offensive quarter of this series.

Of course, Bradley Beal got his due, 12 points including three three-pointers, but for the first time this series, Otto Porter Jr. became a threat on the offensive end of the court.

The 6-8 forward scored 10 of his 12 points, all of which came in a 26-14 run. First, he started with back-to-back three-pointers, both in the tail end of a transition, both a feed from John Wall. One came from the corner and the other came off of a screen that ended up being a close contest from OG Anunoby.

That run resulted in the Wizards’ first lead of the game from a corner three courtesy of Beal.

Speaking of Anunoby, he was silent in that quarter for the Raptors. Granted in the first half he was taken off the court after getting pinned under Marcin Gortat, but the Raptors’ guard played for nine minutes and the only thing he recorded on the stat sheet was a foul.

Serge Ibaka, who has also been a pain in the Wizards’ side also disappeared. One rebound, two points from the free throw line, and one block was all that the 6-10 forward managed. With Porter on the court and producing, it pushed Ibaka to set up outside the paint, clearing the lane for Wall to generate movement on the offense.

All this being said, Toronto actually didn’t have a bad quarter. They shot 50 percent from the field and DeMar DeRozan had 14 points.

But the Wizards were simply better. They out-shot one of the best all-around offensive teams in the league.

Rolling with the punches in transition, not passing up open looks, Wall dealing out six assists; that is the Wizards’ team that knocked off some of the top teams in the NBA this year. No one shot more than five times in the quarter and the team combined for 10 assists on the 15 made baskets.

They erased a 14-point deficit and were tied at 80 heading into the fourth.

If you look back to the last 40-point playoff quarter for Washington, there are many parallels. It was another series where the Wizards were down 0-2 to the Celtics. They were dealing with an offensive driven team and the physicality became a prevalent story in the series.

Had it not been for those 12 minutes of basketball, the Wizards would be down 3-1 and face an insurmountable climb to get back into their First Round series. Now they are at a fresh slate in a best-of-3 series. With all the momentum, Washington is just two wins away from getting back to the Second Round of the NBA Playoffs.

Hopefully, this time is a little different than the last.

MORE FROM WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

BEAL FOULING OUT NEARLY CHANGED THE ENTIRE SERIES

KELLY OUBRE CONTINUES TO STEP UP

MUST-SEE MOMENTS FROM GAME 4 WIN