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Morning tip: Wizards succeed in smothering Hawks' 3-point shooting

Morning tip: Wizards succeed in smothering Hawks' 3-point shooting

The best players have done their part for the Wizards in a first-round series with the Atlanta Hawks, with John Wall and Bradley Beal leading the way, but the second units of both teams have yet to break out.

It's that second unit for the Hawks that is supposed to be so lethal with frontline shooters Mike Dunleavy, Ersan Ilyasova and Mike Muscala spreading the floor to the three-point arc.

All three have been non-entities with their combined Games 1 and 2 totals: Muscala (3-for-11, 10 points); Dunleavy (1-for-2, four points); and Ilyasova (4-for-9, 11 points).

“They're doing a better job of guarding us. Simple as that. I mean they're taking away our three-point shooters," said Paul Millsap, Atlanta's best player and only current All-Star. "They're not helping as much but I think that's why me and Dennis (Schroder) were able to get to the basket a lot but eventually, we're going to need that. Eventually, we're going to need to loosen that up. Continue to attack them and make them come out of whatever defense they're in.” 

[RELATED: Wizards must fix Brandon Jennings' defense ASAP]

The key to shutting down the motion offense of the Hawks is to pressure the ball, jump the screens and anticipate the curls before they happen. The Wizards have been a step ahead of the curve and have done well to trail the shooters to keep them off the arc. 

Beal, for instance, has come off screens cleanly and just missed. The Hawks have shot a combined 11-for-45, or 24.4%, from three-point range. Their inside game with Dwight Howard has been neutralized (because of Marcin Gortat with Otto Porter helping rebound) and the ball pressure has created 37 turnovers.

The Wizards are 10-1 in first-round playoff games with Wall and Beal, and the only defeat came in a heated Game 3 with the Chicago Bulls at Verizon Center.

The player that hurt them wasn't Jimmy Butler who was the best player on the team. It was Dunleavy, who notched 35 points by making 8 of 10 three-point shots.

In the NBA, second-unit players have a tendency to play better at home than on the road. Game 3 is at Phillips Arena on Saturday.

Wall and Beal will have to continue their high level of play, but the Wizards might need even more defense to get them a 3-0 lead.

[RELATED: Marcin Gortat's rebirth huge for Wizards vs. Hawks in playoffs]

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

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 remains 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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