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No panic for Bradley Beal, who broke out after slow start in Game 1 vs. Hawks

No panic for Bradley Beal, who broke out after slow start in Game 1 vs. Hawks

Many of the improvements Bradley Beal has made in his game that have led to his career-best season have been physical. He's healthy, and that helps. He has always had a pretty shooting stroke, but now he makes them more consistently. His ball-handling is worlds better, allowing him to run the offense at times, attack the rim more frequently and perfect one of the smoother stepback jumpers in the game.

Beal has also improved mental aspects of his game and one part in particular is something he and his head coach Scott Brooks have mentioned on numerous occasions this season. When Beal misses shots early in a game, he doesn't let it get to him like he used to. This year he made an admitted breakthrough that allows him to shake off a shooting slump and find a rhythm within a game.

That newfound ability came in handy in the Wizards' 114-107 win over the Hawks in Game 1 of their first round playoff series on Sunday. Beal began the game in a woeful shooting slide, making just three of his first 12 shots. After one of them, a midrange jumper from the elbow, Beal pointed to the heavens, hoping that was it, that he had snapped out of his funk.

Beal ultimately did snap out of it midway through the third quarter. After then he went 6-of-9 from the field and along the way gained his swagger back, as evidenced by this smile and celebration from the floor after Kent Bazmore fouled him during a shot he made:

[RELATED: Wizards' Morris: Don't call me a stretch four]

Beal ended up with 22 points, three assists and three steals. Afterwards, he described what he's learned about breaking out of early-game slumps.

"Just staying with it. It's a long game. I've played in the playoffs before, so I understand the intensity of it," he said. "I can't get caught up in myself. I can't get caught up in having that selfish mindset of not making shots or not getting shots or not being who I'm capable of being. Just stay within the flow of the game and be who I am. When I did see one go down, just continue to fire them up."

Brooks hasn't been around Beal long. But he has been around plenty of elite scorers and overcoming early-game rust is part of the deal for the best of the best.

"I’m happy for Brad [Beal]. Brad missed a lot of shots early and I’ve seen the growth of him, it doesn’t affect him. He’s like, you just reboot the computer every five minutes and just focus on making the next shot. That’s a sign of his toughness that he brings to our team.”

Last time the Wizards were in the postseason, the man some call 'Playoff Beal' was born. Now there is a new and improved iteration. Just because you keep in check early, doesn't mean that will continue.

[RELATED: 10 must-see moments from Wizards' win over Hawks in Game 1]

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John Wall goes through full practice for first time since left knee surgery

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John Wall goes through full practice for first time since left knee surgery

John Wall crossed one of the biggest hurdles of his months-long recovery from arthroscopic left knee surgery on Saturday by participating in his first full practice.

That means Wall went through 5-on-5 scrimmages with teammates that included contact. He is free of restrictions.

Now it is only a matter of days before Wall is ready to return to game action.

"John did everything, he did an entire practice which was great," head coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought he did a great job offensively and defensively."


Wall, who last played on Jan. 25 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, has missed the Wizards' last 24 games. He has been absent for 35 of their 72 total games this season.

In the months he has been out, Wall has slowly worked his way to this point. He still has to get a few more practices under his belt before the Wizards can outline a target date for his return.

Wall was aggressive in testing his knee by attacking the basket, according to Brooks. Wall was moving around well and even lost a few pounds during his time off.

"He looks great and that's not easy with time off," Brooks said. "He will be back in no time."


The Wizards have gone 14-10 since Wall went down, an impressive mark especially considering how tough their schedule shook out. Most of those games came against teams with winning records either holding playoff spots or fighting for them.

The shine, though, is wearing off. They have lost two straight games and seven of their last 11. Their offense has stalled in recent defeats and it's become more and more clear they could use Wall's presence.

"He gives us that edge," Wall said. "When you have him on the floor, you get a lot of easy shots. John creates a lot of attention when he drives to the basket... I think [his teammates] have always appreciated it, but when you don't have him around you definitely miss it."

While the Wizards continue to wait for Wall to return to games, just having him in practices helps. Brooks explained how guarding a player of Wall's caliber, a five-time All-Star, raises the intensity level of their scrimmages. If his teammates do not bring their best effort, Wall can very easily expose them.


There is also something intangible about Wall's presence. The media sees it once the doors open at practice. He is talkative and energetic on the court.

Some of his teammates even described him as "loud."

"Sometimes I tell him that he's a little too loud," guard Bradley Beal said. "But that's the energy that we've missed."

"He brings the juice. He brings the energy level up," Brooks said. "You miss his spirit. You miss the way he interacts with guys. He's fiery and competitive. He gets after guys. He cheers guys on. I like that. I like guys that show emotion and passion on the court."

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Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Following their seventh loss in 11 games and another lackluster performance in key areas, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks reverted back to a critique that characterized many defeats months ago. He called into question the effort of his team, more specifically their urgency. How they could overlook the stakes at this point of the season and with so much on the line had escaped him.

Brooks wasn't pleased following Washington's 108-100 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday night. He didn't like their three-point defense, their inability to force turnovers and their lack of zip on offense. But overall, it was the apparent lack of realization that time is running out in the regular season and off-nights cannot be afforded.

"We have to play with more spirit [and] we have to take some pride in our home court," Brooks said. "We’re building our habits going into the playoffs and these are moments where we need to take advantage because it’s playoff implications in every game."


Pride is something Brooks has referenced after the Wizards' worst defeats since he took over. This one didn't qualify, as they only lost by eight points and had opportunities late to write a different ending. But they were playing a team fighting for their own playoff position in the opposite conference and for the most part did not match their intensity.

The Nuggets, to put it plainly, are among the worst defensive teams in basketball. They were missing their leading scorer, Gary Harris. And they tightened their rotation to just eight players.

Yet the Wizards only managed 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers. Aside from their 33-point third quarter, the Wizards' offense was effectively stalled. 

"We can’t have guys that are not going to participate with hard cuts and hard setups and good screens. We need everybody. It’s not one person, it’s all," Brooks said.


The Wizards only forced 10 turnovers on the Nuggets and only three in the first half. That held back their offense in the sense they had few opportunities for fastbreak buckets.

"That’s where we get most of our offense from anyways, getting stops, getting out in transition," forward Otto Porter said.

The Wizards have lost two straight games. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers and Pacers both won on Friday night.

The Wizards are sixth place in the East and just 1 1/2 games out of fourth, but there is a huge difference in those spots. Sixth could mean meeting the Cavs in the first round and they have won three straight since Kevin Love returned from injury.


The Cavaliers could quickly become the most dangerous team in the Eastern Conference. Their record is deceiving due to Love's injury and they still boast LeBron James, the best player on the planet. No one can control a playoff series quite like he can.

An argument could be made the Wizards would be better off moving down than up, as the seventh spot would match them up with the injury-riddled Boston Celtics. The Wizards are just 1 1/2 games ahead of the seventh-seed Miami Heat.

The Wizards, though, would prefer to move up and they still have a chance to get into fourth, which would mean home court advantage.

John Wall will return at some point, likely soon. In the short-term, Brooks would like to some urgency and for his team to get back to the trademark ball movement that allowed them to go 10-3 in their first 13 games when Wall went down.

"We can get it back, but it’s not going to come back. We have to go get it. It’s time to do it; it’s time," Brooks said.

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