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One on one: Where do Wizards rank in Southeast division?

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One on one: Where do Wizards rank in Southeast division?

With the intense NBA offseason cooling down, there is time for reflection on what the Washington Wizards accomplished and a chance to look at the road ahead. For the next couple of weeks, CSNwashington.com Insider J. Michael and Wizards correspondent Ben Standig will examine various issues and answer questions as the Wizards move toward the 2015-16 campaign.

Division races are not a hot topic in the NBA, but remain important for now. Where do the Wizards rank among the Southeast teams?

J. Michael: One of the weaker divisions in the league has gotten significantly stronger. I don’t expect the Hawks to be the dominant team they were last season because their Achilles’ heel – rebounding because of the lack of size and relying heavily on Kyle Korver to execute their offense – was revealed long before they entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the East and a 60-win team. They’ll still be good enough to be reckoned with but won’t come close to that type of domination. 

The Miami Heat are a playoff team again, and just how big much of a leap they make will depend on how healthy Dwyane Wade can remain at 33, how quickly rookie Justice Winslow adapts and how Hassan Whiteside performs over an 82-game season. The latter is important because Whiteside had a strong run at the end of last year, but the center has yet to secure himself long-term in the NBA because of questionable behavior and decision-making throughout his career. Also, Chris Bosh is coming off life-threatening blood clots in his lungs. These are a lot of ifs and usually most of them don’t come to fruition at once. 

I’m picking the Charlotte Hornets to return to the postseason and they’re traditionally a difficult matchup for the Wizards. I really like the addition of Nicolas Batum, one of the NBA’s more underrated two-way players, and the subtraction of Lance Stephenson is an addition all unto itself. Their interior defense remains a weakness and if rookie Frank Kaminsky can have any sort of impact the Hornets will make this  division extremely competitive. 

I still rank the Wizards above all three because they don’t have the same question marks. At worse, a No. 2 seed.

Ben Standig: Let's do some super early rankings, in reverse order...

5. Magic - Every year I love their young talent. This year is no exception. Maybe the addition of a tough-minded coach like Scott Skiles pushes them to another level. Of course, even in the East a jump of multiple levels is required for Orlando to reach the postseason. Very curious to see what the group of Victor Oladipo, Mario Hezonja, Nik Vucevic, Tobias Harris and Elfrid Payton can do this season.

4. Hornets - Are they better on paper, yes. Adding a two-way threat like Nicolas Batum and subtracting a nusance like Lance Stephenson is all good. Are they good enough to make real noise in the East? Eh. Al Jefferson rules when healthy, but their point guard play still doesn't excite me. Head coach steve Clifford does. Hey, at least they can't suffer injuries at an insane rate again, right?

3. Hawks - From winning the East regular season title to third in the Southeast division is quite a fall, though pegging three teams from these group to finish among the top six in the conference. Everything went perfect for Atlanta last season, at least before the playoffs started. Though the pass-heavy system on coach Mike Budenholzer worked perfectly for this NBA era, I just can't see such perfection again. Losing Demarre Carroll hurts and adding Tim Hardaway Jr. doesn't help much.

2. Wizards - Jared Dudley seems super positive on Twitter following back surgery. Bradley Beal didn't hurt his leg in Africa. John Wall is smiling. Good enough to contend for the division title and  top-4 seed in the East. Let's move on.

1. Heat - The wild card team in the entire Eastern Conference. Does anybody have a better starting lineup than Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic, Chris Bosh, Luol Deng and Hassan Whiteside? Even if Whiteside can't duplicate last season's highs, Miami can go with Amar'e Stoudamire and Josh McRoberts for size or Gerald Green or rookie Justise Winslow for wing help. Of course, we must note that half of those players are notable injury risks and Bosh is returning from a blood clot. All these factors together put the Heat's range anywhere from No. 2 in the East to thinking about lottery balls. Then again, there is NO WAY Pat Riley allows this team to miss the playoffs for a second straight season.

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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