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Presidentially approved: Team USA downs Brazil

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Presidentially approved: Team USA downs Brazil

Exhibition, shmexhibition. From the ultimate power couple sitting courtside to the full-throated crowd packing the Verizon Center, there was no sense of irrelevancy about the United States mens basketball pre-Olympic tune-up against Brazil at the Verizon Center.
There was also no sense the 80-69 winning result for the Americans is indicative of the best this team has to offer the world on its quest for a gold medal later this summer in London. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle sat and eventually smooched opposite Brazils bench, where Washington Wizards center Nene rested in between battling the likes of scoring star LeBron James. Vice President Joe Biden witnessed the still getting acquainted Team USAs defense in its dominating second-to-none mode. The turnover-generating bunch turned an early 10-point deficit into a permanent hold on the lead by halftime. Tonight we learned from being down early and kept fighting, said hometown hero Kevin Durant. We got steals, we got easy layups, we got to the free throw line. We got to continue playing hard and well be fine.James led all scorers with 30 points, 14 coming in the fourth quarter. Durant scored 11 and Chris Paul had 10. James and Paul each had four of Team USAs 19 steals and helped turn Brazil over 26 times.The victory clinched a doubleheader sweep for the U.S. after the women's national team toppled their Brazilian counterparts 99-67.Also headed to the Olympics, the crisp passing Brazilians jumped out quickly for a 17-7 lead and maintained the advantage for much of the first half. Even after falling behind, they kept the game inside single digits throughout of the second half. Brazil held the overall rebounding edge, had their point guard dole out more assists than their opponents combined and held the U.S. to 25 percent shooting (6 of 24) from 3-point territory.Still, it wasnt enough against a deeper squad with talent oozing from all parts of the roster. We tried doing what we could, said Nene, who finished with eight points and six rebounds. We tried to put a lot of emphasis on defense and neutralize the shot. That worked in the first half, but these guys are great.Starting early in the second quarter, Team USAs hallmark defensive pressure took over. Suddenly even crossing half court proved treacherous for the Brazilians, whose roster included four NBA players.After Nenes dunk with 8:39 left in the quarter put Brazil ahead 29-21, the U.S. did not allow another field goal attempt for over seven minutes. In that span, the U.S forced nine turnovers - 12 for the quarter. They closed the first half on a 16-3 run for a 37-32 lead as James tallied 13 points, two coming on a dunk following a Kobe Bryant steal.We didnt shoot the ball really well from the 3-point throw line, but our defense won us that game, said Oklahoma City guard James Harden. Thats what we have to. Even when we dont knock down shots, defensively we have to lockdown, take our defense to another level.Wizards owner Ted Leonsis was in his own building as were local college basketball dignitaries John Thompson Jr. and George Mason coach Paul Hewitt. The event also included a heavy dose of military representation as active and injured soldiers lined up next to the U.S. players during the pre-game introductions. At one point during a break, the jumbotron panned the arena showing various military personal, which led to chants of U-S-A, U-S-A.As for the blue jacket and jeans wearing President of the United States, he too drew roars from the crowd, but in one instance only after he and the First Lady generated playful boos.During an on-court stoppage in the first half, the view from the Kiss-Cam cameras landed on the Obamas, but they smiled their way into declining participation. Later in the game, the kiss-cam returned and this time the Commander in Chief took control, planting one on Mrs. Obama to the delight of the masses.Hey man, PDA is not for everybody, Bryant cracked after he was asked about the President getting it right the second time. But he makes the important positions so its all good.Bryant, joined in the starting lineupby James, Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, finished with eight points. Anthony did not score until the fourth quarter and finished with three points on 1 of 7 shooting. Only incoming rookie Anthony Davis did not play for the U.S.side.Cleveland Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds for Brazil. Alex Garcia led Brazil with 14 points and Marcelo Huertas dished out 13 assists, two more than the entire U.S. team.Lindsay Whalen scored 21 points and Diana Taurasi had 16 points to pacefive double figure scorers for the U.S. women's team. Washington Mystics assistant coach Jennifer Gillom serves in the same for the Olympic team.The U.S. mennext plays exhibitions in England and Spain before opening Olympic play on July 29 against France.

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Wizards hope this time will be different in Game 5 on road

Wizards hope this time will be different in Game 5 on road

The Wizards were in a very similar spot and less than one year ago. After dropping the first two games on the road against the Celtics in the second round of the 2017 playoffs, the Wizards held serve to lock up the series at 2-2. They then lost in Boston in Game 5 and ultimately dropped the series.

This year the Wizards find themselves at 2-2 against the Raptors, this time in the first round. Again, they are on the road for Game 5, knowing it will be pivotal and could determine the series.

This time, they hope for a much different result.

"It's super important," forward Markieff Morris said. "Ideally, what we're looking for us to come back [to D.C.] up 3-2 with a chance to close it out on our home floor."

The Wizards value continuity more than most teams in the NBA. According to Basketball Reference's roster continuity chart, they are the only team in the NBA to retain 75 percent of their roster year-over-year in each of the past three seasons.

The Wizards have kept 82 percent of their roster from the 2016-17 season. Only three teams have held onto more players: the Spurs, Blazers and, ironically, the Raptors.

Continuity can have its pitfalls. It can breed complacency and, for certain personality-types, discord. Things can very easily go stale.

But in this case, the fact these players have been in this same scenario before and know very well how important Game 5 is could work to the Wizards' advantage.

"I definitely will bring it up. I won't dwell on it. Just bring it up. We have to do better," head coach Scott Brooks said. "Hopefully those experiences will pay for us and give us that toughness that we don't want to be on the losing side of it again."

If the Wizards didn't already know the importance of Game 5, they could look at the historical odds. Teams that win Game 5 in a seven-game series tied at 2-2 go on to win the series 82.8 percent of the time with a 164-34 all-time record. Teams that lead a seven-game series 3-2 go on to win the series 84.8 percent (251-45) of the time.

The Wizards could also look at the home/road numbers. When series are tied at 2-2, the home team has a 22-13 record in Game 5 since 2003 and a series record of 26-9.

The Raptors not only won the first two games of this series at home, but they tied the Rockets for the best home record in the NBA this season at 34-7. One of those defeats were to the Wizards.

Washington, however, has to get over a hump on the road in the playoffs. Though they have won eight consecutive home postseason games, they have lost six straight on the road. The last one they won was in Atlanta in Game 6 of the first round last year. They did not win on the road against the Celtics in the second round and as a result lost the series.

Morris and Brooks offered keys to breaking that streak.

"On the road, you've gotta really lock in," Morris said. "I was telling the guys yesterday that when you're up 20 it's only really 10 when you're on the road because they have the crowd to give them momentum in the game."

"We have to have a better start. We have to bring that edge on the road," Brooks said. "We haven't seemed to get into an offensive rhythm there. I thought the second game actually helped. We were down by 23 or so and then really started moving the ball and attacking their feet. Even though we didn't win the game, it gave us some confidence."

Brooks was referring to Game 2 wheN the Wizards outscored the Raptors 61-54 in the second half. They held Toronto to just two threes during that stretch, including zero in the third quarter.

That may have been a breakthrough. Now they have to do it for 48 minutes.

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PREVIEW: WIZARDS-RAPTORS GAME 5

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2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 5: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 5: 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 Wednesday night in Game 5 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 5: WASHINGTON WIZARDS AT TORONTO RAPTORS

Series: Series tied 2-2
Where: Air Canada Centre
Tip-off: 7:02 p.m. (earlier tipoff than usual)
TV: NBC Sports Washington (pregame coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Pivotal game

The Wizards have done their part in winning both games at home to even up this series at 2-2. Now comes Game 5, which could very well determine who takes this series.

Winners of Game 5 in a seven-game series tied at 2-2 hold a 164-34 (.828) record all-time. That means teams that lose Game 5 come back to win the final two games and the series only 17.2 percent of the time.

The Wizards need to get this one and they know all too well why. Last year they were in this same position in their second round series against the Boston Celtics. They went down 0-2, won the next two games but then lost Game 5 and ultimately the series in seven games.

Road warriors

The Wizards will also have to do something they have yet to do in a while in Game 5 and that is win on the road. Though they have won eight straight home postseason games, they have lost their last six on the road. It goes back to that Celtics series when Washington lost all four games in Boston. The last time they won on the road in the playoffs was Game 6 last year against the Hawks.

The Raptors are particularly tough in Toronto. They were 34-7 this season at home, tied with the Houston Rockets for the best record in the NBA. 

The recent historical odds are also in Toronto's favor. Since 2003, the home team has won each of the first four games in a seven-game series 35 times. In those series, the home team has held a Game 5 record of 22-13 and a series record of 26-9. If the Raptors get Game 5, history will be on their side to go on to win the series.

Can Otto get going?

Games 3 and 4 in Washington saw All-Star Bradley Beal break out to score 28 and 31 points. Will we see the same from Otto Porter before this series is over?

Game 4 seemed to suggest that is possible. After scoring only one point in the first half, Porter erupted for 10 points in the third quarter alone. Though he only scored 12 points in the game overall, it was the most aggressive we have seen him all series.

Porter is averaging just 10.3 points per game through four playoff games. He is shooting 50 percent from the field and 55.6 percent from three, and as long as the Wizards are winning he won't complain, but Porter can do much more than that on offense. If he starts scoring more, the Wizards will be tough to stop.

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!

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For more on the Wizards-Raptors series, check out or latest Wizards Tipoff podcast: