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Teague shakes off early series struggles to lead Hawks to win

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Teague shakes off early series struggles to lead Hawks to win

Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague had not played up to his capabilities for the first three games of the series against the Washington Wizards. 

He broke out of that slump in a big way Monday night.

In the regular season, Teague had been one of Atlanta's four All-Stars, along with teammates Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap and Al Horford. He averaged 46 percent field goal shooting for 15.9 points and seven assists per game.

Those numbers fell considerably against Washington in the playoffs.

In the Game 1 loss, Teague went 4-for-14 from the field (28.6 percent) and got to the line only twice in 34 minutes. He hurt an ankle during the game, but returned. 

His shooting percentage didn't fare any better in Game 2 despite not having to deal with John Wall covering him. He hit just three of 12 shot attempts, zero of three from beyond the arc, to finish with nine points in a 106-90 win. 

Game 3 in Washington went better for Teague, largely because he drew fouls and hit eight of nine free throw attempts. Getting to the line compensated for a 5-for-15 shooting performance to give him 18 points for the night -- one the Hawks lost on Paul Pierce's buzzer-beating bank shot. 

Over three games versus the Wizards, Teague averaged 12.7 points on 29.3 percent shooting (12.5 percent from three) and two turnovers. 

He played up to his All-Star status in Game 4.

Teague led Atlanta with 26 points on 45 percent shooting (50 percent from three) and one turnover. Ten of those points came in a crucial fourth quarter as the Hawks tried to hold off an emboldened Wizards team looking to take back the lead.

He hit all three of his free throws and came up with two timely steals from Otto Porter, Jr. and Will Bynum to stall Washington's rally. 

Atlanta held a 12-point lead one minute into the fourth quarter and hung onto a nine-point margin with 4:26 left in regulation. Field goals by Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat and Ramon Sessions, plus a made free throw by Porter, made it a four-point contest with a little more than a minute to go. 

Until Teague hit a three-point dagger at the end of the shot clock, that is.

The Wizards would come back within three points with 36 seconds let, but Paul Pierce's long range jumper wouldn't go. Game over. 

Teague's offense ended up being the Hawks' best defense down the stretch, but what changed from game to game?

"We were just in attack mode all across the board. Everybody was just being aggressive, trying to get in the lane and make plays for others," Teague said in the locker room after the win. “I just had to get aggressive, you know. My ankles feel a lot better, my knees felt better. That time off helped me a lot.”

He reiterated that teamwork, not individual effort, allowed the Hawks to stay on the offensive and continue attacking. One guy flinging himself at the basket wasn't going to get the job done. 

"Paul [Millsap] did a great job of rolling and creating offense for us, so his ability to roll and handle the ball like he can, he makes it a lot easier for us," he said. "My teammates did a great job of putting me in a position to be successful. But it all happened because of Paul and Al [Horford] rolling so hard to the rim."

Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer echoed his point guard's remarks. "I thought [Dennis Schroder] and Jeff [Teague] were both very good. We could put the ball in either one of their hands and get them in attack mode, get them in aggressive type of situations and then on the backside you had a second one who could play second pick and roll and get to the paint." 

With the series tied at two games apiece, Teague said he knows going home doesn't guarantee a Game 5 victory. 

“Came here to get two, we got one. We’re not mad about that. We’re gotta go back home and take care of business," he said. "They beat us once on our home floor so they’re comfortable playing there, but we have to make it a hostile environment. We have to play well." 

MORE WIZARDS: Fast break: Hawks hold off flurries from Wizards to draw even

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Wizards hope meeting between superstar backcourt can jumpstart Bradley Beal's playoff production

Wizards hope meeting between superstar backcourt can jumpstart Bradley Beal's playoff production

With an 0-2 deficit in their first-round playoff series against the Raptors, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks called for a meeting with his two All-Star guards once his team returned to Washington. Brooks met with John Wall and Bradley Beal, hoping to solve an issue that plagued them particularly in Game 2, a blowout loss.

Brooks is intent on getting more out of Beal offensively and since Wall is the quarterback of their offense, it made sense to have him present. After Beal scored nine points and shot just 3-for-11 from the field and 1-for-5 from three, it is clear to Brooks that the Wizards need more to climb back in this series.

"We need to have Brad play well. It's no secret that you need your best players to step up and play well," Brooks said.

Both Brooks and Wall, who each spoke after Thursday's practice, said Beal needs to be more assertive in the offense. Beal averaged 28.8 points against the Raptors through four regular season games and Wall did not play in any of them. In theory, things should be easier for him now with another star player drawing attention.

That has not been the case, however. Beal is averaging 14.0 points through two games while shooting just 39.3 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from three. 

Even if his shot isn't falling, the Wizards want Beal to force the issue.

"I feel like I tell him at times that he needs to be more aggressive. Be more aggressive and look for your shot," Wall said. "He even says it that he has to be more aggressive himself. Even if he's missing or making shots. That's how he's been all season. We need that same type of player, to be aggressive and get at least 20 shots or more per game. That's when our team is probably at our best."

Beal has been limited to 14 shots per game by the Raptors when he averaged 18.1 during the regular season. Wall said he and Beal often talk within games about how Beal would like to be set up and the meeting with Brooks involved some of that dialogue.

While Beal's struggles stand out, the same could be said for Otto Porter, the Wizards' third-leading scorer. Porter was held to 12 points in Game 2 and did not attempt a single three-pointer. For a guy who finished third in the NBA in three-point percentage (44.1), that is difficult to justify.

Like Beal, the Wizards need Porter to impose his will a bit more and according to Brooks, the right lower leg strain he suffered late in the regular season is not to blame.

"He's 100 percent healthy," Brooks said. "It's always been a little bit of a problem. We want Otto to be more aggressive. We gotta run some more plays for him and the defense has done a good job on him. We need him to play well."

Like Beal, Porter had success against Toronto in the regular season. He averaged 18.5 points on 59.2 percent shooting, including a 24-point game on March 2. 

The Wizards need Beal and Porter to step up, knowing the series could hinge on if they do.

MORE ON THE WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

HISTORIC ODDS FOR TEAMS THAT GO DOWN 0-2

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DRAKE WON'T STOP TRASH-TALKING WIZARDS PLAYERS

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Ty Lawson is playing a bigger role than anyone could have predicted for Wizards vs. Raptors

Ty Lawson is playing a bigger role than anyone could have predicted for Wizards vs. Raptors

The biggest surprise of the Wizards-Raptors series through two games, at least from Washington's perspective, has to be the fact Ty Lawson has very quickly earned a prominent role in Scott Brooks' playoff rotation.

Lawson, 30, was signed the day after the regular season and after he played much of 2017-18 in China with the Shandong Golden Stars. He did not appear in one game with the Wizards or any other NBA team during the regular season, yet he was the first point guard off the bench in Game 2.

When John Wall picked up two quick fouls, it was Lawson who got the nod, not Tomas Satoransky. Lawson ended up playing 31 minutes, more than Satoransky and fellow backup point guard Tim Frazier have earned combined through two games.

Though the Wizards had three point guards on their bench behind Wall before Lawson even signed, he has apparently surpassed them all on the depth chart. Satoransky is the most surprising, given he played quite well during the regular season.

Satoransky averaged 7.2 points, 3.9 assists and shot a team-best 46.5 percent from three. He had the highest offensive rating (124) on the team.

Lawson, though, played quite well in Game 2. He put up 14 points, eight assists and three rebounds while shooting 4-for-5 from three.

Lawson outscored four of the Wizards' five starters. Not bad for his first game.

"He did everything I knew he was capable of doing," Brooks said. "I’ve seen him do it for many, many years. He’s tough, he’s a competitor. He competes and pushes the pace. He plays defense. I liked the spirit."

Lawson provided a noticeable spark. He is still quick and aggressive with the ball, not afraid to look for his own shot, and played physical defense against the Raptors. Lawson ended the night plus-8 in the box score in a game the Wizards lost by 11.

"It’s good to see him get into a game and be able to produce for us," guard Bradley Beal said.

Given the Wizards lost Game 2 and face an 0-2 deficit in their series, it is likely that Brooks continues to alter his rotation in the coming games. He could go back to Satoransky more often, knowing he had some solid games against Toronto in the regular season, including on March 2 when he had 10 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Satoransky could see more time at shooting guard or small forward and could play alongside Lawson. That might be Satoransky's best bet because Lawson did nothing in Game 2 to squander the opportunity.

For a team whose effort has been questioned by their head coach, Lawson's energy and urgency was noteworthy. He brought the edge of a guy playing for his NBA career, knowing a good playoff series could earn him a contract next season. 

Clearly, the way Lawson played was refreshing for Brooks given how long he kept him out on the floor. He may have come out of nowhere, but it looks like Lawson is here to stay.

MORE ON THE WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

WIZARDS NEED BEAL TO BE MUCH BETTER TO WIN

BROOKS MAY CHANGE STARTING LINEUP FOR GAME 3

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