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Morning tip: Trey Burke finding rhythm on Wizards' bench

Morning tip: Trey Burke finding rhythm on Wizards' bench

Transitioning from the starting lineup to a bench role comes easier for some than others. For Trey Burke, who starred at the University of Michigan before becoming the ninth overall pick in 2013, the move was very unexpected.

Burke had always been the star; growing up, in high school and in college. So, when the Utah Jazz made him a full-time bench player towards the end of his second season, he was in brand new territory. There were less minutes offered and less shots for him to take.

Burke was a volume shooter and for much of his NBA career has shot at a low percentage. Those problems were even more apparent when his window to play was smaller, when the leash offered to make mistakes became shorter.

Early this season, Burke's first year with the Wizards, he was still shooting at a low clip. Lately, though, that has changed. Burke isn't getting major minutes by any stretch, but he's found a way to make the most of them. Burke is currently shooting a career-best 45.8 percent from the field (up from his 38.7% career mark) and 45.5 from three. 

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Burke is playing more efficiently than he ever has. His 50.5 effective field goal percentage is a personal-best and fourth on the Wizards behind only Otto Porter, Marcin Gortat and Bradley Beal. 

Burke is averaging a modest 4.9 points in 12 minutes a night, but he's maximizing the opportunities given.

"I have to be ready to bring that spark. Be that spark off the bench on both ends of the court and change the pace of the game. I have to make the most of the time that I’m out there," he said.

Over his last 10 games, Burke is shooting 51.2 percent from the field and 50 percent from three. 

"I think the game is slowing down. I wouldn’t say that I was rushing, but the game is slowing down. That’s from me watching film and getting extra shots up. I can pick and choose where my spots are going to be. I know where I can get my shots at," he said.

Burke choosing his spots is important to note. This season Burke has relied heavily on midrange jumpers. He's taking 21% of his attempts from 10 to 16 feet, up from 9.7% in his first three seasons. From that range he's shooting a strong 61.9% this season, up from his 40% career average. By sticking to midrange shots and being more selective with his threes, Burke is getting more bang for his buck.

For Burke, though, his objectives depend on the game. The four-year pro begins each game by watching closely how the starters set the tone. Then, he goes from there.

"It’s important for us to come out and throw the first punch, be the aggressor and everything else will take care of itself," he said. "Everything is all about rhythm. Sometimes the game is going fast or sometimes it might be a halfcourt game. I think it’s just about adjusting to the pace of the game and being efficient as possible each time down.

"It’s the feel for the game. When I come in, if we need points, I know in my mind that we need points. If I come in and somebody’s hot or other guys are hot, it’s my job to get them the ball. It’s really about just feeling the game out. Coming off the bench, obviously that was a different perspective for me than growing up and always starting. I get to see the game. I get to see an All-Star point guard [in John Wall] every night and see how the rhythm of the game is going. I’m learning from him as well. I’d be dumb not to pick up on some of the things from that guy over there. I’m learning every day."

Burke has been playing some in three-guard lineups recently, whether that be with Wall and Bradley Beal, or with Marcus Thornton in the mix. Burke likes when head coach Scott Brooks goes to those looks.

"I think it’s good because we can play to our strengths. Like in transition, we’re faster. Driving and kicking opportunities are higher because I feel like all three guards can knock down open shots and all three guards can create as well. Sometimes it’s a different three guards, but for the most part when he does have three guards out there guys are able to create and make plays for each other. That’s good for our offense," Burke said.

The emergence of Kelly Oubre, Jr. has dramatically changed the outlook of the Wizards' bench, but Burke may not be far behind. He, along with Jason Smith and Thornton, have started to show improvement over the last several weeks where the Wizards have won seven of their last 10.

After shooting 3-for-5 in 12 minutes against the Bulls on Wednesday night, Burke talked about the Wizards' bench and how it has come a long way since Marcin Gortat said they were among the worst second units in the league.

"I definitely know we don’t have the worst bench in the league," Burke said. "We've got a lot of really good players on this team."

Lately, there have been some signs to back that up.

[RELATED: Jimmy Butler had Christmas song turned off in stadium]

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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.





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With Playoff Beal back, the Wizards are revitalized in playoff series vs. Raptors

With Playoff Beal back, the Wizards are revitalized in playoff series vs. Raptors

The Toronto Raptors were only going to hold Bradley Beal down for so long. After two so-so games to begin the Wizards-Raptors playoff series, the All-Star shooting guard was bound to find his way offensively and that arrival came in a Game 3 win on Friday night.

Beal was brilliant and much more in line with what he's shown in the postseason throughout his career. Game 2 was his worst playoff game as an NBA player, he scored only nine points. Game 3 was one of his best on the postseason stage, or at least one of his most timely and important.

The Wizards needed more from Beal to give themsevles a chance in this series. An 0-3 deficit would have been a death sentence. His production is so key to their success that head coach Scott Brooks and point guard John Wall met with Beal in between Games 2 and 3 to figure out how to get him going.

Whether that was the catalyst or not, the results followed. Beal poured in 28 points in 10-for-19 shooting with four rebounds, four assists and three steals. He hit four threes, more than he had in the first two games combined.

Beal wasted no time to make an impact scoring the ball. His first points came on a quick burst to the basket where he stopped on a dime, turned around and banked it in. By the end of the first quarter, he had 12 points in 11 minutes.

“I just wanted to be aggressive, get shots that I wanted which is what they were going to force me to take," Beal said.

After Game 2, Brooks and Beal described how physical the Raptors were defending him. They were holding on to him and staying close, even when he wasn't moving off the ball.

Brooks saw a difference in how Beal responded to that in Game 3.

"Brad came out and was looking to go towards the basket and not just letting them hold him and going along with it. He didn’t want to dance with his opponent, he wanted to get away from them. That was a critical part of his success," Brooks said.

Beal's 28 points were as much as he scored in Games 1 and 2 together and just about what he averaged through four games against the Raptors during the regular season (28.8). By halftime of Game 3, Beal had 21 points on 8-for-11 from the field.

Beal hit two threes in the first quarter and another two in the second quarter. Several of those threes were set up by Wall, who used the meeting with Brooks and Beal to ask how he can set him up better as the point guard.

In Game 3, they were on the same page.

"I do think this man [John Wall] next to me, he creates and facilitates for the whole team and gets everybody easy shots," Beal said. "I talk to you guys all the time and I can’t tell you the last time I actually got a regular catch and shoot three just in a regular half court set. When he came back, I got like three or four off the bat."

What Beal did in Game 3 is what the Wizards are used to seeing from him this time of the year. Despite being only 24 years old, he has a strong track record in the playoffs.

Through 37 career postseason games, Beal is averaging 22.3 points, more than his career average of 18.7 in the regular season. In each of his previous three postseason runs, he has averaged more points during the playoffs than he did in the regular seasons leading up.

That production has earned him the nickname 'Playoff Beal' and when he goes off like he did in Game 3, good things usually happen. The Wizards are 10-6 in the playoffs during his career when he scores 25 points or more.

Wall also boasts impressive career numbers in the playoffs. When the Wizards have both of their stars playing at their best, they are hard to beat. With peak Beal on board, this series looks a lot different than it did not that long ago.





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