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Wizards-Hawks preview: Sharing is caring

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Wizards-Hawks preview: Sharing is caring

Matchup: Washington Wizards (35-35) vs. Atlanta Hawks (41-30)

When: Wednesday, 7:00 p.m. (TV: CSN, CSNmidatlantic.com via NBC Sports Live Extra) 

Season series: Split 1-1. 

Recent: The Wizards rolled 117-102 Monday in Atlanta behind 52 combined points from guards John Wall and Bradley Beal for a season-high fifth straight win. With a victory Wednesday, Washington will have its longest streak since winning six in a row between Dec. 8-19.

Let's talk stats

Seeing as the Southeast Division foes will be playing for the second time in 48 hours, let's focus less on the head-to-head matchup and more on some specific and broad numbers.

RELATED: John Wall gave Rihanna a jersey after her Verizon Center show

* The Wizards are 6-1 when Bradley Beal scores at least 25 points

That's how many the starting wing guard scored Monday and did so with an efficient 10 of 15 shooting from the field. The interesting points here about Beal's points are:

1) How impressive the Wizards' record is when their top perimeter threat is getting buckets.

2) That he's only scored at least 25 points seven times in 45 games.  That works out to 15.5 percent of Beal's games. By comparison, Golden State's Klay Thompson reached at least 25 points in 68 games (36,7%). 

Injuries certainly factor into Beal's situation. Not only has he missed 25 games, but then there's the annoying yet needed minutes restriction. Beal played 34 minutes against the Hawks. Before that, he played 34 or more minutes just twice since Dec. 9. The minutes restriction isn't going away anytime soon. What the Wizards can do is maximize the time Beal is on the court. For the most part they have; Beal is averaging a career-high 17.3 field goal attempts per 36 minutes, not that he's actually playing 36 minutes in games much anymore. 

* The Wizards are 14-4 when tallying 27 or more assists

Any team would benefit from a sharing-is-caring approach. That happens plenty thanks to the presence of All-Star guard John Wall. But the overall ball movement is noticeably improved during the current five-game winning streak. Having Beal back provides the starting unit with another capable playmaker and power forward Markieff Morris has proven to be both a willing and effective passer. Backup point guard Ramon Sessions is more scorer than facilitator, but the combination of Jared Dudley and Nene means the team's second and third best passers (we can debate which is which) are on the second unit. Washington is averaging 27.0 assists and shooting 49.1 percent from the during the five-game winning streak compared to 24 assists and 45.7 percent clip overall this season. 

* The Wizards are 3-15 when Otto Porter doesn't make a 3-pointer

The good news is that the starting small forward is making the long bombs of late. Porter is shooting 45.5 percent beyond the arc in March and has made at least two in five of his last six games. If he's hitting those deep balls, this offense goes to the next level. That's because Porter is the starter the other team will concede shots to while attempting to either keep Wall out of the paint or stop Beal from getting clean looks or limit Marcin Gortat's pick-and-roll prowess or counter Morris' athleticism.  Porter made those shots in the opening round of the 2015 postseason (5 of 10) and the Wizards swept the Raptors. That wasn't the only reason, but those 3's were more than just the cherry on top. 

* The Hawks have lost four of their last five regular season games at Verizon Center

Of course none of those games were this season and Atlanta did win the last two postseason games in Chinatown last year. Still...By the way, the Hawks are the only top-10 in the East without a current winning streak of any length.

MORE WIZARDS: Managing Beal's minutes remains a challenge

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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

BROOKS MAY CHANGE STARTING LINEUP FOR GAME 3

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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