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Wizards isolate problem: Not enough focus on D since camp

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Wizards isolate problem: Not enough focus on D since camp

The obsession over the Wizards' new offense has led to a defense that has the staying power of a wet paper bag. So Thursday, coach Randy Wittman took responsibility for that as he refocused his team on the side of the ball where they've been top 10 in the NBA three years in a row.

"It’s been proven three years with this group of guys that we can play that way. It’s just a matter of now making that a focus of each of us. Me as well," said Wittman, two days after his team was shredded 125-101 by the Oklahoma City Thunder for their third consecutive loss. "There probably was some slippage in terms of what we were doing early in October with offense and not the defense. I’ve got to change that.

"We just got to get back to being simplistic in what we’re doing. Get back to basics. That’s what we did today a lot. Everybody is on the same page and then build from there. We took a couple steps backwards to make things more simple and then we’ll go from there."

His quarterback on the floor, John Wall, concurred but wouldn't let his coach take full responsibility for this terrible start. The Wizards (3-4) only had a season-low eight turnovers against the Thunder and still got torched. That's not because they were sloppy on offense but the absence of defense.

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“We focused on offense, getting into shape. But there are no excuses. As professionals you got to be ready and be prepared," Wall said. "It’s something we were adjusting to and we focused so much on offense every day in training camp that now we’re back to focusing on defense. Offense is going to come. When you don't do anything on the other end, no matter what the hell you do on offense we're not a team that's trying to outscore people by 30, 40 points."

The Wizards are near the bottom in most defensive statistical categories. They allow 46.2% overall shooting (24th), 38.4% three-point shooting (28th) and 110.4 points per game (29th). Opponents shoot 50% from the field from 5-9 feet from the rim against them.

"The most important thing is you got to get better protecting the paint. We’re giving up too many paint points," Wall said. "We got to take away the paint like we did the last couple years and contest jump shots and make guys beat us from there." 

All of this had to be music to the ears of Jared Dudley, who suggested they needed to minimize their options on coverage and make everything back and white after a film session Wednesday.

"We're putting more emphasis on point guards getting into the ball, getting on the bigs to call the coverage early of how we want to play," Dudley said. "Maybe we go over, revisit, Instruction 101 where, 'This is how we're going to do our rotations.' Clear everything up where there are no variables where a guy has the option where he can either go up or go down. We're going to force this guy to go this way every time and eliminate the thinking process. You could do that."

That means Wall, the leader as the point guard, the extension of Wittman on the floor and the team's highest-paid player, has follow through. He can't have lapses with the talented backcourt of the Orlando Magic when they come here Saturday.

"It all starts with me as the point guard getting into the ball. Guys just follow my lead," Wall said. "Now (the defensive coverages are) so simple. You know on side pick-and rolls, we’re going to do this and high pick-and-roll we’re going to do that. We had a couple coverages where guys were in-between trying to decide what to call and we were getting in bad situations."

MORE WIZARDS: John Wall gives scouting report on NBA's top point guards

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Second-half eruption leads Wizards to pivotal Game 4 win over Raptors

Second-half eruption leads Wizards to pivotal Game 4 win over Raptors

The Washington Wizards beat the Toronto Raptors 106-98 in Game 4 of their first round playoff series on Sunday night.

Here's analysis of what went down...

Brand New Series: After going down 0-2, most may have written the Wizards off knowing the near-insurmountable odds of coming back not only from that deficit but as an eight-seed going up against the best team in the Eastern Conference. It would have been understandable to doubt these Wizards who have for so much of this season allowed teams to bully them to an uncharacteristic degree.

With another win in Game 4, however, the Wizards have recalibrated this series.. Not only did the Wizards even things up, they ensured at least one more home game where they have now won eight straight in the postseason.

Controversial Foul Out: The Wizards were dealt a tough blow with 4:58 left as Bradley Beal picked up his sixth foul and was bounced from the game. 

Not only was Beal dominating with a team-high 31 points, but the sixth foul was very questionable. He made contact with DeMar DeRozan inadvertently and it is tough to see how he could have avoided it.

Here is the play:

That should simply not be called in that moment. It was a crucial development and both Beal and head coach Scott Brooks were understandably furious. If the Wizards had lost, that would have been a major reason why. There is no excuse for referees to impact a game like that.

Sluggish Start: Outside of John Wall (27 points, 14 assists, six rebounds) and Beal, who had 12 points and 11 points in the first half, the rest of the Wizards' team was slow-moving early on. The team shot just 34 percent in the first half, 16-for-47, and 1-for-7 from three. They even missed their free throws, going 7-for-13 in the first two quarters.

The Raptors did a good job putting pressure on the, but only Wall and Beal were able to break through. Otto Porter, who finished with 12 points and six rebounds, had one point in the first half. Markieff Morris (six points, five rebounds) had four points at the break.

Even Mike Scott, who has had a huge series, went scoreless in the first half. That was partly due to him getting in early foul trouble.

The Raptors were particularly good at stopping the Wizards in transition. Despite committing 11 turnovers in the first half, they won the fastbreak point advantage 17-4. That was a big point of emphasis coming out of Game 3 according to head coach Dwane Casey and his players followed the lead.

Big Third Quarter: The Wizards' offense was not held down for long as they came out of the gate on fire in the second half. Beal and Porter led the charge.

Porter erupted for 10 points in the frame. Beal got hot from three and scored 12. The only thing that stopped Beal was foul trouble, as he picked up his fourth personal with just under five minutes left in the quarter and later left with six.

The third quarter shooting numbers overall were impressive. The Wizards shot 15-for-23 (65.2%) from the field and 5-for-6 (83.3%) from three. That'll do.

The Wizards outscored the Raptors 40-29 in the third. It was their biggest postseason quarter since last year's Game 4 against the Celtics. That was when they went on an absured 26-0 run.

Hella Free Throws: Many people blamed the refs for the Wizards' loss in Game 1, though the numbers didn't back up that claim. If Wizards fans wanted to gripe about Game 4, they had a better case for a while in this one.

It was kind of ridiculous, especially early on. The Raptors shot 30 free throws in the game compared to 31 for the Wizards, so it evened out.  But Toronto shot 16 free throws in the first quarter alone and 12 of them were attempted by DeRozan. He is one of the best in the business at drawing fouls, but that a bit extreme.

DeRozan, in fact, finished the first quarter with nine points and all of them were at the free throw line. He was 0-for-5 from field goal range. 

When DeRozan is getting to the line, he can control games and early on that was the case in this one. He set a new playoff career high with 18 attempts and made 14 of them.

The refs called the game much tighter than they did previously in this series. Perhaps that was a response to the chippiness in Game 3.

Up Next: The series moves on to Toronto for Game 5 on Wednesday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington with pregame coverage beginning with Wizards HangTime at 6 p.m.

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John Wall puts 7-foot Jonas Valanciunas on a poster

John Wall puts 7-foot Jonas Valanciunas on a poster

WASHINGTON -- Things were not looking good for the Washington Wizards to start Game 4. Honestly, there were some flashes back to the team’s performance in the first two games of the series against the Toronto Raptors.

That all quickly changed when John Wall did what he does best: drive to the basket.

Not only did Wall drive to the basket, he went and put Raptors' center Jonas Valanciunas on a poster.

Valanciunas is a 7-foot Lithuanian.

We get it John, it’s your city and we’re all your residents.

MORE FROM WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

GORTAT DITCHES MOHAWK, TEAMMATES APPROVE

MUST-SEE MOMENTS FROM WILD GAME 3

WIZARDS DOMINATED GAME 3 BECAUSE EVERYONE ATE... LITERALLY