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Wizards: Nene is 'the guy no one can guard' in this series

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Wizards: Nene is 'the guy no one can guard' in this series

Similar to what coach Randy Wittman had to do with John Wall in the middle of the playoffs last season when he struggled, the same took place with Nene in this second-round series with the Atlanta Hawks. 

"We talked. Listen, it's been talked about," Wittman said after Sunday's practice, explaining what led to Nene's outburst of 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists in Saturday's 103-101 Game 3 victory vs. Atlanta. "That's part of coaching. He made a conscious effort."

Game 4 is tonight at Verizon Center and the Wizards, who are undefeated in three home playoff games, have a chance to take a stranglehold on the No. 1 team in the East.

Nene had a renewed focus and made the Hawks pay. They had to start Pero Antic in place of Paul Millsap, who had flu-like symptoms. Nene feasted as he made six consecutive field goals during a stretch in the first half. Along with Marcin Gortat's 14 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots, the duo was unstoppable against the undersized opponent. 

Nene shot 0-for-9 for just two points in the first two games of the series. He had just seven total rebounds and six turnovers.

"We don't get lost in numbers. I get lost in aggression," Wittman said. "His 17 were good but is it always going to be 17? I hope but maybe not. But his aggression has to be the same. He's going to find people if they double. He's going to kick the ball out, get fouled. Our bigs were much more in tune to running the floor early to get set up for quick feeds in transition to attack."

For his part, Nene has remained surly. He has heard the criticism of his play, accepted a reduced role in the offense which has allowed Gortat more touches and overcome right knee and foot soreness all season.

"It was hard but I learned from adversity," Nene said in a curt tone. "I just trying to be me."

Rather than smiling about his performance, the 7-footer scowled and then stormed out of the locker room. 

"Nene put his stamp on the game early in the paint, started the game with a left-hand hook, started to get to the free throw line, really putting the  pressure on their bigs," said Drew Gooden, his primary backup. "We're a deep team. You can't just put the onus on Nene if he plays good or plays bad. We're deep. We got guys to step in and have our teammates' backs. If he doesn't have it going one night, we have faith in other guys to get it done for us. When he's playing like that we're definitely a better team."

Ramon Sessions, who has replaced the injured John Wall (left wrist) as the starting point guard, kept feeding him.

"The big fella was rolling, got us going, it brought smiles to everybody's face. That was the plan," Sessions said. "Not just scoring the ball, he made good passes, passing out of double-teams. When the big guy is going like that is tough no matter who's out there on the court really."

Bradley Beal wants to see more of this Nene, who averaged 11 rebounds in the first two games of a first-round series sweep of the Toronto Raptors. It was Nene's play that set the tone and led to Gortat shooting 74.3%. 

"That's the Nene we need each and every game, the guy no one can guard no matter who you put on him," Beal said. "He's going to score. He's going to make plays."

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2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 4: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 4: 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 Sunday night in Game 4 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 4: TORONTO RAPTORS AT WASHINGTON WIZARDS

Series: Raptors lead 2-1
Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 6 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (pregame coverage begins at 5 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Time to get even

After a momentous Game 3 win, the Wizards have breathed some life back into their season. On Sunday, they can make this a brand new series.

With a win in Game 4 for the Wizards, they would tie the series and send it back to Toronto ensuring another home game in Washington. A loss would put them down 3-1, a deficit that has historically been hard to overcome.

Only 11 teams have accomplished the feat, most notably the Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors did the same that year in the conference finals. It has only been done three times since 2006. 

How will Raptors respond?

Game 3 took on a much different tone and style than the previous two and it played into the Wizards' hands. It was much more physical and Washington did a good job of instigating contact and using it to their advanage. After the game, several players highlighted Markieff Morris shoving OG Anunoby and Serge Ibaka as a turning point.

Just because it worked in Game 3 doesn't mean it will carry over successfully in Game 4. Not only could the Raptors respond with their own dose of brutality, but the referees may try to nip anything of the sort in the bud early on.

It would not be surprising if Game 4 was officiated very tightly and if a message was sent in the first quarter to the players. After seeing how well it worked in Game 3, the Wizards will likely try to test the limits.

Playoff Beal

The Raptors will also try to adjust their defense following Bradley Beal's 28-point outburst in Game 3. He wasn't much of a factor in the first two games of the series, but broke out in Game 3 to lead the Wizards to a win.

The Wizards did a good job of getting Beal involved early. He was found for open looks from three in the first half and had two three-pointers in each of the first two quarters. Beal also took it upon himself to attack the rim and force the issue.

The Raptors held Beal back in the first two games by being rough with him and in Game 2 they got him in foul trouble. Surely he will be a big emphasis of their gameplan on Sunday.

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

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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.

MORE FROM WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

GORTAT DITCHES MOHAWK, TEAMMATES APPROVE

MUST-SEE MOMENTS FROM WILD GAME 3

BEAL GOT AN APOLOGY FROM SCOTT BROOKS