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Wizards revert to troubling defensive habits in loss to Bucks

Wizards revert to troubling defensive habits in loss to Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks are a middle-of-the-road offensive team, but they looked more potent than the Golden State Warriors in handing the Wizards their worst loss of the season. 

After taking two steps forward by winning 6 of 8 games to get in striking range of .500, the Wizards fell back Friday with a 123-96 loss in which they allowed career highs to Giannis Antetokounmpo and rookie Malcom Brogdon.They allowed 56.3% overall shooting (45 of 80).

"Everything went wrong," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "We were giving up backdoors, offensive rebounds, straight-line drives. We weren't good."

John Wall had 10 points and seven assists after the first half but the Wizards' open-door defense allowed 73 points. Wall didn't play in the fourth quarter when the Bucks entered leading 100-78.

The Wizards' worst loss had come in the season-opener, 114-99 to the Atlanta Hawks.

That game actually was close through three quarters. This one was a blowout after the first 12 minutes and the Bucks ended up winning by 27. 

"Throughout the season you're going to have like, one out of five games you have you just get your ass whupped," Wall said. "We just got our ass whupped in all phases of the game. We converted back to our old defensive ways."

There wasn't some major about-face done by Milwaukee which had lost 110-105 to the Wizards just two weeks ago. The Bucks tried to make others beat them, namely Otto Porter, instead of Wall and Bradley Beal. The shots were there for the Wizards but they were getting beaten to the rim even by the slow-footed Greg Monroe diving to the basket on pick-and-rolls.

Porter and Beal were confused on their switches. Porter and Wall were getting pinned under screens by Matthew Dellavedova. The frontline help from Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat was absent or extremely tardy.

"We're a team that gets out and run.... Every time we turned around we were taking the ball out the rim," said Wall, who led an attack that was outscored 27-8 in transition. "They were beating us to loose balls and getting to the free throw line a lot aand just slowing the game down at the pace they wanted to play.

"They do the same stuff every game. The first game we were able to make those guys shoot perimeter shots and keep them out of the paint. It was vice versa this game."

The teams play for a third time Monday at Verizon Center, and if the Wizards (13-16) can end the calendar year with a three-game winning steak -- Wednesday vs. the Indiana Pacers and Friday vs. the Brooklyn Nets -- they'd be at .500. 

Considering their unpredictability, injuries and lack of bench production to begin the season, they'd be in a good spot in an Eastern Conference that's full of teams hovering just above or below the break. Play defense like they did in this game, they could easily lose all three.

[RELATED: 5 must-see moments from Wizards' loss to Bucks]

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Bradley Beal on his struggles, getting an apology from Scott Brooks

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Bradley Beal on his struggles, getting an apology from Scott Brooks

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks remarked after Game 2 and following practice on Thursday that he was partly to blame for Bradley Beal's modest scoring output through two games in the team's playoff series against the Raptors. They weren't just throwaway lines, a coach trying to make his star player feel better for struggling in the playoffs.

No, Brooks truly meant what he said and followed up those comments with an apology face-to-face. Brooks met with Beal and John Wall in between Games 2 and 3 to see how they can get Beal going and reiterated that some of it all was on the coach.

"He apologized to me, which was weird because he's somebody who always holds me accountable for stuff," Beal said after Friday's shootaround. "I guess he figured I wasn't shooting the ball enough and he thought it was his fault. I don't know."

Beal, who is averaging 14.0 points in two games and scored only nine in Game 2, came away from the meeting with a good understanding of what he needs to do to get back on track. After apologizing, Brooks laid out a strategy in hopes that he, Wall and Beal can all be on the same page moving forward.

They need to get their All-Star shooting guard back to form on the offensive end.

"He just basically challenged me. He challenged me to be more aggressive on the offensive and defensive end," Beal said.

What has made Beal's scoring troubles through two games particularly surprising is how well he played against the Raptors during the regular season. He averaged 28.8 points in four games against Toronto and all were without Wall.

Beal shot 50 percent against the Raptors both from the field and from three. So far this series he's shooting just 39.3 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from long range.

Asked whether there is anything he can draw from the regular season to apply to the playoffs, Beal said it's not as easy as it may seem.

"Those games are different. The matchups are different to an extent. It's totally different in the playoffs because you have more time to prep and prepare and gameplan for us," he said. 

"I think the biggest thing is them being physical. They are real physical with me. Whenever I'm standing around on offense or moving around, they are grabbing me. I just need to be physical back with them. Keep moving off the ball and especially if Kyle [Lowry] is guarding me. Tire him out as much as possible. Continue to be aggressive."

Coaches use all sorts of leadership tactics to motivate players. Perhaps an apology will do the trick.




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2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 3: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 3: 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 Friday night in Game 3 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:


Series: Raptors lead 2-0
Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (pregame coverage begins at 7 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Do or die

If the Wizards lose on Friday night, the series will technically not be over. They will be down 0-3 with a home game up next and an opportunity to extend their season and send it all back to Toronto. That said, the odds would not be good. In fact, they would be pretty much as bad as they can be.

No team in NBA history has ever come back from down 0-3 in a series. So, unless the Wizards feel like they can make history, like UMBC over Virginia history, then they better win Game 3. 

Now, some teams have come close to making it happen. Three times before a team has gone down 0-3 and forced seven games. The last time was the 2003 Blazers, who fell in Game 7 to the Mavs. 

Recovering from an 0-3 deficit to win a seven-game series has happened in both baseball and hockey, most famously in 2004 when the Red Sox beat the Yankees to reach the World Series. At some point it will happen in basketball, but the chances are essentially next-to-none. The Wizards will be much better off by winning Game 3, just like they did last year when they went down 0-2 against the Celtics in the second round and forced a Game 7.

Beal and Otto

The Wizards are hoping to see more from both Bradley Beal and Otto Porter. It was a big topic of discussion at Thursday's practice how both guys need to be more aggressive in looking for their own shot. Beal was held to just nine points in Game 2 and Porter, the NBA's third-best three-point shooter, didn't even attempt one three.

Brooks held a meeting with Beal and John Wall to discuss how they can get Beal more opportunities, but ultimately it's up to him and Porter to force the issue for themselves. It would seem likely at least one of them breaks out in Game 3. They both were great against the Raptors during the regular season and both proved throughout the year that they can score against anybody.

Too many threes

The biggest reason the Wizards are down 0-2 in this series is the three-point shot. The Raptors have hit a ton of them and even though the Wizards have been intent on stopping them, they have had no such luck.

The Raptors hit 16 threes in the first game to set a playoff franchise record. They shot 51.7 percent from long range. In Game 2, they hit 13 and 11 were in the first half. They made seven of them in the first quarter alone to the tune of 44 points, the worst defensive quarter in the playoffs in Wizards franchise history since 1965.

This is how much the three-point shot matters: the Raptors' 11 first-half threes in Game 2 helped them outscore the Wizards by 18 points by halftime, but in the second half when they hit only two threes, the Wizards edged them by seven points. Washington has to stop the three-pointer, it's that simple.

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