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Wizards shoot past world champion Heat

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Wizards shoot past world champion Heat

Ugly for stretches in the first half, the shorthanded Washington Wizards received contributions from all corners and rallied from a 16-point deficit to knock of the Miami Heat 101-94 in a preseason game played in Kansas City.

Martell Webster scored 23 points and Chris Singleton added 17 as the Wizards (3-4) bench picked up the slack for a largely ineffective first unit and led the way to a second straight win. The forward pair made 15 of 23 shots while Jannero Pargo tallied 11 points and six assists. Jan Vesely grabbed 11 rebounds, five off the offensive glass.

Fine, it's only the preseason and LeBron James didn't play a second of the fourth quarter for the Heat (4-3). James however was on the court when Washington's rally began in the third quarter behind Webster and Singleton while Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen and Udonis Haslem played much of the fourth. Brian Cook's putback with four minutes left gave Washington the lead for good. Despite an overall rough night from the field, Bradley Beal sealed the win with a late 3-pointer and a fast break bucket off his own steal.

*During the first half, Beal looked every bit of a 19-year-old rookie realizing he's starting against Wade and the defending NBA champions. Like most of the first unit, Beal looked tentative early which ultimately led to only playing seven minutes while committing three turnovers, three fouls and scoring zero points on one attempt. The attacking Wade, who had 16 of his 23 points in the first half, had something to do with the struggles.

Guess what. The kid came out of the locker room and showed there would be no crawling into a shell. Beal quickly intercepted a pass on defense, leading to a fast break basket. Moment later after catching a pass on the wing, he evaded an onrushing Shane Battier and buried a right wing jumper. Later in the quarter, Beal drove the lane and delivered a perfect slip pass to Trevor Ariza, which led to free throws. Then came the clutch 3-pointer, which put the Wizards up 94-89 with two minutes left. Overall, he finished 3 of 9 from the floor, but did not commit a turnover after halftime and showed no ill effects following the ankle tweak during Monday's practice.

*Of all the non-Beal off-season acquisitions, Webster's been the most impressive. Heck, he's been the best player on the team during preseason and was again in Kansas City. Brought in for his perimeter touch, Webster hammered home three dunks, including an alley-oop lob from Pargo. There were also crafty moves inside, another consistent effort getting to the free throw line (5 for 5) and overall the swingman made 8 of 12 from the field. There's been no sign of the player who's been limited by injuries in recent years and underwent back surgery before last season. Kind of like his scoring punch off the bench. Regardless, Webster has earned his way toward quality minutes when the games turn real. Very early, but this signing is looking like a steal for the Wizards.

* Singleton has talked the aggressive talk during camp after looking lost at times during his rookie season. The 6-foot-8 forward walked that walk against Miami, going hard throughout on both ends of the court. One of the game's highlights came in the third quarter when Singleton drove past Wade for a thunderous dunk moments after the two went nose to nose following some under the basket contact.

* Singleton came out with the starters after halftime in place of Trevor Booker, who did not play in the second half after. Booker, who missed the opening four preseason games with a hamstring injury, "gingerly" walked off the court according to Steve Buckhantz on the telecast. There has already been speculation as to whether the Wizards might keep Cook, a non-roster player, because of injuries to Nene and Kevin Seraphin. If Booker misses any length of time, that scenario seems like a formality.

*Ariza's miserable shooting ways continued, missing all six of his attempts. Defensively he looked active in spots, but overall Ariza, now misfiring at a 27.2 percent clip, looks like he's searching for his game. Keep looking Trevor. Maybe it's in San Antonio, where the Wizards next play on Friday.

*Also clanking, Cartier Martin (0 for 6, four from beyond the arc), while the other deep reserves played key roles during the comeback. Shelvin Mack's first action came with just over five minutes left, but he sank 2 of 3 attempts. Factor in Pargo's night plus Cook's scenario and the battle for the final spot is even tighter. Good luck with the call Coach Wittman.

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Marcin Gortat loses the Mohawk, much to the approval of his teammates and coach

Marcin Gortat loses the Mohawk, much to the approval of his teammates and coach

WASHINGTON — After the Washington Wizards fell behind to a 0-2 hole in their series with the Toronto Raptors, there were a lot places where people jumped to criticism. Marcin Gortat was right in the middle of that discussion after his Game 2 performance.

Heading into Game 3 though, Gortat made a change. Not only on the court, but in his appearance.

Yep, he shaved the Mohawk.

“There were a lot of people insisting,” Gortat said. “Keef [Markieff Morris] was bringing, for the past week, he was bringing clippers to the practice to try to shave me after practice, but I was always dipping.”

“I pulled a Houdini trick, I was disappearing right at the end of the practice. So I finally said 'You know what I'm done' fixing, you know it takes a lot of time to maintain that so I decided to shave it. And I'm glad because I was smoother out there.”

Smooth is right, and to the tune of 16 points, 8-of-10 shooting in nearly 26 minutes of action, Gortat had his best scoring output since March 17. He was one of five Wizards to reach double figures on the evening.

“That was the key,” John Wall said.

Often times in sport it superstitious to shave anything during the postseason. After all, the Mohawk has been a staple for the 6-11 center for the entire 2017-18 season. Now he is back to his polished look, one that helps identify the ‘Polish Hammer.’

“We needed the old Marc back, we need the hammer back. I felt like we got him back,” Morris said. “I'd cut his head. He's too cute with that Mohawk.”

A small sample size, but Morris’ point is valid. Time will tell if the post-mohawk era for Gortat will favor the Wizards past one game.

“I think he got an age-appropriate haircut,” head coach Scott Brooks said.

He has a point too… Gortat is 34-years-old.

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Markieff Morris set tone for Wizards, who finally got back to 'Death Row mentality'

Markieff Morris set tone for Wizards, who finally got back to 'Death Row mentality'

Perhaps Toronto and their fans would disagree, but through two games the first round playoff series between the Wizards and Raptors had been relatively uneventful, maybe even boring to the casual observer. For those who have watched the Wizards in recent years, something just seemed off with them.

Not only were Bradley Beal and Otto Porter struggling to score, but the energy and grit we're used to from the Wizards in the postseason just wasn't there. Three minutes into Game 3 on Friday night, that all changed.

Wizards forward Markieff Morris got tangled with Raptors rookie OG Anunoby and fell to the ground. He rose up, shoved Anunoby and gave Serge Ibaka a push for good measure. It cost Morris a technical, but he wasn't ejected. From there, the tone was set.

This was to be a physical game and the Wizards were going to make sure of it. That's how they prefer to play and that nastiness had been missing thus far in this series.

"I think OG [Anunoby] did not know the scouting report because he did not know that Keef is one of the people you do not mess with in this world," forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. said. "He will learn.”

The fireworks didn't end there. Beal and Jonas Valanciunas got into it and so did John Wall and Anunoby, and then Wall and Ibaka.

The Wizards made a name for themselves in the 2016-17 season when they won 49 games and were one win away from the conference finals as a team that would instigate contact and talk trash. They prided themselves on being old school in that regard and were praised for it by former NBA tough guys like Paul Pierce and Stephen Jackson.

This season, they just haven't been able to do it as often.

"We have been there at spurts throughout the year, we just have not been there consistently," Oubre said. "Now it is do or die. We just need to bring that Death Row mentality.”

Oubre also joked that rapper Drake started it all by sitting courtside in Toronto and talking trash. Truthfully, their backs were against the wall and they had no choice but to punch back.

The Wizards entered Friday's game down 0-2 to the Raptors with Game 2 a dispirited blowout. If they went down 0-3, they would essentially have been dead in the water. No team has come back from that deficit in NBA history.

This time, they weren't going to go down without a fight.

"It sounds crazy, but sometimes we need that. The crazy part is that it's always [Morris]," center Marcin Gortat said. "If you see your teammate fighting, I'm going to fight with him. That's the bottom-line."

"We came out tonight with an edge about ourselves," Beal said. "Keef is a bully... we are physical team." 

As for Morris, the enforcer himself, he let his actions speak for themselves. He didn't take the bait on most questions, but did wear a 'Death Row D.C.' shirt during his media availability. Morris came up with that nickname last season to convey the toughness he wants the Wizards to play with.

"We need some physicality," Morris said. "I feel like when we were in Toronto, they were doing everything too freely. This kind of set the tone for the whole series... we need to keep our same mean mentality. If they wanna fight, we will fight."

The Wizards fought the Hawks and Celtics last year tooth-and-nail and often used physical play to their advantage. It worked in Game 3 against the Raptors. Now the Wizards will have to counter however Toronto chooses to respond.

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