Wizards

Wild-Coyotes Preview

Wild-Coyotes Preview

Now that the Minnesota Wild's top line has failed to produce over consecutive games, the lack of production from players such as Kyle Brodziak looks more like a glaring weakness.

Brodziak hopes to get untracked when the Wild seek their first road victory Monday night against the Phoenix Coyotes.

The top line of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley has combined for 23 points for Minnesota (4-3-1), but that unit hasn't produced any in its last two games.

"There's a few guys that we want to get going for sure," coach Mike Yeo said. "The top line is, they're one of the top lines in the league, although the last couple games haven't been good so we have to look at that, why is that?"

Yeo has shifted Brodziak around in different spots this season. Brodziak has one assist in eight games after tying for second on the team with 44 points a season ago.

"Brodzy's line is so important to us, not necessarily from even an offensive standpoint," Yeo said. "How do we help them get to their game, how do we help them get some more offensive zone time?"

Brodziak scored three goals in two victories at Phoenix (3-4-2) last season as the visiting team won all four 2011-12 matchups.

The Wild are 0-2-1 on the road as they get ready to face a Coyotes team that has posted shutouts in two of its last three home games.

Mike Smith made 17 saves for his first victory of the season Saturday, 2-0 over Dallas.

"He looked like Smitty out there,'' coach Dave Tippett said. "It's the first game I'd say he looked confident all year.''

This could be an emotional game for Nick Johnson, who has three goals and one assist for the Coyotes. The winger had 26 points for the Wild a season ago as a rookie before Minnesota decided not to offer him a contract.

Johnson's new team is impressed with his play.

"Nick Johnson has been a real pleasant surprise for us, he's really played well," Tippett said. "Not just because he's scored some points, he's a sound positional player, does a lot of things right in the games that coaches probably notice more than fans notice."

Phoenix winger Raffi Torres made his season debut Saturday after his 21-game suspension expired for a hit on Chicago's Marian Hossa in last year's playoffs. He was cheered by Coyotes fans upon his return.

"These fans are great," Torres said. "They've been supporting me throughout this whole ordeal so it's nice to feel welcomed and get back at it."

Phoenix has gained points in four straight games after a 1-4-0 start. The Coyotes outshot the Stars 34-17 on Saturday.

"We felt we've played solid for stretches of games, we just haven't finished a full 60 minutes,'' captain Shane Doan said.

Wild No. 1 goalie Niklas Backstrom won his first eight career starts against the Coyotes before going 3-8-0 with a 2.85 goals-against average in his past 11.

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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:

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WIZARDS DOMINATED GAME 3 BECAUSE EVERYONE ATE... LITERALLY