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Jodie Meeks' shot against Celtics was another sign he's turned his season around

Jodie Meeks' shot against Celtics was another sign he's turned his season around

The idea Jodie Meeks would hit a game-tying three on the road against the Boston Celtics in the closing seconds of regulation would have seemed improbable, at best, just a short time ago. But there he was on Wednesday night, jumping for joy at TD Garden and high-fiving Otto Porter who set him up with the assist.

It was Meeks' best moment so far in his short time with the Wizards which has mostly been characterized by shooting woes and hopes for a trade out of Washington before the February deadline. In just a few short weeks since then, Meeks has effectively turned his season around and earned some trust from the coaching staff along the way.

Meeks' shot going in against the Celtics was a reminder of that, but also the mere fact he was in that position with just seconds remaining and the Wizards down by three. Head coach Scott Brooks kept him on the floor, knowing he needed shooters in that situation. And Porter passed Meeks the ball, knowing he was capable of making the shot.

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Those subtle endorsements were not lost on Meeks.

"Just to have the confidence in my teammates means a lot," he said. "No matter how many shots I miss, I’m going to have confidence to feel like the next one is going in."

It has been a tale of two seasons for Meeks. In his first 41 games, he shot just 35 percent from the field and 30.3 percent from three. In his last 25 games, Meeks has shot 47.1 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from three, exactly his career average.

Though many of his numbers are still down from last year, his season field goal percentage (39.2) is rising and not far off from what he shot in 2016-17 with the Magic (40.2). 

As much focus as Meeks deserves for his shot, there were a lot of elements to the play that led to its result. For one, Porter's presence of mind to pass to Meeks in the corner rather than go up for a layup appears brilliant in hindsight.

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At the time, not all of Porter's teammates expected it.

"I was thinking 'what the hell are you thinking, Otto,' because he had a layup," guard Bradley Beal said. "It was a great IQ play. That’s being aware of who’s on the floor and a very unselfish play."

Markieff Morris made the first pass on the inbound to Porter who was cutting into the lane. His twin brother Marcus, a forward for the Celtics, was drawn to Porter and left Meeks open.

Marcus made a mistake and Markieff could only laugh about it in the wake of the Wizards' win.

"I know my brother feels just how I felt, giving up a three," Markieff said, noting how he made a key mistake against Kyrie Irving the last time the two teams squared off in February.

Marcus may have lost focus for a moment. He may have doubted Meeks' ability to make the shot. But he got it to go down and the Wizards' confidence in Meeks will only grow because of it.

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John Wall isn't listening to Drake's trash talk and isn't listening to his music either

John Wall isn't listening to Drake's trash talk and isn't listening to his music either

The friendly feud between Wizards guard John Wall and Raptors superfan Drake nearly tilted to Washington over the weekend as the rap star apparently floated the idea of showing up for Game 3 in D.C. 

Drake, in fact, was going to bring with him a prop to show just how confident he was after his team went up up 2-0.

"I told him to be here for Game 3. He told me he was going to be here," Wall said. "He didn't show up. He told me we was getting swept and he said he had the broom for us."

Wall and Drake exchanged trash-talk throughout the first two games held up in Toronto as Drake sat courtside. Their back-and-forth was caught on camera and went viral.

Wall now has the upperhand with the Wizards having won two straight games as the series shifts back to Toronto for Game 5 on Wednesday.

"I wanted him to know that they wasn't going to sweep us," Wall said. "We did what we were supposed to do. We came home and took home court, won two games."

Wall continued to say that him and Drake "are just having fun." He has referred to Drake as a friend in the past and Drake is a fan of the University of Kentucky, where Wall starred during the 2009-10 season.

But that friendship is currently on hold. Wall, in fact, says isn't listening to any of Drake's songs during the series and that includes 'Nice For What,' Drake's latest single. The song is being played everywhere, but Wall is avoiding it. 

"I can't?" Wall said when told he can't get away from 'Nice For What.' "I always have my headphones on."

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How the Wizards have taken Raptors big man Serge Ibaka out of the series on offense

How the Wizards have taken Raptors big man Serge Ibaka out of the series on offense

The Wizards-Raptors first round playoff series has evolved to feature the emergence of several players who started off slowly including Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat and Kelly Oubre, Jr. The opposite has happened for Toronto big man Serge Ibaka.

After Ibaka lit up the Wizards for 23 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks in Game 1, there has been a disappearance. His scoring has gone missing and it's a big reason why the Wizards have won two straight games and earned a 2-2 series split.

Head coach Scott Brooks knows Ibaka well from their days in Oklahoma City. He helped develop Ibaka and has since watched from afar as his game has changed to include a consistent outside game.

Brooks has on several occasions referred to Ibaka as one of the best three-point shooting big men in the league. The numbers back that up. Last season, he shot 39.1 percent from three on 4.0 attempts per game, excellent for a 6-foot-10 power forward.

This season that number dipped to 36 percent, but he hit 41 percent of his threes in his final 16 games of the regular season. That carried over into the playoffs when he went 3-for-4 in Game 1 as part of an 8-for-11 shooting night overall.

The Wizards made a point to take away those outside shots following their series-opening defeat. The way they are doing that is by crowding him when he gets the ball, even if it means him getting past the initial defender.

"You want to make sure you meet him on the catch. You want to take away his shot," Brooks said. "When he gets open shots, they are money. He's going to knock them down... We did a good job of meeting him on his catch and making him put the ball on the floor with his left hand. You can live with the results."

After his 23-point outburst in Game 1, Ibaka has scored just 20 points total in the last three games. He has gone 2-for-6 from three.

The Wizards are taking away his shot attempts in general. He took 11 shots in each of the first two games of this series, but just four in Game 3 and five in Game 4. In Game 3 he had three points and three turnovers and on Sunday he had seven points and four turnovers.

Here are two examples of the Wizards' defense on Ibaka. On this first play, Markieff Morris meets Ibaka as soon as he catches the ball and the result is a turnover:

On this next play, Morris follows Ibaka all the way to the rim and even though he goes up on a pump fake, Morris recovers to alter Ibaka's shot and force a miss:

The Wizards, however, did get away with one against Ibaka. He was left wide open for a three in the final minute, but the shot rimmed out:

As the first two plays demonstrate, Morris deserves a lot of credit for the Wizards' success against Ibaka. He has the size and mobility to keep up with him and is willing to use contact to his advantage.

"Just playing the tendencies," Morris said. "We're making them do things they are uncomfortable with and are getting better results."

Ibaka was fourth on the Raptors this season in points per game and third in shot attempts. He is their third option behind All-Star guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. If the Wizards can continue to lock up Ibaka, it will be difficult for the Raptors to beat them.

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