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Wizards hold on to beat Phoenix Suns, continue to play well without John Wall

Wizards hold on to beat Phoenix Suns, continue to play well without John Wall

The Washington Wizards beat the Phoenix Suns 109-99 on Thursday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Closer than it should have been: The Wizards had no excuse losing to the Suns without Devin Booker and lose they did not, but this one was way more interesting than it should have been. The Wizards were up just one point entering the fourth quarter and, though they won by 10 points, the Suns cut the game to 96-94 with 5:46 left in the fourth quarter. 

The Suns have proven a dangerous match for the Wizards this season. They came back from down 22 points to beat Washington back on Nov. 1 in Washington. In this one they erased a nine-point deficit to give the Wizards a scare. Phoenix actually jumped out to a 24-12 lead in the first quarter before the Wizards woke up and got serious.

It was a tougher road than it should have been, but a win is a win and the Wizards are now 5-4 on the season without John Wall and 4-3 since his latest injury. This was the first time they have won two straight without Wall this season.

It has been a crazy few weeks with wild ups and downs, but the overall result has been something they probably would have signed up for going in. They are now 14-11 overall on the season.

Encore, do you want more: The odds of Bradley Beal following up his amazing 51-point performance with another big game seemed good, as the Phoenix Suns rank dead-last in the NBA in both defensive rating and opponent points per game. They are the worst team in the NBA defensively and Beal was coming in hot.

Those predictions came true. Beal picked up right where he left off in Portland with a dominant showing against the Suns. He dropped 34 points on 13-for-22 shooting. Beal has scored 30 points or more in two straight games for the fifth time in his career.

Beal caught fire early with 11 points in the first quarter and another 11 points in the second. The Suns began the game with rookie and fourth overall pick Josh Jackson guarding him. They tried different looks, but nothing worked.

The Wizards needed Beal to step up because others did not. Otto Porter was held to four points and two rebounds on 2-for-9 shooting. Marcin Gortat had four points and eight rebounds, but lost minutes to Ian Mahinmi.


Phoenix Outlaw: Markieff Morris had combined for 19 points in his last two games and was averaging just 10.0 in his last six since John Wall had procedures on his left knee. Perhaps we should have known he would get things corrected on Thursday, given it was against his former team, a franchise he did not leave on good terms. 

Whether it was extra motivation or not, Morris balled out. He finished with 21 points, six rebounds, two steals and a block. It was his second-most points of the season.

Morris doesn't like how the Suns treated him and his twin brother Marcus, how they traded Marcus after the two took less money to continue playing together. Morris likes to get back at them any chance he gets and he was a big reason for the Wizards' win.

The question now becomes whether Morris can do it again in two straight games. He hasn't been able to find consistency at all this season after missing the first seven games due to sports hernia surgery and a suspension. Only three times has he scored double-figures in two straight games and not once has he done so in three straight. This could be a breakthrough game, but we've thought that before and been proven wrong.

Off the bench: It was another good night for the second unit, which has been a big storyline during Wall's absence. They combined for 39 points with Kelly Oubre, Jr. (12 points, seven rebounds), Ian Mahinmi (10 points, eight rebounds) and Mike Scott (eight points, 3-for-3 FG) as the standouts.

Oubre and Scott have arguably been their most consistent bench players this season. Oubre is playing much smarter on both ends of the floor and Scott is proving to be instant offense more often than not.

Up next: The Wizards are off Friday before facing the Clippers in L.A. on Saturday. That game tips off at 3:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.


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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: