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VCU falls 68-65 to No. 13 Missouri

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VCU falls 68-65 to No. 13 Missouri

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) VCU's renowned pressure defense is known as ``havoc,'' and it just needs a little more work this early in the season.

The Rams started the Battle 4 Atlantis with an effective defense in a win over No. 19 Memphis but it just wasn't the same in a semifinal loss to No. 5 Duke and Saturday's 68-65 loss to No. 13 Missouri in the third-place game.

``It's a work in progress, as it usually is this time of year,'' Rams coach Shaka Smart said. ``I think it was the best on the first night of the tournament. I think Memphis is a terrific team with great guards. I think we had the most energy that night. We don't make excuses, but I speak for all eight teams, that was the game when everyone was the most fresh, and it showed in our press.

``Against Duke, they did a nice job with the big guys breaking the press. I thought tonight our energy was better than Friday night, but when you're pressing one of the best guards in the nation, that's tough, but we got to get a lot better with the press.''

The guard Smart referred to is Missouri junior Phil Pressey, the Southeastern Conference preseason player of the year, who had 11 points, eight assists and two huge shots on Saturday.

Pressey bounced back from the semifinal loss to No. 2 Louisville where he committed eight turnovers.

``It's a good way to start your season off, because we played three great teams,'' Pressey said. ``We learned something new every single game.''

Like Pressey can make big 3-pointers and baskets that go directly to the highlight reel.

Pressey gave the Tigers (5-1) the lead for good with a 3-pointer with 1:17 to play. That capped a run of five straight possessions where the teams exchanged the lead.

The Rams (3-3) turned the ball over with 57 seconds left. The Tigers called a timeout with 10 seconds left on the shot clock. Pressey took the inbounds, dribbled off a few seconds, then made a move to the basket where he ducked under a VCU player and hit a flip shot as the shot clock hit zero.

``Just the way we drew it up,'' Missouri coach Frank Haith said jokingly. ``When you're a great player you have to work on tough and awkward shots. But he does practice those one-foot shots, the step-back 3, and he goes at it full speed. If you have a chance to do it in a game you have to do it at full speed. And he does.''

Troy Daniels of VCU missed a 3 and the Tigers ran out the clock.

``During the offseason I worked on those every single day,'' Pressey said of the clincher. ``My teammates have confidence in me to take those shots. It's a big trust factor. I feel like they trust me to shoot them and that helps me out.

``I don't look at myself as a go-to scorer. When the opportunity presents itself I score, but I'm a playmaker. Playmaking can lead to a lot of things.''

Laurence Bowers had 14 points and 11 rebounds for Missouri, which committed 23 turnovers in the loss to Louisville. They had 14 against VCU, including five by Pressey.

``It was a hard-fought game. Give a lot of credit to Missouri. They made some shots down the stretch,'' Smart said. ``Pressey has to be one of the best point guards in the country. I thought he distributed all night long.''

Negus Webster-Chan and Keion Bell had 12 points apiece for Missouri while Earnest Ross added 11.

``That's the strength of our team: balance,'' Bowers said. ``I don't know how many guys had a good game. That was the key for us winning, having that overall balance was the key to winning.''

VCU lost to No. 5 Duke in the semifinals. The Rams had been 23-6 in games following losses under Smart.

Treveon Graham and Juvonte Reddic both had 12 points for the Rams while Rob Brandenberg added 11.

``I'm proud how we fought back both nights,'' Brandenberg said. ``We played well enough to win, gut we got to take care of the little things. We'll get better.''

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Wizards vs. Celtics: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards vs. Celtics: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

The Wizards(11-16) hosts Bthe Celtics (16-10) on Wednesday night inside Capital One Arena for the first of three matchups of the 2018-19 season.

The Wizards dropped a Monday night contest in Indiana, despite an All-Star performance from Bradley Beal who poured in 30 points without John Wall in the lineup. 

The Celtics, without Kyrie Irving, defeated the New Orleans Pelicans Monday night thanks to a 31-point performance from Marcus Morris. 

One of the more recent and compelling NBA rivalries is back. 

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, and more:

WIZARDS vs. CELTICS HOW TO WATCH:

What: Washington Wizards vs. Boston Celtics
Where: Capital One Arena, Washington D.C.
Time/Date: Wednesday, 12/12/18 at 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: NBC Sports Washington (7:00 p.m.)
Live stream: You can watch the Wizards vs. Celtics live stream on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and the MyTeams by NBC Sports App. . Download MyTeams now for full postgame coverage and 24/7 Wizards news.
Radio: 1500 AM

WIZARDS vs. CELTICS TV SCHEDULE:

6:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders 
6:30 PM: Wizards Pregame Live
7:00 PM: Wizards vs. Celtics
9:30 PM: Wizards Postgame Live 
10:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders 

WIZARDS vs. CELTICS INJURY REPORT:

Wizards: Dwight Howard (out, lumbar microdisectomy procedure)

Celtics: Aron Baynes (questionable, left ankle sprain), Gordon Hayward (doubtful, illness), Al Horford (questionable, left knee soreness), Guerschon Yabusele (out, right ankle sprain) 

WIZARDS vs. CELTICS SERIES HISTORY: 

Number of all-time Meetings: 302 games (22 playoff games)

Regular Season Record: Celtics lead series 188-114

Playoff Record: Celtics lead series 13-9

Last Meeting: Wizards beat Celtics 113-101 on 4/10/2018

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Dave Martinez reiterates door remains open for Bryce Harper

Dave Martinez reiterates door remains open for Bryce Harper

LAS VEGAS -- This is not Davey Martinez’s kind of place. He’s more of a Tampa guy, maybe some Nashville. Not Las Vegas. He’s not in the desert to gamble or make the casino scene. Work brings him here, not some desire to burn life earnings during the offseason.

“Social gambler,” Martinez said. “How’s that?”

He’s able to make the rounds, at least. Martinez is 54. He entered the major leagues in 1986. Only four years since then have been spent outside of the major leagues. Which makes this event more of a chance to see old friends in the game. 

Work is limited. Mike Rizzo finished the majority of the roster before the Nationals’ contingent arrived in Las Vegas. Maybe they upgrade at second base. Maybe they add another veteran starter to the spring training mix. Maybe another bullpen option with the same line of thought. But, for the most part, Martinez knows what he will be working with in 2019. 

“Mike and I talked at the end of the season with ownership,” Martinez told NBC Sports Washington. “We sat down. Had a couple meetings. And Pat Corbin, all the guys we got were on our list and he got it done. It was a nice early Christmas present for me to get these guys and get this ball rolling.”

Martinez has harped on certain points since the close of the season. The Nationals need to be better fielders, baserunners and situational hitters. It sounds mundane, something that should be built-in at this level, but anyone who watched last season saw mediocre baseball being played. A throw to the wrong base. An extra base not taken. A double-play unturned.

“Last year we played a lot of one-run games,” Martinez said. “When I looked back and watched some of the replays of the games this past winter, it’s about not allowing teams 28, 29, 30 outs.” 

The Nationals will have days in spring training without hitting. Emphasis on fielding and baserunning drills will increase. They want to play faster and smarter. 

They also believe a healthy start is in place. Martinez said Adam Eaton’s leg continues to gain strength. Ryan Zimmerman’s body is in a good place. Stephen Strasburg is feverishly working out at Nationals Park. 

“As you know, last year when he got hurt and went down, our starting pitching took a beating a little bit,” Martinez said. “Hopefully, he comes back and he’s strong and he can get back and compete. If we can get Stras up to 25 starts, we’re going to be really good.”

Listening to Martinez hints at lessons learned from last season. In particular, his use of the bullpen. Sammy Solis made 30 appearances by the end of May. That matched his total from 2017. 

“I go back to the earlier part of last year,” Martinez said. “He was really good. He kept our bullpen stable. And I used him a lot. And I think at one point -- and I’ve heard this before -- I might have used him too much. What I see now, I’m going by what I saw earlier in the season in hopes that he comes back that guy. And then kind of use him in that role. Because he was really good. He was getting lefties and righties out. … I think Sammy has a lot of upside.”

The back of the bullpen remains structured the same as last season. At least in roles. Kyle Barraclough and Trevor Rosenthal are a swap for Brandon Kintzler and Ryan Madson. Sean Doolittle maintains his spot as the closer. If he needs a day off, Rosenthal will step in.

That all leaves one enormous question.

“As you know Bryce and I have a special relationship,” Martinez said. “As a player, as a person, as a kid, I think he’s awesome. I love him to death, I do. Right now, we have to continue to move forward and try to get better. Not by any means, and I heard Rizzo say this and I feel the same way, that the door’s closed on Bryce. He’s got big decisions to make. Ultimately, he’s going to make the decision. And It’s tough. I know how he feels about his teammates, I know how he feels about Washington, but it’s a tough decision he needs to make for him and his family.” 

Life is easier with answers. Martinez has most of them for 2019. He, like everyone else, is waiting on one more.

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