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Celtics coach Brad Stevens outdistances John Wall


Celtics coach Brad Stevens outdistances John Wall

The Wizards didn't lose because of John Wall, who admitted that his legs were almost dead when he missed the layup at the buzzer that would've sent Saturday's game into overtime. It was because the Boston Celtics has Brad Stevens as coach.

"I should've dunked the ball but I didn't have enough energy left to do that," Wall, who had a season-high 36 points, 13 assists, seven steals and seven rebounds in a season-high 44 minutes. 

They were short-handed without Bradley Beal (rest), Otto Porter (right hip) and Drew Gooden (left calf) negating the return of Marcin Gortat after missing three games with a knee infection.

RELATED: Wall's layup falls short at the buzzer

After two foul shots from Garrett Temple tied the score at 117 with 14 seconds left, Stevens drew up a play during the timeout that caught the Wizards (19-20) off-guard. The Wizards didn't have any timeouts left and Wall went the length of the court with four seconds left and had a clear path to the rim. Nene's putback was too late.

"Brad knew exactly how they were going to play it," said Jae Crowder, who made a point-blank layup off Marcus Smart's pass over the top of Kelly Oubre as he fronted the post. "I wanted to front on the post to clear the backside for me so there was no backside help and throw it over the top and me make a play."

In a nutshell, that was it. But the Wizards were expecting Stevens to run his final offensive play through Isaiah Thomas in some sort of pick-and-roll action. That would make the most sense as Thomas had 32 points and made 16 trips to the foul line. Keeping him out of the paint has been a constant challenge but Stevens -- easily the NBA's best coach when it comes to after-timeout plays -- did it again.

"They popped the ball back to Marcus Smart," Wall said. "He threw a perfect pass. It was a situation we weren't expecting it. ... I don't think that one play cost us the game."

Wall scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, stealing an inbound pass to Evan Turner for a dunk to get the score to 111-110 with 1:11 left.

Even after that Stevens fooled the Wizards. He designed an ATO for Avery Bradley, who had been a non-factor offensively with nine points on 4 of 13 shooting, to pop for a three-pointer. He made it and the lead was four.

Both teams traded a flurry of free throws (12 in the last 30 seconds), including a technical on Crowder for arguing with Wizards coach Randy Wittman. Then came the heart-breaking finish for Oubre, who was making his seventh start for Porter.

"He hit the game-winning shot on me," Oubre said. "It's definitely a tough pill to swallow."

Veterans like Temple, however, won't let the rookie take the blame for the loss. They led 61-54 at halftime and instead of putting Boston away they squandered the lead because of nine second-half turnovers (only five in first two quarters). 

"They ran a good play. We thought they were going to one or two guys and Brad drew up a great play. They got something over the top with no help. That's our fault," Temple said. "As veterans we got to tell Kelly how we would guard if they try to go in the post. He was doing things we've been doing over the whole season, fronting the post. We didn't have any weakside help on that one for him. We had a chance way before that in the third quarter where we lost the game."

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Markieff Morris

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Markieff Morris

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Markieff Morris' season...

Player: Markieff Morris

Position: Power forward

Age: 28

2017-18 salary: $8 million

2017-18 stats: 73 G, 27.0 mpg, 11.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.5 bpg, 48.0 FG%, 36.7 3P%, 82.0 FT%, 53.6 eFG%, 116 ORtg, 112 DRtg

Best game: 12/1 vs. Pistons - 23 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, zero turnovers, 10-for-16 FG, 2-for-3 3PT

Season review: It took quite a while for Markieff Morris to get healthy in the 2017-18 season. He was sidelined to begin last offseason with the ankle injury he suffered against the Celtics in the playoffs, then in September had surgery on both his abdomen and groin. The sports hernia surgery was known, while the groin procedure was revealed once the season was over.

Morris only missed nine games in the entire season, but took time to find his rhythm early. He averaged just 9.0 points and 4.4 rebounds in 14 games in the month of November. He picked it up after that, though he never quite reached the level we saw from him in 2016-17 in terms of volume production.

Morris played less minutes, took less shots, scored fewer points and grabbed less rebounds than the season before. On the other hand, he was more efficient than ever. Morris shot 48 percent from the field, his best since 2013-14, and posted career-highs in three-point percentage (36.7) and effective field-goal percentage (53.6). 

The Wizards could use more scoring from Morris moving forward, especially at times when one of their primary options is injured, as was the case in 2017-18 when John Wall missed 41 games. An active and engaged Morris changes everything for the Wizards. 

When Morris scored 15 points or more this season, the Wizards went 15-8. The season before, they went 22-9 when he got to the 15-point mark. 

It's a bit difficult to project Morris' role for the 2018-19 season at this point, given the fact he's entering a contract year and the most logical area for the Wizards to make significant changes (if they choose to) is in their frontcourt. Also, as Morris discussed in his exit interview, he knows more time at center in small-ball sets could be in his future.

Regardless of what happens with the team, it's a huge summer for Morris individually. If he sets himself up well for a big year in 2018-19, he could earn a nice payday in what might be his last long-term contract given his age.

Potential to improve: Rebounding, screens, scoring

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

Marcin Gortat, C

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Marcin Gortat

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Marcin Gortat

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Marcin Gortat's season...

Player: Marcin Gortat

Position: Center

Age: 34

2017-18 salary: $12.8 million

2017-18 stats: 82 G, 25.3 mpg, 8.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.7 bpg, 51.8 FG%, 67.5 FT%, 51.8 eFG%, 112 ORtg, 107 DRtg

Best game: 10/18 vs. Sixers - 16 points, 17 rebounds, 3 blocks, assist, 7-for-12 FG

Season review: Marcin Gortat is self-aware enough to know that what happened to him in 2017-18 was inevitable in many ways. He even publicly called it before the season.

He was one year older, with Ian Mahinmi healthy and in the rotation, and with the NBA continuing to move towards small-ball and big men who can play on the perimeter. As a result, Gortat saw his role in the Wizards rotation pared down noticeably.

Though he still started all 82 games, his minutes went down from 31.2 per game the year before the 25.3. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who played the majority of the season coming off the bench, logged more minutes than Gortat, though he was a starter.

Gortat's minutes were his fewest since the 2009-10 season, when he was a 25-year-old bench player for the Orlando Magic. His numbers this season followed suit. Gortat's points and rebounds per game were both the lowest since that 2009-10 campaign.

Gortat averaged a career-best 10.4 rebounds per game in 2016-17, but the minutes had a direct effect on his volume of boards. He pulled in 2.4 less per game this season despite his rebound percentage (17.0) being close to his career average (17.5). That career average, by the way, is 30th-best all-time an eighth among active players.

Not getting the same opportunities he had in years past, plus public misunderstandings with teammates, combined to make for a frustrating year for Gortat. He said on the Wizards Tipoff podcast midseason it was the worst year of his career. Gortat, though, did continue to make an impact setting screens for the Wizards and he rallied to finish relatively strong.

He had several solid outings in the playoffs, including his 16 points in Game 3 and his 12 rebounds in Game 5. The question is whether that is the last time we will see Gortat in a Wizards uniform.

Washington has played with the idea of trading Gortat for a while now. He popped up in rumors around the trade deadline in February, but remained on the roster. Now he has an expiring contract working in his favor, making it a bit more likely he gets dealt.

Gortat knows his future in Washington is uncertain, though he said following the season he would like to stay. It would not be surprising to him or anyone if he were traded this summer. If not, he's got one year left with the Wizards and could very well have his role decreased even more.

Potential to improve: Rim protection, midrange shooting, free throw percentage

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

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