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Despite Cousins' explosion, Wizards' defensive game plan succeeds

Despite Cousins' explosion, Wizards' defensive game plan succeeds

The array of difficult shots from DeMarcus Cousins seemed to have no bounds. He made them in traffic, through contact and on stepbacks while blanketed by the 6-11 Marcin Gortat. The Sacramento Kings' big man won the night in terms of the higlight reel, but they lost the game 101-95 in overtime with Cousins needing 34 shots to score a game-high 36 points. 

In a way, that was the game plan though it had hiccups. 

"It's hard for me to say this because Cousins had 36 and 20 (rebounds) but Marcin did a great job on him," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "It took 34 shots to get those 36 points, and probably four or five were just like, 'Are you kidding me?' Couldn't do anything better than what we did, but he made them.. ... Marcin battled him throughout the game, made his catches and shots tough and made him miss 18 shots."

The Wizards led 88-80 with 5:12 left in the fourth quarter as the game began to slip away. Then Cousins took over yet again. There was a 17-foot turnaround jumper, a layup, a 14-foot turnaround and two more layups. The final one, scored with 10.9 seconds left, tied the score at 92 and would force overtime. 

Gortat was on an island as he received very little help trying to defend a 6-11 big with ball-handling skills and moves of a much smaller player. The Wizards opted to go the more disciplined route and not overhelp to create open shots on the perimeter for Rudy Gay (1-for-4 from three), Arron Afflalo (0-for-3), Matt Barnes (0-for-3), Garrett Temple (1-for-3) or Darren Collison (0-for-1).

"Not many fives can do that, put the ball on the floor, shoot threes, dribble the length of the floor," Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal said. 

[RELATED: TAKEAWAYS FROM WIZARDS' NARROW WIN OVER KINGS]

Sacramento knocked down 13 three-pointers in a win at the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday. The Wizards, who have been porous on three-point defense, effecitvely took that away. It was a high risk that produced rewards in the extra session. While Cousins shot 6-for-9 in the fourth, he was 0-for-3 and the rest of the Kings were out of snyc because they hadn't been involved in the offense. 

"A couple times he had some easy looks but other than that, a lot of shots were tough," said John Wall, Cousins' teammate for one season at Kentucky where they played in 2009-10 before turning pro. "We tried to do as much as we could to double-team because he can pass to his guys. We didn't want anybody else to get in a rhythm."

The Kings shot 3-for-21 from three-point range overall, with Cousins missing 5 of 6 attempts. Gortat only had 10 points and seven rebounds as he was drawn to the perimeter regularly, but also got three blocked shots in the process. 

Unlike when the Wizards last played the Kings, on March 30 last season when they allowed 120 points, only Gay scored in double figures (18 points on 16 shots). They weren't allowing Cousins to get 29 points on just 16 shots like he did in that playoff-hope crushing loss while getting five other teammates in double-figure scoring.

They held them to 25 fewer points and got them their third win in four games.

"He got to where he wanted to get to," Beal said of Cousins' command in what became a one-dimensional offense. "In a case like that, when somebody does have it going, you have to stop everybody else."

[RELATED: DEMARCUS COUSINS SAYS HE AND WALL HAVE DISCUSSED TEAMING UP]

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Mystics star Kristi Toliver excited to officially join Wizards coaching staff

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USA Today Sports

Mystics star Kristi Toliver excited to officially join Wizards coaching staff

After months of serving a variety of roles for the organization, Kristi Toliver now has an official title with the Washington Wizards. The Mystics star has joined Scott Brooks' staff as an assistant coach and assistant for player development.

Toliver, 31, will remain a member of the Mystics, who play their season during the summer. The lack of overlap will allow her to focus much of her time on the Wizards and what she hopes becomes a long and successful coaching career.

She chose joining the Wizards over continuing to play professionally this year overseas, an option many WNBA players use in the offseason. But she has a coaching dream and happens to have caught on with the hometown team.

"This is the opportunity of a lifetime. When it came about, I wanted to be involved in any capacity that I could," Toliver said.

Toliver is the first active WNBA player to serve on an NBA bench and just the second woman after Becky Hammon, who is an assistant for the San Antonio Spurs. Toliver plans to reach out to Hammon after getting her phone number from Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird.

Toliver is honored to be in the same category with Hammon, whom she looked up to first as a player and now as a coach who has become a trailblazer in the profession.

"I know she's going to be somebody that I can ask questions to," Toliver said. "I will pick her brain about how she played and I will pick her brain about how she is coaching."

Hammon joined the Spurs' coaching staff in 2014 after years of helping the team out in other ways. Now that there are two female NBA assistants, the logical question is when one will become a head coach.

Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal can already attest to Toliver's impact and said there could be a female head coach "very soon."

"I wouldn't be surprised if it happened sooner rather than later," Beal said. "If you know the game, you know the game. Plain and simple."

Toliver has served as a coach in the Wizards' 5-on-5 scrimmages at practice. She has also been particularly helpful with ball-handling, which makes sense given she's the starting point guard for the Mystics. Toliver has helped a variety of Wizards players in dribbling drills including the big men like Jeff Green and Dwight Howard.

Coaching has required an adjustment for Toliver, who is used to having the ball in her hands running the offense. But just as being a player can help her as a coach, she expects to become a better player now seeing the game from a new perspective.

"I'd much rather be playing, I know that. But it's good to think the game in a different way and from a different point of view," she said.

Brooks has been effusive in his praise of Toliver ever since she began helping out in the Las Vegas Summer League in July. He invited her to join the staff over the phone shortly before the Summer League began and will admit he did not know at the time the relationship would get this far.

But over the summer, Brooks lost two assistants to other teams in Chad Iske and Sidney Lowe, paving the way for some movement on his staff. He promoted several positions from within and an opening was created for Toliver to come on board.

"She's a special talent. She's going to be moving through the ranks pretty quick," Brooks said.

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Mystics' Kristi Toliver joins Wizards coaching staff for 2018-19 season

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@WashMystics

Mystics' Kristi Toliver joins Wizards coaching staff for 2018-19 season

It's certainly not uncommon for professional athletes to make the transition into coaching following their playing days. We have seen more and more of this in recent years throughout sports, especially with younger coaches getting the chance to lead teams. 

What is uncommon is when a professional athlete begins their quest for life after playing while they're still playing. 

Washington Mystics veteran guard Kristi Toliver is joining the Wizards' coaching staff, the team announced Tuesday. 

The news comes after the 10-year WNBA pro got her feet wet on the Wizards' bench during Vegas Summer League play in July. 

Along with Elena Delle Donne, Toliver helped lead the Mystics to the 2018 WNBA Finals, before ultimately falling to the Seattle Storm. 

The 31-year-old was drafted third overall by Chicago in 2009 after leading her Maryland Terrapins to a national championship in 2006. 

Toliver will serve as an assistant coach and focus on player development for head coach Scott Brooks. 

Coach Brooks also welcomes Robert Pack and Ryan Richman to the front of the bench. Pack served as assistant coach under Brooks for two seasons during their Oklahoma City Thunder days while Richman led the team during summer leage play and is entering his fifth year in Washington. 

The Wizards open their 2018-19 regular season Thursday against the Miami Heat inside Capital One Arena. Tip-off is slated for 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

 

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