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Fast break: Hawks hold off flurries from Wizards to draw even


Fast break: Hawks hold off flurries from Wizards to draw even

With a chance to take command of this second-round series with the No. 1 seed Atlanta Hawks, the Wizards lost their defensive edge and home-court advantage as they allowed 65 first-half points en route to a 106-101 loss in Game 4 loss Monday.

Jeff Teague had his best game of the series with 26 points and eight assists, Al Horford had 18 points and 10 rebounds and Paul Millsap added 19 points and six assists as they drew even at 2. The Wizards are 1-2 without John Wall (fractured left wrist) and lost at Verizon Center for the first time in four games this postseason.

The smaller team, the Hawks lived in the paint and had too many uncontested layups. The Wizards were red-hot from deep, making 10 of their first 15 three-point shots but trailed 65-55 at halftime. 

The Wizards opened the third quarter with a 9-1 run as the Hawks had two turnovers and an airball from DeMarre Carroll. Millsap also picked up his third and fourth fouls in less than two minutes -- on a drive by Beal and going over Marcin Gortat's back for a rebound -- to briefly change the complexion of the game. 

Atlanta steadied itself, however, as Dennis Schroder came off the bench for 14 points and eight assists. Otto Porter and Drew Gooden had been sparks for the Wizards, but the reserves combine for just seven points on 2-for-10 shooting.

Bradley Beal set a career playoff high with 34 points on 11-for-25 shooting, seven assists, six rebounds and three steals. while keeping Kyle Korver in check again. The NBA's best three-point shooter, Korver only had six points on four shots.

Paul Pierce made all five of his first three-point attempts and scored 22 points, but he had a wide-open look that could've tied the score at 104 in the final six seconds that was long.


TURNING POINT: The Wizards were in range with the score 101-97 after Otto Porter made 1 of 2 foul shots, but Teague buried a three-pointer for a seven point lead late to put the Hawks just out of reach.

NUMBERS GAME: The Wizards shot 38-for-85, 44.7%, including 12-for-26 from three-point range (46.2%), had a 15-11 edge in fast-break points were even in rebounds at 48.

SPARK PLUG: Will Bynum had his best game with Washington, including a series of layups in the second quarter to trim the Wizards' deficit to 44-40. These were the most minutes (14) that he has played in any of his three appearances. Bynum had nine points in Game 3. He came off the bench after Garrett Temple who only lasted four minutes. Bynum returned for a crucial stretch in the fourth when his drive past Teague and Horford in traffic for a layup pulled the Wizards to 89-84. He finished 5-for-7 for 10 points but did have four turnovers. 

PIVOTAL MOMENT: Not slowed by flu-like symptoms like he was in Game 3, Millsap was a different player. Instead of beating the Wizards with the long ball, he was able to get to the rim and made the right reads to get six first-half assists. But he picked up two fouls in less than two minutes to start the third quarter which sent him to the bench with four. Pero Antic and soon after what had been a 10-point lead was trimmed to 65-64. But when the quarter ended, the last 10 minutes played without Millsap, the lead was back to 10.

SIZE LIABILITY: Determined to impose their size, the Wizards didn't do a good job with Gortat who wasn't a factor. In 31 minutes he was 0-for-5 and had just one point until his tape in of a miss by Sessions with 3:17 left. Nene only took eight shots for 12 points. 

UP NEXT: The Wizards will have a light shootaround Tuesday before leaving for Atlanta, where they'll play the Hawks in Game 5 on Wednesday at Phillips Arena (TNT, 8 p.m. ET).

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Despite struggles at Oregon, Wizards believe Troy Brown can develop into a good shooter at NBA level

Despite struggles at Oregon, Wizards believe Troy Brown can develop into a good shooter at NBA level

The NBA is so perimeter-oriented these days that often the first statistic cited for a player leaving college for the pros is three-point percentage, regardless of the position. Even big men are expected to knock down threes, for if they can't then there is less space on the floor and like Neil deGrasse Tyson, NBA teams love them some space.

Three-point shooting, however, is not a strength for Wizards' first round pick Troy Brown, Jr., at least not yet. In his lone season at Oregon, he shot just 29.1 percent from long range. Brown can play multiple positions, from point guard to small forward, and shooting is important to be successful at all of them.

Brown and the Wizards, though, are not concerned about his potential to develop an outside shot in the long-term. Brown addressed the issue after his pre-draft workout with the Wizards earlier this month and cited a very specific reason not to worry.

"I don’t think it was my mechanics. I think it was my shot selection this year," he said. "Some of the shots I was taking weren’t very good. It’s about repetition, getting in the gym and putting up shots. I feel like I’ve been doing a good job showcasing that and I feel like a lot of teams are impressed with my shooting."

Brown knocked down plenty of shots in his workout with the Wizards. That helped convince them to select him at No. 15, as they see a guy with potential to become at least a serviceable shooter from long range.

“We’re very confident that we can improve it," head coach Scott Brooks said. "From what I understand, he’s very coachable and he wants to get better. That’s a big part of the step in developing a young player."

Team president Ernie Grunfeld seemed to agree with Brown's personal assessment, that it's not a problem with his mechanics per se. Surely they will tinker with his shot once he gets in their development system. But they don't see the need for a dramatic overhaul.

"He's got a nice stroke," Grunfeld said. "Obviously, when you're a freshman coming up to another level there are different things you have to work on, and we have a really good player development staff and we're going to get him to work right away."

Players of Brown's ilk developing an outside shot at the NBA level is more common than many may think. Just because someone isn't a good shooter in one college season, doesn't mean they will never be able to develop the skill once they mature as a man and a basketball player.

Though Brown's scoring repertoire may seem limited, plenty of players have gone from rags to riches offensively at the professional level. Brown may have to begin his NBA career helping in other ways, like on the defensive end, before his scoring abilities round into form.

Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler could be seen as a best-case scenario example. He made only 36 threes in three years in college and shot just 35.3 percent as a junior. When he was Brown's age, as a freshman he averaged only 5.6 points, and as an NBA rookie he shot just 18.2 percent from three.

Through years of hard work, Butler turned himself into a 20-point scorer with a respectable outside shot, including a career-beset 37.8 percent from three in the 2014-15 season. Some guys take more time than others. At only 18 years old, Brown has plenty of time to figure it out.


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How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

While meeting with Oregon's Troy Brown during the pre-draft interview process, evaluators from the Washington Wizards issued him an on-the-spot challenge. Head coach Scott Brooks pulled out a dry-erase clipboard and a pen. He wanted to see Brown draw up a play.

This is a test Brooks has administered before to other players. Some have failed miserably.

"It sounds easy to throw a board at somebody in front of a big group and say 'okay draw a play' and I have seen many plays drawn, and I have seen it where there are not five players on the floor," Brooks said.

That wasn't the case with Brown. He didn't just draw up one play, he drew up several. One in particular came to mind when asked by reporters on Thursday night soon after the Wizards took him 15th overall in the first round of the NBA Draft.

“I think it was a situation where we were down by two or something like that," he said. "It was like a back screen into a slip, and then the fade three and they gave you a lot of various options to cause mismatches on the court for a last minute shot to either go ahead, or even attack the basket for a layup to go into overtime.”

NBC Sports Washington analyst Cory Alexander, a veteran of seven NBA seasons, demonstrated what Brown's play looked like on a whiteboard:

The Xs and Os of basketball flow effortlessly for Brown and Wizards' brass couldn't help but be impressed.

"He really understands the game. I think for a kid that is 18 years old, that is rare but he just has a good feel," Brooks said. 

"We were impressed with his character and the type of person he is and his basketball knowledge," team president Ernie Grunfeld said. "Obviously, like any young player, he has a lot of work to do but he has a lot of the intangibles that I think you need in today's game."

Smarts are a big part of what makes Brown a good basketball player. He isn't a particularly explosive athlete, with a modest 33-inch max vertical leap, but he boasts a 6-foot-10 wingspan and solid agility. Being in the right place at the right time and knowing how to operate an offense helps him make the most of his natural abilities.

Passing is where his basketball IQ comes in handy. Brown is unusually good at distributing for a 6-foot-7 small forward. He averaged 3.2 assists as a freshman at Oregon and nine times had five assists or more in a game.

He can pass like a point guard and the Wizards are excited to implement that skill into their offense.

"Passing is contagious. We’ve been pretty good the last two years and with talking about that how we even want to take another step," Brooks said. "He has the ability to make a lot of quick plays and his ball handling is pretty good for a guy his size. That is one thing I was impressed in his workout last week or when we had him. He is able to take the contact and use his strong frame to get inside the key and make plays.”


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