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Film study: How Wizards' 2 best players get everyone else open

Film study: How Wizards' 2 best players get everyone else open

A stat sheet doesn't tell you who is the better or best players on the floor. How the game is played, and recongition given by opponents, say it all. When Stephen Curry isn't trusted to guard fellow point guard Kyrie Irving in the fourth quarter, it tells you what coach Steve Kerr thinks of his guy's defense. 

When Irving isn't trusted to defend Mike Conley of the Memphis Grizzlies, also a point guard, and is hidden against the offensively challenged Tony Allen, that tells you what Cavs coach Ty Lue truly thinks of his guy's defense.

When defenses commit 2-3 defenders to John Wall and Bradley Beal, they all know who the two best players are for the Wizards. They still combined for 40 points in a 107-102 win vs. the Milwaukee Bucks, and even though Otto Porter and Markieff Morris combined for 50 points that doesn't change anything.

The worst-case scenario came to fruition for the Bucks: They took away the strong suits for Wall (dribble penetration) and Beal (three-point shooting) but the duo still scored and combined for 21 assists while the role players in Porter and Morris shot 20-for-29 from the field, including 6-for-11 from three-point range, to go with 17 rebounds.

All of it is a product of what the defense was willing to give up. Sometimes the philosphy in a given game, particularly when teams see each other often, is to mix it up. An opponent will see a little bit of everything and not the same coverage time after time.

"I think last night was probably the worst it's been," Beal, who shot just 5-for-14, said of the coverages by Milwaukee. "Every time I caught the ball I had two guys on me. It's different but it's a sign of respect, too."

If the role players being left open are able to make shots, the better players (Wall and Beal) eventually will get theirs. And they did. Beal was able to score 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter. Wall had five points and four assists in the final 12 minutes:

 

If Morris doesn't bother to set this pindown and just walks to the front of the rim, he still gets the bucket. The Bucks treat him as if he were invisible. They clogged the paint on Wall, took away Beal's open look from three and all that's required is the right read being made by Marcin Gortat and Morris making himself available. Gortat's dive is shorcut by the help and Morris is deeper than all five defenders. 

Beal simply catching this ball attracts the eyes of every defender. Morris makes the correct the read as he slips baseline behind Malcolm Brogdon. It's another example of why moving off the ball and not just being stationary can catch the defense on its heels. But it's not movement here for the sake of movement. It's timing and spacing.

Porter is left unattended on this push by Wall. See where the defense is set. They've packed the paint to keep Wall from the rim. John Henson recognizes too late as he sinks too deep on Gortat. If Porter opted to make the extra pass, Gortat had a dive to the basket, too. 

The screen roll between Wall and Gortat is stonewalled. Wall can't get into the paint because he's double-teamed. Gortat can't get to the rim because Tony Snell leaves Morris to stop him. But Gortat looks over the top on catch and finds Morris behind the deepest defender for the finish. 

The ball is kept from Beal in this floppy set. But while the initial rotations are good from Milwaukee as it kept the ball from going to the weakside, Morris is able to pass out of the double-team. Jabari Parker opts to go for the steal on Gortat -- this is where gambling for steals is a liability that compromises teammates -- over playing position defense. He whiffs, and that opens up the ball reversal to Beal as he's closed out by Snell. The extra pass to his right to Porter results in his fifth three-pointer of the game for a two-possesion lead with 49 seconds left. Henson's close out is too late. 

RELATED: Porter finds bottom of net as Wizards' next scoring option

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Wizards team doctor on how long it would take to get players back into game shape

Wizards team doctor on how long it would take to get players back into game shape

Whether the NBA will resume its 2019-20 regular season remains a question as the world continues to avoid public gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic. League commissioner Adam Silver said this week a decision on if or when NBA games will next be played will come no sooner than May 1.

That presents a tricky dynamic for the teams and players. There are a lot of factors at play as they try to stay ready to return to action, if need be.

The Wizards have been using a variety of resources including video calls and remote assistance for training and nutrition. Dr. Daniel Medina, Monumental Basketball’s Chief of Athlete Care and Performance, recently joined the team's 'Off the Bench' podcast to explain that process.

He was asked what it would take to get the Wizards geared up to play games after the long layoff, which as of now is at about a month. He said it could take two weeks or more.

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“Let’s not forget, these are young, healthy athletes,” Medina said. “With the proper stimulus, they will be ready in a short period of time…As you all know, and as every basketball fan knows, the biggest challenge is, at this point when you stop, is tendon issues and chronic joint issues. In that sense, the program that we have put together, and a lot of credit to our PTs, let’s have our guys not lose much muscle, have those tendons ready to be uploaded and if we’re given two or three weeks to ramp up, we’ll be ready to do it.”

Medina said he believes the Wizards have been "super successful" at keeping the players active and engaged. But he also noted how the uncertainty of a return date complicates matters: “How do we manage to work through and understand a scenario where we don’t really know?”

Medina shared plenty more details about the Wizards' efforts to continue operating while quarantined. You can listen to the full podcast here.

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The Vault: Looking back at Bullets-Sixers Game 5 of the 1986 NBA Playoffs

The Vault: Looking back at Bullets-Sixers Game 5 of the 1986 NBA Playoffs

After a two-week break for paternity leave, it's time to spin the dial, line up the combination numbers and re-open the vault. Earlier in the NBA's hiatus, we looked back at Bullets playoff games from the 1970s and the 1990s. Today, we go to the 1980s and revisit Game 5 of the 1986 first-round playoff series between the Washington Bullets and the Philadelphia 76ers.

Now, this is a game that older Bullets fans likely wouldn't want to relive. The Bullets not only lost the game, they got blown out, and it ended their season.

But it was also an interesting snapshot into an era of the NBA and of Bullets basketball and, in a way, it encapsulated what the Bullets were in the 1980s. They made the playoffs five straight years from 1983 to 1988 and lost in the first round each time. 

In 1986, the Bullets won only 39 games, yet they were the sixth seed. It was an especially bad year in the Eastern Conference, so bad that the Chicago Bulls set an NBA record that still stands as the worst team to ever make the playoffs. They were 30-52.

The Bullets won Game 1 against the Sixers, but fell on the road in Game 5 when basically all of their best players didn't show up. It was a major letdown.

But it was still a basketball time capsule worth looking back on. Here are five takeaways including pictures and GIFs of the best moments...

Bol's network debut

The NBA back then was not even close to what it is now in terms of worldwide reach. It was not far removed from the NBA Finals playing on tape delay and very few games were broadcast nationally. Usually, those national games featured teams like the Lakers and Celtics, not the Washington Bullets.

So this particular game marked the first time Manute Bol played on network television. The Bullets rookie was a person of intrigue because at 7-foot-6, he was the tallest player in NBA history at the time. Remember, this was before Gheorghe Muresan, Shawn Bradley and Yao Ming. 

Bol was also a fascinating player because as a rookie he led the league in blocked shots with a ridiculous average of 5.0 per game. He averaged more blocks than he did points (3.7). 

Bol playing in his network debut was a big part of the broadcast with color commentator Tommy Heinsohn remarking pregame that "when [Bol] first joined the NBA, a lot of people thought it was for freak value." Heinsohn, though, went on to twice compare Bol's rim-protecting prowess to Bill Russell.

Heinsohn also said later in the game the Bullets training staff put the roster through a strength exam and Bol tested at the level of "a child." He was tall, but extremely skinny, listed at just 200 pounds. And his thin frame was a major disadvantage against Sixers superstar Charles Barkley.

Despite being a foot shorter, Barkley absolutely dominated Bol in this game with his strength and low center of gravity.

Bol had zero points, two rebounds and one block in the game.

Bol had a song

To further illustrate the spectacle that Bol's network debut was, CBS aired a music video for him at halftime. It was called 'Bol-tending' and it was the type of video that was for some reason commonplace around sports in the 1980s and 90s.

Custom rap songs about teams and players were all the rage back then and even as a rookie, Bol had one complete with a killer saxophone solo.

The 80s were in full force

The Bol video was just one example of the remarkable 80s-ness of this game and the broadcast. There were so many things that may have been cool at the time that just aren't that cool anymore.

Like, this starting lineup graphic. It looks like a Prince album cover.

There were also a few hairstyles you just never see in today's NBA. There was the let-it-flow male pattern baldness of Gus Williams:

There was also Jeff Ruland's full and glorious mustache, which made him look like a cop who went undercover as an NBA player:

And you had Tom McMillen's moppy gray hair that made him look like a middle school science teacher:

It seems worth noting that Just For Men didn't come out until 1987, the year after this game was played. And this was actually McMillen's final NBA game. He had already announced his retirement and made it known he was going to run for U.S. Congress as soon as his playing career was over. They mentioned it twice on the broadcast.

Imagine a current NBA player's farewell tour including that as his next step. McMillen, who was a Rhodes Scholar before playing in the NBA, would win that election and two more to serve three terms in the House of Representatives hailing from Maryland's 4th District.

Sixers were loaded with stars

The Sixers had one of the most star-studded NBA teams ever assembled in 1985-86, though some of those stars were up there in age and not the players they once were. They had a whopping five Hall of Famers. That included Barkley, Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Bob McAdoo and Maurice Cheeks. 

Malone and McAdoo didn't play in this game due to injuries, Malone because of a fractured eye socket (ouch). But the other three had their way with the Bullets in Game 5.

Barkely, in particular, was unstoppable. He had a triple-double with 19 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists. And he just jumped off the screen as the best player on the floor.

This was a different era where a lot of the players weren't athletic or skilled enough to hang in today's game. But it is pretty obvious Barkley would still be a star. He was just unbelievably powerful and fast in the open floor.

Dr. J still had it

Erving may have been 35 years old, but he was still one of the best athletes on the court. He made a series of plays that were reminiscent of the ageless wonder we see these days in LeBron James.

Erving had a few vicious dunks that did not look like a guy at the end of his career:

And this one play where he leapt over the press section really stood out:

The NBA has come a long way since the 80s, but Barkley and Dr. J were both before their time. And the Bullets may now be the Wizards, but they are still waiting to break through in the playoffs, even decades later.

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