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Film study: How Wizards have taken away Isaiah Thomas from Celtics

Film study: How Wizards have taken away Isaiah Thomas from Celtics

Defenses in the NBA are about a system. They change pending the opponent in an 82-game season. The same goes for a seven-game playoff series. Just because Player A scores 53 points doesn't mean Player B opposite of him allowed that.

Usually, it's a system fail. In the last two games of their series with the Boston Celtics, the Wizards have succeeded in bottling up Isaiah Thomas, who had 53 in an epic comeback overtime win in Game 2, and holding him to less than 20 points for the second time in a row. 

A lot of it was 1 vs. 1 defense that funneled the 5-9 point guard into the eye of the storm, closing off the rim and forcing him to either shoot over 6-11 Marcin Gortat, 6-10 Markieff Morris and try to turn the corner on handoffs and screens vs. 6-4 Bradley Beal who outweighs him by 25 points, too.

Thomas only got up eight shots in a 27-point loss in Game 3. He only took 14 in a 19-point loss in Game 4. 

This is how the Wizards are getting these results, and that included taking Thomas to task on the other end by making him defend. Gone are the coverages 2 vs. 2 coverages in pick-and-rolls where they allow him to get into the paint and pull up to shoot over the big and hoping he misses. No more going under on screens and handoffs. And they're adding an extra body in the mix and taking away his space to operate:

 

Beal's pressure stops the ball near half-court. Thomas doesn't get a full head of steam to run at the defense. The resistances keeps the ball out of the operational zone and the Wizards can live with Marcus Smart running the offense instead while Avery Bradley takes the shot.

Beal locks and trails off the screen to deny the pull-up three but Gortat also denies Thomas from getting to his strong hand. He prefers to drive left and finish with his left at the rim. Notice how Thomas is forced to stay on his right hand but as he jumps he's so left-hand dominant that he pulls the ball back into the big rather than using his right hand to protect the ball. Gortat wisely doesn't even try to block the shot which could illicit a whistle. He lives with the result that's a bad miss.

Beal doesn't accept the screen from Smart. He fights over the first pindown and Otto Porter comes to help with containment while keeping Marcus Smart in his sights. When the ball is reversed, Porter makes a late, hard closeout of Smart, who puts the ball on the floor, which isn't his strength, and turns it over.

Despite Thomas' claims that he was being held constantly -- similar to Beal after Games 1 and 2 when Smart, Bradley and Jaylen Brown were all over him -- he wasn't being stopped from moving off the ball. It's just that refs are less likely to call fouls off the ball if the grabs aren't prolonged. Beal keeps his hands on Thomas so he never loses connectivity. He still gets the ball but when Thomas gets in the paint he's surrounded by three bodies. That forces the ball out of the danger zone and when Gortat switches out to prevent the three-point look by Thomas the Celtics get confused and end up with a 24-second shot clock violation instead.

Beal is into the ball yet again. The deflection throws off Boston's timing. When Amir Johnson comes up to screen, the spacing is gone. The Celtics need his size but he doesn't spread the defense. The Wizards can trap the ball aggressively off him in the screen-and-roll action because the chances of him getting the ball and finishing aren't good.

Earlier in the series, Gortat was allowing Thomas to split the trap which left the defense exposed in the middle. Porter recovers to force the ball out of Thomas' hands, and when he gets it back and into the paint, Morris is standing in between him and the rim because, again, Johnson, is a liability. And Morris' length prevents the pass from getting through anyway.

Thomas initiates the contact and falls. Beal doesn't trip him. Beal doesn't reach. This isn't a foul. Beal doesn't play for steals or blocks. He plays for position, which makes him a likely better option on Thomas than Wall or Kelly Oubre.

This play was developing so slowly thanks to the pressure defense and Gortat's containment, Porter came from under the basket to jump the passing lane. Thomas has trouble playing through contact and length.

On the other end, this is all day for Beal as long as he makes the right read. Post and repost until he gets better position. If Al Horford commits too soon to help, it's an easy pass back in the two-man game with Morris for a wide-open three.

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Former Wizard Marcin Gortat announces retirement

Former Wizard Marcin Gortat announces retirement

Long-time NBA veteran, and former Wizard, Marcin Gortat is retiring from the NBA, the center announced in a video via the Polish news station TVP.

At 35-years old, the big man had been out of the league this season following spending 2018-19 with the Los Angeles Clippers. In the video, Gortat mentioned that he gave himself the year off to weigh his options, and he now realizes it is the right time to hang it up.

A 12-year career, the "Polish Hammer" was a consistent and reliable force down low for the four teams he played for. Some of his best years came in D.C. with the Wizards. In five seasons with Washington from 2013-18, Gortat averaged at least 10 points in four seasons and played in at least 75 games in all five campaigns. 

His time with the Wizards also included three trips to the postseason. Gortat was traded to the Clippers for Austin Rivers following the 2018 season and was waived in February of 2019. 

An intense competitor, some NBA players have already begun to share their appreciation for Gortat, and more are sure to chime in.

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Florida Gators mascot weighs in on Bradley Beal's All-Star snub

Florida Gators mascot weighs in on Bradley Beal's All-Star snub

On the eve of the NBA All-Star game, Bradley Beal attended a basketball game at his alma mater instead of preparing for the NBA All-Star game. 

Beal, of course, was not named an All-Star despite displaying the highest scoring average ever for a player not named to the league's midseason exhibition. 

Beal felt disrespected by it, his fiancee Kamiah Adams and his agent Mark Bartelstein were certainly mad about it, Moe Wagner faulted himself and the rest of the Wizards for the All-Star snub.

You can now include the University of Florida mascot as someone who's less than pleased with the NBA's head coaches for failing to vote Beal in as an All-Star reserve. 

In a tweet from Adams, Albert the Gator is holding up a sign that says, "Bradley Beal should be an All-Star. #SNUBBED."

Beal spent his freshman season playing at Florida before he was drafted third overall by the Wizards in 2012. 

Whether you think Beal was snubbed or believe winning should be valued more than counting stats, it's hard to ignore just how many people have made it clear they disagree with Beal's exclusion from All-Star weekend. 

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