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Morning tip: Adjustments for Wizards that worked best in Game 5 vs. Hawks

Morning tip: Adjustments for Wizards that worked best in Game 5 vs. Hawks

The Hawks had made their share of adjustments to get the series even with the Wizards, but Scott Brooks came up with his share of tweaks for a 103-99 win in Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead.

Game 6 is in Atlanta on Friday, and there are only so many different wrinkles that they can throw at each other as each team has held serve on their home floor. 

A look at the key ones that have taken place:

-- Doubling Paul Millsap. For the first time the Wizards did it. They got results as John Wall got the strip and a foul on Millsap and Beal came over for a block with 1:36 left

-- Bradley Beal running the offense. There hadn't been much of it, but there was more when he shared the floor with Brandon Jennings.

-- Jennings taking advantage of Jose Calderon. He stayed in front of Calderon rather than gambling for steals and actually got one for a quick layup by moving his feet laterally and staying in front of the 35-year-old backup. 

[RELATED: VIDEO: Wall throws down huge dunk vs. Hawks in Game 5]

-- Marcin Gortat vs. Millsap. For the second time in a fourth quarter, the big did the job on the power forward, including in space. Millsap shot 2-for-9 in the pivotal fourth. Gortat had to face DeMarcus Cousins in a similar situation and the Wizards beat the Kings despite Cousins' 36 points. It took him 34 shots. While Millsap is an All-Star, he's not as big as Cousins or Karl-Anthony Towns who Gortat also defended in similar situations.

-- Markieff Morris briefly at the five. It didn't last long because of foul trouble but he can match up with Dwight Howard as long as there's help defense. When the Wizards fell down 34-27, they soon tied it with a 7-0 run and Morris appeared for the tail end of the spurt. Howard didn't create any damage in the matchup. Morris did pick up his third foul and had to go to the bench but Gortat had returned to the game by then. That foul on Howard came on help and not 1 vs. 1. If Morris can avoid foul trouble, this can be a matchup that bears fruit. In Game 1, Howard was caught defending Morris away from the rim and was faced up off the dribble and he had to be taken off the floor.   

-- Wing action between Beal and Otto Porter. The two best three-point shooters on the team only need a slither of space to get off a high-percentage look from deep. Porter got two of them to start the third quarter. Beal and Bojan Bogdanovic had some in the fourth that produced Gortat's only field goal as the defense was preoccupied with them off the ball and didn't recongize Gortat's slip to the rim on Wall's drive. 

-- Kelly Oubre's ball pressure. It was disruptive in the fourth on the wing as he was used there instead of on the ball with Schroder. Tim Hardaway, Taurean Prince and Kent Bazemore combined to shoot 3-for-18 from the arc. Oubre finding his way onto Schroder could be coming in Game 6 to slow down the hot-handed point guard who made 5 of 6 three-pointers.

[RELATED: Wall's cape makes strong case for wildest outfit of playoffs]

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Despite place in standings, Wizards believe playoffs aren't a pipe dream

Despite place in standings, Wizards believe playoffs aren't a pipe dream

WASHINGTON -- This may be the most realistic and self-aware Wizards team we have seen in a while. It wasn't long ago they had a penchant for talking big about what they believed they could accomplish. Nowadays, knowing where they are in the standings, their expectations are much more measured.

They know they are 12th in the Eastern Conference, even after beating the Pistons on Monday. They know their 14-28 record, which is 14 games under .500 and has them on pace to win 27 total games, isn't good.

But the Wizards are allowed to dream and they say making the playoffs is still something they would like to do.

"That's the goal, that's every day for us. [It's] in the back of my mind," shooting guard Bradley Beal said.

"I watch the games, I watch the standings and everything. We're not talking about it," head coach Scott Brooks said. "If that comes into play [we'll see]. The seventh and eighth seeds, the records aren't great."

There is certainly a case for that. The two teams currently occupying the bottom two playoff spots in the East have sub-.500 records. The seventh-ranked Magic are 20-23 and the Brooklyn Nets are in eighth with an 18-24 mark.

Last season, the Charlotte Hornets held up the Eastern Conference playoff bracket with a losing record as the eighth seed. They went 39-43, not good but still a much better pace than the Wizards are currently on. To win 39 games, they would have to go 25-16 the rest of the way.

Though they have shown some positive signs, going 4-4 in their last eight games, that would require going to a completely different level in the second half of the season. Still, there is no harm in maintaining their goals.

Beal, for one, has envisioned a way it can happen.

"Especially once All-Star hits, that second half is just flying. We have to tighten up and try to get some wins here before the break because that's usually the time when teams like to ease off the pedal a little bit. We have to take advantage of [that], that advantage of our schedule, take care of our bodies, and rally together," he said.

If the Wizards really, really wanted to go for the playoffs, they could try to add some pieces before the Feb. 6 trade deadline. But that should not be expected. In fact, this year's deadline for the Wizards likely won't be affected much at all by the playoff picture.

It's hard to envision them being buyers and they may not be able to be true sellers, either, due to injuries and other factors. Also, there is a belief in the front office that keeping a close distance in the playoff race could be a nice incentive for their young players, that having something to work for later in the season could help their development.

If the Wizards did somehow make the playoffs or even get close, that would be quite the surprise and it would say a lot about the direction of the organization. But in the long-term, it would seem to be more beneficial if they continue on their current course and end up with a top draft pick.

The Wizards right now have the fifth-worst record in the league. That would net them a lot of ping-pong balls for the draft lottery.

It seems likely that's where this season will end. But it doesn't hurt to try.

"We just want to play. We just want to finish the second half of the season playing better," Brooks said.

The Wizards are only 4 1/2 games back in the playoff race. Stranger things have happened.

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Yu Darvish lauds Rui Hachimura for 'exceptional' accomplish playing in the NBA

Yu Darvish lauds Rui Hachimura for 'exceptional' accomplish playing in the NBA

Rui Hachimura has attracted the best athletes Japan has to offer in his rookie season in the NBA. 

From Shohei Ohtani to Naomi Osaka, Hachimura has impressed both on and off the floor, including Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish. He stopped by to see Hachimura's Wizards beat the Pistons Monday. 

"That's right," Darvish said to the Wizards' Japanese website. "We are going to dinner after the game so I stopped by."

Darvish and Hachimura are represented by the same agency and are two of the biggest Japanese stars in American sports. Darvish has had two down years with the Cubs in 2018 and 2019, but he's still considered one of the best pitchers to ever come out of Japan. 

Hachimura, while sidelined with a groin injury, flashed plenty of potential as a rookie for the Wizards. Before going down, he was averaging 13.9 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 48.2 percent. 

Darvish admitted he didn't know much about basketball, not even what stats are good to use. But he only cares that Hachimura is having fun. 

Selected with the ninth pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Hachimura became the first Japanese born player to be drafted in the top-10. Japan has produced a number of great baseball players but hasn't been able to produce as many hoopers. 

"You don't have to be tall or big to play baseball," Darvish said. "But when it comes to basketball, you have to be tall and athletic and contribute to the team on a nightly basis. I think what he's accomplishing is more exceptional."

Scott Brooks isn't sure if Hachimura will return before the beginning of February and the team has yet to provide a timetable beyond that. Hopefully, we'll see him back on the floor soon because an entire country outside of the US is watching and can't get enough. 

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