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Morning tip: Beal came up with Wizards' 'all-black' idea, and delivered

Morning tip: Beal came up with Wizards' 'all-black' idea, and delivered

The Wizards did something on Tuesday night that is rather remarkable for a regular season game. By announcing publicly they would wear all black before their matchup with the Celtics, then following through on that promise with a full and organized effort, they set an expectation for themselves that could have gone horribly wrong. After the message they sent, the potential for a massive embarrassment was there.

The all-black initiative made national news and if they had lost, there would have been many jokes at their expense. Yet, instead of succumbing to all of the pressure they laid forth by themselves, the Wizards answered the call. They walked the walk and came away with one of their more impressive wins of the season, a 123-108 beatdown of Boston.

Perhaps nobody had more on the line than Bradley Beal, who came up with the idea in the first place. When the Wizards needed him most, in the fourth quarter, he stepped up and rose to the challenge he and his teammate had set.

After the Celtics chopped the Wizards' lead to eight points in the fourth quarter, Beal scored 11 of their next 13 in just over three minutes. Included in that was an emphatic slam dunk on a fastbreak and a tough and-1 layup over Marcus Smart, the same player who broke Beal's nose almost a year prior to date.

Beal sized him up, conquered him, then directed a few words his way right after. It was a side rarely seen from the mostly stoic Beal.

"Everybody's different. I play with a lot of emotion," point guard John Wall said. "That's just how I play the game. Brad is more of a quiet guy who doesn't say too much. But he was into the game. You could tell it was a big game for him. He enjoyed it and played big for us in the fourth quarter."

[RELATED: 5 (10) must-see moments from Wizards' wild win over Celtics]

"We knew what this game was," Beal said. "We all had it circled last time we played them. Both teams. It was a competitive game, but I am glad we were able to dominate.”

Beal, who finished with a game-high 31 points on 12-of-18 shooting, said there is a simple reason why he locked in for the fourth quarter.

"I wanted to win. I wanted this win bad especially to keep our home streak going," he said after the Wizards' 14th straight victory at the Verizon Center.

Beal has spoken often this season about the Wizards' home crowd. He insists it is a big reason why they are among the best home teams in basketball. 

“It was awesome, man. It was awesome," he said. "They have been terrific all year and they continue to support us, each and every game. I do not know if they know, but we constantly feed off their energy. Them being loud and kind of buzzing them on offense and when we get the ball, you can barely hear yourself think, so it is great to be able to get it going and emotions are high, man."

The Wizards swept their back-to-back set with their win over Boston and a victory the night before against the Hornets. It was in Charlotte that Beal broke out of what was the worst shooting slump of his career. He missed 20 straight threes for the first time as an NBA player and before the Hornets game had shot 28.6 percent from the field in his previous three games.

Now that seems like a distant memory. Beal hit the 30-mark in points on Tuesday for the seventh time this year after only getting there once last season. He went 2-for-5 from three and also added five assists and two steals. 

The NBA's All-Star team reserves are announced on Thursday and Beal's head coach thinks he should be included.

"You know what? He’s a good player. The other 14 coaches are going to have to make a tough decision on who makes the All-Star team, but he’s as good as any guard in the East and, hopefully, they see that like I get to see it every day in practice and every night we play," Scott Brooks said.

[RELATED: Wizards walk the walk: Is it a rivalry now?]

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Wizards' three-point defense continues to stand out as a major weakness

Wizards' three-point defense continues to stand out as a major weakness

With the 30th-ranked defense in the NBA, the Wizards have more than one issue on that end of the floor, but lately what has stood out most is a familiar problem.

Three-point defense remains a major weakness for the Wizards, who have had trouble guarding the perimeter going back to last season. It killed them in their overtime loss to the Heat on Wednesday night, as Miami made 17 threes and shot 51.5 percent on their 33 attempts. 

We can focus on Bradley Beal's late-game misses, or the free throw shot disparity. But the biggest reason the Wizards lost to the Heat was their inability to prevent three-point shots.

Even the guys everyone knows can shoot found little resistance. Tyler Herro made 7-of-9 from long range, Duncan Robinson hit 4-of-7 and Kelly Olynyk went 2-for-3.

If your goal is to stop the Heat, who are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the NBA, from making them, you circle those names at the top of the scouting report. The Wizards knew it was coming and still couldn't stop it.

This came two games after the Toronto Raptors made 22 threes against the Wizards, the third-most ever allowed in their franchise history. And on the season, the Wizards currently allow the ninth-highest three-point percentage (36.9) and the sixth-most threes made (12.3) on average.

Last season it was also an issue, as they gave up the fifth-highest three-point percentage (34.1). Much of their personnel is different, yet the same problems persist.

The Wizards may not be able to do much about it this season, barring major changes at the trade deadline. They are only going to be so good at stopping threes with Isaiah Thomas as their starting point guard. Backup Ish Smith, though much more mobile than Thomas, is also at a size disadvantage.

They are simply going to be limited by the way their roster is constructed. In the front office's defense, they had to change a lot last offseason and couldn't fix it all. They made the Wizards younger, more financially flexible and a more efficient offensive team. But they didn't do much to fix the defense and, in fact, it has gotten worse by almost every measure.

Defense will clearly be a major priority going into this summer, if their current pace continues. There will, however, be no easy fix for their three-point defense.

They will need to get a more defensive-minded point guard, assuming Thomas doesn't come back. Maybe John Wall can help their cause when he returns. He is a former All-Defensive selection with the size and length to be a good three-point defender. But he hasn't exactly been consistent in that department throughout his career.

These days, three-point defense is about much more than guards. Teams can roll out lineups with five players who can stretch the floor. The Wizards will need to add big men to their rotation who are nimble enough to man the perimeter.

Perhaps the best way the Wizards can plug some holes in their three-point defense is by their young forwards learning how to be more disruptive. Their two most recent first round picks, Troy Brown Jr. and Rui Hachimura, each have plus wingspans and have flashed solid defensive instincts. The Wizards need them to be able to step out and alter outside shots.

It will be a challenge for general manager Tommy Sheppard and the Wizards front office as they go into this summer trying to take the roster to another level. When healthy, the team has shown they can score. But they don't play defense anywhere close to good enough to be a winning team.

What they have to do is figure out a way to infuse the team with capable defenders without sacrificing much in the way of their offense. They won't be able to cure all of their ills overnight, but they could start on the perimeter.

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Bradley Beal still feels 'disrespected' by referees

Bradley Beal still feels 'disrespected' by referees

Back in December following a tough loss to the Clippers, Bradley Beal's frustration with the referees boiled over. 

"Honestly, [my frustration] is out the roof," Beal said that night. "It really is. It's really unfair and unacceptable that they allow a lot of stuff to go on with me out there and I do not calls. Period. It's just unacceptable."

Everything for the Wizards' offense this season starts and ends with Beal, and while he's averaging career-best scoring numbers, he remains frustrated at how he doesn't get to the foul line enough. 

In a 134-129 loss to the Heat Wednesday night, Beal went off for 38 points on 16-24 shooting to go with nine rebounds and four assists. He only had four free throw attempts, resulting in another postgame riff about how he and his team aren't officiated the same as others. 

“It’s kind of sad the way we get disrespected," he said. "Especially myself getting disrespected like I do because I attack the basket.”

Among 32 players who average at least 20 points, Beal ranks ninth in free throw attempts per game. The Wizards themselves are 14th in the NBA in free throw attempts per game. 

What had Beal particularly upset was not getting the whistle when he aggressively attacked the basket in the game's final moments.

"You can look at my last three drives and I got fouled on all three of them," he said. 

The NBA doesn't typically tolerate players and coaches openly criticizing referees after games. Beal knows he could be fined for his comments, so it shows just how frustrated the two-time All-Star is with how he's being called this season. 

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