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Morning tip: Being more active as screener opens floor for Bradley Beal

Morning tip: Being more active as screener opens floor for Bradley Beal

Among the better ways for the Wizards to get their best shooter open shots, meaning Bradley Beal, is to have him doing what so many others do for him. Set screens.

After his 42-point outburst in Monday's win over the Phoenix Suns to set a career-high, Beal was as active as he has been all season in flex action -- screening for screener on the weakside of the floor. A lot of times when the shooting guard is stagnant, being stationary, he'll become forgotten in the offense. That also makes him easier to take away for the defense.  

More recently, including his 34 points in a loss to the Miami Heat over the weekend, Beal taken it upon himself to be more involved in the offense even if he's being a decoy. 

"Whenever I have a chance to screen somebody, cause a switch or cause confusion, I do," said Beal on Tuesday after practice. "It's just a natural play. Just playing basketball. Playing free. Guards sets screens too and it confuses teams. Some teams switch. Some teams don't. That's where a lot of miscommunication comes in too, when there's a guard-on-guard screen or a guard-on-big screen. I utilize it. Utilize my body. I'm not afraid of hitting anybody."

Devin Booker led the Suns with 30 points. Part of why he has flourished in his second NBA season is he'll screen for their big man, Alex Len. It's not a play design. Booker does it voluntarily to create movement. Beal has more freedom in Scott Brooks' offense is starting to do more of that, too. 

He set screens for John Wall only to reverse his way off a cut back to the ball as Marcin Gortat responded by screening for him. When a defense has to make decisions on who to chase and with whom is where breakdowns occur that can produce higher-percentage shots. 

Brooks lauded the screening of Gortat contributing to Beal's breakout game Monday. Like Beal, Gortat made a lot of correct reads as they freestyled on offense. When the big opposing big man defending Gortat (Alan Williams) sank too deep on the pick-and-roll with Beal, effectively taking away the dive to the basket for Gortat, they'd start over. Beal would back off and allow Gortat to reset the screen. Then when Beal would run the pick-and-roll he had more room to operate as he settles in that pocket between the two defenders for an open jumper or just attack the rim.

"When that happens, we just tell March to hold his screen a little bit longer. Hold our guy a while espeically if they're all the way in the paint," Beal said. "It gives us the opportunity to attack the big one-on-one and if we do miss he's there to follow up on the guard with a rebound. We definitely try to do that, especially on pindowns."

MORE WIZARDS: STATE OF THE WIZARDS: LIMITING TURNOVERS, OCHEFU GIVES BACK

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Scott Brooks isn't sure if Rui Hachimura will return before February

Scott Brooks isn't sure if Rui Hachimura will return before February

Rui Hachimura is set to miss his 16th straight game with a groin injury, and his return to the court doesn't seem close. 

Before the Wizards took on the Raptors Friday night, head coach Scott Brooks said he wasn't sure if Hachimura would return before the start of February. 

Previously, Hachimura was set scheduled to be reevaluated in mid-January, so it appears after that checkpoint, the Wizards aren't ready to bring back their promising young forward. 

Hachimura originally sustained the injury by accidentally getting kicked in the groin by teammate Isaac Bonga on December 16. Before going down, Hachimura was flashing plenty of promise as a versatile offensive weapon at the power forward spot. 

As one of the top rookies in the game before the injury, Hachimura seemed like a lock to play in the NBA's Rookie-Sophomore game at All-Star weekend. That's about a month away, so this new timeline would put Hachimura's availability for that game in doubt. 

Davis Bertans, Isaac Bonga and Ian Mahinmi have helped fill in for the rookie, but in a season where development was arguably more important than winning, the Wizards and Hachimura caught a really tough break with this injury. 

In the meantime, Washington will have their hands full with Pascal Siakam and the defending champion Raptors on the road. 

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Real marquee matchup: Bradley Beal, Wizards need to contain Pascal Siakam, Raptors' three-point shooting

Real marquee matchup: Bradley Beal, Wizards need to contain Pascal Siakam, Raptors' three-point shooting

The two main, overarching reasons why the Toronto Raptors have remained as good as they are even after losing Kawhi Leonard in free agency are their defense and their three-point shooting. The continued development of Pascal Siakam into a budding star has received most of the acclaim, but as a collective, those two areas are what make the Raptors tick.

Toronto is second in the NBA in defensive rating (104.5) and fifth in points allowed (105.6). They also give up the second-lowest field goal percentage (42.6) in the league.

The three-point line, though, is where the focus should be on Friday night as the Wizards battle the Raptors in Toronto (7 pm on NBC Sports Washington) for the second time this season. Because in the Wizards, the Raptors will aim to take advantage of a team that struggles defending the perimeter. Washington is 23rd among NBA teams in opponent three-point percentage (36.5) and 19th in threes allowed (12.1). 

The Wizards will have their hands full with a multitude of Raptors shooters. Siakam knocks down 39.1 percent of his threes on 6.2 attempts per game. Norman Powell is a 40.8 percent three-point shooter, averaging 4.9 attempts.

OG Anunoby shoots 38.1 percent on 3.8 attempts per game. Kyle Lowry attempts 8.9 threes per game and makes 35.3 percent. Fred VanVleet hits 37.2 percent on 6.9 attempts. VanVleet, though, is questionable for the game with a hamstring injury.

Those are five players who are dangerous from three and that's not the end of the list. They also have Marc Gasol making 37 percent of his 3.3 attempts per game. Terence Davis shoots 38.6 percent and Serge Ibaka hits on 37.3 percent. There's also Matt Thomas, who has made 46.5 percent of his threes, albeit in a small sample size.

The Raptors can legitimately form a full rotation of players who make threes. It gives them options for multiple lineups where everyone on the floor can shoot.

The onus will be on the Wizards' guards like Isaiah Thomas, Ish Smith, Bradley Beal and Jordan McRae, but also some of their bigs. Ian Mahinmi and Thomas Bryant may have to trail Gasol and Ibaka to the perimeter. Few teams can create space with matchup problems quite like Toronto can.

The first meeting between these teams resulted in a Wizards loss, back on Dec. 20. And in that game, the Wizards were able to hold the Raptors under their season average in terms of attempts. They took 30 threes when they average 36 per game.

But the Raptors shot 40 percent on those attempts, going 12-for-30. They spread it around in that game, too, with seven different players making at least one.

Three-point defense is always important in today's NBA, but even more than usual against the Raptors. It isn't a strength for the Wizards, but they will have to overcome that to pull out a victory.

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