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Morning tip: Celtics lost on how to deal with matchup problem Markieff Morris

Morning tip: Celtics lost on how to deal with matchup problem Markieff Morris

First, it was Gerald Green who lasted just seven minutes as the starting power forward. Then came Amir Johnson and he lasted just five. Neither yielded a single bucket for the Boston Celtics but they led the Wizards in the East semifinals 2-0 anyway. 

After losing Game 3 with Green, who is more of the stretch option, the Celtics went with Johnson in Game 4 and it was equally disastrous. Meanwhile, the Wizards hit them with a steady dose of Markieff Morris time and again and got results.

"We're the better team and we feel like we've been the better team," said Morris, who has dominated the matchup and had 16 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals in Sunday's 121-102 victory for Washington. "If we go out there and play like that, we can get the win.

"Either way, they're in a lose-lose switching that guy."

Johnson has the size but lacks the skill or finesse to combat Morris, who is 6-10 but can face up from long range and break him down off the dribble. Green is an undersized scorer who is a liability in the low post trying to defend Morris. Neither can rebound with him, either, which is where the Wizards have been plus-12 and plus-14 in the last two games. If  Celtics coach Brad Stevens attempts a three-guard lineup and Marcus Smart finds himself on Morris, that's an even easier assignment for him.

[RELATED: Markieff Morris has quote of the year after blowout win over Celtics]

Boston cross-matched because of Morris, having Al Horford defend him while Johnson shifted to Marcin Gortat who is even bigger in Game 4. The Wizards took advantage of that by using more screen action with Gortat to put Johnson, who is a weak defender vs. guards, in space on John Wall. 

It seems like a game of musical chairs, and regardless of Morris' statistics shows it or not game to game, his presence leads to issues because the Celltics must assume the risk to compensate for him. Both teams switch on defense at that position, but Morris is OK vs. no matter who his assignment becomes after the switch because there's no mismatch gained by the opposition, The Celtics don't have that luxury.

Jae Crowder took some of the burden on Morris on Sunday but ended up with five fouls before the third quarter ended. While he has the physical strength to battle down low, he's still underized defensively and is mostly a catch-and-shoot player offensively which doesn't present problems for Morris.

Morris scored the Wizards' first two points of the second half but grabbing an offensive rebound and getting foul shots on Crowder.  Morris switched onto Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley and kept them in front of him. Johnson, Green, Crowder and Smart can't do the same consistently vs. Wall and Bradley Beal. 

If the Wizards are able to win this series, look back at this inability to match up on Boston's part and the trickle-down effect as a signficant reason.

"Keef, he's a special player," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "I love coaching him. I like his toughness. I like his passion. He's a matchup problem. We don't care if they go small or big. We know if we have Keef he can guard smalls or he can guard bigs."

The left ankle spain that caused Morris to leave Game 1 is a distant memory. He hasn't had any issues with it since Horford stuck his foot underneath him on a jump shot and he has played with an extra edge ever since then.

The Wizards still have to win a game at TD Garden where they're 0-4 this season to upset the No. 1 seed in the East. Morris isn't concerned about that part. It's the attitude they need to carry with them for Wednesday's pivotal Game 5.

"For sure it's going to be hard. They're still a good team. It's Boston," Morris said. "I feel as though, we all feel as though we're the better team even to start the series. This is what we wanted during the regular season when it was chippy and we (were) going at it. We wanted Boston in the playoffs. We got to go out there and act like that and I think we did the last couple of games."

[RELATED: Wizards feel in control as series shifts to Boston]

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Wizards vs. Heat: TV channel, Time, Live stream, how to watch

Wizards vs. Heat: TV channel, Time, Live stream, how to watch

The Wizards snapped a three-game losing streak with a nice win over the Pistons on Martin Luther King Day. 

They won't be able to celebrate for long though as they hit the road to play an extremely good Miami Heat team just a couple of weeks after the Wizards beat them without Bradley Beal. 

Can Washington shock everyone once again and continue to play their best against great teams? Here's what you need to know to watch and find out. 

WIZARDS vs. HEAT HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Wizards vs. Miami, Game 43

Where: American Airlines Arena, Miami FL

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Wizards vs. Heat will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (NBC Sports Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards vs. Heat on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.

Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM

WIZARDS vs. HEAT TV SCHEDULE

6:30 PM: Wizards Outsiders

7:00 PM: Wizards Pregame Live 

7:30 PM: Wizards vs. Heat

10:00 PM: Wizards Postgame Live 

10:30 PM: D.C. Sports Live 

11:00 PM: Wizards Talk 

WIZARDS vs. HEAT INJURY REPORT:

Wizards: Rui Hachimura (OUT, groin), Garrison Mathews (OUT, ankle), Moe Wagner (OUT, ankle),  John Wall (OUT, Achilles)

Heat: Jimmy Butler (Day-to-day, hip), Justise Winslow (OUT, back)

 

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Why Wizards point guard Ish Smith purposefully never dunks in games

Why Wizards point guard Ish Smith purposefully never dunks in games

WASHINGTON -- Go to a Washington Wizards game these days and you may see point guard Ish Smith do many things. He has a mean crossover, is shooting threes like never before in his career and he's a blur up and down the court.

What you will basically never see Smith do is dunk. He hasn't thrown one down in a game since the 2017-18 season. He dunked twice that year, down from four times the season before and down from his career-high of eight the year before that.

Smith has basically eliminated dunking from his game. It's not that he can't, he just chooses not to. And it's for a good reason.

Now in his 10th NBA season, Smith believes the wear-and-tear that comes with dunking isn't worth it at this point.

"I'm saving my legs," he told NBC Sports Washington. "I was watching something and Steve Nash was talking about how he played when he got older - on the ground, pretty much on land. He was preserving his energy because he moved a lot, cut a lot [with] ball-handling and different things like that. I try to preserve all that."

Smith, 31, has achieved a rare level of longevity in the NBA. He went undrafted in 2010, yet has lasted a decade in the NBA as a 6-foot tall point guard. The Wizards are his 11th team, one off the NBA record.

There is an old adage in the NBA that each dunk takes a game off your career. Many things can happen when players are high up in the air and risking contact, but also the simple act of jumping and landing can take its toll on joints and ligaments.

Smith has carved out the career he has by making sacrifices, and that includes dunking. Even when he is alone on a fastbreak, he will just lay it in.

"Yeah, you get breakout layups and stuff like that," he said. "I guess because I have done it, but it's not as tempting as used to be. It's just like get these two points and get back."

When he was younger, Smith would dunk when he had the opportunity. Now he says he's kind of over it.

"I had some dunk-ons [back in the day]. But as I got older, I realized it ain't all that," he said.

Smith now prides himself on a wide array of release angles on layups around the rim. He can finish with his right and left hand, in traffic and off-balance. He can double-clutch and use the glass.

Smith has a way of sneaking under bigger defensive players and timing layups to avoid blocked shots. It's a big part of his game.

But maybe someday soon we will see Smith dunk again in a game. Perhaps he will do so, just to show everyone he's still got it.

"[I dunked] the other day when we were in Toronto, after practice," he said. "After that, I was like 'oh no, I don't know why I did that.'"

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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