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Morning tip: Defense dominates Wizards' focus for Game 4 vs. Hawks

Morning tip: Defense dominates Wizards' focus for Game 4 vs. Hawks

ATLANTA -- The Wizards can take solace in that they haven't played anywhere near their best game and lead the series with the Atlanta Hawks, but tonight can make or break either team. The emphasis has been on defense going into Game 4, an area where Bradley Beal has prospered individually but slacked off team-wise.

"I feel like if I'm not going to shoot the ball, you're not going to shoot the ball," Beal said of his matchup with Tim Hardaway, who he has held to 10-for-34 shooting. "That's been my mind-set. I can't solely focus on him because my helpside defense hasn't been good because of that mindset of mine. I got to get out that selfish mentality. Get back to playing team ball."

Beal is hardly the only one to slip. John Wall and Brandon Jennings couldn't keep the ball out of the paint in their individual matchups. Dennis Schroder, who is not knowing for his stroke from distance, started 6-for-8 from the field.

It debilitated into a one-man show with Wall dropping a game-high 29 points. It wasn't until Beal had four points in the fourth quarter that he joined him in double figures. No other started reached that level, with Markieff Morris, Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat combining to shoot 8-for-25 en route to a 116-98 loss.

"We didn't have that same urgency we had the first two games. Give them credit they outplayed us," said coach Scott Brooks. " That first quarter they had a lot of good shots. We gave them a lot of good opporutnities to have a lot of good shots. We gave up a lot of easy shots that first quarter. Thirty-eight points. You can have a bad shooting start but you shouldn't be down nearly 20 points if you have the defensive mentality we have to have to win a playoff series."

Sunday, the Wizards didn't delve too deep into the film. After about 90 minutes of practice time, they sat down with the coaching staff to revisit what took place. The Hawks scored 60 points in the paint but didn't do anything special to knock them off their game. They missed open looks and allowed it to affect them on the other end. 

"We watched the first six or seven minutes of the game. There were no complaints about our offense," Brooks said. "We had a lot of pretty good looks. I can't complain about that. What I can complain about is the defense we had. We gave them a lot of opportunties in transition. We fouled. And ones, open threes, I think they got eight layups in that first quarter."

More Wizards: Despite beef, Dennis Schroeder asked John Wall to workout after the playoffs

The Wizards weren't in the passing lanes. They didn't force the Hawks out of the operational zone in front of the basket, failing to deny passing lanes aggressively and disrupt the motion offense. They failed to cover the pick-and-roll properly, with Beal being among the biggest culprits when it comes to rotating to help stop Dwight Howard's dives. 

"We do want to do a better job of guarding the ball. Not just him," Brooks said of Wall's matchup with Schroder. "The ball was loose the entire first quarter with all of their players. It's not just John. The ball was very comfortable, let's just say that."

Otto Porter had to leave the game in the second half with a stinger in his neck that came after a collision. He should be OK to start tonight.

"It's just mind-set. Everybody has to be on the same string," Porter said. "Sticking to our game plan defensively, just coming out and playing hard."

More Wizards: Brandon Jennings explains why 'John with the shades' should win MVP

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This video of early Thomas Bryant-Isaiah Thomas chemistry should make Wizards fans smile

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Isaiah Thomas Instagram

This video of early Thomas Bryant-Isaiah Thomas chemistry should make Wizards fans smile

One of the best parts of the NBA offseason, behind free-agency and the draft, has to be the open run's that go on all summer long. These sessions give an opportunity for NBA players to team up with each other, while also playing alongside high school, college, and overseas talent. 

Some new Wizards teammates, Isaiah Thomas and Thomas Bryant, made their way to the Rico Hines private run in Los Angeles, California to establish some chemistry before training camp opens in late September.  

As seen above, IT is no stranger to sharing the sugar as he finished top 20 in the league in assists per game (5.9) in 2016, the last season he was fully healthy. While TB is one of the most efficient rim-runners in the league, leading the NBA in two-point field goal percentage (68.5) last season. 

Could this be a preview of what to expect come season's tip? Wizards fans sure hope so. 

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Washington Wizards hire assistant coach Michael Longabardi to Scott Brooks coaching staff

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Washington Wizards hire assistant coach Michael Longabardi to Scott Brooks coaching staff

The Wizards sought to add an assistant coach with a strong defensive track record this offseason and they did just that Saturday evening by hiring Michael Longabardi, according to NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes. 

Longardi, 46, has spent the last three seasons as a defensive coach on the Cleveland Cavaliers' staff. He was initially hired by former Cavs' head coach Tyronn Lue in 2016 when the team claimed their first championship in franchise history. 

Before joining the Cavaliers, Longabardi held assistant coaching roles with the Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets, and most notably the Boston Celtics, in which he and Lue served under head coach Doc Rivers and Tom Thibodeau from 2007 to 2013.

Longabardi was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and attended Xaverian High School, a private Catholic school. He then went on to play basketball at Newberry College where he earned the nickname "Mr. Defense."

Just a day after reports broke that Tommy Sheppard would be promoted to a permanent general manager position, the organization is making yet another move in hopes of improving overall culture and team defense.

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