Quick Links

Morning tip: How Celtics flipped the script on Wizards in Game 5

Morning tip: How Celtics flipped the script on Wizards in Game 5

BOSTON -- The way the pendulum swings decisively from one side to the other in the East semifinals between the Wizards and Boston Celtics continues as each game is decided by large margins. Game 5, won 123-101 by the home team at TD Garden, wasn't any different. 

The Wizards kept Isaiah Thomas to fewer than 20 points for the third game in a row, but the result was different because the role players such as Avery Bradley (29 points), Jae Crowder (18) and Al Horford (19) made them pay.

"They had a lot of energy coming out in the first quarter," Markieff Morris said after his Wizards took a 4-0 lead only to submit to a 16-0 run by Boston. "They adjusted a little bit and by the time we picked up what they was doing they already had a 16-point lead.

"They were leaking out. They made an adjustment when the ball goes up. ... We're going to make that adjustment. We made it in the game and we stopped it but we were already down 16."

The Wizards smothered Thomas who was just 5-for-13 shooting but created better with nine assists. The shooters around him were open. And if they weren't spotting up around the three-point arc they were getting Boston out to a 15-0 edge in fast-break points.

"We took shots. We didn't do a great job of getting back," John Wall said. "Our guards and bigs didn't do a grat job of getting back and they were just running out for layups and threes."

The Wizards' transition defense was in shambles from the start. Otto Porter took Bradley as he pushed the ball up the floor and Wall didn't position himself to cut off Crowder's angle to the basket on the cut. Bradley made a simple pass for a layup and a 13-4 lead. 

Thomas, who is 5-9, set a pindown screen on Marcin Gortat and Bradley Beal to clear the real estate for Horford to step into a three-pointer. These breakdowns came in the first quarter, so fatigue can't be blamed. It was lack of focus.

Every time Wall drove, his defender (Bradley) would hand him off to the bigs in the paint and then he'd sprint to the other end for the outlet. No one shifted to the top to cover Wall upon his dribble penetration to prevent it. 

"They kind of surprised us," Wall said. "They made adjustments. It's something they must've seen ont he film and they killed us in the first quarter."

Morris didn't like how disengaged they were without allowing cutters off the ball to get unobstructed to the rim. When the ball is being trapped out of Thomas' hands, it's inevitable that seams will be created behind the defense. That's where the weak spot is going to be but second effort and recovery can close those off.

"We (weren't) physical enough. We were letting guys cut through the lane without touching them," Morris said. "We know they were going to do that. We were prepaared for that. We did a great job on I.T. but we let too many guys make plays and make shots."

Beal didn't make any of his four three-point attempts. The Celtics had nine more makes from long range with 16, giving them 27 more points than the Wizards in that category. 

"They're doing a good job of changing up their defense a little bit," Beal said. "Try to put I.T. on me a little bit, kind of throw the rhythm of the game off. We take him into the post, we try to hit him and run him off screens as much as possible but they do a good job of knowing my ball screens. They're up, the weakside is pulled over. Isolations? The same thing, the weakside is pulled over. We got to move, get the ball moving. Myself included."

The series heads back to Verizon Center for Game 6 on Friday. If the Wizards can force Game 7, it'll be Monday here. The Wizards would have to win at a venue where they've been unsuccessful since 2014 to advance to the conference finals.

"They beat our ass," Morris said. "We just beat their ass two times in a row. It comes with the game."

[RELATED: Celtics fans chant Oubre's name during Game 5]

Quick Links

5 biggest 2020 offseason questions for the Wizards, like will Davis Bertans re-sign?

5 biggest 2020 offseason questions for the Wizards, like will Davis Bertans re-sign?

Now that their 2019-20 season is finally over after nearly 10 full months, the Wizards' offseason is going to pick up very soon. The draft lottery is on Aug. 20, so just one week after their season finished.

The Wizards are entering one of the most important offseasons for them in recent memory. Here are the five biggest questions they will need to address...

Will Davis Bertans re-sign?

The No. 1 question for the Wizards this offseason centers around their most prominent free agent. Bertans enjoyed a breakout season in Washington after coming over in a trade from the Spurs last summer. But he is an unrestricted free agent and he won't be cheap, as he is now legitimately one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA. He can impact games dramatically despite barely touching the ball.

The WIzards made a bet that they could re-sign Bertans by not trading him at the deadline in February. Now it will be up to general manager Tommy Sheppard to seal the deal. The good news is that there is mutual interest. Bertans likes playing in Washington and is intrigued by the role he could play next season with John Wall and Bradley Beal back. Bertans could be a perfect complement to them and help supercharge the Wizards' offense into one of the very best in the NBA. Re-signing him is the top priority for the team this offseason, as NBC Sports Washington has reported, now they just have to get it done.

Will Scott Brooks be back?

This isn't really much of a question, barring something unforeseen. But it is worth addressing solely because Brooks only has one year left on his contract and that can often force decisions to be made with coaches. The overwhelmingly safe bet is for Brooks to enter the final year of his deal and for both sides to play it by ear. If they reach expectations next season, or exceed them, maybe he sticks around beyond 2020-21. If they don't, both sides can part without calling it a firing.

Back before the pandemic hit, like right when it hit, I was working on a story involving Brooks' contract where I interviewed his agent, Warren LeGarie. The world has changed quite a bit since then, but LeGarie made some interesting points at the time. One is that Brooks has been down this road before, coaching out the final year of a contract. He did that in Oklahoma City once. LeGarie, who has also represented Sheppard, called Brooks "re-energized" by the team's youth movement and "all-in" on their future. He said they would "be open" to continuing the partnership beyond next season if that's where things went. Basically, both sides seem ready to keep it rolling at least into next year and see what happens.

Who will they draft?

If they do re-sign Bertans, they will not have a ton of money left to spend in free agency thanks to the max deal for Beal and the supermax contract for Wall. That leaves trades and the draft as the best way for the team to make significant improvements to their roster. And because they missed the playoffs, the Wizards will have a high first round draft pick, which will give them a chance to add another blue chip young player on a cheap contract.

They have the ninth-best odds in the lottery, which gives them a high possibility of selecting in the top-10 and a 20.2 percent chance of picking in the top-four. If they pick around 10th, then it could be tough for that player to contribute right away, unless they find another Rui Hachimura-type, whom they got at No. 9 last summer. But if they move up closer to the top, they could land an instant impact player like Anthony Edwards of Georgia or James Wiseman of Memphis. Given his position, athleticism and shot-blocking ability, Wiseman seems like the obvious best fit for the team in a dream scenario. There are also some intriguing options like LaMelo Ball, Killian Hayes, Obi Toppin and Tyrese Haliburton who could be in the mix at the top.


Who starts at forward?

The Wizards have some parts of their roster that are settled going into next year. We know what their backcourt will look like and, unless something shocking happens, we know Hachimura and Thomas Bryant will likely be in the frontcourt. Now, Troy Brown Jr. or Isaac Bonga or even Bertans could fill that fifth spot, but for several reasons it appears to be the most likely area they could find an upgrade.

Brown and Bonga are young players who could be best placed on the bench. Bertans also fits well there given his ability to change games as a microwave scorer and the defensive concerns you would have with him and the rest of the starting lineup. So, if the Wizards do want to use the rest of their money on a free agent, or target something significant in a trade, forward is the place to look. Whether that's a three or a four depends on how they view the short-term future of Hachimura. One name my colleague Chris Miller has thrown out there that makes a lot of sense is Jerami Grant of the Nuggets. He defends multiple positions and defense is a major need for the Wizards. His brother, Jerian, also happens to already be on the team.

Will they swing big or stay measured?

We know the timeline is going to speed up for the Wizards considerably this offseason with Wall coming back and Beal entering another year of his prime. They can't take the longview like they did a year ago. They want to win and that will dictate how they operate this offseason, which means veterans will likely be favored over young players to an extent. But to what extent, we don't know. What the Wizards have to balance is the possibility Wall and Beal do not work out once they reunite. And if things ever did go south, you wouldn't want to leave yourself in a position where you mortgaged the future and are left with nothing to show for it.

Also, when it comes to making win-now moves, there are different degrees of that. There is the method of putting together an experienced, playoffs-worthy bench. And then there is the method of thinking much bigger and trying to obtain another star on the level of Wall or Beal, or one that is even better. That, of course, is easier said than done, but the Wizards do have some options now with all the young players they have and the high draft pick they are set to receive. They have some trade assets to to work with. Stranger things have happened.

Stay connected to the Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.


Quick Links

Kendrick Perkins believes Giannis Antetokounmpo got star treatment in suspension for headbutt

Kendrick Perkins believes Giannis Antetokounmpo got star treatment in suspension for headbutt

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo received a one-game suspension for his headbutt of Wizards forward Moe Wagner during the teams' matchup on Tuesday.

Though the suspension itself was not a true surprise, the length of the punishment was. For a move that could have seriously put another player in danger, Antetokounmpo was only forced to miss the final seeding game in Orlando, which did not matter for his team and many expected him not to play in anyways.

On ESPN's The Jump, ESPN senior writer Zach Lowe explained how he was not shocked by terms of the suspension, as it is on par for what the league has done in the past.

"I think the precedent is, one game is typical," Lowe said. "Giannis wasn’t playing this game anyway."


Former NBA player and current ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins had a very different opinion on the matter.

Stemming from the fact that Antetokounmpo wasn't even planning to play in the game he missed, Perkins viewed the treatment as a weak slap on the wrist by the NBA. He felt as if the star's reputation impacted the punishment and that it sets a bad example for the rest of the league.

"Yes, it was unfair. This is not MMA, this is basketball. You cannot be headbutting people," Perkins said. "Giannis got star treatment because anybody else would have at least got two-to-three games, right? One game suspension for headbutting somebody? This is professional basketball. I do not think it's fair. One game."

Perkins makes a reasonable point, as Antetokounmpo could have easily caused a lot of harm to either his head or Wagner's, and trauma to that area can have serious consequences. Still, it is interesting to see Perkins take that stance when one considers his past experiences in the NBA. Host Rachel Nichols recalled an incident with Tyreke Evans in 2015 in which Perkins appeared to headbutt Evans.

Perkins explained that was different, as he was not deliberately trying to headbutt him. If he had, he says the outcome would have been a lot different.

"My headbutt wasn’t, uh, I didn’t put that into it. We kinda just bumped heads," Perkins said. "You're talking about me and Tyreke Evans. I remember that because I was trying to protest that that wasn’t a headbutt, I didn’t deliberately throw a blow."

"If I woulda headbutted Tyreke I woulda knocked him out!" Perkins said. 

Stay connected to the Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.