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Morning tip: Marcin Gortat spearheads Wizards' overwhelming size advantage over Celtics inside

Morning tip: Marcin Gortat spearheads Wizards' overwhelming size advantage over Celtics inside

Whether Marcin Gortat has just seven rebounds for the Wizards like he did in Game 4 or average 13 as he did in the first three vs. the Boston Celtics, the frontline size advantage is putting a cramp in small-ball.

The bigs for Boston not named Al Horford have been non-entities as the Wizards won the last two games by an average of 23 points to tie the semifinals at 2-2. 

Amir Johnson is tasked with defending Gortat, a center, while Horford cross matches vs. Markieff Morris. Kelly Olynyk played 23 minutes for the Celtics and scored 14 points but the 7-footer didn't grab a rebound.

Ian Mahinmi comes off the bench for Washington and is a versatile defending post player who can outmuscle anyone Boston has to offer inside the paint. It's no surprise that in Game 3 the Wizards had a 50-38 edge in rebounds and 45-31 in Game 4. 

The Celtics have to find a way to mitigate this weakness, but that's a tall task. 

"If they want to go small I have to dominate. I have to dominate the paint," said Gortat, who has been most valuable in helping contain Isaiah Thomas' lane penetration and ability to finish at the basket. "We cant fall into their game, shoving and pushing and talking and trash-talking. We've got to just stay and be who we are."

Celtics coach Brad Stevens will go to three-guard lineups with Marcus Smart on the floor with Thomas and Avery Bradley, but there's no significant edge gained because the Wizards can stick with a bigger lineup and still matchup because of Morris.

The best chance Boston has is if the Wizards lose their focus and squander what's in front of them even though they lack home-court advantage.

"We've got to play hard. We've got to hit, we're going to foul hard if we have to but we're not going to start doing stuff that's going to take us out of our game," said Gortat. "We've just got to play our game."

In a first-round series with the Atlanta Hawks, the Wizards closed them out on the road in six games. Gortat had to contend with Dwight Howard and Paul Millsap in the low post.

Even though the series in the regular season and playoffs has been litered with technical fouls and ejections, including a blowup involving Kelly Oubre that led to his suspension for Game 4, it pales in comparison to Atlanta. 

In that series, there wasn't any room to operate in the paint as Dwight Howard packed in the paint and ate up all the space for the Wizards' guards to get to the rim and Gortat. That's not the situation with Boston as Gortat has tallied 16 points and 13 rebounds, 14 points and 10 rebounds and 13 points and 16 rebounds in Games 1-3. The center also is averaging 3.0 assists in those games.

"Nothing even close as it was in the first round for me going against Dwight Howard and now going against their bigs," Gortat said of battling with the undersized Horford and Johnson in the paint. "It's not even close. I hope we're not going to jinx it."

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Rui Hachimura's learning curve can be seen on offense late in games

Rui Hachimura's learning curve can be seen on offense late in games

WASHINGTON -- Wizards forward Rui Hachimura has translated so smoothly to the NBA level that it is easy to forget he is still just a rookie with only 31 games under his belt. For a reminder of his inexperience, just look at the fourth quarter.

Hachimura tends to start games hot on the offensive end, like he did on Friday in the Wizards' loss to the Cavaliers when he had eight points by the end of the first quarter. But he scored only nine points after that and went scoreless through seven minutes in the fourth.

That has been a consistent theme for him this season. He averages 4.8 points in the first quarter shooting 48.4 percent from the field, 4.0 points in the second shooting 57 percent and then 4.3 points on 47.9 percent in the third. In the fourth quarter those numbers plummet to 1.9 points on average and 33.3 percent shooting.

Basically, Hachimura often comes out on fire but then slows down considerably once opponents make midgame changes. Against the Cavs, Hachimura said it was because they disrupted passing lanes.

"They are an NBA team. They just adjusted. They didn't want me to catch the ball. They didn't let me just catch the ball. I think that's why," he said.

The Wizards have seen teams switch defensive match-ups midgame to counter Hachimura. Sometimes taking away his midrange jumper will be prioritized. The Cavs seemed to find success playing Hachimura more physically in the second half, bumping him away from his comfort zones.

Over time, Hachimura can improve his ability to sustain scoring throughout games simply by becoming more versatile. The more consistent he becomes at making three-point shots and creating off the dribble, the more difficult it will be for teams to stop him. As long as he keeps improving, he will reach a point where he can stay ahead of the defense with a multitude of counters.

Developing a more reliable outside game and more dribble combinations will take some time. For now, Hachimura believes the key to him keeping up his scoring pace involves working with his teammates, particularly star shooting guard Bradley Beal.

"I just gotta connect more with Brad. Brad is the one everybody is trying to guard. Screens and pick-and-rolls with him, that kind of stuff will help me," Hachimura said.

Hachimura's game against the Cavaliers reflected how the team played overall. After scoring 41 points in the first quarter, they managed only 42 in the second half. They blew a 16-point lead and lost, 113-108.

So, he wasn't alone. And those rooting for Hachimura to round out his game should feel good about his odds. He has a relentless work ethic and is often staying after practice to go over film with player development coach Dave Adkins.

Hachimura is perceptive and driven to improve. In order to take the next step as a scorer, he will have to get better at closing games.

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Tristan Thompson calls Bradley Beal one of the best shooting guards in the league

Tristan Thompson calls Bradley Beal one of the best shooting guards in the league

Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson spoke with reporters after the team's victory over the Wizards Friday night, praising Bradley Beal, who was snubbed from All-Star consideration this season despite averaging nearly 30 points-per-game.

The Cavaliers held the Wizards to just 21 points in the fourth quarter, and Thompson said their main focus was neutralizing Beal.

"The Wizards are really good offensively when they are making their runs," Thompson said postgame. "Bradley Beal is an All-Star in our league. One of the top-three two-guards in our league right now, so we were just trying to make it tough for him."

Beal finished the night with 26 points, but struggled from the floor. Beal shot 9-for-28 from the floor and the Cavaliers' stingy defense was clearly a factor.

Beal and the Wizards will have a chance to get back on track on Sunday night at Capital One Arena when they host the Chicago Bulls for the final time this season.

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