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Morning tip: Markieff Morris taxes defenses that fail to account for him

Morning tip: Markieff Morris taxes defenses that fail to account for him

A day off is just what the doctor ordered for Markieff Morris, who sat out the previous game at the Brooklyn Nets to recover from a sore right calf. He responded with his best game of the season Friday vs. a more significant opponent in the Indiana Pacers.

Morris' wide-open three-pointer with 50.6 seconds left held off the last push by Paul George as the Wizards (32-21) now lead the season series 2-1 and already surpass their home win total from a season ago with 23. 

"Felt good," said Morris, who shot 11 of 18, including 3 of 6 on threes. "I had three to four days off. Made some shots."

That included a dunk off a pass from John Wall that caromed, went up in the air, came down and danced into the hoop for an 18-13 lead in the first quarter; a three-pointer for a 75-70 lead at 5:24 of the third quarter; an assist to Bradley Beal for a three-pointer and a 100-96 lead with 4:02 left; and his own three that was the capper in the final minute to help the Wizards clinch it 112-107.

[RELATED: Takeaways from Wizards' impressive win over Pacers]

As Beal missed two free throws with the Wizards up 108-102, Morris ripped away the loose ball rebound from  Kevin Seraphin and proceeded to exchange high fives with fans on the floor before the play ended. Wall would go to the line for more free throws to extend it to a three-possession game with 30 seconds left. It was Morris' 10th rebound and the type of hustle play that has boosted them to new heights in the East.

Indiana tried to defend Morris with Lavoy Allen and he was isolated and dominated at will. Whether it was being faced up or beaten to the basket for a putback, Morris' play overode Paul George's denial defense of Beal and Otto Porter's foul trouble that neutralized the NBA's most accurate three-point shooter. 

"Since the month of January, Keef has been playing great for us," said John Wall, who had a game-high 14 assists. "When teams switch he can post up and score in the post. He's doing a great job of rebounding and defending. He's shooting the three with a lot of confidence. It's paying off for us. A lot of teams leaving him open. They're not leaving Otto and Brad as much so he's the next guy they're leaving open and he's knocking down shots for us."

Morris has had to manage his right foot and ankle issues for a bulk of the season. He initially was injured in a Nov. 19 loss to the Miami Heat when he only played nine minutes before leaving. 

Morris played after that but evetually sat out a Dec. 14 game vs. the Charlotte Hornets. They won without him just like they did in Brooklyn, but the Wizards will have difficulty overcoming Morris' absence against elite teams.

Seven of Morris' eight double-doubles have come since Jan. 8 which has been key to the hot streak that rocketed the Wizards from the bottom of the East into third place. 

He had 24 points and 15 rebounds early in the season in a loss to the Chicago Bulls; 23 and 9 in a win over the L.A. Clippers; 20 and 10 in a win vs. the Milwaukee Bucks;1 7 and 13 in a win over the Portland Trail Blazers; 17 and 12 in a win over the Memphis Grizzlies; 19 and 11 in a win over the Boston Celtics; 21 and eight in beating the New Orleans Pelicans; and 24 and 10 in a rout of the N.Y. Knicks. 

"I just had some fresh legs. Made some shots. John put me in great postion to make some plays," Morris said. "And Beal draws a lot of attention... I had the energy."

[RELATED: Markieff Morris not cool with 'Phoenix Outlaws' nickname]

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Swaggy Picasso's Sole Talk had the Wizards taking notice opening night

Swaggy Picasso's Sole Talk had the Wizards taking notice opening night

The connection between athletes and their fans is a powerful thing in sports. The NBA is one of the trendiest, fashion-forward leagues in the world. From shoe design to overall wardrobe to eccentric personalities...the Association has it all on display for fans across the globe to consume. 

Lloyd Ferguson, a fan himself and native of Silver Spring, Md., is bursting onto the customized sneakers scene as an up-and-coming artist. 

His Instagram (@SwaggyPicasso) serves as his personal laboratory and a platform to share his creations. 

Prior to the start of Thursday night's Wizards-Heat game, NBC Sports Washington invited Ferguson to Capital One Arena for what would become a memorable night for the 23-year-old. 

Chris Miller and Drew Gooden featured Swaggy Picasso on the pregame show for an interview and sneaker showcase.

"The inside of my body was jiggling and moving. I was like 'I gotta keep composed and stay cool. You're on national televison, Lloyd.'" 

You would have never known it. 

Ferguson, who was a basketball player himself locally, grew up a Wizards and D.C. sports fan all around. 

Little did he know several Wizards would take notice of his artwork. 

Kelly Oubre, Devin Robinson and John Wall - each known for their wardrobes and respective styles - stopped by to take a peek at Ferguson's kicks. 

"Their reactions to my art was all I needed, honestly. They see the potential and growth. It's very overwhelming." 

It was a groundbreaking night for a young talent with lofty dreams and aspirations. 

Swaggy Picasso has no plans of stopping anytime soon. 

"I've been busting out these shoes day and night. I don't sleep. My desire to paint shoes is ridiculous." 

 

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Wizards vs. Raptors: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Wizards vs. Raptors: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Wizards take to the court Saturday night looking for their first win of the season against the Toronto Raptors. 

In their first game of the season the Wizards laid an egg after the Miami Heat were missing three rotation players on the second end of a back-to-back. Similar problems emerged even with new offseason additions Jeff Green and Austin Rivers having stellar debuts. Dwight Howard did not play in the contest, still dealing with a butt injury. 

Now, the Wizards will go up against one of the favorites to win the Eastern Conference, the Raptors. They also acquired a former All-Star in Kwahi Leonard this offseason, trading away DeMar DeRozan. Besides the switch, this is pretty much the same squad that knocked the Wizards out of the First Round of the playoffs last season.

On Saturday the Raptors will be coming off a back-to-back after hosting the Boston Celtics on Friday night. Once again, another big opportunity for the Wizards against an Eastern Conference foe early in the season.

The Wizards-Raptors will take place on Saturday, Oct. 20 at 7:00 p.m. at Capital One Arena and will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington.

WIZARDS vs. RAPTORS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Wizards vs. Toronto Raptors, 2018 NBA regular season Game 2
Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.
When: 7:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: The Wizards vs. Raptors will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)
Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards vs. Raptors on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the new MyTeams App.
Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM

WIZARDS vs. RAPTORS TV SCHEDULE
6:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders (LIVE)
6:30 PM: Wizards Pregame Live (LIVE)
7:00 PM: Toronto Raptors @ Wizards (LIVE)
9:30 PM: Wizards Postgame Live (LIVE)
10:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders (LIVE)
10:30 PM: Redskins GameDay: D.C. Sports Live (LIVE)

WIZARDS vs. RAPTORS INJURY REPORT:

Wizards: Dwight Howard (questionable)
Raptors: Delon Wright (day-to-day), OG Anunoby (probable)

WIZARDS vs. RAPTORS PLAYERS TO WATCH

John Wall, Wizards: After speculation on if Wall would return to his peak form, he showed out on Thursday night. With 26 points, nine assists, and four blocks, the point guard was all around the court for the Wizards. 

Otto Porter Jr./ Jeff Green, Wizards: Covering Leonard is going to be a tall task. It is anticipated that the taller Otto Porter Jr. and Jeff Green to be the duo that will be covering the lengthy guard.  Neither guy are going to light-up the stat sheet on the offensive end, but after a nice showing by Green on Thursday look for them to split time defensively. 

Khawi Leonard: Leonard had 24 points and 12 rebounds in his debut with the Raptors, picking up right where he left off before his injury. Will a back-to-back affect the star that hasn't played consistently since 2016? 

WIZARDS vs. RAPTORS SERIES HISTORY 

Number of all-time Meetings: 95 games
Regular Season Record: Raptors lead 48-37
Postseason Record: Wizards lead 6-4
Last Meeting: Raptors won 102-92
Last 10: Raptors lead 6-4

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