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Morning tip: Pierce-to-Porter transformation almost complete


Morning tip: Pierce-to-Porter transformation almost complete

As it turns out, the "it" factor that Paul Pierce said the Toronto Raptors lacked before this first-round series began belongs to him even at 37. Pierce scored 11 of his 18 points in the final 2:38 of Friday's 106-99 win to put the Wizards one game from the first playoff sweep in franchise history.

Pierce made consecutive three-point shots to spot the Wizards, playing their first home playoff game after winning two on the road, a 98-90 lead with the Raptors lurking. He sent the sellout of 20,356 into a frenzy and repeated a line he said last year when he made a big shot in Game 1 for the Brooklyn Nets -- "That's why I'm here" -- in an upset of these Raptors in the first round, too. 

"My adrenaline is through the roof. It's trying to come down," said Pierce, who only needed nine shots in 27 minutes. "I'm just enjoying the moment. I love playoff basketball. I love everything about it. I love the crowds on the road. I love it at home. I can't even tell you one thing I said tonight."

In Game 1 of this series, Pierce had 20 points and made the clinching three-pointer in overtime for a 93-86 win for Washington.

Before Pierce's heroics, it was his pupil Otto Porter hitting a three-pointer to break an 88-88 tie. The Raptors pulled to 92-90 on free throws by DeMar DeRozan but couldn't get any closer. Porter played the entire fourth quarter where he scored seven of his 11 points. He made both three-point shots, the second of which increased the margin to 95-90.


"To hit back-breaking threes like that, it sucks the life out of you," said Drew Gooden, who made 3 of 6 from deep for 12 points. "Those were huge shots, especially in the playoffs."

DeRozan began the game shooting 8-for-10 from the field. He shot 3-for-19 the rest of the way and Porter had a lot to do with that. 

"I think he's tired of me getting on him, too. I constantly stay in Otto's ear pushing him, trying to get him to be the best he can be. He's responded. He's starting to play with a little bit more fire," said Pierce, whose first three-pointer of the fourth came immediately after checking in with the Wizards who'd scored just four points in a three-minute stretch. "That's all we've been wanting from Otto. We know he's go the talent. You know the potential is there. When he plays with that edge like you saw tonight on defense, the offense will come.

"Right now he's our defensive guy. He's there to knock down open shots. He's a slasher. He's starting to play with that edge now. He's getting the tough assignment when he comes in every single night whether it's DeMar DeRozan. He's going to have to guard the LeBron Jameses. I think he's finally ready for  those assignments and he's up for it. What better way to come out like this than in the spotlight like the playoffs? I'm happy for him."

Pierce's energy is contagious. Porter blocked DeRozan from behind with 8:58 left in the game and proceeded to stare him down. DeRozan shoved him which led to a technical foul. 

"I need it. I'm a young pup," Porter said of Pierce, who has mentored the second-year player from Day One. "I need somebody to push me and that's what he's doing. 

"I cannot repeat what he says and I'm not trying to. But he doesn't really say much. He just gets me ready to play defense, remind me, showing me plays on film and stuff, what to expect."

Gooden had a hearty laugh when told about Porter's staredown of DeRozan, who couldn't free himself with pump fakes no matter how many he tried. DeRozan had 32 points, but only 12 came after the first quarter. And it took him 29 shots.

"That's good. We all like to see emotion from Otto," Gooden said. "He's not out there to show anybody up. He's a great guy. We need some of that emotion every once in a while. If he did that I'm glad."

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Bruno Fernando

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Bruno Fernando

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Bruno Fernando

School: Maryland
Position: Center
Age: 20 (turns 21 in August)
Height: 6-10
Weight: 237
Wingspan: 7-3
Max vertical: 33.5 in.

2018/19 stats: 13.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.6 spg, 1.9 bpg, 60.7 FG% (5.1/8.4), 30.0 3PT% (0.1/0.3), 77.9 FT%

Player comparison: Jusuf Nurkic, Bam Adebayo

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 24th, NBADraft.net 12th, Bleacher Report 19th, Sports Illustrated 28th, Ringer 37th

5 things to know:

*Fernando tested the NBA draft waters last year before returning to school and clearly helped his stock by doing so. He went from a likely second round pick to someone who could fall in the lottery. Fernando is ranked in most mock drafts as the third-best big man in this draft behind Zion Williamson and Jaxson Hayes.

*He is one of the best rebounders in this class. He averaged 10.9 boards per game as a sophomore and had five games of 15 or more. That includes a 19-rebound performance against Nebraska on Feb. 6. Fernando is a strong, physical forward so there is reason to believe those skills will translate to the next level.

*Concerns about Fernando include his lack of an outside shot. He attempted only 13 threes in college and did most of his damage around the rim. But the potential for Fernando to become a reliable scorer in the NBA appear to be there. He has soft touch around the rim and can finish with power.

*Defensively, Fernando needs some work. He has the physical tools with his size and long arms, and he averaged 1.9 blocks per game in college, but some evaluatiors criticize his defensive instincts and discipline. As long as Fernando can block shots and rebound in the NBA, he should be fine on that end of the floor.

*Fernando is originally from the country of Angola and has played for their national team in several international tournaments. Angola basketball is famous for being the subject of one of Charles Barkley's most memorable quotes. During the 1992 Olympics, he said of USA's next opponent: "I don't know anything about Angola, but I know they're in trouble."

Fit with Wizards: Fernando would fit the Wizards in a variety of ways. Rim protection and rebounding are their biggest needs and he would help them to different degrees in both areas. With rebounding in particular, he could be a big plus.

But two questions about Fernando could give the Wizards pause. One is if they can justify taking him ninth when he may fall into the teens and second is what his ceiling will ultimately be. Does he have All-Star potential or will he top out as an Enes Kanter-type rebounding specialist?

Ideally, the Wizards would find someone with very high upside to give them hope for a true franchise building block moving forward. There may be better options than Fernando at No. 9, even if they play positions that are less of a need for the Wizards.

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Former Terp Kevin Huerter makes NBA All-Rookie Second Team

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Former Terp Kevin Huerter makes NBA All-Rookie Second Team

With Dallas' Luka Doncic and Atlanta's Trae Young leading the way, the top five NBA draft picks from 2018 have been selected as the top five NBA rookies this season.

Doncic and Young were unanimous first-team selections for the NBA All-Rookie team, which was announced Tuesday. Phoenix's Deandre Ayton, Memphis' Jaren Jackson and Sacramento's Marvin Bagley III are also on the first team, which was chosen by 100 voters who cover the league.

Ayton, Bagley, Doncic, Jackson and Young were the first five picks in the last year's draft.

This marks the first time since the 1984 draft that the first five picks ended up as first-team all-rookie -- the selections that year being Hakeem Olajuwon, Sam Bowie, Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, Charles Barkley. That was the entirety of the rookie team that season; the NBA didn't start doing first- and second-team selections until 1988-89.

The Hawks had two all-rookie selections this season, with Kevin Huerter on the second team to join Young. Also on the second team were a pair of Los Angeles Clippers, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Landry Shamet, along with Cleveland's Collin Sexton and New York's Mitchell Robinson.

Rookie of the year will be announced at the NBA Awards show in Los Angeles on June 24. Doncic, Young and Ayton are the finalists.

Doncic and Young join other unanimous first-team all-rookie picks over the last decade: Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell (2018), Malcolm Brogdon and Dario Saric (2017), Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis (2016), Andrew Wiggins (2015), Michael Carter-Williams (2014), Damian Lillard (2013), Kyrie Irving (2012), Blake Griffin (2011) and Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings and Stephen Curry (2010).

Others receiving votes: Phoenix's Mikal Bridges, New York's Kevin Knox and Allonzo Trier, Minnesota's Josh Okogie, Dallas' Jalen Brunson, Brooklyn's Rodions Kurucs, Chicago's Wendell Carter Jr., Charlotte's Mile Bridges, Detroit's Bruce Brown, Sacramento's Harry Giles III, Orlando's Mo Bamba and Indiana's Aaron Holiday.