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Morning tip: 'Playoff' Bradley Beal born in Wizards' last series vs. Hawks

Morning tip: 'Playoff' Bradley Beal born in Wizards' last series vs. Hawks

The genesis of Bradley Beal's $128 million max contract, signed last summer, was May 5, 2015. That was Game 1 of the  Wizards' semifinal series with the Atlanta Hawks, who'll be their first-round playoff opponent starting Sunday.

This time, the Wizards are the higher seed. Then, the Hawks were the top seed in the East and pushed to the brink as Beal filled the void when John Wall went out with five non-displaced fractures in his left hand and wrist.

Coach Scott Brooks rested Beal in the regular-season finale at the Miami Heat, so his last appearance came with 33 points in closing down The Palace of Auburn Hills. He displayed every weapon in his arsenal in beating the Detroit Pistons, from three-point shooting to breaking his man down off the dribble and finishing through traffic at the rim. Beal's havoc opened space for Markieff Morris to knock down clutch shots from three-point and mid-range too. 

It was playoff Beal, who also has been Washington's most consistent perimeter defender. 

“That’s what good players create ... helping our team score without scoring," Brooks said. "Brad has the ability to draw attention off his cuts, off his pindowns and I thought this season he’s really improved in that and it’s only going to get better.”

In those three games missed by Wall, before he returned for Games 5 and 6 vs the Hawks in that series, Beal averaged 23.6 points, 6.0 assists and 4.6 rebounds. He also gave Kyle Korver, who was the engine that made the Hawks' motion offense go, absolute fits. 

MORE WIZ-HAWKS: Looking back at the last time the Wizards and Hawks meet in the NBA Playoffs

Marked mostly by Beal, Korver was held to 7.0 points per game and just 12-for-42 three-point shooting, or 28.5%. Korver had led the league by shooting 49.2% on the long ball in the regular season.

The Wizards were convinced that Beal was a max player and the only question was his ability to stay healthy after so many stops and starts in his first four seasons. This was the first time, however, that he didn't have a stress reaction in his lower right leg. 

The medical staff and methodolgy were revamped to better deal with injury issues for all of the players and other than an early-season thigh strain that cost Beal three games and a rolled ankle that kept him out for one game, he was able to stay on the court. Brooks made significant changes to cut the length of practices which helped prevent overuse injuries such as stress reactions, a precursor to a fracture in the bone.

The results: Beal set career-highs across the board with 77 of 82 games played, 23.1 points, 48.2% field-goal shooting, 3.5 assists and 82.5% free-throw shooting. And he did it while still shooting better than 40% from three-point range. 

Beal's overall shooting accuracy is 34th in the NBA, and just second-best among shooting guards. Gary Harris of the Denver Nuggets, who attempted six fewer shots per game than Beal (11), is No. 1 at the position at 50.2%. 

Korver is long gone from Atlanta, but they have a host of three-point shooters who will command Beal's attention on the defensive end such as Tim Hardaway and Mike Dunleavy. 

If Beal could solve Korver, who played on a better team that also had Al Horford, he should be able to figure out this group. 

RELATED: What the Wizards will need to beat the Hawks

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Rebounding issues arise again in Wizards' season opening loss to the Miami Heat

Rebounding issues arise again in Wizards' season opening loss to the Miami Heat

Realistically, the Miami Heat had no business even being in position to win on Thursday night in the Wizards' 2018-19 regular season opener.

They shot just 39.2 percent from the field, compared to 46.9 percent for the Wizards, and had 19 turnovers. 

The Heat were on the second night of a back-to-back, having lost a tough one to the Magic the night before. They were missing a host of rotation players, including two of their regular starters.

Yet, the Heat pulled out a victory to stun the Opening Night crowd at Capital One Arena simply because they out-hustled the Wizards. They out-rebounded the Wizards 55-40, including a 22-7 margin in offensive boards. Those 22 offensive rebounds were tied for the most allowed by the Wizards since 2012.

"Rebounding the ball is really why we lost the game," Wizards guard John Wall said. "That's really where they killed us."

Miami's advantage on the glass allowed them to put up a whopping 16 more shots. That led to 27 second chance points compared to just 10 for Washington.

It was the central theme of the game, so naturally it played a role in how it was decided. After Wall forced a miss by Dwyane Wade on a fadeaway attempt in the closing seconds, Heat big man Kelly Olynyk was right there to catch the ball and scoop it in for two.

That score proved to be the go-ahead points as just 0.2 seconds remained on the clock. All night, the Wizards made plays on defense, only to have the Heat save themselves with second looks.

The Wizards had no better explanation postgame other than Miami simply tried harder.

"They out-hustled us," forward Jeff Green said.

"Rebounds come down to whoever wants it the most and tonight they wanted it more than we did," forward Otto Porter Jr. said.

It sounds simple, and perhaps it was indeed that easy to explain. But there were other factors at play, some in their control and some not.

For one, the Wizards were missing their best rebounder, Dwight Howard, who sat out with a strained piriformis muscle. Even at 32, Howard remains one of the best rebounders in basketball and would have made a significant difference. 

It would have been nice to have him, a 280-pound giant in the paint to match up with Hassan Whiteside, one of the most physically imposing centers in the league.

With Howard out of the mix, the Wizards turned to Ian Mahinmi and Jason Smith, but they each stumbled into early foul trouble. Head coach Scott Brooks had no other option than to go small with guys like Green and Markieff Morris at the five-spot.

Brooks wants to employ that strategy more often anyways, but not by necessity. And sure enough, it was Green and Morris on the floor when Olynyk broke loose for the final deciding play.

"The last rebound, we definitely need to put most of the ownership on me and Jeff because we were the biggest guys," Morris said. "I think that might have been the easiest layup of the game right there."

"I was surprised I was open," Olynyk admitted afterwards. "It kinda just popped open and I was kinda just standing right there."

Though many factors were at play, the Wizards' struggles rebounding the ball came down to the simple fundamentals of boxing out their opponent. As they learned last year, it's tough to be consistent when you can't take care of the little things that separate wins and losses. 



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After his buzzer beater, Kelly Olynyk is becoming one of D.C.'s top sports villains

After his buzzer beater, Kelly Olynyk is becoming one of D.C.'s top sports villains

Kelly Olynyk has done it once again to the Washington Wizards. 

The Miami Heat center ripped the heart of the Wizards just when it looked like it was going to be a new chapter for the team.

After leading a team to victory over the Wizards once again, he is starting to become one of the biggest sports villains in Washington D.C.

Olynyk hit a go-ahead layup with 0.2. second left to sink the Wizards in their 2018 season opener. Dwyane Wade had the first chance to win it for the Heat. He missed, but Olynyk was there for the rebound and uncontested layup.

For those that need a reminder this is not the first time Olynyk has torched the Wizards. 

Back in Game 7 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Olynyk, then the Boston Celtics backup center, went off for 26 points, 14 coming in a tense fourth quarter. The loss ended the Wizards chance to get to the Conference Finals that year. If would have been the first time they reach that mark in the John Wall-era of the franchise.

Olynyk was also guilty of getting under the skin of Kelly Oubre Jr. The Wizards forward was sent to the floor following a big screen set by Olynyk. Oubre sprang to his feet and shoved Olynyk, leading to a minor scuffle. Oubre was ejected from the game and suspended for the following game.

With a reputation like that, Olynyk is starting to etch his name down on the wrong side of D.C. sports lore.

Who does Olynyk join among the ranks of most disliked athletes inside the D.M.V.? Here's our list:

Sidney Crosby

To the vast majority of Washington, D.C. sports fans, no one will ever be a bigger villain than Sidney Crosby. His rivalry with Alex Ovechkin is a major part of this, but being on the winning side more often than the Washington Capitals plays just as big a part. Crosby's Pittsburgh Penguins eliminated the Capitals in three different Eastern Conference Semifinal series before Washington finally broke through last season.

Also it's Crosby. His incessant whinning and cockiness are overwhelming. 

Jaroslav Halak

At the time he was just an average goalie for the Montreal Canadiens, but by the end of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Jaroslav Halak was public enemy No. 1 in the nation's capital.

Against a Capitals team that won the Presidents Trophy, Halak stood on his head as the No. 8 seed Canadiens faced elimination with the Caps up 3-1 in the series. He had 37 saves in Game 5, an incredible 53 saves in Game 6, and clinched the series with 41 saves in Game 7. He allowed just three goals in those three games, and sent the Capitals packing earlier than expected.

Had it not been for Halak, the first Washington Capitals championship might have happened well before June 2018.

Jerry Jones

He owns the Dallas Cowboys. Need we say more? 

Jonathan Papelbon

For years Jonathan Papelbon was on the Philadelphia Phillies. That alone would be enough to be on the bad side of D.C. sports fans.

Then he came to Washington, as a member of the Nationals, and tried to choke-out Bryce Harper

An insider job? We think so. 

Albert Haynesworth

Albert Haynesworth drew a seven-year, $100 million contract with the Washington Redskins. He ended up playing less than two seasons. 

He was so bad that NFL.com has listed him as one of the worst free agents signings in league history.

There are two things Albert Haynesworth is remembered for in Washington, D.C.
1: Taking a lot of money from the Redskins
2: This video 

Pete Kozma

Only on this list because some believe that Pete Kozma is the sole reason the Washington Nationals did not win a championship in 2012.

Aside from a three-run home run and then the game-winning runs in Game 5 of the NLDS, there has not been another chapter in the Kozma vs. Washington D.C. rivalry.

The real villain in all of this should be the Nats' pitcher, Drew Storen. He had a two-run lead before coming into the ninth in a winner-take-all Game 5. He gave the Cardinals four runs.


So now that I've gone and despressed your day away, re-living terrible D.C. sports nightmares, just know that Olynyk is squarely on this list and just re-affirmed that with his latest buzzer-beater.