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Morning tip: Sacrificing rebounds to stop 3s works for Wizards

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Morning tip: Sacrificing rebounds to stop 3s works for Wizards

The worst team in the NBA at defending the three-point shot, the Wizards were intent on not letting the Charlotte Hornets have their way with their small-ball lineups. They sacrificed two-point shots via putbacks on offensive rebounds to take away the long ball.

"We usually hedge teams," Jared Dudley said of the pick-and-roll coverage. "We didn't hedge. We switched a lot more."

The Wizards were outrebounded 51-38 in Saturday's 109-101 victory, with 18 of those for the Hornets on the offensive end. That translated to 19 second-chance points. 

Marcin Gortat had to run out to the arc and challenge shooters and that adjustment by coach Randy Wittman worked. Kemba Walker and Nic Batum each shot 1-for-7 from three. Marvin Williams was 1 of 5. Jeremy Lamb shot 1-for-4. 

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"Because we were switching so much, Gortat had to switch out sometimes. I had to switch out so then now John (Wall) and (Ramon) Sessions, those guys have to bang down low," Dudley said. "It's something they're not used to. It's the first time we've done something like that. On the rebounds you're going to give that up. Even with that they still make a lot of threes early on. We limited them second half. For now we'll take twos for threes and live with it."

The Wizards allowed an NBA worst 40%-plus from long range entering the weekend. The only other team in their vicinity is the New Orleans Pelicans. 

"Our activity was better," Wittman said. "We're in good spots but we're surprised they throw the ball to the guy I'm standing next to and they make a three. Our alertness and activity was much better."

Batum missed a three-pointer as Gortat rushed to close him out, but the Hornets had two offensive rebounds on the possession that resulted in a putback for Cody Zeller to rim the deficit to 95-88. Even when Jeremy Lin lost the ball on a drive for what appeared to be a sure turnover, Batum stepped right into its path and deposited into the basket.

Gortat challenged Walker's drive to the basket to force a miss but Zeller cleaned up the mess with putback dunk for a 99-96 margin. Then Zeller finished at the rim over Dudley to cut the deficit to one before the Wizards would end the game on a 10-3 run.

"We don't want  to give up as many rebounds as we did. They beat us on the boards last game but we did want to take away threes," said Wizards guard Garrett Temple, referring to a 101-87 loss in Charlotte last month when they were outrebounded 51-41. "We did a pretty good job defensively but we have to sure up our defensive rebounding. Even though we're small we got to find ways to get rebounds. We were able to knock down enough shots for it to not matter."

The Wizards came close to holding an opponent to less than 100 points for the first time in 10 games but the Hornets had 26 in the fourth. Still, they didn't convert any of their five three-point shots in the last 12 minutes.

"That's what teams are beating us on, three-pointers," rookie Kelly Oubre, who made his first start, said. "We honed in on that. We ran guys off the line. Tried to make sure we swtiched when we needed to switch and do things the right way."

To stop one area of bleeding, the Wizards had to concede another. The Hornets had seven offensive boards in the fourth alone.

"They did a great job of getting into the paint, finishing and getting offensive rebounds. That's our Achilles heel ... getting killed on the boards," Wall said. "They kicked our tail in the second half on the boards."

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Mystics star Kristi Toliver excited to officially join Wizards coaching staff

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USA Today Sports

Mystics star Kristi Toliver excited to officially join Wizards coaching staff

After months of serving a variety of roles for the organization, Kristi Toliver now has an official title with the Washington Wizards. The Mystics star has joined Scott Brooks' staff as an assistant coach and assistant for player development.

Toliver, 31, will remain a member of the Mystics, who play their season during the summer. The lack of overlap will allow her to focus much of her time on the Wizards and what she hopes becomes a long and successful coaching career.

She chose joining the Wizards over continuing to play professionally this year overseas, an option many WNBA players use in the offseason. But she has a coaching dream and happens to have caught on with the hometown team.

"This is the opportunity of a lifetime. When it came about, I wanted to be involved in any capacity that I could," Toliver said.

Toliver is the first active WNBA player to serve on an NBA bench and just the second woman after Becky Hammon, who is an assistant for the San Antonio Spurs. Toliver plans to reach out to Hammon after getting her phone number from Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird.

Toliver is honored to be in the same category with Hammon, whom she looked up to first as a player and now as a coach who has become a trailblazer in the profession.

"I know she's going to be somebody that I can ask questions to," Toliver said. "I will pick her brain about how she played and I will pick her brain about how she is coaching."

Hammon joined the Spurs' coaching staff in 2014 after years of helping the team out in other ways. Now that there are two female NBA assistants, the logical question is when one will become a head coach.

Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal can already attest to Toliver's impact and said there could be a female head coach "very soon."

"I wouldn't be surprised if it happened sooner rather than later," Beal said. "If you know the game, you know the game. Plain and simple."

Toliver has served as a coach in the Wizards' 5-on-5 scrimmages at practice. She has also been particularly helpful with ball-handling, which makes sense given she's the starting point guard for the Mystics. Toliver has helped a variety of Wizards players in dribbling drills including the big men like Jeff Green and Dwight Howard.

Coaching has required an adjustment for Toliver, who is used to having the ball in her hands running the offense. But just as being a player can help her as a coach, she expects to become a better player now seeing the game from a new perspective.

"I'd much rather be playing, I know that. But it's good to think the game in a different way and from a different point of view," she said.

Brooks has been effusive in his praise of Toliver ever since she began helping out in the Las Vegas Summer League in July. He invited her to join the staff over the phone shortly before the Summer League began and will admit he did not know at the time the relationship would get this far.

But over the summer, Brooks lost two assistants to other teams in Chad Iske and Sidney Lowe, paving the way for some movement on his staff. He promoted several positions from within and an opening was created for Toliver to come on board.

"She's a special talent. She's going to be moving through the ranks pretty quick," Brooks said.

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Mystics' Kristi Toliver joins Wizards coaching staff for 2018-19 season

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@WashMystics

Mystics' Kristi Toliver joins Wizards coaching staff for 2018-19 season

It's certainly not uncommon for professional athletes to make the transition into coaching following their playing days. We have seen more and more of this in recent years throughout sports, especially with younger coaches getting the chance to lead teams. 

What is uncommon is when a professional athlete begins their quest for life after playing while they're still playing. 

Washington Mystics veteran guard Kristi Toliver is joining the Wizards' coaching staff, the team announced Tuesday. 

The news comes after the 10-year WNBA pro got her feet wet on the Wizards' bench during Vegas Summer League play in July. 

Along with Elena Delle Donne, Toliver helped lead the Mystics to the 2018 WNBA Finals, before ultimately falling to the Seattle Storm. 

The 31-year-old was drafted third overall by Chicago in 2009 after leading her Maryland Terrapins to a national championship in 2006. 

Toliver will serve as an assistant coach and focus on player development for head coach Scott Brooks. 

Coach Brooks also welcomes Robert Pack and Ryan Richman to the front of the bench. Pack served as assistant coach under Brooks for two seasons during their Oklahoma City Thunder days while Richman led the team during summer leage play and is entering his fifth year in Washington. 

The Wizards open their 2018-19 regular season Thursday against the Miami Heat inside Capital One Arena. Tip-off is slated for 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

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