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Morning tip: Wall promises to be 'a better leader' for Wizards going forward

Morning tip: Wall promises to be 'a better leader' for Wizards going forward

While John Wall didn't sound very apologetic after he was ejected from the Wizards' last game, he took on a more contrite tone when he met with his teammates before they played the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

"I just told everybody that's my fault. Can't do that. If it was a seven-point game, I probably wouldn't have (done) it," he said of the Flagrant 2 foul that produced his automatic ejection with the Wizards up 20 on the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night. 

It was the second game in a row that Wall, the Wizards' only All-Star and floor general, had been tossed. The first time was a questionable second technical foul late in a game with the Houston Rockets on Monday. His foul on Marcus Smart of the Celtics was intentional. In all instances, Wall was unappy with what he perceived as no-calls against him when he attacked the basket.

"I just got to do a better job as a leader. ... Frustration got into it. Things weren’t going the right way. The game was fine but I’m talking about certain calls," Wall said. "Me being the leader I got to be able to stay in games, be able to close out games and lead our team to the win."

Wall has three points on his record with the  league office. He was assessed one point for a Flagrant 1, called when he hit Vince Carter making a basketball play on the head in Memphis, and two points for the Flagrant 2 on Smart. When a player exceeds five points, it's an automatic one-game suspension. 

"It's better that he handles himself in a better way," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "It's behind him. (Like) all experiences you learn from them, you move on. But we need him. We definitely need him on the floor. You got to control yourself. That last thing you want to do is have your points add up and miss games. It puts a lot of pressure on your teammates. You want to be able to be there for them at all times. ... When you're up 20, the only thing you should be focused on is closing out the game."

 

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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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