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Morning tip: Wizards could never find footing on defensive end in Game 7 loss

Morning tip: Wizards could never find footing on defensive end in Game 7 loss

BOSTON -- The Wizards can feel that they have better talent than the Boston Celtics, but only one team is advancing to the conference finals to face the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"I hate losing," Bradley Beal said after scoring a game-high 38 points in a 115-105 loss Monday, "especially when we feel like we were the better team."

The home team won each game and because the Celtics, as the No. 1 seed, had home-court advantage that proved to be the difference. If the Wizards were clearly better, however, they would've created more sepearation when they led 70-64 in the third quarter only to succumb to a 22-5 run that put it away at TD Garden.

The Wizards played here six times this season and lost all of them.

The checklist going into this season was a long one for coach Scott Brooks. He succeeded in getting John Wall to play like an All-NBA player. He got Beal to play up to his max contract and Otto Porter blossomed into a three-point threat. 

Where the Wizards fell short, however, was defense. It was one of the areas that president Ernie Grunfeld emphasized when he hired Brooks last spring after firing Randy Wittman who couldn't find the balance between building a more offensively potent team that remained defensively responsible.

"We just didn't have a great effort, all the way to the end (for) 48 minutes," said Marcin Gortat, the Wizards only starter to finish outside of double figures with six points but a game-high 11 rebounds. "We just didn't defend well at the end of the game. We tried to score a little bit but we just lost our composure and they picked us apart."

[RELATED: Add Kelly Olynyk to list of unexpected D.C. sports nightmares]

Despite the Wizards having a 46-31 edge in rebounding, they were battered in the paint as they were outscored 58-40 by the smaller team that was more physical. 

The coverage of the Celtics' backscreening by guards was absent as layups were frequent early on. Kelly Olynyk's 26 points came off a lot of open looks as the pick-and-pop 7-footer made a pair of three-pointers.

A pair of three-pointers to the third quarter broke open a tied scored to give Boston an 85-79 lead. Two minutes into the fourth quarter, the Wizards were down 13 on Isaiah Thomas' three-pointer. The Wizards got it down to 101-97 with 6:10 to play because of Beal's four-point play, but they couldn't get stops.

"We can't have lapses where our defense collapse like that especially in crunch time," Porter said. "End of the third quarter was big for us. I still feel like we were in control of the game."

Towards the end of the regular season, the Wizards went 4-1 on a road trip when they had to come from double-digit deficits to beat the Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and Portland Trail Blazers. All were sub.-500 teams that couldn't defend well enough to slow down Washington's potent offense. 

But as the competition gets better, those defensive lapses become more pronounced. And teams such as the Celtics won't just lay down and let the Wizards have what they want when they want it like the Suns, Kings and Blazers.

They taketh away. 

[RELATED: Celtics' Smart on Wall in Game 7: 'His legs were gone']

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Fallout from the Kawhi/DeRozan trade; Kevin Love questions

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Fallout from the Kawhi/DeRozan trade; Kevin Love questions

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hugheswas joined by Nick Ashooh to break down the fallout from the trade involving Kawhi Leonard and DeMar DeRozan.

They looked at what it means for the Wizards and the East, as well as the Lakers and LeBron. Plus, they took fan questions, many of which centered on Kevin Love and the possibility of a trade to Washington.

You can listen to the episode right here:

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Jeff Green hopes NBA Finals experience with Cavs can rub off on Wizards

Jeff Green hopes NBA Finals experience with Cavs can rub off on Wizards

Jeff Green's basketball résumé got a significant boost this spring and summer as his Cleveland Cavaliers marched all the way to the NBA Finals before they were swept by the Golden State Warriors. It was Green's first time going past the second round of the playoffs and the experience, he says, was invaluable.

Green has come about as close to winning a championship without actually winning one and he certainly hopes to get back in that position. Green believes his new team, the Washington Wizards, have the tools to make a deep playoff run and it's one of the reasons why he signed a free agent deal to join them.

"Being there last year myself with Cleveland, I know it takes a lot. It takes a lot of pieces. I feel like this team has them," he said. "We can get back to that point. When I got the call, I felt like it was the best opportunity for myself to get there."

The Wizards' franchise has not been past the second round of the playoffs since 1979, when they were known as the Bullets. That was before anyone on their roster was born.

But Green pointed to the open Eastern Conference and the talent on the roster as reasons to believe they can accomplish some things that they haven't in decades. They may be capable, but putting it all together is easier said than done.

Green hopes to be one of the glue guys necessary for the Wizards to reach their potential, in part by sharing the lessons he learned.

"Never take it for granted. There are a lot of greats that have never been there," he said. "Getting to the Finals and being part of that was beyond amazing. With the experience and seeing what it took, I can bring that here and get everybody on the same page of knowing what it takes and the sacrifices that you have to do to get to that point."

Green over and over mentioned how it takes a collective effort to go to the conference finals and beyond, but he did show some self-awareness and a sense of humor about his own experience in Cleveland. All teams are different and the one he just left was a unique situation.

"You can’t get there individually. I mean, you can, we did last year. I mean, LeBron [James] carried us all the way there," he joked. "But there’s only one LeBron, but to get there you have to have team unity. You all have to be on the same page and sacrifice to make sure you’re doing what it takes to get the team there. I think that’s the biggest key. It’s not an individual thing… unless you’re LeBron."

If the Wizards are to reach their goals and go to the conference finals or the NBA Finals, they will have to do it differently than the Cavaliers did. They do not have a player on the level of James who can do much of it by himself. But Green said the process of imparting his wisdom has already started.

"I talked to John [Wall]," Green said. "Knowing that he wants to get to the Finals, I was just picking his brain and what he thinks is needed to get there. And me sharing my experience of getting to the Finals and what it takes."

The Wizards have reached a point as an organization where they have the urgency to reach new heights. Green believes he can help them get there.

Listen to our full interview with Jeff Green on the Wizards Tipoff Podcast:

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