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Morning tip: For Wizards to get better shots, Wall has to inject pace

Morning tip: For Wizards to get better shots, Wall has to inject pace

The last time the Wizards saw the Miami Heat, they were giving up 114 points -- still a season-high -- to an offensively challenged unit that shot the lights out from deep with Dion Waiters, Goran Dragic, Derrick Williams and James Johnson.

A lot has changed since that Nov. 19 game. The Wizards (9-13) appear to have steadied their ship, winning three of their last four games. The Heat (7-17) are struggling to stay above water. 

"If we do a better job of guarding one-on-one like we have the been doing the last two games, it takes a lot of pressure off Marcin (Gortat) to help," point guaard John Wall said. "And having the guards help box Whiteside out. We can stop him from doing what he do but it's tough. It's not easy."

Therein rests the biggest key to whether or not the Wizards can win their third game in a row for the first time this season. 

Wall and the backcourt weren't on the same page with Gortat in the first game with Miami, a 114-111 loss at Verizon Center.  The guards wanted help. Gortat was intent on keeping his body on Whiteside, fearful of lobs over the top. What ended up happening was Miami got everything it wanted.

Whiteside still had 18 points and 18 rebounds, but the Wizards likely will have to use a similar strategy to neutralize him that worked so well against the length of the Milwaukee Bucks in a 110-105 victory on Saturday. 

Wall injected such pace into the game in the second half, and they moved the ball so switfly, it resulted in high-percentage looks. And coach Scott Brooks went to the smaller lineup, with Kelly Oubre at small forward and Otto Porter as the stretch forward, for the second game in a row with success to close out. 

"I also liked the way we were talking about pushing the ball, trying to get up within four seconds of the shot clock," Brooks said. "I thought John really triggered that in the second half, really attacking with pace. We have one of the fastest point guards in the league and we have to utilize that and I thought he did a good job. And Brad( Beal), they did a good job double-teaming him and keeping his looks to a minimum but he did a good job of passing out of the double-team. He had six assists but he easily could have had 12, a lot of good looks out of his passes.”

The Heat are one of the few teams that deosn't consistently send the ball baseline on side pick-and-rolls. They prefer to blitz it with multiple defenders, force the ball-handler to pick up his dribble and use their length to recover and rely on Whiteside's shot-blocking to bail them out. They didn't do much of that in their last game vs. the Bulls, but Wall and Beal tend to force teams into more aggressive coverages. The simple pass and ball movement to find the open shooter, however, can beat it.

The ball moves faster than any defender, no matter how long his reach. The Bucks found that out the hard way as the Wizards picked them apart but will they show that poise again? Repeating good habits for them has been a challenge. 

[RELATED: Kelly Oubre blossoms when Wizards need him most to beat Bucks]

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Wizards release statement on the passing of John Wall's mother

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Wizards release statement on the passing of John Wall's mother

The Washington Wizards announced the passing of John Wall's mother, Frances Pulley on Friday. 

Wall's mother had been battling cancer before her passing. She was 58. 

In a statement on Twitter, the Wizards said, "Sending thoughts and love for John Wall and his family after the passing of his mother, Frances Pulley. She will forever be a part of our #DCFamily."

Zach Leonsis, the senior vice president of strategic initiatives at Monumental Sports & Entertainment, also released a statement

"Thinking of @JohnWall and his family right now. Keeping you guys in our prayers. So terribly sorry for your loss and know that she will be remembered forever. #DCFamily

Wall's Kentucky coach, John Calipari also expressed his condolences for his former star: 

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Bradley Beal sees a young John Wall in the Grizzlies rookie sensation Ja Morant

Bradley Beal sees a young John Wall in the Grizzlies rookie sensation Ja Morant

WASHINGTON -- It is not often you see a rookie find initial success in the NBA to the degree Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant has, already with borderline All-Star numbers at the age of 20. And oftentimes, opponents are careful throwing out player comparisons for guys his age, wanting to see more before they anoint anyone.

Morant, though, is a different case and questions from media members at Wizards practice this week as the team gets set to face him for the first time naturally led to parallels to great players. On Thursday, Brooks brought up unprompted how much Morant reminds him of Russell Westbrook, his former player in Oklahoma City.

And on Friday, Bradley Beal invoked a teammate of his when breaking down what makes Morant so good.

"He loves to get up and down. He's really fast with the ball. It reminds you of John [Wall] in a lot of ways. He plays with his pace," Beal said.

Through 19 games this season, Morant is averaging 18.7 points, 6.4 assists and 1.3 steals per game. He is shooting 42.2 percent from three on 2.2 attempts.

The threes have been surprising to most, as he shot a relatively modest 36.3 percent his final year in college at Murray State. But also surprising maybe just how lethal he has been at attacking the rim.

Sure, that was a big part of his game in college. But this is the NBA where athletes are much bigger and stronger. And he isn't the biggest guy either, weighing in at 175 pounds according to Basketball-Reference.

But despite lacking in size, he has shown an ability to finish through contact rarely seen from any player.

"I think he has a no-fear type of mentality. So, you have to respect his aggressiveness," Beal said. "He'll get respect from a lot of players in the league, a lot of refs in the league because of his aggressiveness and... with all the posters he has. So, he's an assassin. You gotta respect his game."

Beal likely won't draw the defensive assignment on Morant. That will probably go to Ish Smith and back-up point guard Chris Chiozza, who is with the team while Isaiah Thomas recovers from a left calf injury.

Beal knows it is going to be tough for the whole Wizards team to contain Morant. He said the trick will be trying to stay in front of him, though he knows that is easier said than done.

Really, Morant is such a unique player that the Wizards can only gameplan and prepare so much until they actually experience facing him for the first time.

"He's gonna be a handful," Beal said.

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