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Morning tip: Wizards skip 'rivalry' chatter about Celtics, offer praise before Game 1

Morning tip: Wizards skip 'rivalry' chatter about Celtics, offer praise before Game 1

BOSTON -- Maybe it was because the Wizards just didn't have the energy after a grueling six-game series with the Atlanta Hawks, but all were measured and respectful in their words about their heated rival Boston Celtics before Game 1 tips today.

They had a light walkthrough on Saturday, less than 24 hours after a 115-99 road victory expelled the Atlanta Hawks from the postseason. 

"People want to call it a rivalry, whatever they want, it's not a rivalry," said John Wall, who got into a confrontation with Jae Crowder at TD Garden in January that led to both players being fined by the league office. "This is the first time we've played them in the playoffs."

They tied the season series at 2, with each team winning comfortably on their home floor but falling on the road. 

Wall was ejected from the first meeting at Verizon Center after a flagrant foul on Marcus Smart. Last season, Smart broke Bradley Beal's nose and gave him a concussion with a blow to the face.

"It's basketball," Beal said. "We're not fighting out here. I don't think that's either team's intention to. We both play hard. We both are competitive. We both want to win.  That's all it is. It's no dirty play out here from us and it's not going to be from them. We're going to keep it clean."

[RELATED: Keys to look for in Wizards-Celtics semifinal series]

The Hawks series got more testy than expected as Markieff Morris and Paul Millsap clashed after Game 1 won by the Wizards. In Friday's closeout game, Kent Bazemore shoved Beal after he had a transition dunk and was prone in the air that led to three technicals being issued.

"No," Morris said when asked if there was ill feelings between the Wizards and Celtics. "Teams argue all the time. I wouldn't say there's bad blood. I'm good friends with Gerald Green."

Brooks was visibly upset after a 117-108 loss here on Jan. 18, when Crowder poked Wall in the nose with his index finger only to get slapped on the chin. The Celtics were only called for 10 total team fouls in a game that was loosely officiated. The Wizards only were called for 13. 

Two weeks later, the Wizards wore all black in a Funeral Game to bury the Celitcs. They routed them 123-108 in D.C. 

Brooks is past that blip on the radar of a 49-win season that has put the Wizards in the conference semifinals for the third time in four years. It's Brooks first season in Washington. 

"I think both teams play hard. I have no problem playing hard," he said. "The rivalry, I don't know if it's a rivalry. When is the last time the teams played in the playoffs?"

[RELATED: A rundown of the history between Wizards and Celtics]

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Bradley Beal passing Wes Unseld on Wizards' scoring list a reminder of his place among franchise greats

Bradley Beal passing Wes Unseld on Wizards' scoring list a reminder of his place among franchise greats

WASHINGTON -- John Wall, Bradley Beal, Wes Unseld. That's how the Wizards' all-time scoring list reads from No.'s three through five after Monday's Wizards win over the Pistons, as Beal moved into sole possession of fourth place with a good chance of passing Wall before the season is over.

Unseld remains the most accomplished player in Wizards/Bullets franchise history as an NBA champion, 1977-78 Finals MVP, 1968-69 league MVP and rookie of the year plus a Hall of Fame induction. But Beal passing him is another reminder he already has a place among Wizards and Bullets luminaries.

"That's an honor because that list is full of greats, true Wizards and Bullets legends. To be a part of that is an honor," Beal said. 

Within the context of Wizards franchise history, Beal has already separated himself as one of the best to ever suit up. In addition to being fourth in points, he is the all-time leader in three-pointers, sixth in assists, seventh in steals and 10th in win shares. He also has the single-season record for threes. That's not bad for a guy who is 26 years old. 

The Wizards/Bullets franchise, of course, doesn't have the same historic success as others like the Celtics and Lakers, but it has been around for 59 seasons. During that time 444 different players have appeared in a game for them.

The franchise goes all the way back to 1962 when they were known as the Chicago Packers. Along the way, there have been more losses (2597) than wins (2142), but many All-Stars and decorated players have come through.

Continuing to make his mark on the Wizards/Bullets franchise seems to be genuinely important to Beal. During his halftime interview with NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller, he mentioned the team's Baltimore days when discussing the Unseld feat. Back when he signed his contract extension in October, he explained the decision partly in terms of creating a legacy in Washington and taking the franchise to places it hasn't been in a long time.

On Monday, he alluded to those goals again.

"I never would have dreamt of that or thought of that coming here. To still be here is an honor, too. I'm just taking it in full stride. I've still got a lot more basketball to play, so who knows where I'll end up," he said.

Beal is well on his way to being widely known as one of the best players in Wizards/Bullets history. If he plays many more years in Washington and doesn't leave on bad terms, he will likely have his jersey retired someday.

But in order to reach the true top tier of Wizards/Bullets greats, he will have to lead them to some playoff success. Getting to the conference finals, where Washington hasn't been since the 1970s, would certainly stand out.

Still, if you were putting together a roster of the best players in Wizards/Bullets history, he would already be included.

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Despite place in standings, Wizards believe playoffs aren't a pipe dream

Despite place in standings, Wizards believe playoffs aren't a pipe dream

WASHINGTON -- This may be the most realistic and self-aware Wizards team we have seen in a while. It wasn't long ago they had a penchant for talking big about what they believed they could accomplish. Nowadays, knowing where they are in the standings, their expectations are much more measured.

They know they are 12th in the Eastern Conference, even after beating the Pistons on Monday. They know their 14-28 record, which is 14 games under .500 and has them on pace to win 27 total games, isn't good.

But the Wizards are allowed to dream and they say making the playoffs is still something they would like to do.

"That's the goal, that's every day for us. [It's] in the back of my mind," shooting guard Bradley Beal said.

"I watch the games, I watch the standings and everything. We're not talking about it," head coach Scott Brooks said. "If that comes into play [we'll see]. The seventh and eighth seeds, the records aren't great."

There is certainly a case for that. The two teams currently occupying the bottom two playoff spots in the East have sub-.500 records. The seventh-ranked Magic are 20-23 and the Brooklyn Nets are in eighth with an 18-24 mark.

Last season, the Charlotte Hornets held up the Eastern Conference playoff bracket with a losing record as the eighth seed. They went 39-43, not good but still a much better pace than the Wizards are currently on. To win 39 games, they would have to go 25-16 the rest of the way.

Though they have shown some positive signs, going 4-4 in their last eight games, that would require going to a completely different level in the second half of the season. Still, there is no harm in maintaining their goals.

Beal, for one, has envisioned a way it can happen.

"Especially once All-Star hits, that second half is just flying. We have to tighten up and try to get some wins here before the break because that's usually the time when teams like to ease off the pedal a little bit. We have to take advantage of [that], that advantage of our schedule, take care of our bodies, and rally together," he said.

If the Wizards really, really wanted to go for the playoffs, they could try to add some pieces before the Feb. 6 trade deadline. But that should not be expected. In fact, this year's deadline for the Wizards likely won't be affected much at all by the playoff picture.

It's hard to envision them being buyers and they may not be able to be true sellers, either, due to injuries and other factors. Also, there is a belief in the front office that keeping a close distance in the playoff race could be a nice incentive for their young players, that having something to work for later in the season could help their development.

If the Wizards did somehow make the playoffs or even get close, that would be quite the surprise and it would say a lot about the direction of the organization. But in the long-term, it would seem to be more beneficial if they continue on their current course and end up with a top draft pick.

The Wizards right now have the fifth-worst record in the league. That would net them a lot of ping-pong balls for the draft lottery.

It seems likely that's where this season will end. But it doesn't hurt to try.

"We just want to play. We just want to finish the second half of the season playing better," Brooks said.

The Wizards are only four games back in the playoff race. Stranger things have happened.

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