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Paul Millsap thinks trash talking by Markieff Morris, Wizards a trap for Hawks

Paul Millsap thinks trash talking by Markieff Morris, Wizards a trap for Hawks

The Wizards struck first in their playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks by taking Game 1 on Sunday.

Not only did they win, but afterwards it was clear the Hawks were thrown off by Washington's physical style of play and trash talking.

Hawks All-Star Paul Millsap described the Wizards as "playing MMA."

Now that he's had a night to think about Game 1, his biggest takeaway is that Atlanta needs to make sure they don't let the Wizards' instigating style to affect them.

"They're going to say some things to try to get under our skin and take us out of our game, but we're not going to fall for it," Millsap said after Hawks practice Monday on the campus of Georgetown University.

RELATED: TRASH-TALKING IN PRO SPORTS: LOCAL STARS WEIGH IN

Millsap had some run-ins with Wizards forward Markieff Morris in Game 1. They were matched up for much of the game and late in the second quarter the two were in each other's faces at halfcourt. After the game, Morris said he enjoys talking trash.

Millsap thinks it's a trap.

"I'm not going to turn it into a personal battle between me and [Wizards forward Markieff] Morris. That's what he wants me to do, take all of the focus off the team and put it on him. I'm not going to do that. I've been in the league too long. It's about the team," he said.

Millsap was asked on several occasions about Morris and his matchup against him. Each time he directed the conversation towards John Wall and Bradley Beal, saying they were the most important players for the Hawks to contain.

"We're fine with [Morris and Marcin Gortat] scoring. Somebody's gotta score. We don't want John Wall and Bradley Beal getting hot. I think if we can cut that out, we'll be alright," he said.

Millsap believes the Wizards were trying to set a tone and send a message in Game 1. They accomplished that, but now it's time for the Hawks to counter.

Center Dwight Howard thinks the Hawks can play the physical style and give it back to the Wizards.

"It's fun. If they allowed both teams to play as physical. I would love that," Howard said. "I thought they came out very physical, talking trash and trying to get into everybody's skin. That's great. You can't dump that. You've gotta enjoy it and embrace it."

Howard, who has been to the NBA Finals once and the conference finals three times, thinks physical play and trash talking are just part of playoff basketball.

"That's what you expect. I wouldn't expect anything less from John Wall, Markieff Morris or Bradley Beal," he said. "Every team is going to have a couple players that have that mentality where they want to talk trash and try to get under your skin."

Like Howard, point guard Dennis Schroder is ready to hit back.

"[Morris] started it at halftime when we got together. But I think that's normal. Everybody is competing and everybody is trying to win and that's the reason people talk trash," Schroder said. "They played really physical. We've gotta give them credit for that, but I think we have to come out stronger as a unit. Give them the first punch and be ready."

The Hawks will get their chance to punch back in Game 2 on Wednesday [6 p.m. on CSN].

RELATED: OUBRE SAYS MORRIS IS BETTER THAN PAUL MILLSAP

 

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Bobby Portis replacing Thomas Bryant in starting lineup, Scott Brooks announces

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Bobby Portis replacing Thomas Bryant in starting lineup, Scott Brooks announces

The Wizards' starting five is gonna look a little different Saturday night. 

Bobby Portis will replace Thomas Bryant as Washington's starting center against the Pacers, head coach Scott Brooks told reporters before the game. 

Per Brooks, the Wizards want to "see what we have" in Portis, who will be a restriced free agent this summer. 

With his team having lost eight of their last 11, this tweak signals Brooks will be looking to switch it up as the Wizards' playoff hopes begin to dim. Washington sits four games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. 

Portis, who came over from the Bulls in the Otto Porter trade, has averaged 17.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game in five contests since joining the Wizards. He's been particularly lethal from beyond the arc, knocking down 50 percent of his three-point attempts.

Bryant has filled in admirably as the starting center this season with Dwight Howard dealing with a back injury. In 49 games (43 starts), he's averaged 9.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. 

For the Pacers, center Myles Turner has been officially ruled out of Saturday's game with a hip injury. 

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Reeling Wizards hope to shift momentum in playoff race as they host red-hot Pacers

Reeling Wizards hope to shift momentum in playoff race as they host red-hot Pacers

The Wizards' playoff hopes just keep taking hits. Washington fell on Friday night in their first game back from the All-Star break, making that eight losses in 11 games. Meanwhile, the eighth-seed Pistons won, pushing the Wizards to four games back from a playoff spot.

With 23 games remaining in their season, the odds are increasingly stacked against the Wizards making the playoffs, a goal they maintain despite the injuries that have plagued them so far. 

Basketball-Reference.com handicaps postseason chances and the Wizards currently hold a higher likelihood of winning the draft lottery (7%) than they did making the playoffs (4.8%). 

If teams maintain their current course for the remainder of the regular season, the threshold to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference should fall somewhere close to 39 wins. The Pistons are on pace for 38.8 wins as they sit in the final spot.

At 24-35, the Wizards need to go 15-8 from here on out to get to 39. That's a .652 win percentage. Basically, the Wizards would have to play at a 53-win pace for more than a quarter of a season.

For a team that has shown no signs recently of going on an extended run, that seems highly unlikely. For it to happen, they would need a sudden defensive overhaul.

Their offense, even in this 11-game skid, has been fine. During this stretch, they have been third in the NBA in points per game (118.8), second in field goal percentage (49) and eighth in offensive rating (114).

The defense has been an unmitigated disaster. They have surrendered more points than any team (123.4) and the highest field goal percentage (49.5) and three-point percentage (42). 

The Wizards found salary cap relief in their deals before the trade deadline, but didn't add much in the way of a defensive upgrade. 

Jabari Parker is known for his scoring and made headlines earlier this year about how teams don't pay players for defense. Bobby Portis, though a capable rebounder, doesn't block a good deal of shots. 

Looking at their current roster, it's hard to see where the defensive upgrade will come from. Guys like Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza can't stop teams on their own.

The Wizards did not get off to a good start after the All-Star break with their loss to the Hornets, but will get another chance quickly as they host the Indiana Pacers for a 7 p.m. tip-off on NBC Sports Washington.

The Pacers, who hold the No. 3 seed in the East at the moment, charge in having won seven of their last eight games. Technically, it represents an opportunity for the Wizards to punch back against a playoff team, though they will take a win against anyone at this point.

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