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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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A revitalized DeMarcus Cousins poses the most unique challenge of Thomas Bryant’s young career

A revitalized DeMarcus Cousins poses the most unique challenge of Thomas Bryant’s young career

The Golden State Warriors, it's probably safe to say, present a unique challenge defensively. They have two MVPs and five All-NBA selections. If you ask Scott Brooks, they have six future Hall of Famers, including Andre Iguodala off the bench.

With DeMarcus Cousins now in the fold, the Warriors can roll out a five-man lineup of guys who can put the ball on the floor and shoot from the outside. Long range shooting for them, of course, has a different meaning than other teams. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant are deadly from 30 feet, and sometimes beyond. 

As a team, the Warriors shoot 39 percent from the perimeter on 33.5 attempts per game. Stopping them is a gargantuan task, but the Wizards will give it a shot on Thursday night with an 8 p.m. tipoff set for national TV on TNT.

The Warriors' ability to spread the floor and move the ball from shooter to shooter with unrivaled range is difficult to keep up with, not only for the wing defenders chasing them around. It will also present a unique challenge for Wizards center Thomas Bryant, who at 21 years old and in his second season will be new to it all.

Bryant has only played the Warriors once in his career. That was earlier this season, with the Wizards on Oct. 24. He logged nine minutes, but those were late in a 22-point blowout loss. The game occurred about a month before he was promoted to the starting lineup.

It may seem counterintuitive that Bryant, a big man, will be one to watch as the Wizards battle a team tailored for the perimeter. But he will have plenty of responsibility on the backline of Washington's defense. 

"He has to be a quarterback," Wizards guard Bradley Beal said. "He has to talk. Their bigs, they hand the ball off a lot and we'll be switching tomorrow. He has to make sure he's able to guard Steph, Klay, K.D. at times. He's going to be switched out to guys. Making it difficult for them with his length and playing with energy, that's what we need."

Bryant, indeed, could very easily find himself on an island at the three-point line, tasked momentarily to stay in front of Curry, for instance. The Warriors will do their best to find mismatches, and they are good at getting them.

Bryant has quick feet and long arms that suggest he can guard in space, but doesn't do a ton of perimeter duty for the Wizards. He is 85th among centers in contested threes per 36 minutes. Usually, he stays home around the rim.

However, he'll almost certainly have to venture out against Golden State, even if he is trailing Cousins. Last season, when he was healthy, Cousins averaged 6.1 three-point attempts per game. This season, through two games back from Achilles surgery, he has taken 40 percent of his shots beyond 16 feet.

"They put so much pressure on you defensively that all five guys need to be on-point," Brooks said. "A lot of times in transition, Thomas is going to be guarding smaller guys because they're coming at you all over the floor. You have to be able to manage that and guard that."

Bryant will get his chance against the Warriors, but the leash could end up being short. Brooks has the option to go small with Jeff Green at center. He could favor a lineup with Green in the middle alongside Trevor Ariza and Otto Porter Jr. at forward and Beal and Tomas Satoransky at guard. That would maximize their ability to switch.

Bryant, though, will start. Whether he stays on the floor could depend on how he fares defending outside shots, which he hasn't done a whole of this season.

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DeMatha alum and Pacers star Victor Oladipo stretchered off with scary leg injury

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USA Today Sports

DeMatha alum and Pacers star Victor Oladipo stretchered off with scary leg injury

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The Indiana Pacers lost All-Star guard Victor Oladipo with an apparent right leg injury in the second quarter of Wednesday night's game against Toronto.

Trainers quickly put a towel over the leg and players from both teams surrounded Oladipo as he lay on the floor. Fans gave him a standing ovation as he was carted off the floor on a stretcher.

The injury occurred when Oladipo fell awkwardly while trying to defend an outlet pass to Raptors forward Serge Ibaka, who landed on top of Oladipo with 4:05 to go.

Oladipo made his first All-Star Game last season after being acquired in the trade for Paul George. He is the Pacers' top scorer this season at 19.2 points per game.