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Ramon Sessions isn't surprised how Magic respond to Scott Skiles

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Ramon Sessions isn't surprised how Magic respond to Scott Skiles

The Orlando Magic are at .500 for the first time in since 2013-14 season. Wizards backup point guard Ramon Sessions isn't surprised given Scott Skiles is now in charge there. 

"Me playing for Skiles when he was in Milwaukee, I knew it was going to be a good hire for that team," Sessions aid of 2008-09, which was Skiles' first season there and Sessions' second. "He's one of those guys that's going to make you get out there. They're young, hungry, he's the right guy for that job."

The Magic (5-5), who have won two games in a row, lost to the Wizards in the season-opener for both teams 88-87 when Nik Vucevic missed the final shot at the buzzer. The Wizards have lost three in a row, all by double digits. 

Under Skiles, this team is competitive. They lost by three points in double-overtime to the Oklahoma City Thunder (Wizards lost to them by 24 at home), by five to the Chicago Bulls on the road and by five in overtime to the Houston Rockets on the road.

They're in a better place than the Wizards (3-4) who have yet to find their footing defensively.

"I can remember playing with him in the first couple practices in training camp, it was about an hour before we even touched the ball," Sessions said of Skiles. "He's all defensive-minded. You're going to stick to the principles. If not, you're not going to be out there playing. Old school. Anytime you don't touch a ball an hour, I don't think there's any more old school than that." 

In that regard, Skiles is similar to Wizards coach Randy Wittman, who until this season was about defense first. They've started using a more pace-and-space offense and the slippage defensively has been alarming. The Wizards allow 110.4 points a game, and they worked on defense all week to prepare for the Magic who likely won't have Victor Oladipo because of a concussion.

"We got a new system obviously. It's just one of those things. We got to defend and stop turning the ball over," said Sessions, who is averaging 9.1 points as John Wall's backup. "We know we can score the ball. We got to lock down defensively as a team and do it for 48 minutes. We have spurts in the game where we may not defend the way we need to. Last year we were known for defense."

MORE WIZARDS: Magic probably won't have Victor Oladipo vs. Wizards

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Wizards vs. Heat: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Wizards vs. Heat: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Wizards take to the court Thursday night for the 2018-19 NBA opener against the Miami Heat.

The Wizards made some major moves this offseason, with the organization looking to capitalize on the opening atop the Eastern Conference power structure. The Wizards used their first-round pick on Oregon wing Troy Brown jr., and acquired a talented backup guard in Austin Rivers. The cherry on the top of the Wizards offseason sundae was big-man Dwight Howard, who missed three weeks due to a strained piriformis muscle, but participated in his first full practice with his new team Monday.

While the season opener won't tell us who will win the NBA championship in 2019, it will give us a decent outline of what the Wizards look like and where they could be headed this season.

The Wizards-Heat season opener takes place on Thursday, Oct. 18 at 8:00 p.m. at Capital One Arena and will be braodcast on NBC Sports Washington.

WIZARDS vs. HEAT HOW TO WATCH
What: Washington Wizards vs. Miami Heat, 2018 NBA regular season Game 1
Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.
When: 8:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: The Wizards vs. Heat will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)
Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards vs. Heat on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the new MyTeams App.
Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM

WIZARDS vs. HEAT TV SCHEDULE
7:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders (LIVE)
7:30 PM: Wizards Pregame Live (LIVE)
8:00 PM: Miami Heat @ Wizards (LIVE)
10:30 PM: Wizards Postgame Live (LIVE)
11:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders (LIVE)
11:30 PM: D.C. Sports Live (LIVE)

WIZARDS vs. KNICKS INJURY REPORT:

Wizards: Dwight Howard (day-to-day)
Heat: Justise Winslow, James Johnson, Wayne Ellington (day-to-day)

WIZARDS vs. HEAT PLAYERS TO WATCH

John Wall, Wizards: After missing 41 games due to injuries, Wall is looking to recapture his form of two seasons ago, when he averaged a career high in points (23.1), assists (10.7), and field goal percentage (.451). 

Bradley Beal, Wizards: Beal and Wall are, and will always be the straw that stirs the drink in Washington. Beal is coming off a career year, where he was asked to do a lot more with Wall missing half the season. The hope this year is he can continue on last year's All-Star season while lowering his minutes per game as well (36.3).

Goran Dragic, Heat: Led Miami in scoring (17.3 points per game) and assists (4.8). 

WIZARDS vs. KNICKS SERIES HISTORY 

Number of all-time Meetings: 121 games
Regular Season Record: Heat lead 81-40
Last Meeting: Heat won 129-102
Last 10: Heat lead 7-3

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Three things to watch for Wizards' regular season opener against the Heat

Three things to watch for Wizards' regular season opener against the Heat

The Washington Wizards open their regular season on Thursday night against the Miami Heat. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

Here are three things to watch...

Will Howard play?

Just one week ago, it would have seemed near impossible that Dwight Howard, the Wizards' biggest offseason acquisition, would be ready to play in the season opener, but after three solid days of practice, it can't be ruled out. The Wizards plan to evaluate him throughout the day on Thursday to determine if he can take the court in what would be his first live game action with his new team.

Howard, 32, missed the entire preseason and nearly all of their practices leading up to the opener with a strained piriformis muscle. Though reports have been encouraging from his three practices, he is not yet in game shape. Even if he can play, expect him to be limited. If he can't play, Ian Mahinmi will get the start.

Heat are banged up

Miami is not only coming off a game the night before, as they lost in their season opener to the Orlando Magic, but they are missing some key guys. Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Wayne Ellington and Justise Winslow are out due to injuries.

That will leave Miami perilously thin at the guard and small forward position. That happens to be an area of the roster where the Wizards are especially deep, now with Austin Rivers as the backup shooting guard behind Bradley Beal and with first round pick Troy Brown Jr. behind Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre Jr.

That said, Waiters and Ellington being out means Dwyane Wade may get more run and, as we saw in the preseason, he is still very hard to stop. He is capable of a big night, especially given it's so early in the year and he doesn't yet have the wear-and-tear of a long season.

Can Beal reach the next level?

One of the most important indicators of how much better the Wizards will be this season is the continued improvement of their young players. John Wall, Porter and Oubre are included in that and particularly Oubre, who is entering an important season in the final year of his contract.

But the guy who improved more than anyone last year and has a chance to take another big leap this season is Beal. Now with one All-Star nod under his belt, what does he have for an encore? 

If Beal can get his scoring average up even higher from the 22.6 he put up last season, he could enter the All-NBA conversation. And he now has more help than ever with Rivers behind him. Beal should, in theory, be more fresh each night with Rivers taking away some of his workload. 

The Heat offer a good matchup defensively for Beal with Josh Richardson. He is one of the more underrated players in basketball and is a menace on the perimeter.

"I've been a fan of his since I played him in college at Tennessee," Beal said. "He's always been a pest. He's super athletic, sneaky athletic. And I feel like he developed his shot to where you have to respect it. If you go under [on screens], he's shooting it."

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