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Sleepwalking on defense puts Wizards on brink of elimination vs. Celtics

Sleepwalking on defense puts Wizards on brink of elimination vs. Celtics

As soon as the Game 5 began, Isaiah Thomas found himself at the free-throw line. Then it was Jae Crowder. They were the only attempts of the first quarter for the Boston Celtics, but the Wizards instantly lost their heads in what would turn into a 21-point loss at TD Garden. 

That such a minor hiccup could distract them in such an important game in the East semifinals seems like a reach. But it did, and the Wizards' problems grew from there. The Celtics went on a 16-0 run to take a 3-2 series lead.

"It did bother us a couple times earlier in the game," coach Scott Brooks said Thursday, though he gave his players off from practice before Game 6 Friday at Verizon Center. "They never change the call."

In the end, the Wizards went to the foul line more (29-21), but the Celtics didn't need the freebies. They converted 53% of their shots. They outrebounded the much bigger team (48-45) and dominated in assists against a team witth John Wall (33-21).

"The focus, for whatever reason, we didn’t have that in the first quarter.. They jumped on us. A lot of transition points but we did not lose the series we lost the game," Brooks said. "I have a lot of confidence in our guys. We’ve played all year long in front of our fans. We’re 5-0 in the playoffs (at home). We’re focusing on playing much better."

The ability to defend is there. But mentally, that commitment can go on hiatus. 

"When we miss shots early on, we didn’t get back on defense. We were basket hanging," Brooks said. "We put ourselves in bad position in transition. They were getting layups and threes. If you miss a shot, you miss a shot. You got to get back and not compound that miss with a defensive lapse by not getting back in transition.

"They really attacked us. They were really aggressive. They weren’t happy with the way they played Games 3 and 4 and they came out and hit us and hit us pretty hard and we weren’t ready for it."

MORE WIZARDS: How Celtics flipped the script on Wizards in Game 5

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Wizards District Gaming takes JBM with No.1 pick in 2020 NBA 2K League Draft

Wizards District Gaming takes JBM with No.1 pick in 2020 NBA 2K League Draft

Sixty eight gamers' lives changed on Saturday night. 

One of those very lucky individuals was Jack Mascone, who was selected by Wizards District Gaming with the No.1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA 2K League Draft. 

Wizards’ managing partner Ted Leonsis had a special message for the point guard from New York, who joins the Monumental Sports & Entertainment family. 

“On behalf of the Wizards, Mystics and Go-Go we’d like to welcome JBM to the Monumental basketball family. Congratulations on your hard work paying off. We’re excited to have you run the District with us,” Leonsis said.

Wizards District Gaming also drafted small forward Justin Howell in the second round, No. 30 overall, small forward Antonio Newman, No. 37, and utility Brandon Richardson at No. 51 in the third round. 


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Rui Hachimura's learning curve can be seen on offense late in games

Rui Hachimura's learning curve can be seen on offense late in games

WASHINGTON -- Wizards forward Rui Hachimura has translated so smoothly to the NBA level that it is easy to forget he is still just a rookie with only 31 games under his belt. For a reminder of his inexperience, just look at the fourth quarter.

Hachimura tends to start games hot on the offensive end, like he did on Friday in the Wizards' loss to the Cavaliers when he had eight points by the end of the first quarter. But he scored only nine points after that and went scoreless through seven minutes in the fourth.

That has been a consistent theme for him this season. He averages 4.8 points in the first quarter shooting 48.4 percent from the field, 4.0 points in the second shooting 57 percent and then 4.3 points on 47.9 percent in the third. In the fourth quarter those numbers plummet to 1.9 points on average and 33.3 percent shooting.

Basically, Hachimura often comes out on fire but then slows down considerably once opponents make midgame changes. Against the Cavs, Hachimura said it was because they disrupted passing lanes.

"They are an NBA team. They just adjusted. They didn't want me to catch the ball. They didn't let me just catch the ball. I think that's why," he said.

The Wizards have seen teams switch defensive match-ups midgame to counter Hachimura. Sometimes taking away his midrange jumper will be prioritized. The Cavs seemed to find success playing Hachimura more physically in the second half, bumping him away from his comfort zones.

Over time, Hachimura can improve his ability to sustain scoring throughout games simply by becoming more versatile. The more consistent he becomes at making three-point shots and creating off the dribble, the more difficult it will be for teams to stop him. As long as he keeps improving, he will reach a point where he can stay ahead of the defense with a multitude of counters.

Developing a more reliable outside game and more dribble combinations will take some time. For now, Hachimura believes the key to him keeping up his scoring pace involves working with his teammates, particularly star shooting guard Bradley Beal.

"I just gotta connect more with Brad. Brad is the one everybody is trying to guard. Screens and pick-and-rolls with him, that kind of stuff will help me," Hachimura said.

Hachimura's game against the Cavaliers reflected how the team played overall. After scoring 41 points in the first quarter, they managed only 42 in the second half. They blew a 16-point lead and lost, 113-108.

So, he wasn't alone. And those rooting for Hachimura to round out his game should feel good about his odds. He has a relentless work ethic and is often staying after practice to go over film with player development coach Dave Adkins.

Hachimura is perceptive and driven to improve. In order to take the next step as a scorer, he will have to get better at closing games.

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