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Takeaways from Wizards' season sweep of N.Y. Knicks behind John Wall, Bradley Beal's burst

Takeaways from Wizards' season sweep of N.Y. Knicks behind John Wall, Bradley Beal's burst

The season sweep of the New York Knicks is complete as the Wizards held on 106-103 at Madison Square Garden on Thursday to keep themselves on pace for a 50-win season and in the hunt for the No. 3 seed in the East.

Bradley Beal (game-high 25 points) broke a 101 tie in the final minute with a three-pointer and two free throws. John Wall (24 points, eight assists) helped the Wizards (48-31) get out to early double-digit leads but they never could create enough separation to feel comfortable until the final whistle. Marcin Gortat (16 points) and Kelly Oubre (13 points, five rebounds, two blocks) also were key contributors. 

The Knicks (30-49) took an early lead but an 18-3 run by Washington flipped the momentum. Carmelo Anthony (23 points) led them followed by Justin Holiday (16 points).

Anthony's offensive spurt, a 6-0 run, tied the score until Beal closed. He had a chance to tie at the buzzer with a three that misfired.

The Wizards won the season series 4-0. 

[RELATED: Morris misses Wizards' game vs. Knicks with injury]

--Offensive rebounding kept the Knicks close in the first half when they trimmed what had been a 12-point deficit to 53-51. They ended with a 20-9 edge on the offensive glass, and a 49-39 edge overall. Their rebounding negated the Wizards' solid intial defense to force misses. Otto Porter (nine rebounds) led the Wizards in that category but only played 22 minutes. 

--Brandon Jennings, who gained his release from the Knicks so he could join a playoff team, didn’t have any real impact on the outcome until he ended a 7-0 run midway through the fourth. He pulled up from three-point range to push the lead to 92-85. It was his only make in five attempts. Balance on Jennings' jumpers remain a problem as he tends to fade immediately which causes them to be short. 

--Soreness to the foot and ankle has lingered with Markieff Morris since early in the season and he missed his fifth game of the season because of it. It appears that his ‘rest” days are more precautionary than anything and come against opponents the Wizards feel they can beat without him. Jason Smith (five points, six rebounds) started for him but was in foul trouble midway through the third quarter. The Wizards went to smaller lineups anyway. Oubre played 28 minutes and Bojan Bogdanvoic (eight points, six rebounds) played 31. 

--The Wizards continue to go into Gortat early in games. They started with a post-up for him against Marshall Plumlee that resulted in a turnaround jumper and he made another bucket going across the paint against the undersized big. Gortat made all seven of his shot attempts, his most field goals since Feb. 10 when he shot 7-for-12 vs. Indiana. 

--For some reason, the Knicks kept trusting their defensive concepts that had their five man, Willie Hernangomez, switching onto guards in the pick-and-roll. It created mismatches with him vs. Wall and Beal. Down the stretch, Wall got to the rim for a layup and a dunk. Beal got the switch, gave up the ball and got it back for a three. The switch never worked and the Knicks never considered changing it. 

--Oubre's length bothered the Knicks in the fourth. Though Sasha Vujacic (10 points) got hot, he was baited into a drive by the second-year forward and had his shot obliterated at the rim. Oubre then took the assignment on Anthony at the end of the game. He fouled him and sent him to the line for two free throws that tied the score at 103 with 32.3 seconds left but they'd never trail. After Beal's three, Oubre defended Anthony's final attempt with his 7-2 wingspan and the jumper didn't come close to going in. 

[RELATED: VIDEO: Wall fakes out Knicks with crazy spin dribble]

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Washington Wizards hire assistant coach Michael Longabardi to Scott Brooks coaching staff

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Washington Wizards hire assistant coach Michael Longabardi to Scott Brooks coaching staff

The Wizards sought to add an assistant coach with a strong defensive track record this offseason and they did just that Saturday evening by hiring Michael Longabardi, according to NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes. 

Longardi, 46, has spent the last three seasons as a defensive coach on the Cleveland Cavaliers' staff. He was initially hired by former Cavs' head coach Tyronn Lue in 2016 when the team claimed their first championship in franchise history. 

Before joining the Cavaliers, Longabardi held assistant coaching roles with the Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets, and most notably the Boston Celtics, in which he and Lue served under head coach Doc Rivers and Tom Thibodeau from 2007 to 2013.

Longabardi was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and attended Xaverian High School, a private Catholic school. He then went on to play basketball at Newberry College where he earned the nickname "Mr. Defense."

Just a day after reports broke that Tommy Sheppard would be promoted to a permanent general manager position, the organization is making yet another move in hopes of improving overall culture and team defense.


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Why the Wizards chose Tommy Sheppard as their new general manager

Why the Wizards chose Tommy Sheppard as their new general manager

The process took nearly four months, yet the Wizards ultimately didn't look far for their new general manager, as the team is removing the interim tag from Tommy Sheppard. The longtime NBA executive will now finally get a chance to run his own operation.

Sheppard may not have been the first choice among fans initially when it was announced he would fill in for Ernie Grunfeld, who was dismissed from his post as team president on April 2, but over the past few months he has acclimated himself well, showing in many ways he is prepared to lead a team as the top person in charge. He cleaned up the Wizards' salary cap situation as best he could, giving them some newfound financial flexibility beyond next season.

Sheppard did that while flooding the roster with young, cheap and high-upside players. And he did so by making some tough decisions, ones that helped demonstrate he can provide an organizational reset despite his role in the previous regime. 

Sheppard allowed Tomas Satoransky to walk in free agency despite being central in bringing him to the Wizards, first by scouting him overseas and then by convincing him to join the NBA ranks. He let Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker leave even though he was part of the braintrust that traded for them. And he traded Dwight Howard, again despite playing a role in bringing him to Washington.

Sheppard has operated with impartiality when the team needed him to. What he has done this offseason looks a lot like it probably would have if the Wizards had hired someone from the outside.

How Sheppard navigated the Wizards through the draft and free agency was central in why managing partner Ted Leonsis decided to elevate him to the long-term post. The last several weeks were treated as a "trial run," according to a person familiar with the process.

Sheppard worked closely with the team's ownership group, giving them written proposals for his plans that addressed goals, budget and contingencies. It was a collaborative effort to make the Wizards' roster younger, cheaper and harder working. They also set out to add more international players and accomplished that by drafting Rui Hachimura and by trading for Davis Bertans, Moe Wagner and Isaac Bonga.

Sheppard impressed Leonsis especially during the effort to re-sign Thomas Bryant. Bryant has become a favorite of Leonsis' for his consistent effort, character and enthusiasm. Sheppard and the Wizards were able to agree with Bryant on a new contract the night free agency began. It was quick and painless.

Sheppard himself will be signing a new contract, NBC Sports Washington was told. And there will be major changes to the organizational structure announced this coming week. In the basketball operations side, the team will heavily expand their investment in analytics, by "triple" according to a person familiar with their plans. They will also beef up their scouting department with an eye on Africa and Latin America.

Sheppard has done a nice job for the Wizards but the real work in many ways about to begin. Dismantling an NBA roster is not as difficult as building a contender. Now he has to find pieces to build around John Wall and Bradley Beal that can help the team win something of substance. 

Sheppard will have to do that within the constraints of Wall's supermax contract. And he will have to sort out Beal's future, which could take a turn later this month. 

On July 26, the Wizards can officially offer Beal a contract extension worth approximately $111 million over three years. But there is a long list of clues that suggest he will not take the offer.

How Sheppard, Beal and the Wizards handle the fallout in the event he turns them down would be a test in itself. Maybe they spin it simply as Beal betting on himself. If he makes All-NBA next season, he could make well over $200 million with a five-year supermax.

For Sheppard, the hard work is about to start. He is set to guide the Wizards into a new era, one he and the team hope can reach a higher peak than the last.