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Without Wall, Wizards focus more on distinct edge over Hawks

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Without Wall, Wizards focus more on distinct edge over Hawks

In a first-round sweep of the Toronto Raptors, the Wizards were able to make their superior size a major factor. To win this second-round series with the Atlanta Hawks, especially without John Wall, makes pounding the ball in the post more imperative going into Game 3 today at Verizon Center. 

Nene, who doesn't have a field goal in two games vs. Atlanta, dominated on the boards by averaging 11 rebounds in the first two road wins in Toronto. Gortat shot 74.3% from the field. 

"We got to do a better job of getting him the ball. It's as simple as that," coach Randy Wittman said of Nene. "He's got to also demand to have the ball in the flow of the game. We've talked about that."

Nene almost has as many turnovers (six) as he does rebounds (seven) against Atlanta. The play of Paul Millsap, who can stretch to the three-point line and go off the dribble, has given him difficulty. When Nene starts off slow, he has a hard time getting himself out of the rut. 

"He needs to be confident, need to be aggressive in whatever he does. He'll be fine," Beal said. "We just need him to be Ne, go out there and dunk on somebody. I think when he gets the ball  in the post he looks to pass too much. He needs to go, be dominant and just score the ball."

Nene has mishandled passes for unforced turnovers. In Game 2, he missed two layups. The Hawks, after losing home-court advantage with a 104-98 loss in Game 1, were intent to play more physical and did just that with Al Horford and DeMarre Carroll joining in the fray. They're undersized but tenacious to loose balls and second-chance points. They had more points in the paint in Game 2, 38-30.

[MORE WIZARDS: Teague, Hawks ready for Wizards' not so secret weapon]

"They have guys that can move real well. There's a lot of switching going on. That's something we definitely got to take advantage of because we do have an advantage down there with our bigger guys," said point guard Ramon Sessions, who'll likely start Game 3 with Wall out with a fractured left hand and wrist. "Not taking anything away from Millsap or Horford, those guys are great, but size-wise we definitely got to get in the post a little more and feed our big guys."

Gortat had 12 points and 12 rebounds in Game 1 but settled for difficult shots going away from the basket without Wall to feed him in Game 2. He had 10 points and nine rebounds before fouling out. When Gortat gets going early, it opens up the floor, too.

"That's one thing we're going to definitely stress this next game, that's getting (into) the paint, getting to the free throw line and getting the ball inside to Nene and Gortat and go from there," said Otto Porter, who is averaging almost a double-double off the bench with 10.5 points and 8.0 rebounds. "It's going to be physical regardless if you play inside or out. From our vantage point, play inside more."

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Bradley Beal doesn't care if he's named a 2019 NBA All-Star starter

Bradley Beal doesn't care if he's named a 2019 NBA All-Star starter

The 2019 NBA All-Star starters are set to be announced on Thursday and Wizards guard Bradley Beal is not optimistic he will be chosen. That is despite a growing number of supporters in the media, but Beal understands their votes only count for 25 percent of the equation.

Fan voting makes up 50 percent and NBA players the remaining 25 percent. With Beal in a distant 10th among Eastern Conference guards in the fan voting rounds that have been made public, he has set his expectations accordingly.

"I'm not going to be a starter so it doesn't matter," he quipped after Wizards practice on Wednesday. "I'm positive. Let's just be honest. Right? We all can be honest, right?"

Beal, who made his first All-Star team last season as a reserve, will almost certainly be an All-Star again this year one way or another. Coaches vote on reserves and those will be announced on Jan. 31.

But Beal has a solid case to be a starter despite his Wizards sitting at just 20-26 and outside of the playoff picture. He is posting career-highs in points (24.7), rebounds (5.0), assists (5.0), steals (1.3) and blocks (0.9). He has appeared in all 46 of the Wizards games this season while many of his teammates have been absent due to injury.

Boston's Kyrie Irving appears to be a lock for one of the two starting guard spots in the East. He has a strong case with his numbers, his team's success and has fared well in fan voting. But the second spot has no clear favorite.

Ben Simmons has played well for a good Sixers team. Victor Oladipo of the Pacers also has a case, though due to injuries his numbers have fallen off.

Kyle Lowry has helped the Raptors post one of the league's best records. Kemba Walker of the Hornets has had the best season of his career and plays for the hometown team with the game taking place in Charlotte.

There is also Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat, a future Hall of Famer who might be a starter if it were based solely on fan voting. If he gets support from players or media votes, he could get in as a legacy pick given this is the final season of his legendary career.

Basically, Beal has a lot of competition. He gets it and insists he isn't losing sleep over the pending announcement.

"Even then I don't let it consume me. It's not like a goal of mine like 'oh, I've gotta be an All-Star.' If I am, it's great. It's even more motivation to continue to get better. Even if I'm not an All-Star, I'm not going to be mad or upset," he said.

Beal said his No. 1 goal is winning and mentioned how the Wizards remain six games under .500 despite reeling off seven of their last 10. Washington happens to be hosting the defending-champion Golden State Warriors on Thursday night, so he has plenty on his plate.

Beal will likely be an All-Star representing the Wizards in the Feb. 17 showcase. But it doesn't sound like he will be doing any of the other festivities.

Beal has participated in the three-point contest twice in his career and both times was a runner-up. He has not been invited yet to this year's contest and probably won't participate even if he is asked.

"I would probably take a break this year because it was definitely a lot last year, just all the off-court stuff," he said. "I'm not saying I won't do it for the rest of my career, but I don't think I'm doing it this year."

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NBA Rookie of the Year Rankings: Luka Doncic is human, while a new face climbs

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NBA Rookie of the Year Rankings: Luka Doncic is human, while a new face climbs

Rookie walls are always a factor around this time of year in the NBA.

Some players find ways to push through it, or even improve as we move past the halfway point of the season and into the new year. 

Others have some rough patches though.

RELATED: CHECK OUT OUR NBA ROTY RANKINGS

Our latest NBA Rookie Rankings obviously have some names you've seen on there before, but there's a new face as well.

Believe it or not, the Hawks may actually have a nice combo with Trae Young and Kevin Huerter starting to develop in Atlanta. 

Luka Doncic still breaks #NBATwitter on a nightly basis, but he's had his recent struggles too. He may actually be human after all!

The surprising Kings also got their lottery pick back, and Marvin Bagley III is helping Sacramento keep the playoffs in their sights.

Where do these guys all come in this week in our Rookie Rankings?

Find out here:

CHECK OUT OUR NBA ROTY RANKINGS

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