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Wizards' defense fuels offensive outburst

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Wizards' defense fuels offensive outburst

For the Wizards to have any shot to get deep into the postseason, they realize they can't just be good defensively. They have to be great, and they've done that in the first two games with the Toronto Raptors who are at Verizon Center tonight (CSN, CSNwashington.com and NBC Sports Live Extra, 7 p.m. ET).

"We're playing way better defense. Even when we were 31-15, we were playing good defense but we're playing better defense now," said John Wall, who has been key in holding Kyle Lowry to 5-for-20 shooting in Games 1 and 2. "We're not making excuses for no coverages. We know what it takes to win. Sometimes in the regular season you might not sacrifice as much right then and there. You do in the playoffs. It means so much more." 

In key situations against elite teams, the Wizards' defense mostly has failed. Even against the Indiana Pacers, remember George Hill's uncontested, game-winning layup on a blown coverage? The public debate between Paul Pierce and Marcin Gortat over individual defense or help defense being the bigger issue? Or coach Randy Wittman saying he didn't trust his team to switch?

MORE WIZ: IS TORONTO QUITTING ON DRAKE?

When the Raptors beat the Wizards three times in the regular season, Toronto's guards Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Lou Williams and Greivis Vasquez took advantage of the disjointed coverages. They lived in the lane. 

Now those players are being taken away while Jonas Valanciunas is having some success. Patrick Patterson made all six of his shots off the bench in Game 2, but they lost 117-106 on Saturday. 

"We're totally OK if you're getting Valanciunas and Tyler Hansbrough, (Patrick) Patterson and Amir Johnson and those guys scoring a lot of points," Wall said. "We can keep the ball out of the other guys' hands. When Amir and those other guys are getting their points, they're a tough team to beat. We try to take their main players out of the play as much as possible. Make the other guys beat us."

Toronto's three-point shooting was 38.1 percent from the field in their three regular-season wins. It has dipped to 28.1 percent in the postseason. The turnovers have gone from 12.5 to 17.0. Washington is plus-30 rebounding.

"Our defense is the reason why we're up more than anything. You can't get me to change my mind," said Bradley Beal, who had a game-high 28 points in Game 2. "Our defense is what really sets the tone for everything and on top of that we're rebounding. We're eliminating their second-chance points. We're eliminating their bigs getting easy putbacks and we're eliminating their guards getting another opportunity for threes and other dribble penetration."

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

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USA Today Sports Images

Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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Bradley Beal receives zero All-NBA votes, which itself is a snub

Bradley Beal receives zero All-NBA votes, which itself is a snub

On Thursday the NBA revealed the All-NBA teams for the 2017-18 season.

Not surprisingly, Bradley Beal and John Wall did not make it to one of the three five-player teams. Of the two superstars, only Wall has been recognized once in his career.

What is surprising is that neither Beal nor Wall received a single vote in the whole process, especially Beal.

The 2017-18 season was without question the best in Beal’s career. He played in all 82 games, coming right off of the heals of his All-Star recognition. Beal seems to agree in his snubbing, tweeting this minutes after the teams were announced:

Looking at the list of players who made the top three teams, it shouldn’t be an issue, but these three guys got more votes than the Wizards' duo combined: Steven Adams, Trevor Ariza, and Dwight Howard. It is not surprising that Beal and Wall did not make an All-NBA team. It is odd that Beal didn’t receive a vote.

Here is a list of the full All-NBA Teams:

ALL-NBA FIRST TEAM: 

LeBron James (Cavaliers), James Harden (Rockets), Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers), Kevin Durant (Warriors)

ALL-NBA SECOND TEAM:

Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks), Russell Westbrook (Thunder), Joel Embiid (76ers), LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs), DeMar DeRozan (Raptors)

ALL-NBA THIRD TEAM:

Stephen Curry (Warriors), Victor Oladipo (Pacers), Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves), Jimmy Butler (Timberwolves), Paul George (Thunder)

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