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Wizards, Hawks reverse roles in pivotal Game 4


Wizards, Hawks reverse roles in pivotal Game 4

The Wizards are the Hawks. The Hawks are the Wizards.

The Southeast Division teams have swapped styles at times during the series, but truly went into full Freaky Friday mode Monday during the first half of Game 4.

Washington's limited use of the 3-point shot and in this modern bombs-away era led to relentless critique during the regular season.

Atlanta, second in the league in 3-point percentage, was among the leaders in long-range attempts.

So, naturally the Wizards came out sinking 10 of 15 from beyond the arc in the first half, doubling up the Hawks output (5 of 9). 

Personnel played a role in Washington looking inside more than outside over the 82-game season. John Wall's driving ability led to layups. Same for Marcin Gortat and Nene's physical skills. As for Atlanta, the Hawks have penetrators, but no true low-post threat.

So, naturally the top seed had 32 points in the paint before halftime. The fifth-seeded Wizards, playing without the injured Wall for a third straight game, scored 16.

"Role reversal," Hawks forward Paul Millsap said of the first half scenario.

RELATED: Pierce's missed 3 not what costs Wizards in Game 4

The thing is, for this game, Atlanta wanted a change. Washington's defense through the first three games necessitated one.

"They are really aggressive denying the ball, getting up into you," Hawks guard Jeff Teague said of the Wizards' perimeter defense.

The counter attack? Drive to the rim then drive to the rim and then drive some more. Having two lightning quick guards like Teague and Dennis Schroder helps turn plan into action and helped Atlanta score 65 points before halftime.

"Tonight specifically, it opened up the lane for us," Millsap stated. "We were able to drive, and be more aggressive. We try to counter their aggression. Things we didn't do all series, we did tonight.” 

Part of the reason why the Washington Wizards swapped Andre Miller, 39, for Ramon Sessions, 29 at the league trading deadline was to have a better defensive option off the bench for speedsters like Schroder. Without Wall, the need for a quick small guard on the second unit exists yet again.

Of course, Teague also hurt the Wizards plenty as well. Atlanta's two point guards combined for 40 points and 16 assists with five turnovers.

"The last game we really settled for jump shots," Hawks forward and noted perimeter scorer Kyle Korver told Comcast Sportsnet's Chris Miller postgame. "We want to shoot 3's, but we have to get into the paint first. I thought our point guards were really great at that."

In the second half, both sides reverted to form. Each team finished tied with 48 points in the paint even though Wizards center Marcin Gortat struggled throughout for three points on 1 of 7 shooting. Atlanta closed the gap from deep, finishing with nine 3-pointers compared to 12 for Washington.

Led by Bradley Beal scoring 19 of his playoff career-high 34 points in the second half, the Wizards closed the gap on the scoreboard. Down 8-10 points for most of the second half, Washington ended up in position for a game-tying 3-point attempt in the final seconds from that Game 3 hero Paul Pierce simply missed.

Who knows what happens if the Wizards' usual top-10 defense didn't have its own role reversal early on.

“The biggest thing is just the first half, period. If we played the first half like we played the second half, we win the game," Beal stated. "We weren't playing the right defensive concepts."

The Hawks might have been playing a bit different, but ultimately they played just how they wanted.

MORE WIZARDS: Teague shakes off early series struggles to lead Hawks to win

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Source: Wizards will have competition with teams like Lakers, Clippers for restricted free agent Bobby Portis

USA Today

Source: Wizards will have competition with teams like Lakers, Clippers for restricted free agent Bobby Portis

This summer is shaping up to be lucrative for NBA free agents and big man Bobby Portis is well-positioned to cash in. After spending the final three months of the 2018-19 season with the Wizards, Portis is already seeing a healthy market develop ahead of the June 30 start of the league's negotiating period, NBC Sports Washington has learned.

The Wizards are likely to first extend a qualifying offer on June 30 to make him a restricted free agent. According to Spotrac.com, it will be about $3.6 million and that will give the Wizards the right to match an offer sheet from another franchise.

But teams are already indicating they want Portis, who is just 24 and coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high 14.2 points and 8.1 rebounds in 50 games. That market includes 5-10 teams and could grow once free agency opens.

Portis is expected to draw interest from the Lakers, Clippers, Jazz, Bucks, Magic and Knicks among others, NBC Sports Washington has learned.

Despite restricted free agency, Portis has a few things working for him. For one, there are a lot of teams with cap room. Spending won't reach 2016 levels, when the new CBA spiked the salary cap, but there will a lot of money to go around.

Also, guys in Portis' tier will only be helped if the top free agent options continue to dwindle. Klay Thompson looks more likely than ever to stay in Golden State after tearing his ACL. Winning a title could increase the odds Kawhi Leonard re-signs in Toronto, according to reports. And Kevin Durant's torn Achilles has thrown a wrench into the plans of teams with the most money to spend.

There is also the possibility Kemba Walker stays in Charlotte. And Kyrie Irving signing with Brooklyn, if it happens, would leave others exploring backup plans.

Portis isn't directly competing with any of those players, but could benefit if the top options are off the market. His name will only move up the list if that is the case.

Portis also has a unique selling point going for him. He shot 39.3 percent from three this past season and held a 40.3 percent clip to close the year in his 28 games with the Wizards. Three-point shooting is more valuable than ever and he brings that to the table at 6-foot-10.

Portis, who averaged 3.8 three-point attempts per game this past season, was one of only six players 6-10 or taller to shoot at least 39 percent on 3.5 attempts or more (min. 50 G). 

The question for Portis will be whether he gets the money he wants. He turned down an extension with the Chicago Bulls last fall just hours before the deadline to sign one. According to the Chicago Tribune, the deal was worth about $50 million and he wants to be paid in the range of $16 million annually. His asking price was partly why the Bulls traded him to the Wizards in February.

Even if the Wizards clear money, and they are expected to free up some by declining Jabari Parker's $20 million team option by the June 29 deadline, Portis could price himself out of Washington. It might not even take $16 million per year for that to happen.

The Wizards are set to operate through free agency with interim team president Tommy Sheppard at the helm, as the Washington Post reported on Tuesday. Sheppard making the call increases Portis' odds of staying, but that doesn't mean the price will match for both sides.


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UNC's Coby White talks Wizards workout, North Carolina and John Wall's legendary mixtape

USA TODAY Sports Images

UNC's Coby White talks Wizards workout, North Carolina and John Wall's legendary mixtape

In Tuesday's Wizards Talk podcast Chris Miller sat down with point guard Coby White, a projected lottery pick from the University of Carolina. 

On Monday, the Wizards worked out White and college teammate Nassir Little in the franchise's highest-profile workout this year. Despite being projected higher than No. 9, White was enthusiastic about the opportunity. 

"These mock drafts are cool, but it's not the real deal," explained White. "If I was to slip and Washington were to select me, I'd be in a great place."

White's passion combined with his impressive skill set enabled him to become the all-time leading scorer in North Carolina high school history. Growing up he followed John Wall, as did every hooper in North Carolina, and he still remembers Wall shredding apart defenses on his legendary high school mixtape. 

"His mixtape was lit," professed White. "The style he played with was uncomparable to anyone else."

What many people don't know about White was that growing up, his dream school was Duke. Once he got to Chapel Hill, however, Roy Williams, his teammates and UNC's winning tradition won him over in a heartbeat. 

"They didn't care how much you had coming in, Coach Williams never promised me playing time," said White. "He just promised me 'I'll be the hardest coach you ever had and I'll try my best to make you the best you can be.'"

At Thursday draft, White's life will be changed forever once he hears his name called and shakes Adam Silver's hand. For Wizards fans, hopefully, that won't happen before the No. 9 pick