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Wizards know wins against East foes like Indiana are extra important

Wizards know wins against East foes like Indiana are extra important

There are are two months until the playoffs begin and 29 games left for the Wizards to play before their regular season schedule runs out. A lot can happen between now and then, both good and bad. To assume they will earn a playoff spot is premature at this point, as easy as the postseason is for fans, media and players alike to dream about.

But there are also games over the course of a season that matter more than most, ones that invoke the big picture, no matter how they are described in the language of coach-speak. And Friday night was one of those games for the Wizards, a showdown with Indiana Pacers, the sixth-ranked team in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards currently sit third, meaning they would face the Pacers if the playoffs began today.

Even more important than that dynamic is the fact the conference itself is so bunched up. The Wizards are two games out of second, but the Pacers are only three games behind Washington. Tiebreakers could come into play in April and head-to-head season series records are at the top of the tiebreaker list.

After Friday night's 112-107 victory over the Pacers, the Wizards hold a 2-1 advantage in the season series with the finale coming up on Feb. 16. Was all of that lost on the Wizards? Of course not.

It is super important. We take it seriously," shooting guard Bradley Beal said. "That is something that is in the back of our head. At this point of the year, you are looking at seeding. You are looking further down the line at playoffs, and where you want to be and what the match ups are going to be potentially so we just take it a game at a time, a series at a time, and try to get them all.”

"We came into this game talking about that, we knew it was going to be very important," point guard John Wall said. "It was a big win against them, but we have them again next week so its going to be a big game to try and win the whole series against them. They're a tough team, they're a great team at home. We just have to keep playing well and defending." 

[RELATED: Markieff Morris not cool with 'Phoenix Outlaws' nickname]

Center Marcin Gortat addressed the next matchup in more detail. The Wizards really want to take three of four and avoid a split in their four games against the Pacers. He knows the Pacers will have the playoffs on their mind.

"The hardest thing right now is that we're going to play against this team in a few days again and they are definitely come out ready to play. They're going to try to punch us back for what we did here at home. It's actually a really hard situation for us," Gortat said.

The Wizards hold a winning record against four of the seven other teams currently in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. They are 2-1 against the Pacers, Hawks, Celtics and Bulls. They are 1-1 against the Pistons, 0-2 against Cleveland and 0-1 against Toronto.

The playoffs remain far off in the distance, but it's not too early to begin thinking about what could help the Wizards down the road.

[RELATED: 5 must-see moments from Wizards' win over Pacers]

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Watch Rui Hachimura’s shutdown block

Watch Rui Hachimura’s shutdown block

Rui Hachimura continued his dominance in international friendlies Saturday as he put up 31 points and five rebounds in a winning effort over Germany.

After a highlight-reel performance in Thursday's loss to Argentina, Hachimura was back at it two days later.

That block at the 37-second mark is just filthy. It would also be goaltending in the NBA, but FIBA rules allow players to touch the ball at pretty much any time once it's made contact with some part of the hoop. Nevertheless, the athleticism to make this play is what stands out.

But Hachimura wasn't finished.

He looks more like Steph Curry leading that breakaway, dribbling behind his back and finishing at the rim himself than a 6-foot-8 forward.

With the international friendly schedule at its end, Japan will tip off the 2020 FIBA World Cup on Sunday, Sept. 1 against Turkey. After a matchup with the Czech Republic, Hachimura and Japan will take on his future NBA opponents when they face the United States on Sept. 5.


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Maryland native Quinn Cook tells the behind-the-scenes story of his road to the Lakers

Maryland native Quinn Cook tells the behind-the-scenes story of his road to the Lakers

Before he joined the Los Angeles Lakers as part of a blockbuster summer that saw them land Anthony Davis, before he won the NBA Finals as a role player with the Golden State Warriors, and before he averaged double-digit scoring and won the NCAA tournament at Duke, Quinn Cook was a star point guard at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md.

Cook was in town this week for his fourth annual youth basketball camp at First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Landover. NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller sat down with the former Stag, who he’s known since the now-Lakers guard was 14 years old, on the Wizards Talk podcast.

Miller talked with Cook about why he feels connected to kids in the local community and what it was like losing his father as a teenager. One of his closest friends is fellow DeMatha product Victor Oladipo, who helped him get through the loss of his father Ted when he died suddenly in 2008 after going into a coma following a colon procedure.

“My best friend Norman and Victor, their parents took them out of school, and they were with me for two weeks,” Cook said. “At the funeral, [head coach Mike] Jones had the entire DeMatha basketball program…come to the funeral and all sit together [with] their uniforms on.”

Cook also went on to talk about his time at Duke, the viral video in which he convinced some people at the mall he was J Cole and his obsession with winning before going into how he landed in Los Angeles this offseason.

“When Golden State withdrew their qualifying offer, I became unrestricted and had some teams call me and the Lakers thing, it just happened quick,” Cook said. “I had talks with them, AD called me, [LeBron James] called Rob Palinka for me, and Coach K called them, talked to Bron and stuff and we got it done.”

Check out the full podcast below and listen to Miller talk hoops every week on the Wizards Talk podcast.