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Wizards lax on defense but Bradley Beal electrifies even better offense

Wizards lax on defense but Bradley Beal electrifies even better offense

Bradley Beal and John Wall looked up at the scoreboard at Golden 1 Arena, trailing by 15 points entering the fourth quarter vs. the Sacramento Kings. The Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors had lost to clear a path to the No. 2 spot in the East.

They decided it was time to flip the switch and responded by playing the type of basketball that should've made it a blowout from the opening tip. Beal scored 16 of his game-high 38 points in the fourth as the Wizards forced overtime and won 130-122 on Saturday.

"This beautiful arena has scoreboards everywhere. I was able to peek over and see Boston took an L and so did Toronto," said Beal, who was playing at the new home of the Kings for the first time. "It’s important for us in terms of the seeding. John and I both looked at it and said to each other we got to get it and turned it on in  the fourth quarter."

Wall had a chance to win the game in regulation but his fadeaway jumper over Willie Cauley-Stein rimmed out. 

The Wizards (40-24) are one win away from tying their win total for last season and drawing to .500 on the road. They're 14-15 entering tonight's game at the Portland Trail Blazers.

Beal has been potent since the All-Star break. In nine games, Beal is averaging 28.6 points, 54% field-goal shooting; 43.1% three-point shooting, 86.7% foul shooting; 4.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals. They're averaging 114 points since the break which is fourth-best in the NBA.

The Wizards are 3-0 on this five-game road trip but have given up an average of 120.7 points which has gone against the core principles of coach Scott Brooks.

"We love the wins but we’re putting ourselves in bad positions," Beal said. "We’re developing bad habits. Something we can’t have this late in the season, moving forward we’ll face tougher teams and against playoff teams you get down like that early they’re going to put you away.

The Kings were held to 9-for-26 shooting after the third quarter. Beal and Otto Porter were more physical on Buddy Heild, who failed to score after halftime. Wall's ball pressure was suffocating Darren Collison and Ty Lawson. 

"Once we do that, our whole momentum changes, our whole swagger, our whole identity changes," Beal said. "We’re more physical, we’re more locked into the game, we’re playing faster. Then our offense flows right out of it."

The Blazers are the NBA's best scoring offense since the break. They're averaging better than 50% shooting, too. The Wizards steamrolled them in their first meeting, 120-101, on Jan. 16 but they're not playing the kind of defense now that they showed then. The Minnesota Timberwolves are the final opponent on this stretch Monday.

"We have to figure it out. These two teams we got, they’ve got guys that can score at a really high level," Wall said. "To take the next step we got to get back to that. … We have to lock in and be better."

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Garrison Mathews is ready to put Lipscomb University on the NBA map

Garrison Mathews is ready to put Lipscomb University on the NBA map

WASHINGTON -- Garrison Mathews, believe it or not, was not always a shooter. He didn't consider himself one in high school or even early in college. But now, at 22 years old, he has a two-way contract with the Wizards and the primary reason is because of his outside shooting.

Mathews, in a sense, has shot his way to the NBA and is now poised to be the first player in the league ever to come from Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn.

"It's a crazy experience," Mathews said. "I enjoy being able to put Lipscomb on the map a little bit. Obviously, they haven't had much exposure and they've given me a lot. It's nice helping and giving back in a way."

So, how did we get here? Well, it wasn't always going to be about basketball. Mathews comes from Franklin, Tenn., where high school football is king. Mathews' grandfather was on the 1962 national championship team at Ole Miss. Mathews at one point was on track to follow in those footsteps.

He played wide receiver and tight end in high school and still misses the game.

"There's nothing like it," Mathews said of football.

But as he grew to 6-foot-5 with speed and an improving jumpshot, colleges came calling. And, once they did, Mathews made the difficult decision to focus on basketball full-time. 

Through his early years in college, Mathews realized playing in the NBA was a possiblity. So, he grinded through summers, sharpening his jumper. 

Slowly, but surely, they started falling more consistently.

"I don't know, it just kind of happened that way," Mathews said of becoming known for his shooting.

Mathews shot 34.9 percent from the perimeter his freshman year at Lipscomb. By his senior year, he was making 40.3 percent on eight attempts per game.

And it wasn't just the volume or the percentage that improved, it was the variety of shots he felt confident to even try. If anything has stood out about Mathews so far during his brief tenure with the Wizards, it is his ability to make shots without his feet being set.

Mathews made a shot in a preseason game against the Knicks on Oct. 7 in which his feet were facing the sideline when he caught the ball off a screen. He turned quickly before rising and knocked it down.

Mathews can straighten out his shooting form mid-air and it's something not many players can do. He has worked on it for years.

"There's a lot of times in my workouts where I'm coming off screens or practicing [dribble hand-offs] where I'm coming off a screen and just jumping in the air. That's part of my regiment when I work out," he said.

Mathews has made shots like that consistently in practice, but doing so in a game is a different story. Wizards head coach Scott Brooks has seen plenty of players come along who can't translate what they do in practices to games.

So, he's not ready to crown Mathews as the next J.J. Redick. 

"The percentages will be able to tell us eventually whether those are shots he can make or if we have to have better footwork," Brooks said.

"There's only a few guys that can really square up basically in mid-air and be able to have it. Brad [Beal] has the ability to do that and it took him some time. I don't know if he's one of them, Garrison."

The list of players who make those shots often certainly isn't long. Redick is one, and Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson of the Warriors can certainly be included. Kyle Korver of the Bucks also comes to mind.

Korver, in fact, spent some time with Mathews before the Wizards' game against Milwaukee on Oct. 13. Mathews says he has long been compared to Korver, so he listened intently to what Korver had to say.

"I appreciated that from him. It meant a lot," Mathews said.

"[He told me that] when he practices, when he does individual stuff, he goes as hard as he can. And then he works on his body almost as much as he does on the court."

Mathews is confident, but also realistic. He said he would like to follow Korver's path, but knows he has a long way to go to carve out a career like Korver has.

"I feel like later in my career I can be a little bit like him. Maybe not as great as him because he's a great shooter," Mathews said. "But it's cool being able to guard somebody that a lot of people compare you to when you were growing up."

Mathews has learned through his development as a shooter that hard work can lead to success and sometimes even in ways that are unexpected. Maybe someday he will be in Korver's shoes, offering advice to a young player looking up to him.


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MyTeams NBA Tipoff Livestream: How to Watch

NBC Sports Washington

MyTeams NBA Tipoff Livestream: How to Watch

The dawn of a new NBA season is here and NBC Sports Washington has you covered for another year on the hardcourt. 

NBC Sports Washington will air a "NBA Tipoff Show" live on Tuesday, Oct. 22 at 4:00 p.m. ET, the day before a new season tips off. The show can be seen live on NBC Sports Washington, NBCSportsWashington.com or on the MyTeams app. 

Coverage will not only feature the Washington Wizards and NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller but focus on other storylines across the league.

The special will air at 4 p.m. ET on Oct. 22, and you can watch right in the MyTeams app (download here) or on NBCSportsWashington.com.

How to watch NBC Sports' 2019 NBA Tipoff Show:

Date: Tuesday, Oct. 22

Time: 4 p.m. ET

Live stream: MyTeams app and NBCSportsWashington.com

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Wizards easily on your device.